With so many fine ships built at Leith for the waters of New Zealand, it is well time to begin to feature some of them here on the Blog, details and stories of many more can be found in the series of books about the Leith-Built Ships.
This fine old ship (although new at the time of course) was an order from the Union S.S.Co of New Zealand Ltd, Wellington. Launched at Leith in January of 1948.
She was one of a class that had been designed during the war, known as an AC class collier.
Built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb, Scotland. The first of six specialist motor ships for the coastal trades; very strongly built to cope with the bar conditions at Westport and Greymouth.
She was used all around the coasts of New Zealand and was in service with the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand for 20 years before being sold on.
This type of traditional cargo vessel was a very well known and liked ship the kind that were the staple of moving goods around any country in the days before motorways and container ships.
A time now long gone and who is to say that we do things better in the fast paced days we live in now.
Strongly built with transverse framing, and her accomodation and bridge amid-ships, with three cago holds and derricks to lift the cargo, she was a nice little ship.
The ship took her name from the town which is a small one known by the locals as “Kai” near the bottom of the South Island on the East Coast, the origins of the name are lost in time but according to wikipedia the name may be mythical or it may have a more sinister meaning, The origin of the town's Maori name is uncertain. It is the name of a figure in Polynesian mythology, but could also refer to cannibal feasts held after tribal fighting in the district between Kai Tahu and Kati Mamoe. The name can be interpreted from Māori to English as, 'Kill a man and eat him' or 'Food for the people'. Food for the people eh! Well this fine ship carried a varied cargo so you could say she was well named.
She would continue trading for a further 13 years after she had been sold out of the uSSCo Ltd, a company that was to become one of the largest customers of the Leith Shipbuilders with their first ship ordered from the old shipyard of Ramage & Ferguson, many years before they came back to Henry Robb to have ships built.