White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900
Shaw, Savill And Albion Company
Shaw, Savill And Albion Company.
A Famous Colonial Fleet—Tonnage totals over 200,000.
One of the romances of the colonial shipping trade is the rise of that powerful company the Shaw, Savill and Albion which now sends to New Zealand some of the finest steamers afloat, and there are many people in New Zealand to-day that remember when the whole fleet did not amount in tonnage to anything like one single steamer of the splendid passenger fleet the company now employs in the trade. The company has consistently kept up its connection with New Zealand, and its history is specially interesting from the fact that the company pioneered in the industry that practically made the Dominion—the frozen meat industry. It was this company that fitted up the first sailing vessel—away back in 1882—with refrigerating machinery and successfully inaugurated the industry that has since grown to such vast dimensions. This first cargo was carried for the N.Z. and Australian Land Co., which started the industry in New Zealand as far as the shore part of it was concerned.
Up to about 1858 most of the sailing ships that were dispatched from the Old Country to New Zealand were run by Willis Gann and Co., the Black Ball Line, the White Star Co., and other private firms. In the office of Willis Gann and Co. there was a young shipping clerk named Saville—the "e" has since been dropped—who must have had grit or wonderful foresight, for he threw up his billet and decided to go into the shipping business in partnership with a Mr. Shaw, who it is believed was also a former employee of Willis Gann and Co. The firm was known as the Shaw, Saville Company, and in 1859 set about chartering vessels for the New Zealand trade.
It must be confessed that many of the ships that flew the house flag of the new firm were anything but clippers, in fact more than one early New Zealander would remember them as "old tubs." Many of them were out of date, had very poor accommodation and were painfully slow. But the company has more than made amends for its early shortcomings. Some of the first charterings of the firm were the Wyndham, Ocean Home, Vicuna, Albert William, General, Bombay, Helenslee, Edwin Fox, Bebington, and Mallard.
In the year 1863 Messrs. Shaw, Savill secured the contract for carrying emigrants to Otago, the fares being £12 from Glasgow and £13 10/ from London. Thousands of heads of New Zealand families came out in the old ships, and it is probably safe to say that among those splendid Scots families that now people Otago there are very few that do not trace back to a Shaw, Savill passage.
The year 1883 was an important one in the history of the firm, for in that year it amalgamated with the old-established Clyde Shipping House, Patrick Henderson's Albion Shipping Company, which brought in a list of really fine ships, and in the interim the Shaw, Savill people had built several first-class ships up-to-date in every way, such as the Westland and the Crusader, two noted passage-makers, so that the new combination had a very fine fleet indeed.
When steam ousted sail the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company, as the new firm was called, was prominent in the change-over, and gradually replaced its fine fleet of sailers with steamers. One of the first was the chartered steamer, Triumph, which arrived in Auckland on November 26, 1883, and was afterwards wrecked on Tiritiri when leaving port. It will be remembered that she was got off, and towed to Auckland, and repaired in the old Graving Dock which was too small for her so that a special caisson had to be built, and even then a good deal of the vessel's stern was protruding from the dock.
After the Triumph the company had the Doric, Ionic and Coptic, Victory, and Bombay, the two latter being chartered steamers, and built the Tainui, Arawa, Gothic, Mamari, Matatua, Rangatira, Maori, Pakeha, Aotea, Tokomaru, and other steamers. To-day the Company has a magnificent fleet of seventeen well-found modern steamers ranging from the 12,068 tonner Mahana, while the smallest in the fleet is a 7000 tonner which is a good deal more than the whole tonnage with which this famous line originally started. These seventeen steamers have an aggregate ton-page 27nage of 163,311 to which must be added the four White Star boats that are run under the Company's house flag in these waters, and these bring the tonnage of the fleet up to 212,172. The passenger steamers of the Company are to-day the Arawa, Athenic, Corinthic, Ionic, and Tainui, and the cargo steamers the Mahia, Tairoa, Karamea, Kia Ora, Kumara, Mahana, Maimoa, Mamari, Matakana, Matatua, Otira, Pakeha, Raranga, Waimana, Waiwera, and Zealandic.
The New Zealand head office of the Company is in Wellington where Mr. James Findlay is stationed as Australasian representative with Mr. E. V. Bevan, assistant manager, and Captain T. H. Chudley, Marine Superintendent. The Marine Superintendents are: South Island, Captain A. J. Charman, and Auckland District, Captain R. S. Lewis. In addition the Company is represented at the various ports by very efficient agents.
Starting with the famous Westland, I now propose to give something about the vessels owned by or chartered by the Shaw Savill Company and by the Patrick Henderson's Company, that were engaged in the New Zealand trade.