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 1946 to 1984 MV CORNCRAKE - Yard No 351 - Diesel Cargo Vessel - General Steam Nav. Co Ltd - Built 1945

Leith Shipyards

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MV CORNCRAKE - Yard No 351 - Diesel Cargo Vessel - General Steam Nav. Co Ltd - Built 1945


The General Steam Navigation Co.

 (Part of the P&O group)

Owners    General Steam Navigation Company
Registered    London Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Coaster/Diesel Cargo Launched    20/12/1945
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall    183' 6" Launch Details    
Length B.P.    180' 0" Weather    
Beam    32' 10" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     20' 5"      
G.R.T.    629 tons      
DWT    797 tons      
Engines    6 cylinder diesel engine built by

Maschinenbau Kiel A G, Kiel, Germany

Props    1      
Speed    10 knots      
Other known names   1967-Twillingate    
Current Status   Deleted from Lloyds 1999    
Content  on the MV CORNCRAKE will be added as and when available. 



The above photograph is of the M.V.CORNCRAKE underway

(Photo is by kind permission of P&O Heritage)


Down To The Sea In Ships

Down To The Sea In Ships

For millennia, the seaways have carried our goods, cultures and ideas, the terrors of war and the bounties of peace and they have never been busier than they are today. But though our normality depends on shipping, it is a world which passes largely unconsidered, unseen and unrecorded. Out of sight, in every lonely corner of every sea, through every night, every day, and every imaginable weather, tiny crews of seafarers work the giant ships which keep landed life afloat. These ordinary men (and they are mostly men) live extraordinary lives, subject to pressures we know families, relationships, dreams and fears and to dangers and difficulties we can only imagine, from hurricanes and pirates to years of confinement in hazardous, if not hellish, environments. Horatio Clare joins two container ships, travelling in the company of their crews and captains. Together they experience unforgettable journeys: the first, from East to West (Felixstowe to Los Angeles, via Suez) is rich with Mediterranean history, torn with typhoon nights and gilded with an unearthly Pacific peace; the second northerly passage, from Antwerp to Montreal, reeks of diesel, wuthers with gales and goes to frozen regions of the North Atlantic, in deep winter, where the sea itself seems haunted. In Clare's vibrant prose a modern industry does battle with implacable forces, as the ships cross seas of history and incident, while seafarers unfold the stories of their lives, telling their tales and yarns. A beautiful and terrifying portrait of the oceans and their human subjects, and a fascinating study of big business afloat, Down to the Sea in Ship s is a moving tribute to those who live and work on the great waters, far from land.

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 was hoped for a long and successful working life.

With the end of World War 2 companies needed to rebuild and for shipping companies that meant replacing war losses. And in fact this had been an order which was on the stocks at the start of the war in 1939 but had been hastily cancelled as the yard needed to start building warships.

M.V.CORNCRAKE was the first ship of a two ship order from the General Steam Navigation Company Ltd.

She was built for the coastal trade around the British Isles. She was a single screw diesel cargo vessel of 629 tons.

She was launched on 20th December 1945 into the peacetime waters of the River Forth.

The M.V.CORNCRAKE was employed on the profitable Liverpool to London trade route and she was eventually sold by the company in 1967.

One interesting thing about this vessel was the fact that she was powered by a German engine, she had a 6 cylinder diesel engine built by

Maschinenbau Kiel A G this has to be assumed that the engine was one that had been repatriated as part of the war costs awarded to the victorious allied armies, and this payment took many forms.

The majority of other Leith built ships of this time would have a British Polar Engine.

She had a service speed of 10 knots, with a cargo capacity of 56,600 cubic feet.

After service with the General Steam Navigation Company (Part of the P&O Shipping group) she was another of the small coasters to make her way across the North Atlantic ocean although she had only the infamous weather of this route to contend with and no U-Boats.

Purchased by H W C Gillett Ltd, St John's, Newfoundland, and renamed

Twillingate. In 1967 she worked for the Canadian shipping company until 1988 before being sold on again to Panamanian shipping interests although she kept the same name, and she was eventually deleted from Lloyds register in 1999.

So here we have another fine small coaster that had a useful working life of more than 50 years.

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.


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0 #3 Rod 2015-09-15 12:40
Quoting Keith collier:
Was this ship ever at Bristol ( UK) docks late 50,60,s.i have memories of a 10 year old seeing this at bristol

Keith, just picked this up. I believe this boat is the subject of a song written by Ian (Nobby) Dye of the shanty group Harry Browns. It has been reported that the Corncrake was indeed a frequent visitor to Bristol in the 60s.

+1 #2 P G Newman 2014-01-21 09:03
I sailed on this ship in August 1947 for one trip as work experience. We sailed from St.Catherines Wharf by Tower Bridge to Amsterdam where we took on a load of sheet glass and returned to Eastham Docks. I remember being shown the Decca Navigation System which was in use at that time.
-1 #1 Keith collier 2013-11-27 21:39
Was this ship ever at Bristol ( UK) docks late 50,60,s.i have memories of a 10 year old seeing this at bristol

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