IT’S a cause for celebration all round that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is to base its flagship, Balmoral, in the Tyne from next year.
It maintains a link with a shipping name that goes back almost 120 years on the river, which had its origins in the route from the east coast, to Norway.
In fact as news comes of one ship coming in, it is almost 40 years to the day since another well known Fred Olsen name sailed out, in her case for the last time.
She was the veteran mailboat Braemar, seen here in a nice picture with the old Tyne wooden vehicular ferry, South Shields, close by.
Braemar had operated since the early 1950s on Olsen’s passenger service from North Shields, to Kristiansand and Oslo, which had been in existence since the turn of last century.
She had operated on it alone since the late 1960s, when fire destroyed her companion ship, Blenheim.
The Port of Tyne Authority had built its new terminal at North Shields in 1966, to cope with the expanding passenger traffic to Scandinavia. By the early 1970s, there were up to 10 sailings a week, to Norway or Denmark, and sometimes as many as four on Saturdays.
But by the time the Braemar was taken out of service, oil prices had driven the number of sailings down to six – three to Bergen, one to Oslo, one to Kristiansand, and one to Esbjerg.
Braemar was sold to what were, at the time, undisclosed foreign buyers, and my last note of her is that she was destined to be a mailboat in the Philippines.
Staying with shipping matters, before the weekend, I was harking back to when, at the end of the Second World War, Shields was trying to get a captured German U-boat brought to the town, to place on exhibition.
Folk were keen to see, at first hand, what had wrought so much devastation among ships of the Merchant Navy, in which so many local men lost their lives.
I still don’t think one came, but it’s been interesting to hear from a reader that Hartlepool got one, apparently, but I’ve hitherto not been able to find out any more.
Also – just a quirky morsel – one was also reputedly displayed at Porthmadog, in Wales, where part of the hull eventually ended up as lining for a tunnel on the Ffestiniog Railway.