Lancing built by Robert Napier &Sons

On Saturday Messrs. Robert Napier &Sons launched from their building yard at Govan one of the largest and finest screw steamers which has been built on the Clyde. Mrs John Napier, at the special request of the company named the vessel the Pereire in honour of the family of the president of the company. The vessel has been designed and constructed for the Compagnie General Transatlantic, of Paris, who carry the mails between France and Mexico and the United States. It is expected that she will surpass in speed any mail steamer afloat, although it will be no easy task to beat the famous Cunard screw steamer China, also built by Messrs. Napier, which has just made one of the fastest, if not the very fastest, passages from New York on record.

For the next 22 years the Pereire carried mails and passengers between Havre and New York. She soon proved herself more than a match for the “Flying CAma”, and May be considered to have been on a par with the beautiful Russia, which was launched from Thomson’s Yard on the Clyde in 1967. Both vessels were barque-rigged with single topsails, topgallant sail and royals, but the Russia had double the horse-power. However Pereire was always hard to beat and held her place as one of the “greyhounds” of the Atlantic. Her career as a steamer seems to have been devoid of much incident, except that it was in her cabin that the Emperor Napoleon 111, approved the plans for the improvements to the port of Havre. Her last commander under the French was Captain Daure.

As a mail steamer her registered tonnage and were 1755 tonnes net; 3150 tons gross; 345 ft. Length; 43 ft 5” breadth; 29 ft. depth of hold. When converted to a sailing ship she came out at 2546 tons net; 2785 tons. Gross; 356 ft. Length; 43 ft. 8” breadth; 27-3 ft. Depth. Her overal length was 405 ft. 

When re-rigged her main and mizzen masts were 200 feet from keel to truck and 175 feet from the main deck. Her main and cross-jack yards were 923 feet long. The shortest spar aboard her was a vey stumpy spike bowsprit, which only carries three headsails, and her appearance certainly would have been improved if this spar had been a few feet longer . 

When the engines and boilers were removed her water ballast tank. Holding 1200 tons, was left in her, and this was the case also with her stokehold and engine room bulkheads 

Her main deck was of iron and was unpopular with the men, for it gave a nasty slippery foothold in bad weather. She had the usual main deck capstans for braces, etc., and powerful crabs for the halliards. 

Her old-fashioned first class saloon was aft with the alleyways on either side, and it’s roof made a magnificent poop deck. Right aft was the wheelhouse, rising from the level of the main deck to the height of the poop skylight, with a lifting roof, so that the helmsman by craning his neck could see the mizzen royal. 

Over her wide but shapely counter was the usual steamer’s half-round  of her date. 

There used to be a model of her steering gear and a picture of the old ship as a mail steamer in the South Kensington Museum.

When viewed in dry dock her sharp lines both of now and stern were very noticeable.

Her shaft tunnel was plugged and the space once occupied by a screw was filled in with an iron plate, which addition to her run was considered a great help to her speed. 

After her conversion the Lancing drew 24 feet when fully loaded and 17 feet with 1200 tons of water ballast. With her great length and heavy yards she was not an easy ship to handle , and the Norwegians certainly seemed to hang of her better than her British officers as I can find no specially good passages under the Red Ensign. 

Captain S.J.Hatfield, who took turns with his uncle Captain G.A.Hatfield in commanding her in her early days, declared that she was very fast under certain conditions. With a head wind in narrow waters she was doubtless more than a handful, and I should very much like to know if either of her British masters was in the habit of putting her  about when tacking, as her Norwegian masters always wore her round on to the other tack.

Mr Wallace, the well known-author of in the Wake of Wind Ships, quotes the following anecdote from a letter of the younger Hatfield, written after a passage from Dundee to New York in 1890.

On the voyage in question we were boarded by a New York pilot off George’s Banks. When he put his foot on the rail-it was dark at the time he asked if this was the Frederick Billings. When I told him it was the Lancing, he informed me that he had seen us coming, and that he was looking for steamers, yet he told his mate that he would not let this four-mast ship go past. He had given his discharges to the skipper of the pilot boat, he said, as the steamer would be at Sandy Hook at least four hours ahead of the ship. This was 4 a.m. At 8ma.m. When he came on deck he was surprised to see his pilot boat so far astern that you could just see the top of her masthead. He asked “How fast is your vessel going ?” I told him that I had no patent log as a shark had taken it. “Well,” he said. “Our boat is doing her best 14 knots.” So one can imagine how fast the Lancing was going.

During the whole of her career she was only twice put on the overdue list.

Her last commander, Captain P.T.Pedersen, assured me that she would have broken all records if she had not been either loaded to heavy or ballasted to light. He declared that she never had a real chance to show what she could do for this reason, added to the fact her complement of 28 men all told was insufficient to allow of hard sail carrying; in fact, it was often a hard job for all hands to get her mainsail on to the yard and the gaskets passed .

Never the less her sailing record under Captains S.B.Johnson , N.B. Melsom and P.D Perderson were nothing short of amazing. The most astonishing entry recorded in her log book was an average of 18 knots for 72 running hours, whilst on a passage from New York to Melbourne. This is scarcely believable and has never been approached by any  other ship. Another wonderful bit of sailing logbooks was 76 miles in 4 hours. She was at her best, of course, in string quartering winds, but she was so long-as long and straight as a barracouta, the Australians called her-that once she had got up,speed she carried her way in the most astonishing manner.

The following extracts from a passenger’s log, as an illustration of her speed and seaworthiness when over 55 years of age, make interesting reading .

Glasgow towards Monte Video, in 1920.

February 17, – Lat 56 16’N., Long 11, 28’W. Course N 27 W. Distance 164 miles 

About 2 a.m. it fell dead calm, most mysteriously, with very heavy rain and we continued rolling about helplessly in the heavy sea till 7 a.m. , when gradually the long prayed for breeze from the N.E. set in gently and increased gradually with heavy rain at all the time, till,at noon we were bowling along with most of the sail set, at least 12 knots straight on our course south, … I was pretty feeble still but crawled up in deck for a few minutes towards evening to see the sight which was grand beyond words. It was a high and wild sea. From the waters edge to the poop where I was, I.e. 40ft. waves, but the ship just rode over them easily as a gull, every sail including royals set, rolling from side to side so as to take an occasional wave over in the waist, but rushing along with a far easier motion than a steamer, so much so that in ones cabin one can hardly hear anything except the swish of the water rushing past and the creaking of the woodwork. 

February 18,- Lat 52 7’ K, Long 17  23’ W. Course S 40 W. Distance 325 miles .

We have had 24 hours of magnificent sailing, averaging 13 ? Knots. At one time we were doing 14 knots for 4 hours.

February 22. – Lat 36 11’., N Lomg. 19 14’ W. Course S 15 W. Distance 227 miles 

It is extraordinary how the Lancing slips along in a comparatively breeze. Sitting in the cabin when she is going 10 knots you would imagine, but for the rolling, that you were at anchor in Harbour. 

February 26. – Lat 24. 59’ N., Long 21 13’ West Course S 16 W. Distance 273 miles.

For 2 two hours during the night we were going 14 miles an  hour and the whole days average is faster than most tramp steamers and some passenger ones. 

March 6. – Lat 0 32’S. Long. 25. 58’ W. Course S distance 135 miles. From Lamlash to the Equator 21 days a very rapid passage: only 15 days from the Latitude of the Lizard.

March 10 – Lat 20. 38’ S., Long. 28. 10’ W. Course S 32W. Distance 68 miles.Still no wind to speak of, two full rigged ships going the same way. First saw the very tops of their masts above the horizon in the early morning and gradually raised all the masts and sails and then  by evening had lest them behind again. The ships were to far off to the west for us ever to see their=r hulls, but it was interesting following them by their sails only. 

March 19 – Lat. 28. 9’ S. Long. 42. 3’ W. Course S. 43 W. Distance 262 miles average speed about 11 knots, and we were going for short spells as much as 14. There was a high short sea on the starboard quarter, but the Lancing is a wonderful dry ship and only took occasional dollops aboard. It is fascinating watching her tearing through the seas, the sails all as stiff as boards and doing their work perfectly silently, so different from a steamer with its everlasting rattle, noise and vibration. In my cabin this morning there was no ore noise of any kind than when we were at anchor at Greenock. 

March 20- Lat 29. 38’S., Long 43. 23’ W., course S 38W Distance 113 miles

At 6 this morning wind having gone round to the South, Captain wore ship and we are now going along on the port tack close hauled,mall,sail set except royals, pitching into a heavy head sea, which the pampero has brought up from the South, but getting along fine, nearly 8 knots. It is grand to see her lashing through the heavy sea, putting her nose into it at times, but taking very little aboard.

Ardrossan to Cape Chatte, in 1921.

July 24 about 10 a.m. after wearing ship to starboard to tack a fearless storm fromN.W. descended upon us and blew for nearly 20 hours with regular fury. I have never been in such a furious gale. The wind blew the foam from the crests of the waves like smoke.mSail was taken in till we had only foresail and lower top sail  on foremast, upper and lower topsails on main and mizzen and Lowe topsail on jigger. With these she rushed along at 10 knots close-hauled, jumping about much but taking little water aboard, she is so high out of the water.

Cape Chatte to Ardrossan  in 1921.

August 31st., fine breeze from N.N.W. about 2 a.m. We are bowling along a good 12 knots. Simply walked past a steamer going the same direction. Our men crowded on foc’s’le   head and cheered as we past , offering steamer the end of a tow rope. 

September 4, Wind has freshened upland we are sometimes doing 15knots, average 10 knots, through dense fog most of the time; a fairly high sea with seas coming over the rail occasionally,Mobutu ship is going wonderfully steadily. This cargo of spool wood has been very carefully loaded and she is in fine trim.

September 6, Grand sailing all day, at nearly 10 knots, Lancing has a very heavy cargo (draws 24 feet) and a very dirty bottom, not having been in dock for a year, so not much more than 10 or 11 knots can be got out of her. 

Glasgow to Santos 1921.

January 4, Last night was a bad one, pitching and rolling badly, ship washed by seas, wind full gale. Wore ship at 1 a.m. This morning it is almost calm, but heavy swell makes us roll much. The ship is very stiff this voyage, loaded with briquettes, more weight than usual being low down.

January 10, a big 4 masted barque has been keeping us in company these days (8th to 10th) but to far off to signal. She goes ahead sometimes in lighter puffs as she is in ballast, but we have caught up again today.

January 12, lighted Madeira ……passed Funchal Point about  miles off, which took away what little wind we had .

January 13, The barque came near enough for lamp signalling last night. She is the Norwegian ship Bellhouse of Tonsberg, 46 days out from Sudsvall, Baltic, with planking from Melbourne. All day she has been sailing alongside, not a mile off. Sometimes we haul ahead when breeze strengthens, then she comes up again when wind is lighter. Her cargo of wood makes her much cranker and she does not roll anything like us. There is a very long high swell from N.W. quite a quarter of a mile between each top.

January 15, Bellhouse was quite near us during the night and asked captain to report her on arrival. Since then she has steered more southerly and is out of site.

February 1, wore ship with all hands in half an hour, not band time for a four master of Lancing size.

February 5, passed a big 4 mast-barque going same way this morning. Sighted her at dawn about 7 miles ahead and by on she was out of sight astern.

When the above notes were made Lancing’s compliment consisted of ;- Captain Pedersen, Mate A.Larsen, Second Mate Henrikson, bosun, carpenter, two sail makers, donkey-man (for four steam witches) 10 A.B.’s., 2 O.S’s., 7 boys, 1 cook, 1 steward, and passenger, signed on as storekeeper, 31 in all.

Captain Pedersen took command of the Lancing in 1919. His previous ship Morsdal was torpedoed and sunk off Ireland during the war, but no lives were lost.

The second mate’s ship Skarfusre was torpedoed and sunk in Ifcr Bay of Biscay, all being drowned except himself and one man.

The third mate’s ship was torpedoed and sunk off Hartlepool, only Hansen and another man being saved. 

Johansen, the sailmaker, was serving in the West Lothian when she was torpedoed and sunk off the Hebrides. Is this case all were saved. 

The old Lancing was always a happy ship, which was not surprising as she was liberally run under Norwegian colours with the following splendid dietary scale, which is apparently that laid down by the Norwegian Government ;-

Breakfast 8 a.m. 

Dinner Noon

Supper 6 p.m.



Vegetable soup tinned 

Tea, mince and 

Eggs and bacon

Stewed beef, potatoes.



Pea soup

Tea, hash


Salted beef and potatoes.


Potatoes tinned pineapple



Vegetable soup tinned


Curried rabbit

Bully beef

Dry hash



Rice and milk 


Baked beans

Salt cod, potatoes

Stewed meat.



Vegetable soup


Eggs and bacon

Bully beef

Liver and bacon.


Fruit grit



Peas soup



Salt beef or pork

Dry hash


Potatoes, tinned pears



Fruit soup

Tea and stew

Eggs and bacon 

Salt fish and meat balls.

Ground rice.

Besides a cup of coffee at 6.30 a.m. and coffee and biscuits at 3 p.m., jam was allowed ad lib, at breakfast and supper. In the cabin the officers got exactly the same food as the men, taken from the same pot in the galley, with a few extras such as an allowance of ideal milk.

The fruit soup on Saturdays was made of all kinds of dried fruits, apples, barley, currants, princes and raspberry vinegar, and was most excellent.

The rice and milk on Wednesdays was thin like soup and very good. The men were served with one tin of ideal milk each week. The salt beef and pork were excellent and the coffee was always delicious.

I very much fear that the Lancing had no such fare when she was under the British flag.

The accommodation aboard the ex-mailboat was naturally very extensive and far superior to that of an ordinary cargo carrier, both forward, aft and amidships. Forward her compliment of 20 men had room to lose themselves in her fo’cs’le. Aft each mate had his own cabin, and there was also a mate’s mess room, besides the cosy saloon where the captain and his passengers had their meals. 

If her sailing was wonderful, her food scale luxurious and her accommodation without compare, the old Lancing should even be more admired for her strength and the perfection of her construction. Her strength was almost beyond belief. On one occasion towards the end of her life. The Lancing travelling at the rate of 11 ft per second, ran full tilt into an iceberg on the Newfoundland Banks; she then swung broadside onto the weather side of the iceberg, where she remained, grinding and bumping, for about half an hour. Yet the only damage done was seven loose rivets in her stern and two of the lower yard trussbands broken.

Amongst Lloyd’s surveyors she was called one of the wonders of the world. The Lloyd’s surveyor at Glasgow who passed her through her last special survey could not find a dent in any of her shell plates, nor was there any record in Lloyd’s of her hull having to be repaired. She passed a No 2 survey when 57 years old and retained her class of 100 A1 to the end of her existence.

During her long life of 60 years from 1865 to 1925 the Lancing visited every past of the world. Her first few years as a sailing ship were evidently difficult ones; She was managed by A.E. Kinnear & Co of London, who I am afraid did not succeed in making her pay.

Just before she was sold to J. Bryde of Sandejford, Norway, in 1893, she was sued by the Liverpool Towage Co. for a debt of £84, and narrowly escaped the disgrace of having a bailiff board.

On her first passage as a sailing ship the Lancing left London with 18,000 vases of cement. According to Lloyd’s List she took her departure from Plymouth on February 24, 1889, and we next hear of her at Melbourne on June 21. I believe Vaptain Peterson was in charge this boyage.

In 1890 Captain George Hatfield took her out himself and came home to Dundee with a jute cargo.

Her next outward passage was from New York to Melbourne in 1890-1, and Captain Pedersen says that it was running her Easting down on this passage that she averaged 18 knots for 72 hours.

Most of her homeward passages during the early nineties seem to have been with Jute tomDundee. Her first spell under the Norwegian flag was not a long one, for about 1896 she was bought by Mr Frank Ross of Quebec and we find Captain Hatfield, who  had evidently retained his interest in the old ship, once more in  commanded. Cargoes, however, were not easily come by and she spent some months laid up in Sausalito Bay in hope of a grain cargo.

While in San Fransisco waters, I think towards the end of 1896, she was chartered by an American Syndicate to take a party down to Peru in search of Aztec treasure. I suppose the treasure was not forthcoming, for at the beginning of 1897 we find Captain Hatfield taking her across to Sydney, where she arrived on February 26. She was back again in San Fransisco that summer .

In July 1899, I saw her myself in San Fransisco loading for Australia. She was then commanded by Captain F.W. Chapman. It was not until 1901 when she was sold to J. Johnson & Co. of Christiania for £6,500 that she really began to gain a great name for herself as a passage maker. On June 13, 1901, she  arrived at San Fransisco from Newcastle, N.S.W., under Captain S.B. Johnson, having made the run across the Pacific in 59 days. Her next passage of note was from St John’s New Brunswick,mot Melbourne in 69 days. This was I think in 1902.

In 1903 we find her on the overdue list at 10 Guineas per cent. As I have already mentioned, she was only twice on the overdue list, and the first time was on a jute passage to New York when 5 Guineas was paid. 

Captain S.B.Johnson had the old ship until 1906 when he handed over to Captain N.B. Melsom.  

Under Johnson she seems to have been mostly in the Melbourne trade, and in 1904 we find her coming home to Queenstown with 29,562 bags of Melbourne wheat. But except for the run from St. John’s to Melbourne, none of Captains Johnson’s passage seems to have aroused attention.

Captain Melsom commanded the Lancing until 1918, and throughout that time hardly made a passage that was not considerably above the average. Captain P.T. Pedersen who followed HK was also a great passage maker; I am therefore going to give a complete list of her passages from 1908 to the end. These are taken from the ship’s logbooks. 


Left Langesund March 1, arrived Melbourne, May 15 – 75 days out (A record passage at that time, cargo timber) Melbourne to New Caledonia – 40 days. (Very bad weather throughout)

Left Newhouse, N.C., August 12, arrived Hampton Rouds got New York – 100 days  out.


Left New York, March, for Tusker Wedge. (Made the run in 4 days) Laid up at Tusker Wedge till August.

Tusker Wedge to Buenos Ayers – 50 days ( Cargo 2,100,000 superficial ft. Of timber under deck ; 172,000 ft. On deck, total 2,272,000) Laid up at Buenos Ayers for 3 months. 


Buenos Ayers  to Plum, New Caledonia – 59 days. Plum, N.C., to Rotterdam – 97 days.

Rotterdam to the St Lawrence , St Lawrence to Ardrossan (Fargo of sawn timber ) – 13 days. (Total number of days from Rotterdam – 81)


Left Monte Video, January 21, arrived Pouembout, New Caledonia, March 8 – 46 days. Left pouembout, N.C. April 5.

Passed Prawle Point (for Rotterdam) July 18 – 104 days. 



Left Clyde September  27, 1911 Arrived Monte Video February 11, 1912 – 46 days. Left Monte Video, April 19, arrived Poro, N.C. June 19 – 61 days. Left Kouaoua, N.C., July t. Arrived Glasgow October 27 – 114 days.


Left Clyde November 29, 1912. Arrived Monte Video January 28 – 1913, 60 days. Left Buenos Ayers March 18. Arrived New Caledonia May 17 – 59 days. Left Poro, N.C., June 16. Arrived Glasgow September 22 – 98 days.


Left Glasgow December 5, 1913, arrived Elo January 17, 1914 – 43 days.

Left Elo March 6. Arrived New Caledonia May 12 – 68 days.

Left New Caledonia June 2. Arrived Channel September 25 – 115 days.


Left Leith February 17. Arrived Valparaiso May 17 – 89 days.  Left Antofagasta September 9. Arrived New York November 25 – 77 days. 


Left New York February 2., Arrived Aarhus February 25 – 23 days ( Lancing passed through Pentland Firth 15 days out. She beat the Danish mailboat Frederick V111 from New York to Aarhus by one day) 

Left Aarhus May 10. Arrived Glasgow May 24 -m14 days. (2407 miles; average per day 172 miles) 

Left Glasgow June 10, arrived Vape Chatte July 3 – 22 days, Left Capucine July 26. Arrived Ardrossan August 15 – 19 days . Left Greenock September 11. Arrived Quebec October 10 – 29 days. Left Quebec November 10. Arrived Glasgow 24 November 14days (2730 miles, average per day 194 miles) 


Left Lamlash December w6 1916. Arrived Baltimore January 31 – 35 days. Left Baltimore March 28. Arrived Aarhus 25 – 27 days. Left Christiana May 24. Arrived Matune June 19m- 24 days. Left Cape Chatte July 15. Arrived Ardrossan August 9 -m24 days. Left Ardrossan September 16. Arrived Quebec October 13 -m26 days. Left St. Ann November 18. Arrived Queenstown November 30 – 12 days (2336 miles; average per day 194 miles) 


Left Glasgow March 9. Arrived Santos May 7 – 58 days.

Left Santos May 30. Arrived Melbourne July 15 – 45 days

Left Melbourne July 30 Arrived Barbados November 6 – 99 days

Left Barbados November 11 Arrived New Orleans November 28 -17 days   1919

Left New Orleans December 15, 1918 Arrived Queenstown January 12 – 1919 – 27 days.

Left Havre March 3. Arrived Hampton Roads April 11 – 38 days.

Left New Orleans December 15, 1918. Arrived Queenstown January 12, 1919 – 27 days.

Left Havre March 3. Arrived Hampton Roads April 11 – 38 days.

Left New York May 27. Arrived Aarhus June 21 – 24 days.

Left Aaurus July 10. Arrived Cape Chatte  August 27 – 37 days.

Left Cape Chatte September 14. Arrived Ardrossan September 30 – 16 days. 


Left Lamlash February 14. Arrived Monte Video March 27 – 41 days. Left Bruno’s Ayers May 29. Arrived Queenstown July 18 – 50mdays. Left Belfast August 13. Arrived Cape Chatte September 9 – 27 days. Left Vape Chatte September 26. Arrived Ardrossan October 29 – 33 days.

1921 left Glasgow December 17, 1920. Arrived Santos February 12, 1921 – 57 days.

Left Santos March 5. Arrived Bermuda April 6 – 32 days

Left Bermuda May 1. Arrived Mechin May 14 – 13 days.

Left Mechin June 8. Arrived Ardrossan June 24 – 16 days.

Left Ardrossan July 12. Arrived Cape Chatte August 11 – 30 days.

Left Cape Chatte August 27. Arrived Ardrossan September 12 – 16 days.

The Lancing was laid up from September 1921 to June 1922, when after being dry-docked at Greenock she went round to Hull and Loaded for Cape Chatte. Her trans-Atlantic voyage in 1922 was a bad one, the weather being very unfavourable.

On the return passage from the St. Lawrence to Ardrossan with the usual spool wool cargo, the Lancing was a monthfighting against hard easterly gales. Once more she was laid up in the Gareloch. In the spring of 1924 she was given a much needed overhaul and fitted out for one more run to Canada. This time she left the Tail of the Bank on May 14 and arrived Cape Chatte on June 15, 32 days out. The passage home was also nothing remarkable.

The end of her active service had now assailed. On Christmas Eve 1924, the famous old ship was towed away from Ardrossan en route for Genoa where the Italian ship-breakers awaited her