Hearts of Oak

Isles of Scilly



The Penzance / Isles of Scilly Mail Packets







Official Number : 183944

Call Sign : MWMQ

April 1953 – Pricing obtained.

Contract Placed 18th March 1954

Built Woolston Southampton J.I. Thorneycroft & Co Ltd. 

Built 25th March 1955 at a cost of £250,000

Completed and Launched 15th November 1955

Named by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester.

Maiden Voyage 23rd March 1956; Southampton to St Mary’s; Captain Daniels.

15.5 knots

Steel twin screw

Powered by two 6 cylinder 4 stroke Diesel Engines by Ruston & Hornsby

Each 670 shaft horse power

Patent smoke dispersing funnel by Thorneycroft.


Length 208ft 6in.

Length on water-line 200ft.

Length B.P. 192ft. 7in.

Breadth moulded  30ft 9in.

Depth moulded to main deck  13ft. 9in,

Depth moulded to promenade deck  21ft. 3in.

Tonnage Gross  921

Tonnage Net  504

B.H.P. 1,440

Corresponding r.p.m  430

S.H.P.  1,340


Three-blade manganese-bronze propellers,

Designed and manufactured by Messrs. John I. Thornycroft & Co., Ltd.

Diameter of each propeller 6ft. 6in.

Pitch 8ft. l0in.

Propeller rpm 222



Water ballast, aft                                     Frames 2-13               14.8 tons

Fresh-water                                              Frames 13-18             11.2 tons

Diesel oil, P.                                             Frames 26-33             12.8 tons

Diesel oil, S..                                            Frames 26-33             12.8 tons

Salt-water, engine-room                          Frames 48-56               5.3 tons

Double-bottom, water ballast, P              Frames 56-81             22.1 tons

Double-bottom, water ballast, S              Frames 56-81             22.1 tons

Double-bottom, water ballast.                 Frames 81-97             16.2 tons

Fore peak                                                 Frames 97 to stern     21.3 tons

Lubricating oil                                                                 2.4  tons



Water Ballast       101.8 tons

Diesel Oil               25.6  tons

Lubricating Oil       2.4 tons 

Fresh-water          11.2 tons


CAPACITIES OF CARGO SPACES in cu ft  ( Grain / Bale )

Hold Nr 1     5,275 /   4,699

Hold Nr 2   13,950 / 12,959

Between decks  9,613 / 8,783

Totals, holds and between decks  28,838 / 26,441

Forward promenade-deck hatchway  373 / 262

After promenade-deck hatchway   428 / 316

Totals, hatchways   801 / 578

Mail room  538 / 538

Store, aft  114 / 114

Lamp and paint room 114 / 114

Totals, stores 766 / 766

Grand totals  30,405 / 27,785



2 Generators 35 Kw: Mawdsleys, Ltd.

1 Generator For Harbour Use 35 Kw: Mawdsleys, Ltd.

1 Emergency Generator 10Kw: Mawdsleys, Ltd.

2 Prime Movers For 35-Kw Generators 54 BHP: Norris, Henty & Gardners, Ltd.

1 Prime Mover For Emergency Generator 16 BHP: Norris, Henty & Gardners, Ltd

1 Diesel-Driven Air Compressor 9.5 BHP at 4,000 RPM: Norris, Henty & Gardners, Ltd..

1 Prime Mover For Harbour Generator 55 BHP: Ruston & Hornsby, Ltd.

2 Bilge/General Service Pumps 35 tons/hr Against a 60ft Head:Thorn, Lamont & Co, Ltd.

1 Lubricating-Oil Stand-By Pump : Hamworthy Engineering, Ltd .

1 Fuel-Oil Transfer Pump : Hamworthy Engineering, Ltd.

1 Motor For Lubricating-Oil Stand-By Pump

1 Motor For Fuel-Oil Transfer Pump : Laurence, Scott & Electromotors, Ltd.

1 Lubricating-Oil Purifier 120 Gallons Per Hour : Alfa-Laval Co., Ltd.

1 Oil Heater 8 Kw: Heatrae, Ltd,

2 Heat Exchangers: Serck, Ltd.

1 Heating And Hot-Water Boiler : Ideal Boilers And Radiators, Ltd.

1 Oil-Burner For Hot-Water Boiler : Premier Heating Systems, Ltd.

1 Pump For Hot-Water System : Rhodes, Brydon & Youatt, Ltd.


A steel bulwark extended for about one-third of the length from the stem, and large windows, provided by Messrs. Beckett, Laycock & Watkinson, Ltd., of London, were set in the side shell, between midships and the-stern. For the carriage of cargo there were two large holds and a 'tween-deck space situated in the fore part of the vessel. Large cargo doors were fitted at each side of the ship, to facilitate loading by hand.


A double bottom extended from the fore-peak bulkhead to a few feet aft of amidships, and was sub-divided to form tanks suitable for the carriage of water ballast. Water ballast was also carried in the fore-peak tank and in a deep tank aft. Two deep tanks, for the carriage of Diesel oil, were arranged immediately aft of the machinery space, and a deep fresh-water tank was arranged in the vicinity of the funnel. A Pneumercator standard 24ins tank-gauge outfit was supplied by Messrs. Kelvin & Hughes (Marine), Ltd., of London, for the Diesel-oil tanks.


Accommodation for about 500 passengers and 14 crew, was provided. The passenger accommodation, at the after end of the main deck, included a large tearoom, which was fitted out with upholstered settees, tables and tubular chairs, and was serviced from the pantry, which was equipped with electrically-operated milk, coffee and tea urns, provided by Messrs. James Stott & Co. (Engineers), Ltd., of Oldham. Also installed in the pantry was a large-capacity cooling cupboard for storing perishable foods. The Prestcold refrigeration plant was supplied by the Pressed Steel Co., Ltd., of Cowley, Oxford, and a Keith-Blackman fan supplied the cold air to the cooling cupboard. In all, five fans, with capacities ranging from 400 cu. ft. per minute to 5,275 cu. ft. per minute, were provided by Messrs. Keith Blackman, Ltd., of London.


A wide stairway led down from the tearoom to. the lower-deck saloon, which was furnished with upholstered settees arranged in bays. The entrance lounge was arranged on the promenade deck, at the after end of the bridge house, fitted with large windows and comfortably upholstered settees. From this lounge there was access to the promenade deck, and a stairway led down to the main-deck entrance vestibule. In the forward part of the bridge house there was an observation saloon, entered from both the port and starboard sides. The saloon had large windows, and was furnished with upholstered tubular chairs. Aft of the observation saloon was the bar lounge, in which tables, upholstered settees and tubular chairs were arranged. A bottle-cooling cabinet with ice-making facilities was fitted in the bar. There were 50 tubular chair frames, and the necessary woodwork for the armchairs, which were provided by Pel, Ltd., of Birmingham, the final upholstery work having been carried out by the shipbuilders.


The house on the bridge deck contained the wheelhouse, the captain's rooms and the wireless-telegraphy office. The chief and second engineers, first officer, purser and steward were accommodated in separate cabins on the main deck. Adjacent to the engine casing was the galley and the officers' mess. The galley range was of the oil-fired type, supplied by the Carron Company, of Falkirk.


Accommodation for the crew was on the lower deck aft and consisted of two two-berth cabins and one three-berth cabin, together with a mess-room.


A mechanical, trunked, supply system of ventilation was arranged to the tea-room, lower-deck saloon, wheelhouse, W.T. office, and all officers' and crew's cabins and mess-rooms, as well as to the galley and pantry. Mechanical, trunked, exhaust ventilation was arranged for the observation saloon, and lounge on the promenade deck, as well as to the toilets, galley and pantry. In addition to the exhaust system, all toilets and WCs were provided with natural-supply ventilators. Large natural-supply cowl vents were fitted to give ventilation to the cargo holds.



Above the strength deck, the seams and butts of the shell plating were welded, while below the strength deck, the seams were riveted and the butts welded. Riveting was adopted for connecting the frames to the shell plating and the deck plating to the beams, while welding was used for the seams and butts of the deck plating and the bulkheads. The bulkhead boundary bars were riveted to the shell. All the deck planking was of Oregon pine, the holding bolts being welded to the deck. Jeffrey's marine glue was used for paying the deck seams. There was considerable rise of floor and tumble-home. An 8ins by 0.5ins rubbing keel was fitted in way of the flat plate keel, whilst a 9ins by 12ins wood fender, with 4ins by 0.3ins flat bars top and bottom, and a 5ins by 0.25ins cope, was fitted.



The outfit of anchors, cables, hawsers and warps was in accordance with the requirements of Lloyd's Register of Shipping, and included the following items:

Two bower anchors, each 19 cwt; one stream anchor, 6.25 cwt; 210 fathoms of 1.3125ins stud-link cable; 60 fathoms of 3.25ins stream wire; 90 fathoms of 3-in. wire tow-line; 90 fathoms of 2.25ins wire hawser; and 90 fathoms of 1.75ins wire warp. The anchors and cables were provided by Griffin-Woodhouse Chain Cables, Ltd., of Cradley Heath, Staffs., and the cable was manufactured, under this firm's own patent, in high-tensile steel. In handling the cables there was an electrically-driven windlass, provided by Messrs, A. Barton (Engineers), Ltd., of St. Helens, Lanes,, who also supplied a capstan, together with winches and slewing gear for cargo-handling purposes. The derricks and masts were manufactured by Messrs Stewarts and Lloyds, Ltd., and the outfit of cargo derricks and guide blocks by Messrs. Taylor, Pallister & Co., Ltd., of Dunston-on-Tyne. Steering was by means of a Hyland hydraulic steering gear ( provided with alternative hand-hydraulic control from the bridge ), manufactured by Messrs. Vickers-Armstrongs (Engineers), Ltd., at their Hyland Works Wakefield.



The life-saving appliances conformed to the contemporary requirements of the Ministry of Transport, the main items being four 25-ft. lifeboats, one of which was equipped with the well-known manual propelling gear developed by Captain I. R. Fleming, of Liverpool. The boats were constructed by the Cardiff Boat-building Co., Ltd., of Cardiff, and were carried at the sides of the funnel in davits manufactured by Schat Davits, Ltd., of London Colney, Herts. In addition to the lifeboats, there were eight sets of D type and three sets of C type buoyant deck seats, manufactured by Messrs. Mashford Brothers, Ltd,, of Cremyll, Plymouth. The seats, which would provide buoyancy for a total of 460 persons, were constructed selected Colombian pine and had yellow-metal internal air tanks. Both patterns have the same end section, and could be positioned in line when required. Considerations of access dictated the provision of an opening in one of the watertight bulkheads, the necessary watertight door having been manufactured by the Westmoor Engine Works Co., Ltd., of Pallion, Sunderland.


Extensive precautions were taken to safeguard the ship against the outbreak and spread of fire. Above the bulkhead deck, there were fire-resisting bulkheads, in conformity with the contemporary requirements of the Ministry of Transport. The openings in these bulkheads were fitted with fireproof doors of the type manufactured by Dreadnought Fireproof Doors (1930), Ltd., of London.


The passenger and crew spaces were very adequately protected by an installation of sprinklers on the well-known Grinnell system of Messrs. Mather & Platt, Ltd., of Manchester. The system was supplied from a 600 gallon pressure tank, half-filled with water, and in which the working pressure was maintained at 120 lb per sq. in. A Mather & Platt automatic, electrically-driven, centrifugal fire pump was brought into action, by means of a Brookhirst automatic-starting panel, on a fall of pressure in the sprinkler trunk main due to the operation of one or more sprinklers. A fire-alarm system was provided by Messrs. Gent & Co., Ltd., of Leicester. Foam fire-fighting apparatus was supplied by the Pyrene Co., Ltd., of London, and installed by Messrs. John I. Thornycroft & Co., Ltd.



The navigating officers had at their disposal a comprehensive range of modern apparatus and instruments. The outfit of magnetic compasses was supplied by Messrs. Henry Browne & Son, Ltd., of Barking, Essex; while Loudaphone equipment and the navigation lights indicators were provided by Messrs. Clifford & Snell, Ltd., of Sutton, Surrey, and navigation lamps by Messrs. G. Bocock and Co., Ltd., of Birmingham. The comprehensive wireless-telegraphy installation, supplied and installed by the Marconi International Marine Communication Co., Ltd., of London, incorporated Marconi Marine Gannet radio-telephone equipment, to handle link telephone calls, while a Reliance telegraphy transmitter, with an Atalanta receiver, was installed for radio telegrams. An Autokey device enabled the Reliance transmitter to be keyed automatically in case of emergency, and an Alert guard receiver was also provided.


Marconi Quo Vadis radar equipment ws installed in the wheelhouse. The engine-room telegraphs was supplied by Messrs. A, Robinson & Co., Ltd., of Bootle, Liverpool; while a rudder indicator, by Messrs. Siemen Brothers & Co., Ltd., of London, was also installed. An 11ins diameter incandescent-type searchlight was provided by Messrs. T. Francis & Sons, of Bolton, Lanes. This unit was fitted with wheelhouse control.



The main propelling machinery, constructed by Messrs. Ruston & Hornsby, Ltd., of Lincoln, consisted of two Mark 6VGBXM, four-stroke cycle, six-cylinder, vertical, pressure-charged, airless-injection, cold-starting, uni-directional Diesel engines, arranged for outboard turning. Each engine was coupled to an oil-operated reverse and reduction gear manufactured by Modern Wheel Drive, Ltd., of Slough, Bucks. With a cylinder diameter of 12ins, and a stroke of 15ins, each engine was rated to develop 720 B.H.P. at 430 r.p.m. Ample passageway was provided between the two main engines, and the ladder-ways were free from obstructions. The tunnel-shaft bearings were supplied by Michell Bearings, Ltd., of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and were of the self-lubricated pivoted journal pad type. The tunnel-shaft bearings had pivoted pads in the casing bottom, while the aftermost shaft bearings had pivoted pads in the cover, as well as the base.


Electrical Current was provided at 220/230 volts by two 35-kW Diesel-generating sets. The prime movers for these units were manufactured by Messrs. Norris, Henty & Gardners, Ltd., of Patricroft, Manchester, and were directly coupled to Mawdsleys generators. In each case the engine and dynamo were mounted on a single cast-iron baseplate, the engine being arranged for both compressed-air and hand starting. For harbour work, there was a Mawdsleys 35-kW. generator, driven by a. Ruston engine.


The electrical installation was carried out by Messrs. John I. Thornycroft  & Co., Ltd., who also designed and manufactured the main and emergency switchboards.


For emergency use, there was a Diesel-generating and pumping set. This unit consisted of a Mawdsleys 10kW generator, directly coupled to a Gardner Diesel engine. There was also a 220-volt emergency battery installation, which was supplied by Messrs. Oldham & Son, Ltd., of Denton, near Manchester.


Polished hardwood cased and ironclad distribution fuse-boards were provided by the Artic Fuse & Electrical Manufacturing Co., Ltd., of Birtley. The boards were fitted with self-aligning, pressure-contact, re-wireable fuses.


Cedervall patent outside "ordinary special" oil-retaining /stern-tube glands, together with the Cedervall patent inside "packing arrangement" oil-retaining stern-tube glands for the inboard end of the shafts, were provided by Aktiebolaget  F. R. Cedervall & Soner, of Gothenburg, through, their sole licensees, Messrs. Benjamin Rogers, Sons and Partners, of London.


The main engines were lubricated with Shell Talpa Oil 30, a solvent extracted oil of SAE.30 classification, and which was also used for the propeller-shaft bearings. The Modern Wheel Drive gears employed Shell Vitrea Oil 72, this grade used, too, for the gears of the fuel-transfer, and bilge and general-service pumps, as well as for the centrifugal purifier, windlass, capstan and winches. For the auxiliary Diesel engines and air compressor, a detergent grade of oil, Shell Rotella T Oil 30, was selected. For the lubrication of the dynamo and electric-motor bearings, as well as for general use, Shell Alvania Grease 3 was employed; a grease suitable for all applications on board, as it is water-resistant at all temperatures. The Cedervall stern-tube glands were filled with Shell Strombus Oil L.73, an emulsifying oil manufactured for this type of application.


A trunked mechanical supply system of ventilation was installed for the engine-room, in conjunction with natural supply and exhaust ventilators.



The original SCILLONIAN ( 1926 ) was re-named PENNINIS,

allowing the new ship to be named SCILLONIAN;

The later ship was named SCILLONIAN III;

and the proposed ship is to be named SCILLONIAN IV;

It is therefore a convention to add “(II)” to the 1956 SCILLONIAN’s name.






The new vessel SCILLONIAN (II) was required to meet the increasing passenger numbers; it needed to be introduced to compete with the plans for the introduction of helicopter service due in January 1956 – a service which would complement the existing air service. Other reasons for the need to have a new vessel included the difficulty in finding firemen and stokers.


Captain Daniels had presented himself and his crew of four to the Shipping Master at Southampton, before setting off to St Mary’s with their new ship.

The Shipping Master was concerned at the size of the crew and that they were not union men. On production of their discharge books, the Shipping Master was impressed at the breadth of service they had between them, stating  that, having just before signed out the crew for the Queen Mary, the crew of the Scillonian “had more experience than the whole damn crew of the Queen Mary”.


As it turned out, the helicopter service did not commence until 2nd May 1964.


Scillonian II began service with her first voyage from Penzance on 28th March 1956, proving to be a reliable vessel for the waters which she had to sail.

Voyage time reduced from over 3 hours ( on occasion 4 or 5 ) to 2.5 hours.


However, she did not handle as well as the first Scillonian and had difficulties in

berthing in bad weather; she had to be taken on to Falmouth or St. Ives on occasion.


After much protest at the proposal to make Falmouth the permanent location for

berthing, Penzance offered a position on the Albert Pier, which was easier to enter and berth than the North Arm at the entrance to the Dry Dock.


Besides her usual route between the Isles of Scilly and Penzance, she made sailings to Newlyn, Falmouth and St Ives; with Plymouth being added in early 1961, due to the blockage of the main railway line to Penzance.


During the early 1970s, consideration was given to a new vessel, and an order was placed with Ryton Marine, at a cost of £750,000, to be delivered 1974, However, in March 1973 Ryton Marine went into liquidation, £75,000 having already been paid by the Islands. SCILLONIAN (II) was to remain as their ship.


SCILLONIAN (II) served a reliable and diligent service to the Islands, hardly ever prevented from sailing ( as was also the case with the SCILLONIAN 1926 ), went in for overhauls to Southampton, ending with an extended re-fit at Falmouth in 1974, which used much of the steelwork that had been partially pre-fabricated by Ryton Marine of Wallsend; so that her bottom was fully re-plated.


She was replaced by the Scillonian III ( Appledore built ) which arrived from Bideford at St Mary’s Isle of Scilly on the 19th May 1977.


1977 as DEVONIA

Sold to P & A Campbell of Bristol, for £150,000,

and renamed DEVONIA for Bristol Channel work.

She joined the BALMORAL; she sailed 21st June to 10th July 1977, deputising for the BALMORAL whilst that vessel was away at the Silver Jubilee Naval review at Spithead until 30th June 1977. The DEVONIA ( ex SCILLONIAN (II) ) called at Minehead, Weston-Super-Mare and Pembroke Docks.


She was also run on Thames Cruises. Campbell’s had also chartered the QUEEN OF THE ISLES, also on the Thames in 1969. The plan was to encourage visitors, to the Silver Jubilee of 1977, to take a river cruise. The DEVONIA was taken on a daily tour from Tower pier to Southend, calling at Greenwich. Following her Thames season in 1977, she was seen laid up in the River Dart on 1/10/77 and again, with BALMORAL, on 1/11/77. The success of this 1977 venture, resulted in a plan for the 1978 season, with BAMORAL; DEVONIA was to have become the main all year round ship for the Bristol Channel.


The planned Lundy Island lifeline role, which Campbell’s had hoped for DEVONIA, did not come to fruition. DEVONIA was chartered in December 1977, for oil-rig ferrying work at Loch Kishorn, Scotland for Chevron Oil. By January 1978 she had been in service based on Kyle of Lochalsh. Whilst there, DEVONIA had hit an underwater obstruction, and was off service for three weeks, going into the Clyde at Greenock on 28/1/78, for repairs. The charter ended in April 1978, as contracted. She returned to Bristol on the evening of 8/5/78 and was back in summer service on the Bristol Channel that July, by then repainted in P&A Campbell style. Prior to that she had retained her white hull from IoSSCo days but with a white funnel.


DEVONIA became Swansea based, operating as part of the two ship Bristol Channel ferry service. Again, the hoped for Lundy Passenger and cargo service with the Landmark Trust and Lundy failed to come about. DEVONIA became a mobile exhibition vessel, travelling from port to port around the United Kingdom, with the odd visit to the continent; displaying yachting and boating equipment.


She was laid up in Bristol late 1978. Transferred to Torquay briefly for work to Channel Islands in 1979. DEVONIA was moved to Avonmouth August 1981. P&A Campbell Ltd came to an end in 1980.


1982 as DEVONIUN

Purchased by Torbay Seaways Ltd and renamed MV DEVONIUN in 1982 and seen as an excursion vessel for the South Devon Coast and work to the Channel Islands. Maiden voyage as DEVONIUN 15th May 1982. Regular Saturday and Thursday sailings to Guernsey, and another voyage weekly to Alderney direct. Now certified for 300 passengers only. “their “lovely cruise liner” operated with evening coastal cruises from Torquay, billed as the “Showboat”. Sunday “Jazz cruises” to the River Dart were given in 1982. In 1983, through fares were offered to Jersey, in conjunction with Sealink. By 1984, the DEVONIUN had been sold in anticipation of the operation of the CLANSMAN; however, Torquay council had not permitted the end-loading car ferry. Torbay Seaways eventually were bought up by Huelin Renouf Group, of the Channel Islands, and the Torquay operation was closed down.



From Marine News, Oct.1985 – DEVONIUN sold by

John Graham & Maureen Marie Thompson to

Norse Atlantic Ferries and renamed SYLLINGAR.


Chris Marrow writes ….

I purchased her from Torbay Seaways when she was the DEVONIUN.

In recognition of her antecedents, I renamed her

SYLLINGAR which is the Norse for the Scilly Islands.

Under the company Norse Atlantic Ferries,

we reopened the long-closed route between Orkney and Shetland with her.

For various reasons the company failed, not least because we had no subsidy, whereas P&O, who took over the service,

had always been well recompensed by the Scottish Office.

When the company failed, she was sold to

Greece where she became the Remvi and was converted.


The news broke towards the end of 1984 that Orkney interests were proposing to open up a new ferry route between Orkney and Shetland. A long time had elapsed since the old established "North Company" had operated regular passenger sailings between Orkney and Shetland as the ST NINIAN (1950), the mainstay of "indirect" sailings, was withdrawn in 1971 and not replaced by passenger tonnage. Very limited passenger accommodation had been available on the cargo vessel St Rognvald, and latterly the commercial vehicle ferry St Magnus, but this vessel gave priority to commercial vehicle drivers, and did not operate to a rigid timetable.


The new venture promised to be rather more interesting to the coastal cruising enthusiast as it was proposed to run the SYLLINGAR, between Kirkwall, Westray and Scalloway in Shetland, the latter not served by the North Company with its traditional "West Side service" since the outbreak of the Second World War, although Scalloway is actually only six miles away from Lerwick.


By late 1984 Norse Atlantic Ferries Ltd had been formed, which was closely connected with Wide Firth Ferry, an established Orkney concern that ran the small motor vessel GOLDEN MARIANA on excursions around the north isles of Orkney. Announcing in strident tones that "We have found the missing link", with publicity that depicted stylised Viking longboats, "Viking Island Ferries" was also formed as the enterprise that marketed both ships. The DEVONIUN had been purchased from Torbay Seaways for £110,000 and the Highlands & Islands Development Board put up the majority of the capital, with both Orkney and Shetland Island Councils taking a minority interest in recognition of the tourist potential of the new venture. It was proposed to link the islands twice-weekly in summer and also to offer occasional cruises.


The delivery voyage took place on 14th November from Torquay, and DEVONIUN left with a full cargo of manure for Westray, as well as a mini-bus and a boat engine, a promising start. Arriving at Westray on 17th November, she made her first appearance at her new home port of Kirkwall on Sunday 18th November, and was renamed SYLLINGAR shortly afterwards.


It was suggested by the Shetland Tourist Officer that cruises to view Foula might again be given, as these had not been made since 1955 when EARL OF ZETLAND went there. There is certainly no shortage of scenic cruising destinations in these waters and the new company announced that they also intended to offer occasional excursions from Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay to Fair Isle, last regularly served by the North Company from Orkney in 1950 by arrangement when a vessel on passage between Kirkwall and Lerwick would call if necessary to lift passengers by tender. This facility survived until the '60s on "direct" Aberdeen-Lerwick sailings.


The 1985 season looked promising for SYLLINGAR and the intention was to run three round trips per fortnight between Kirkwall and Scalloway, calling en route at Westray in Orkney, and with layovers in Shetland of between two and four days. The services of "Viking Island Ferries" were incorporated into the scope of the well-established "Highlands and Islands Travelpass" scheme, and more ports were visited by SYLLINGAR. She made a first call at Papa Westray on 25th February to load hay for Shetland, a little like the operation of a traditional tramp-steamer. Her overhaul took place at Aberdeen and the return voyage to the north was arranged so that cargo was carried from Invergordon, another first for SYLLINGAR. This led to further runs to Invergordon being advertised from April. Trips to Fair Isle were advertised to call at North Ronaldsay, normally the sole preserve of a weekly cargo run by the motor vessel Islander operated at that time by the Orkney Islands Shipping Company.


The first cruise to Foula took place on Thursday 9th May, but ominous signs of mechanical difficulties that were to plague the company began to emerge the following day. A full diagnosis yielded the information that SYLLINGAR needed a new crankshaft, which would cost an estimated £60,000. Although the repairs were put in hand, and efforts were made to locate a second-hand one which could reduce the bill to around £40,000, the financial effect of over a month's missed sailings was to prove disastrous. Services could not resume until 12th June, although when they did it was not immediately apparent to the outside observer that irretrievable financial damage had been sustained.


Chris Marrow writes …. In the end the crankshaft proved capable of regrinding. The first advice was indeed that we needed to replace it, and we did indeed search for a second-hand one. However, better advice followed. We could regrind the existing crankshaft in situ and replace the bearing with an under-sized one. A Norwegian company specialises in this, and they flew a team in and undertook the work. Nonetheless, the cost of the breakdown was considerable, and the uncertainty created by the temporary cessation of the service in the height of the season had a knock-on effect for the rest of the summer.


Nevertheless, another first was scored when, on Thursday, 15th August. SYLLINGAR was present at Inverness when the Queen Mother opened a new berth at the port. The ship returned overnight to Kirkwall (carrying passengers and cargo via Westray and Shapinsay), and on Sunday. 18th August she performed what turned out to be her penultimate public sailing in Britain, a day-cruise around Foula. The announcement that Norse Atlantic Ferries Ltd would cease trading was made two days later, due to accumulated losses of around £200,000 and the consequent appointment of a liquidator.


Laid up in Kirkwall as people argued over the debt that would eventually have to be written off. the SYLLINGAR made her final voyage from Orkney on 27th November 1985, to lay up at Greenock.


Chris Marrow writes …. As soon as the company ceased to trade, all the original grant aid to purchase the vessel and get the service up and running became due for refunding, so that the Highlands & Islands Development Board, Orkney Island Council and Shetland Islands Council became preferential creditors. The difficulties arose when the bank, in their wisdom, reduced the company's overdraft overnight, which was in effect the working capital wiped out. In the end, the company failed for want of a derisory sum - I seem to remember an amount of £15,000. The irony of this is that vastly more public money than £200,000 was then spent to keep the service going. The following season, by public demand, the Orcadia was chartered to continue the Scalloway service by running up there at weekends until P&O could arrange to start with the St.Sunniva, (which had originally been the Lion on the Southampton/Cherbourg run, if I recall). Of course, the St Sunniva service was then subsidised by the Scottish Office, whereas, had the Syllingar been allowed to continue, she could almost undoubtedly have run profitably on the route without a subsidy. Anyway, the Orkney/Shetland link is now accepted as a vital part of the transport scene in the Northern Isles, and it could never again be allowed to cease. Knowledgeable observers readily acknowledge that this is due to that year when we ran the Syllingar, and the ship is fondly remembered by many as a result. It would be entirely fair to claim that the old girl revolutionised the shipping scene in the far north of Scotland, and is just one of a great many remarkable features of her action-packed life.


She departed from the Clyde on 17th May 1986.


With Grateful Thanks to Mike Tedstone and Chris Marrow.

1986 as REMVI

From Marine News. Nov.1986 - Syllingar sold to

Hellenic Cruising Holidays, Greece renamed REMVI.


Built in 1956 the ship - a little ferry that could welcome on board 150 passengers and some 20 cars - served the Greek Islands without any particular problem until 1989.


In line with standard Greek practice, the REMVI was christened in English Characters, on the bow, and on the stern she was PEMBH ( Greek Characters, Remvi, which means “daydreaming” ). The name is normally of letters welded into place, but cheapskate owners don't bother to grind off the old name, and merely paint over it. The port of registration is Piraeus, also in Greek letters. Painted very roughly over the top is clearly seen the latter port of registry of San Lorenzo, which is the Honduran port at which she was finally registered. “Olga J” can be made out, higher up. There seems to be no sign of her African names, but in light of the fact that the Remvi details were still welded on, it is clear that all future names were just painted over the top and therefore easily painted over.


In 1988 she was operating between Brindisi ( Italy ) and Kerkyra ( Corfu ),

as well as Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland.

She was laid up in Kerkyra after summer operations that year.

Sold off in 1989.



Marine News : sold to J.A.R. Atlantic Ocean Ltd, Belize



Under contract to UNHCR,

she undertook the transfer of refugees between

war-torn Liberia and neighbouring Guinea.

Her name at the time made one want to laugh as much as cry.

She was called the "Africa Queen".


The Civil war in Liberia ran from Dec 1989;

eased in April 1996 and

ended in 1997 with elections;

it was at this time that AFRICA QUEEN was renamed.


There was another ship of that name, built 1962, 377gt, originally EMBLA.

1970 SINE BOYE; 1976 POSEIDON; 1987 EMBLA; 1989 REBECCA ROUSING and, in 1997 sold to Navifret SA, Gabon renamed AFRICA QUEEN. The following, therefore cannot refer to this ship. but the length of 47 metres is too short to be the ex-SCILLONIAN.

From a personal holiday report by Stefano Dighera

Period: December 26, 1995 - January 8th, 1996

so the boat's pilot arranged a transhipment on the "AFRICA QUEEN", a little cruise ship run by French people. We became acquainted with the ship's captain, a friendly French man who looked as a typical sea-dog. The "AFRICA QUEEN" is a wonderful old ship, which during winter makes cruises in the Bijiagos, while during the summer in the Cape Verde archipelago. We were shown al over the ship by the captain's executive officer. The ship is 47 metres long and has a staff of 14 people. It has a big white hull, perfectly equipped for the high seas and slim enough to glide through the channels which separate the archipelago's lands. There are 17 lovely cabins on the ship, all panelled with wood and furnished in old navy style.


However, the following could refer to either the 1962 built ship

or the ex-SCILLONIAN….

Sierra Leone News Archives 12 June 1997

Hundreds of Sierra Leonean professionals crowded onto the Queen Elizabeth II Pier Thursday, hoping to flee Freetown on a Gambian-chartered boat.

Scuffles broke out as the crowed tried to board the AFRICA QUEEN coaster, chartered by the Gambian government to evacuate 400 of its citizens.

Soldiers attempted to control the crowd, which included doctors, lawyers, teachers, university professors, and senior officials of the state telephone network.

At one point, the boat moved away from the quay after scuffles broke out.


With the return of relative peace, she was renamed PRINCESS ELIANA

with the same owners. J.A.R. Atlantic Ocean Ltd, Belize

Operating Coastal Tours and Ferry service, between Ghana and Liberia,

Sold in 1998.


1998 as OLGA J

The fate of the OLGA J and her crew is brought to

world attention by Olivier Aubert.

In 1998 she was purchased by a Cypriot Greek ship-owner, a certain John Christodoulo, director of "Asterias Maritime", a company registered in Belize. The ship-owner asked the seamen to deliver the ship to a repair yard. They all accepted. The ferry became the "Olga J" under Honduran flag, registered at San Lorenzo. Leaving Dakar, the Olga J headed towards Greece where ship repairs were supposed to be cheaper. However, at the last moment they were diverted to Haifa for stores. In Haifa a stop notice was placed on the vessel as she was in a very poor state and the captain was refusing to cooperate. She escaped from Haifa illegally by dead of night and went to Bourgas where the crew went on strike, and she came in due course to be abandoned.


25 April 2001: Ghana Review

Accra (Greater Accra)

Ghanaians repatriated from Bulgaria

Seven Ghanaian seafarers who were stranded for three years in Bulgaria have been repatriated back home by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) based in France. The seven are Emmanuel Ansah Duodu, Chief Engineer, Francis Koomson, Ato Blankson and Ransford Eshun. The rest are Felix Dwamena, Ernest Amoabeng and Barnabas Atcherkum. The seven men who worked on board a Greek vessel, Olga-J, were abandoned by the ship owner when it docked in Bulgaria for re-fuelling. Narrating their story at the airport, Mr Duodu said they boarded the vessel, which was originally called M. V. Remvi in Dakar, Senegal, where it was sold to a Greek who changed the name to Olga-J.  He said the new owner decided to maintain the crew made up of 13 Ghanaians and other African nationals and set sail for Greece and then to Bulgaria. According to Mr Duodu, berthing in Bulgaria was expensive so the captain decided to move to Israel for fuel and logistics. They sailed back to Bulgaria where they demanded their salary and the captain gave them a cheque, which bounced. Later, the Greek captain agreed to pay them off and send them home in batches. Mr Duodu said the first batch of Ghanaians out of the 13 was fully paid and sent home leaving behind the seven of them. However, in September 1998, the Captain abandoned them without paying their accrued salaries. "Life became very difficult for us in Bulgaria and we had to beg for our daily bread from other seafarers before the ITF came to our rescue," Mr Doudo said. There is at least one account of the seamen being roused at night, and beaten by  the Bulgarian police. The General Secretary of the Ghana Merchant Navy Officers Association, Mr Sigis Buckman, appealed to the government and parliament to speed up the passage of the Ghana Maritime Authority and the Ghana Shipping Bills to help regulate and check the abuse of Ghanaian seafarers.


The Captain of the OLGA J was previously Captain of the infamous SALEM ….

Read the details of this Maritime Fraud …..


2004 The ex-SCILLONIAN (II) finally sinks

An aerial photograph is released, which shows the remains of the OLGA J, at the quayside at Bourgas, Bulgaria.


My Thanks for

The kind help of the Captain and Crew of the webship, Mariners-L;

Thanks too for material and help from

Chris Marrow ( of the Syllingar )

and Mike Tedstone

for his kind permission to use his article

“The Ship with Five Lives”


Raymond Forward