The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Home Ships Built in Leith 1918 to 1939 ORIOLE - Yard No 292 - Motor Cargo Vessel - General Steam Nav. Co Ltd - Built 1939

Leith Shipyards

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ORIOLE - Yard No 292 - Motor Cargo Vessel - General Steam Nav. Co Ltd - Built 1939


M.V.ORIOLE Ship No 292 built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, ordered by the General Steam Navigation Company, Ltd.
Owners    General Steam Nav. Co Ltd
Registered     Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Coaster Launched    15/08/1939
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    160' 0" Weather    
Beam    27' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     14' 0"      
Draught    10' 3"      
G.R.T.    489 tons      
DWT    564 tons      
Engines   6 cylinder diesel engine, built by British Auxilliaries Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, producing 560 bhp      
Props    1      
Speed    9 knots      
Other known names   1962-L'Oriole, 1964-Cecillene Marie, 1967-Cecillene, 1970-Marine Trader, 1983-Mayan Trader, 1987-Conalves Trader, 1987-ND Lourdes, 1988-Notre Dame de Lourdes    
Current Status   Sank in 1991 with the lose of 5 Crew    

Content on the MV ORIOLE will be added as and when available. 



The M.V.ORIOLE one of the classic small coaster that were seen around the coasts of the British Isles before the containerisation of ships for the carrying of goods by sea was to take over the majority of all goods transported by sea. 

Ships History

Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.
To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.
Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what washoped for a long and successful working life.

M.V.ORIOLE was requisitioned by the Ministry of War (Transport) as soon as she was ready for sea, She was launched from the yard on the 15th of August 1939 just a month before war was declared. Her service during the conflict was eventful and she took part in the D-Day invasion of the Normandy Beaches.

ORIOLE- War Service on D-Day

She was tasked with the supply of cased petrol for the American Landing beaches of Utah and Omaha sailing from ports on the Welsh coast to the beaches to supply the constant demand for petrol to keep the Allied Armies on the move in the invasion of Europe.

ORIOLE was involved in a couple of collisions with friendly ships while at anchor and after repairs she continued on her way with supplies.

Once the River Seine was opened up to Allied shipping she was diverted to the port of Rouen.

The motor vessel ORIOLE survived the war and was returned to her owners General Steam Navigation to go on with her peace time trade around the coasts of the British Isles.

 The M.V.ORIOLE was a typical design for a small coaster of her time with bridgehouse aft and low funnel to allow her to navigate up rivers and not obstruct the many bridges encountered whilst navigating inland from the coast.

The General Steam Navigation Company Ltd, was to end up a part of the huge P&O shipping group, while retaining identity as a subsidiary company.

With a shallow draught of only 8' 3" and powered by a 6 cylinder diesel engine by British Auxiliary Ltd, producing 560 bhp and giving her a service speed of 9 knots.

With a cargo capacity of 31,000 cubic ft for her cargo which was mostly grain in peacetime.

She was used by her owners for 23 years before sailing across the North Atlantic to her new owners L. Gagne of Matane Canada, who renamed her L'Oriole.

She was to go through a number of name changes in the next two decades, with her last registered name being Notre Dame De Lourdes, it was under this name that she was to eventually come to an unfortunate end on new years day of 1991, on a voyage from Miami to Gonalves she took on water off Santo Domingo Cay in the Bahamas and sank with the lose of 5 lives.

So ended a useful working life of 52 years, when you consider that 25 or so years is a more normal working span for a ship this shows just how well these old riveted ships were built.

We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info
or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along.


The M.V. ORIOLE underway fully loaded.

(photo credit unknown)

Tales from the Ship

Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.

Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.

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0 #1 George Evans, 2012-10-18 15:34
Some of my happiest sailing days were on the Oriole. Around 1960 I was a deckhand on this litle ship, I spent a whole year and was home almost every weekend We sailed from London to France once a week, mostly to LeHavre, carrying wines and spirits and general cargo both ways.
We had a very happy crew, did our own cooking at times and always saved some treats for the French agents large poodle named Sam. At Xmas the agent rewarded the whole crew with a case of mixed wines and French liqueurs, which we managed to get past the British customs with the help of the skippers large Bentley. One of the best Xmas holidays I've had while at sea.

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