Sitmar Line - MS Fairsea 1949 to 1969

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

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

Rob Barclay’s Story

This is a fine stern view of the Sitmar liner - MS Fairsea

Photographer unknown – Please see Photo notes at bottom of the page


This story reached me because Rob Barclay emailed me as he had read the Strachan story, which I have had online for a considerable time and Rob told me how it had brought back so many memories of his voyage on the Fairsea, etc. Well, the result is what I am happy to present below, for I requested for him to provide me some details, and he was kind enough to send me whatever he could recall. Sadly, Rob and his family did not have photographs or documents left from their voyage.

Thus, this is the story of Mr & Mrs Robert and Dora Barclay and their 4-year-old son Bob (Rob) and 10-month-old daughter Heather who came to Australia on the Sitmar’s MS Fairsea.

The MS Fairsea Story in Brief:

She was one of the countless humble C3-Class ships that were built during the war years and she was a basic freighter that was ordered by Moore-McCormack Lines who had named her Rio de la Plato. She was constructed by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry-dock Co in Chester, USA, and was launched on March 1, 1941. However, prior to completion she was taken over by the US Government in October of 1941 and she was fitted out to become an escort carrier for the US Navy. She was handed over to the Royal Navy and named HMS Charger and she served throughout World War 2.

Here we see the Royal Navy’s HMS Charger at sea; all her aircraft are down in their hangers

It is hard to believe that the Fairsea and this ship are one and the same!

After the war she was returned to her original owner Moore-McCormack but they soon released her and she was sold and obtained by Sitmar Lines and they comprehensively rebuilt and converted her into a modest passenger ship. But she was given a good range of pleasant public venues and spacious decks. Over the years, she had a number of refits and interior improvements, but these were in stages.

Reuben Goossens.

The MS Fairsea is seen here around 1957

From the author’s collection

Rob Barclay continues:

Many memories came back, from catching the steam train, “The Flying Scotsman" from Edinburgh to London it was much like an image straight from a Turner painting, and the boat train to embarkation at Southampton with the Sitmar ship, the MS Fairsea awaiting us.

My sister who was in a bassinet, mother and I were a four-berth cabin, thus occupying two bunks, the lower and upper, with another lady and child in the other two bunks, whilst my father was berthed in one of the male dormitory at the bottom of the ship. We departed on December 7, 1957.

This accommodation arrangement only continued for a few days for when we reached the Bay of Biscay, it was so rough that seasickness broke out amongst the most passengers and it was so bad that it necessitated the rearrangement of accommodation arrangements of passengers on board, and happily we were able to be berthed together and be a family again in the one cabin!

I remember having my fifth birthday on board on December 12, and seeing ship gently glide across the dessert as we passed through the Suez Canal. Visiting Aden on December 21, was a highlight, my father had worked there building the oil refinery some years earlier, I was forced to wear my kilt through the town and I still have the coins that a young Arab boy gave me for he thought that I was rather strange and somewhat exotic looking!

There was quite some excitement as we were to have Christmas at sea and every one on board the Fairsea received a present. Of course for a five year old I was truly amazed that Santa could even find us on a ship, considering it was just a small speck in a large sea. But I receive several presents as did Heather and we had a really nice Christmas. The ship was all decorated and there was lots of tinsel and decorations everywhere! In addition, on the December 25, the ship crossed the Equator, thus a special ceremony was conducted to celebrate the occasion as we sailed across the Indian Ocean south to southwest of India.

---   ---

Some of Fairsea’s Public Venue’s - from Left to right;

Forward Lounge & stairwell, Writing and Reading Room and the Sun Deck Night Club & Bar

From the author’s collection

It is worth noting that the food and service on board was generally very good however; it is worth noting that Dad never ate pasta again after we arrived in Australia. I wonder why, we did get a lot of it I suppose, I sort of liked it!

But, then came the part of the Indian Ocean crossing where the seas was simply horrendous for the waves broke way over the ship and all the exterior doors were sealed and canvas was wrapped over parts of the ship to keep the water out. I even remember that the heat on board this non-air-conditioned ship became simply unbearable.

One day, I became separated from my parents, and I must have slipped and fell and I broke my nose. A kind crewmember led me though the bowels of the ship to the crew’s first aid station where I was treated.

Our arrival at Fremantle (Perth) on January 4, 1958 was a most welcome after our Indian Ocean adventure that had really been a testing time.

A fine view of the Fairsea arriving in Fremantle

From the author’s collection

From Fremantle sailed south, then east past Albany and as I now know, the Great Australian Bight, finally between Tasmania and Victoria to Melbourne being our final destination. We slowly sailed into Port Phillip Bay and berthed at the Melbourne wharf on January 9.

The MS Fairsea is seen in Melbourne, but a number of years later, after her 1958 modernisation

From the author’s collection

Here we said goodbye to the Fairsea in Melbourne and amazingly my mother wanted to return home the very moment we landed, yet my parents ended up living in Australia happily for the remainder of their lives.

As per arrangement from the dockside we headed for the airport and flew to Launceston that day and on arrival we were greeted by our sponsoring family Mr and Mrs Green, this kind family, who we going to be staying with. These kind people had cared for my father during the war as he had been evacuated there as a boy as he had been part of the CORB scheme (“Children's Overseas Reception Board” Scheme).

This has been is our story about a long voyage half way around the world, which was quite an adventure especially for me, being just a 4-5 year-old, having had my Birthday on board the Sitmar liner MS Fairsea in 1957 and 1958.

Rob Barclay.

The Fairsea (I) - 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 migrates from the UK to Melbourne in December 1957.

Fairsea Rob Barker & Family also sails to Melbourne in December 1957 - this Page.

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



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