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 S.A.WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE - Yard No 516 - Ocean Salvage Tug - Safmarine - Built 1976

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S.A.WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE - Yard No 516 - Ocean Salvage Tug - Safmarine - Built 1976


As with most things in life and ships included they come to an end, this fine tug could have gone on for many years to come but it would seem that politics got involved in her story as with many ships.

It was decided in 2010 that the WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE was surplus to requirments and that the powers that be would keep the local built John Ross going and scrap her sister ship built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb in Scotland.

So the sad end was in sight for the fine old ship and she was readied for the ship graveyards first being stripped of all usable equipment and seen in the photograph below she was pretty light and in ballast at Cape Town while awaiting her end.


At least they had the good grace to ackowledge just what a magnificent ship she had been as they gave her a new name to end her final days with.

The name she was given was ICON and I can think of no better name for this mighty vessel that had protected the coast line of South Africa amongst many, many other towing duties during her working lifetime.  

The sad end


 The once mighty WALRAAD WOLTEMADE run onto the beach at Alang and awaiting the tides and hordes of workers ready

to decend onto her like a swarm of ants armed with burning torches and grinders to reduce her to a pile of scrap metal.




Not too much of her left now as they carry away bits of her just one of the many to be reduced to scrap.


Almost gone now, a sad end indeed for a very fine ship.



 And as she was in her prime just after fitting out and doing her trials in the Firth of Forth, near Leith, Scotland.


This great photograph shows how powerful the mighty ocean going tug was as she brings in another "Super Tanker" to Cape Town in 1982 the photograph is by Bob Terry and is shown with his kind permission.


While ocean salvage could be very profitable it could also be pretty dangerous as this photograph from Bob Terry shows as the mighty tug tows this ship on fire again in 1982 and shown by kind permission.











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0 #32 James M. Taylor Jr 2017-03-15 13:32
Hello There, Is it possible that anybody that used to be employed on the Tug Wolraad Woltemade remembers towage of a ro/ro ship to the France Rd. Dock in New Orleans via the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet? Would have been around 1977 or so Thks, JT
0 #31 Derks / Holland 2016-12-26 12:06
Just finished the story of the South Afrcan sea going tugs Wolraad Woltemade and the John Ross.
Excellent story.
Keep this site on my favorites.
0 #30 peter young 2016-10-30 12:23
If you look at the last picture before of the Wolraad while she was still whole, you will see that the call sign was "ZFFA" and not "ZTUG". WW and sister, JR were first registered in South Africa with ZTUG and ZTOW. Because of sancions during the apartheid era, they were re-registered with ZFFA and ZCLT call signs in Hamilton, Bermuda (according to my seaman's record book, that must have been before 1980.) In April 1982 the Falklands war broke out. To avoid being requisitioned by the British Navy for use in the war (Bermuda being a British colony)On 18 April 1982 I signed off the Wolraad Woltemade, ZFFA and then signed on again on the Wolraad Woltemade ZTUG.----- later the tugs were re-registered in Panama. This explaines the various colour changes of the Ships' funnels.
0 #29 Stephen Carson 2016-10-09 09:54
Hi Peter Youngyou,

Stephen Carson here. You remember me as Allan MacLeod 3/E and 2/E when I re-leaved 2/E'Growler"
I reverted back to my birthright name Stephen Carson in 1994.Busy here in Sth Korea as part of Project team building drill ships after coming ashore in 2005. So what path has life led you down.My email address .
+1 #28 Peter Youngyou 2016-10-08 20:53
I sailed on the WW and John Ross as electrician between 1979 and 1983. I am the bloke with dark hair and beard in the BBQ (Braai) picture with Alan (Bluie) Mc Cloud, Bob Herring, And the girls. I see Frank Maunder, Chief Engineer is also in a picture.
Some of the crew I remember well are :- Richard Armstrong (4th to chief engineer), Eddie Freestone CE, Eugene Hermanus (3rd Eng) Walter Du Preez, (4th -3rd Eng), Nic Carrington(CE), Jimmy Hey (2nd-CE) Adrian Bonello (2nd Eng), Peter Stow (mate) Simon Atherstone-Reno lds (2nd Mate), Dave Stirling,(3rd Mate), Terry Purden(Mate), Steve Mathews, Robin Jones, Danny Betts, Jack Golden, And even Frank (chicken coop) Colbard, the 5 Captains.I sailed with all of them, and I have far more happy memories than otherwise. There must be many more, but I, like the Tugs, am getting old.

Wolraad Woltemade, and John Ross,
I salute you and all who sailed in you!
+1 #27 Dave Moir 2016-09-28 22:34
Great article. I had the honour of being towed by the John Ross on the oil rig the Chris Chenery from UK North Sea to dry dock in Rotterdam. Tow went so well, very professionally done, John Ross Skipper was towmaster. We were overloaded on the rig at start of tow due to fog preventing helicopters so some of the rig crew sailed on the John Ross. I sailed on the rig, did customs forms for the bargemaster & watched the tug as she towed us effortessly to R'dam. When she cast off she blew her horn which blasted right round the whole of the Europoort!
+1 #26 Mark De Simone 2016-03-07 13:06
I had the great fortune to know both the Wolraad Woltemade and the John Ross. First encountering the WW in HKUD during 1984 or 85 while my own vessel SEDCO 600 was stacked, I had the great honor of being a guest aboard the WW meeting Captain Jack and his amazing crew. Then later in Houston during 1985, I met up with the John Ross, and then in 1986, in Singapore on a stopover, while the WW was towing the Zane Barnes from Nagoya to the Gulf of Mexico. The images of these amazing vessels remains with me today, and as I learned on the WW in HKUD, while on board one cannot use the "PIG", refer to the vessel as a "Boat" or proceed in conversation more than 5 minutes with mentioning women ... it was a great experience and I am proud to have know these vessels and it personnel. It was a bit of a shock to see the WW split in half at the end of the article, but I suppose after nearly 40 years service, it is to be expected ... and life goes on. May it rest in peace.
+1 #25 Tim Callais 2016-02-18 21:19
The photo of WW towing that yellow hulled rig was taken around March or April of 1993. The rig was the Transocean Richardson. I was on the rig at the time the picture was taken. We were in route to the US Gulf of Mexico from Scotland. She was a beautiful tug and made for an excellent journey in her wheel wash.
+3 #24 stephen ward 2015-06-25 05:35
I remember reading in the Guinness book of records how the WOLRAAD WOLTEMADE was the worlds most powerful tug of her day.She was indeed very special.
0 #23 Ken hunter 2015-02-17 17:53
Well well Bernard, fancy hearing from you after all these years. How you keeping? I'd love to receive any photos. Im at .I've just read the book Kind regards Ken

Quoting Bernard McGroarty:
Quoting Ken hunter:
Having being the senior service engineer for MIrlees Blackstone, I was the engineer responsible for installations of WW and JR's engine/propulsion systems and carried out both ships start ups at builders, both basin trials, sea trials/bollard pull trials (WW) and maiden trips of both. Have fabulous memories of these amazing ladies and love reading about them and revisiting my halcyon days. Would also love to get a copy of the book so any ideas appreciated.

Ken- Have sent you details on the book by separate email

Hi Ken, I'm one of the gang that worked with you in Capetown from Mirrlees. have a couple of photographs of all of us, if you want me to pass them on via email?

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