Splinter Fleet

Alphabet Fleet

Early Shipbuilding

Shipbuilding Today




Contact Us



Notes and Comment

Only a few weeks ago we happened to see the gold Glencoe leaving port and looked on her well- remembered lines with nostalgic recollection. Now we hear she is coming off the coastal service about 55 years of faithful duty, destined presumably for the scrap heap. It seems a harsh fate for a good ship. Yes as we think back on the years when the Glencoe was often our home, may be it wasn’t the ship at all but the men who sailed her. Not that we wish to belittle the Glencoe. Far from it. We know almost every inch of her and she was home to us long enough to form a real attachment. But we have even more affectionate memories of the officers who made her a companionable ship.

Captain Arch Blandford was her master when we boarded her for the first time. His mate was his son, Max, long since a captain in his own right. Captain Arch was a fine figure of a man with a fierce exterior that concealed a heart of gold. We got to know him very well on that first voyage because it was the slowest trip either of us had ever made. It happened in the spring of 1923.

We had been waiting to go up the south coast but that year the ice came in for the first time in about thirty-five years. The coast was blocked. Placentia Bay was jammed. The Glencoe had been holed up for weeks in Argentia. Then one day about noon a telephone call came from Herb Russell of the Railway. If you want to make the Glencoe, he said, you will have to get out on the express at one o’clock. We rushed home, packed, had a hasty lunch and made the train. At Argentia, the Glencoe was ready to sail. We moved out into the bay and a little off course to bring much-needed supplies to the people of Red Island. They had run out of tobacco weeks ago and we distributed most of our store of cigarettes to eager lads who came aboard. Then we left for Marystown and got there more than a week later.

There were two other passengers, just three of us with the captain and crew. We played forty-fives twice a day with the captain, after the midday and evening meals- four hours of forty-fives a day. We wandered down below to the mess room at night where Jim Pike, the chief engineer, who was later to die in the engine room of the Caribou on her last voyage, halted every now and then in the buttering of toast to splay a cockroach navigating a nearby pipe. We played cribbage. We listened to yarns of the sea. We forgot we were marooned in Placentia Bay. Each day, relieve the monotony, Captain Archie [sic] would start up the engines and do a little butting at the thick ice which had rafted up to the rails. The ship would make a foot or two, no more. And then came a northwest blow that pushed the ice seawards and carried our helpless ship with it. Not until Burin was in sight did the ice open and let us through and quite a spectacle the Glencoe must have been as. With water pouring out of myriad small holes in her bows, she tied up at the wharf.

That trip began an intimate acquaintance. Later, on a bright sunny morning in May, we sailed on the Glencoe up the narrow passage beyond Zois [sic] Island to St. Alban’s in Bay d’Espoir, a lovely trip on a grand ship. From the bridge of the Glencoe we caught our first glimpse of famous south coast harbours and coves. Rencontre West, Harbour Brenton, Gaultois and Hermitage, Cape la Hune and Francois, Burgeo, Ramea and Rose Blance. We have clung to the rails as she pitched and tossed in boiling seas and straddled a rail as she sailed steady as a rock, through calm seas. We were on her when only two other passengers were with us. We have traveled on her [when] she carried 150 passengers in excess of her accommodation [sic] and were glad to move from our berth in a stuffy four-berth cabin to sleep on the settee that was set in the wall in the chief engineer’s little cabin.

Her officers were grant [sic] fellows and the people who traveled on her in those times were fine companies. They have a vitality to the ship that endowed her with a personality and they created a vast store of memories that range from sardines and toast in the messroom to wonderful Newfoundland stories told to the passing of a bottle of St. Pierre red-eye in somebody’s cabin. They include the insistent cockroaches, the captain’s dog, the cook’s efforts to alter a monotonous diet during the long drift across Placentia Bay and a host of lobster broils in Fortune Bay. She was one of a number of good ships that we recall from pleasant traveling experiences in the early twenties, the good old Portia, the Home, and the Argyle among them. But we remember the Glencoe best and so will may others who traveled the south coast in those happy times. Those of us who remain will feel a pang of real regret when she comes to the end of her long tout of duty.

The Daily News

January 31, 1956