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 ZEALAND - Yard No 440 - Diesel Cargo - Currie Line Ltd - Built 1954

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ZEALAND - Yard No 440 - Diesel Cargo - Currie Line Ltd - Built 1954


The flag of The Currie Line Ltd

 The M.V.ZEALAND Ship No 440  
Owners    Currie Line Ltd
Registered    Leith Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Diesel Cargo & Passenger Launched    10/11/1954
      Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    270' 0" Weather    
Beam    45' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     25' 6"      
G.R.T.    2030 tons      
Other known names        
Current Status        

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


The M.V.ZEALAND from an old postcard
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.

The Cargo/Passenger vessel ZEALAND was an order from the local Currie Line Ltd a famous old Leith shipping line. Another in a long line of nice looking ships built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, although it has been said that she tended to roll somewhat in rough seas.

She was used on the Leith to Denmark run with cargo and passengers and later from London to Lisbon.




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.ZEALAND slow ahead, with another smoking vessel passing behind her on the port side.


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.



The above photograph taken by Tony Featherston shows the main switchboard of the MV ZEALAND



told by Tony Featherston Electrical Engineer.

The picture of the MV Zealand brings back memories from more than 50 years ago. I
sailed on her from 1958 to 1960, responsible for the functioning of everything
electrical with the exception of radio, which was handled by a Marconi man.

At that time she sailed from London docks to Lisbon carrying a mixed cargo and up
to 12 passengers. She was an easy ship to work and good people to work with.

Here are a few unconnected and light hearted memories of incidents during those

An engineer wanted to shut down one of the diesel generators (there were 3 of
them) for diesel maintenance, but forgot that a new one must be brought up to
balance and share load before shutting down the running one. On the main
switchboard he tripped the breaker and, except for some emergency power, shut
down the entire ship. I spent a happy hour getting everything running again. I
heard later that the Chief Engineer "spoke" to him.

She was a DC (direct current) ship and so there was some difficulty when the
stewardess (we only had one) asked me to help a passenger whose shaver would
not work. By the time I got to his cabin there was smoke in the air. I
suggested to the stewardess that she should get him a razor that had a blade.
That kind works on any ship.


We were inspected one day in port by a superintendent who wanted to see one of the
life boats in the water. The mechanical engineers were busy in the engine room
so the Chief Engineer persuaded me to go into a lowered life boat to help him.
Fine, we pushed off to do a circle round the dock, except that half way round
the engine stopped and would not restart. It was very embarrassing. It must
have been funny to watch, so perhaps we passed the inspection.

We sometimes carried buses to Portugal. They were deck cargo and not locked so we
were able to enter them. I think I am one of the few people who can claim to
have ridden on a bus on the Bay of Biscay. 

View into the engine room-Photo by Tony Featherston 

The above photograph by Tony Featherston shows a view into the engine room of the MV ZEALAND


We also, on at least two occasions, carried dogs. The Third Mate and I took them
for walks round the decks for exercise. Even in fairly rough weather they
seemed quite happy and surefooted perhaps because they each had four sea
legs.  Come to think of it, there cannot
be many people who have both taken a ride on a bus and walked a dog on the Bay
of Biscay.

It was a dark and stormy night when the steering gear broke. In fact it was
daytime and calm, but let's be dramatic. I was involved because the problem
might have been electrical, but it turned out to be a broken coupling. The
steering gear could still be operated manually by ropes connected to winches on
the deck, so we were able to limp along until the problem was fixed. No doubt
other shipping was warned to keep out of our way.

The Zealand had a swimming pool. Well, OK! It was a canvas sheet attached to a
wooden frame. It could only be used in port and was only large enough to hold
five people so laps were about four strokes, but it was good on a hot day.

I well remember the day of the big flood. A pump for waste water I was working on
would run but would not pump water. The fourth engineer decided that a pipe
from the pump was clogged, so he disconnected it at a bend near its sea outlet
to clean it. Unfortunately we were rolling heavily at the time, which the
Zealand did at every opportunity, and the outlet went under water. As a result
we took on more water than we had previously been pumping. He and two other men
struggled each time the outlet came up to refit the pipe before the flood came
in again. They were totally soaked. I told him afterwards that at least it was
sea water and not waste water, but he did not seem to appreciate it.




It was not always rough and I remember
going on deck at night under moonlight and seeing us sailing across a sea that
looked like glass.

Strange how such memories come back when
presented with a picture. Hard to imagine that over fifty years have gone by
since I sailed on her. 

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 #9 Barnard 2015-03-24 20:38
My father was Ralph Lawrence and he worked for Currie Line in London 1955/1966. I used to visit the Zealand, when I was 6 - 8 years. I have photos of when my father took family on to her for lunch. My father and mother are now both dead and I found a print of the Zealand, with Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.
0 #8 Barnard 2015-03-24 20:30
My father was Ralph Lawrence and worked for Currie Line in London. I used to go aboard the Zealand as a 6 -8 year old. I loved it and have pictures of Mum, Dad me and my baby brother on board her when we went for lunch. Dad and Mum are now dead and recently I found print of what I believe is the Zealand with The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Happy memories
0 #7 james whyte 2014-11-05 20:16
to robert dyke i read your comment about your father george who sailed on the gothland he was the first mate then i was on the gothland with him and jimmy greig who was the chief steward i was the cook and i remember you and your mother visiting the ship i remember hearing about your father dying at a young age i think he was still in his forties ,was it loughbourgh you stayed or moved to
regards james whyte
0 #6 Peter Wallace 2014-03-19 14:17
To answer Rob Mongomery's query, it seems the company wanted to used the name Zealand for their new building in 1955 so renamed the present Zealand to Shetland. I met Capt Webster and went to Leith Nautical College with his son Alan.

For Ian McIntyre: my uncle Tom McPhail was last Managing Director of the company at the same time as Rowley Scovell.
+1 #5 Ian MacIntyre 2014-01-31 11:40
My grandfather, also Ian MacIntyre, was Chairman of the Currie Line from 1932 to 1938. Yesterday I spent the day at the University archives in Glasgow researching the history of the Currie Line and the Leith Hull and Hamburg Steam Packet Line.
Also with us was Kerry Scovell, son of Rowley Scovell, last Chairman of the Line.
I think my grandmother wife of Ian launched the Zealand.
0 #4 Rob Montgomery 2013-05-22 06:07
Just finished reading about the Zealand as it happens I was catering boy on the very same ship from January till October 1958 Captain Webster in command the puzzling thing is that she was called SHETLAND during this period ....her official No 167037 the same as the Zealand I have searched for photographs of her as the Shetland without success but there is no doubt they are one and the same the official NO seems to confirm it regards RM
+1 #3 Rob Montgomery 2013-05-18 09:41
I sailed on this ship as catering boy from January 1958 until October 1958 we were on the Finland run all that time ...a great ship and company and crew Now she was called the "Shetland" official No 167037 during that time which I believe to be the same No as the "Zealand" but can,t find any details of her being the Shetland ...anybody help ???
+1 #2 Robert Dyke 2013-02-05 11:02
I am the son of the late Captain George Dyke who spent 17 years with the Currie Line, Leith. I was 11 when he passed away but have many memories of being fortunate enough to have sailed with my dad on the MV England and MV Gothland but spent times aboard other Currie Line ships. I know that he sailed on thevMV Zealand as I have photographs from him. He would have probably have been a 2nd mate back then but I am not sure if anyone remembers now, his good friend Jimmy Greg was the Chief Purser on many ships following. Regards Robert
+1 #1 Anthony Featherston 2012-10-07 13:51
Great site.
I sailed on the Zealand (electrical eng.)from 1958 to 1960. At that time the Denmark run had ceased and she went from London to Lisbon.

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