Sitmar Line - MS Fairsea 1949 to 1969

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Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed around 690 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure! Reuben Goossens.


The Sitmar Ships

Part Three

MS Fairsea

The Strachan family heads for Australia on December 7, 1957


By Mr. Ian Strachan - Gisborne, Australia


A fine view of SS Fairsea in Fremantle (Perth) Australia

Authors private collection

In 1957 the Australian Government, through its Department of Immigration, started a campaign known as “Bring out a Briton” or BOAB. The campaign was primarily aimed at the Australian communities and involved the sponsoring of Britons to bolster the Australian/British population and in effect helping to maintain British character within Australia. Local communities or businesses were encouraged to assist a British family and help them to settle in Australia to boost labour force skills, help populate the country and maintain a strong British presence across the nation. In general terms the overall response to this campaign was not as popular as previous attempts such as “10 pound Poms”. However, the young Strachan family who currently lived in Worcester saw this as an opportunity to start afresh and seek a new lifestyle in Australia.

Late in 1957 favourable enquiries were made with the Immigration Department and the wheels of bureaucracy were put in motion. On the 13th of November they visited a medical practitioner to have their smallpox vaccination. The next step was taken on the 19th November at the Australian Department of Immigration in Australia House located in London which issued an Identity Document for the three travellers.

Please Note: All Photographs below were taken and documents were provided by Mr Ian Strachan. Please do NOT copy any of these as they are PRIVATE Property, be it for private use or any media source without prior written permission - See photo notes at the very bottom of this page!

The families Identity Document … Barbara’s details were on the reverse side

One week after their vaccinations it was all falling into place.? John Burton of College Gate in Worcester verified the success of the vaccination and so it was now possible to actually organise the purchase of a ticket of passage. Issued in London on the same day, 20th November 1957, was their ticket to travel Tourist Class on the Sitmar Fairsea departing from Southampton on the 7th December with the destination being Melbourne, Australia.

Outer cover of ticket


Ticket of Passage

As can be seen on the ticket they were allocated Cabins 116 E & F and 118 D. My father, John, slept in 118 and my mother and sister slept in cabin 116. Ticket number 185463 was issued to them as tourist class passengers.

The confirmation of the ticket left them little more than 2 weeks to get all their affairs in order and precious little time to catch up with family and friends that were spread out all over the United Kingdom.

John Strachan with daughter in arms and wife, Olive, prepare to Board Fairsea


A postcard of the SS Fairsea they kept as a memento



One of the suitcases used as their voyage


Moments on the deck of the Sitmar Lines SS Fairsea

Two days into their journey they were relaxing on the ship having put behind them the rush of getting all their affairs in place to make this migration. They now looked forward to the start of a new life in a country that they knew very little of except for written articles and perhaps the odd bit of footage seen on the television.

Travelling south-southwest from Southampton the Fairsea passed down the western coast of mainland Europe reaching Cape Vincent, Portugal, as seen in the photo below. Here the vessel turned eastward to make its approach into the Mediterranean Sea.

As the end of the first week approached the Fairsea had made its way past Gibraltar and along the shores of North Africa to Port Said in Egypt.



The photos above show Egyptian Traders approaching the side of the Fairsea to encourage passengers to purchase fruit...

vegetables, bottled drinks, cheeses, hats, shoes, cushions and a variety of other goods.


Port Said, Egypt

At Port Said the ship would refuel and take on supplies in preparation for the next part of the journey. Port Said lay at the northern end of the Suez Canal. The Suez had only recently in April 1957 been reopened to water traffic after recent hostilities in the region. The Egyptians with the assistance of the United Nations cleared the waterway of sunken ships and also repaired damaged parts of the canal. The Fairsea would soon depart in a gingerly fashion for the next 163km along the Suez where in parts it would narrow to 300 meters. A slow speed was required so minimal damage to the banks of the canal would occur. Captain Stagnafo would also have to manoeuvre into one of two passing stations when there were northerly vessels wishing to pass. This journey could have taken as long as 16 hours. The passengers probably reflected on this part of the journey in amazement as they apparently glided over the sands of the Middle East.


Oil Wells near Aden

A further week had passed after their arrival in Port Said when they were within sight of oil wells near Aden in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen on the 21st December.

The excitement must have been building on the ship as Christmas was fast approaching and one present was given to all on board the Fairsea. On the 25th December 1957 the vessel crossed the Equatorial Line. A special ceremony was conducted to celebrate the occasion as they sailed on the Indian Ocean south-southwest of India.

The ‘Crossing the Equator’ ceremony in progress


A certificate was given to commemorate the crossing

There were parts of the voyage when the seas became quite rough and a large number of passengers became sea sick. My father had gained his sea legs many years before and so he was not fazed by the constant rolling and lurching of the Fairsea as it made headway to Australia.

My sister and father share a moment on the ships deck


My sister and mother overlooking the pool area on Fairsea


Chalk boards for entertainment on the deck.

After celebrating the crossing of the Equator on the high seas it would take another ten days before they had something else to rejoice about… sighting Australia. On the 4th January 1958 they arrived at the docks of Fremantle in Western Australia, the ships first port of call in Australia. Here they would have their documents processed and be formerly welcomed as new immigrants to Australia. The documents of the Fairsea would also need to be processed and hence the Captain would need to verify the names of the passengers and what their purpose in Australia would be.

The ships documents indicate that the Fairsea was registered in Rome under the Steam-ship Company of Sitmar and Captained by A. Stagnafo. Its Gross tonnage was 13437.67 and Net tonnage of 7783.11. It was sailing from Southampton, England, to Sydney, Australia, and estimated its arrival in Sydney on the 11th January 1958.

Above is the first page of the passenger list showing details of the Fairsea

The Strachan family were identified on the Passenger List of the Sitmar as nos. 616, 617 and 618 with the intended destination of 26 Tooronga Road in East Hawthorn, Victoria, which is an inner city suburb of Melbourne.

The above extract of the passenger list shows the Strachan family

There would not be much of a reprieve in Fremantle as once again they would set sail heading for Melbourne, Victoria on the eastern side of Australia. They were in dock long enough for Olive’s Uncle Frederick and wife Lal, who lived in Perth, to meet them. Frederick had immigrated to Australia in 1922. Onboard again the ship travelled down the coast and? would round the south western tip of Australia passing Albany then through the Great Australian Bight eventually entering Bass Strait which lay between the states of Victoria and Tasmania.

Sharing a meal in the dining room of the Fairsea on 7th January 1958

Once south of Melbourne the ship would enter the narrow stretch of water, known as The Rip, through which they entered Port Phillip Bay. The Fairsea would have then hugged the eastern side of the bay passing Sorrento and St Kilda before reaching Port Melbourne on the 9th January 1958. The family had finally made it to their ultimate destination, Melbourne. Initially they stayed in East Hawthorn but over time would move within several of the suburbs of Melbourne. Here they were accepted by the various communities and clubs that they became involved with and happily saw out the rest of their days in this land of opportunity.

Whoever provided sponsorship for the Strachan family to come to Australia is uncertain at this time. However there are two possibilities that come to the fore. My father, John, was virtually employed straight away by a Victorian retailer of the time, Paynes Bon Marche. Here he took a position in their Television Sales and Repairs Department. Also, in October 1957 the Western Hawthorn Presbyterian Church in Victoria started their own sponsorship scheme within the “Bring out a Briton” campaign. The church community subsequently bought a home to house an immigrant family that they assisted until the family found alternate accommodation. The Strachan family on the Passenger List inventory cited their new address as 26 Tooronga Road, East Hawthorn.? Whether this is a coincidence or not is yet to be confirmed. Either the Church group or Payne Bon Marche may have played a role in providing that assisted passage that the Strachan family sought.

Written by Ian Strachan - Gisborne, Australia.



The Fairsea (1) - INDEX:

Fairsea (1)????? Built as a C3 class freighter History Page.

Fairsea?????????? Photo Page.

Fairsea?????????? Menus page sent in by John Scholten.

Fairsea ????????? Deck Plan.

Fairsea ????????? The Strachan family head to Melbourne in December 1957 - this Page.

Fairsea?????????? Rob Barker & Family also sails to Melbourne in December 1957.

Or Return to: The Sitmar Ships - INDEX - For all the Other Sitmar Ships!



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