PortCities London

The ships of Gustaf Erikson

Gustaf Adolf Mauritz Erikson (1872-1947) was an unusual shipowner in many ways. His background was typical enough. Born in the Åland islands, with a largely Swedish population but now part of Finland, Erikson came from a seafaring family. His father was a skipper and co-owner of several ships, and Gustaf first went to sea at the age of 10. He obtained his master's certificate, and after 20 years skippering vessels he gave up the sea and became a shipowner.

All the Scandinavian countries had a tradition of buying older vessels second-hand and using them on routes where they would still be profitable. Thus hundreds of Scandinavian sailing vessels still sailed the oceans long after most lines had switched to steam.

Erikson took this even further. He continued to buy older sailing ships well after World War I. He employed the larger vessels on the Australian grain run, where they were could still compete with steamships.

Thanks to Erikson, several elderly iron barques, among the most beautiful ships still afloat, made regular journeys into London in the inter-war years. The larger vessels brought Australian grain to Millwall and the mills of the Royal Victoria Dock.

 


The 'Grace Harwar' at the Rank Premier Mill.

The 'Grace Harwar' at the Rank Premier Mill.

The 'Grace Harwar'.

The 'Grace Harwar'.

The three-masted barque 'Grace Harwar' (1889, 1816 GRT) alongside the Rank Premier Mill at the Royal Victoria Dock in July 1935. She had belonged to the Erikson fleet since 1916, but this was her final voyage.

The 'Grace Harwar' alongside the grain elevator of the Rank Premier Mill at the Royal Victoria Dock in July 1935.
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The ‘Loch Linnhe’ in the Millwall Docks.

The ‘Loch Linnhe’ in the Millwall Docks.

The 'Lalla Rookh' at the Stave Dock.

The 'Lalla Rookh' at the Stave Dock.

The three-masted barque ‘Loch Linnhe’ (1876, 1468 GRT) in the Millwall Docks in July 1930. Built at Port Glasgow for J & R Wilson & Co and used in the colonial trade, she was bought by Erikson in 1922. She was wrecked in the Baltic in November 1933.

The three-masted barque 'Lalla Rookh' (1876) in the Stave Dock, part of the Surrey Commercial Docks, c. 1900. Launched at Liverpool, she served on various routes, including the South Pacific copra trade. In 1926 she was bought by Gustaf Erikson, and was broken up two years later.
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The 'Penang' in the Britannia Dry Dock.

The 'Penang' in the Britannia Dry Dock.

The 'Penang' in the Millwall Docks.

The 'Penang' in the Millwall Docks.

Taken from a house in West Ferry Road, Millwall, the barque 'Penang' is in Britannia Dry Dock undergoing repairs. Built at Bermerhaven as the 'Albert Rickmers', she was bought and renamed by Laeisz of Hamburg in 1910. In October 1923 she was bought by Gustaf Erikson and put on the Australia wheat trade.

The 'Penang' (1905) discharging grain in the Millwall Docks in 1932. She was one of several Erikson vessels lost during World War II. In December 1940 she was torpedoed by a U-boat and lost with all hands.
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The barque 'Killoran' (1900).

The barque 'Killoran' (1900).

The barque 'Killoran' (1900).

The barque 'Killoran' (1900).

The three-masted steel barque 'Killoran' (1900) tied up off Greenwich or Charlton. Built at Troon and used in the San Francisco grain trade, she was bought by Gustaf Erikson in 1924. She then served on various deep-sea routes. In August 1940 she was sunk by the German surface raider 'Widder'.

The three-masted steel barque 'Killoran' (1900) tied up off Charlton. Like several of Erikson's ships, she was lost during World War II. In August 1940 she was sunk by the German surface raider 'Widder'.
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The ‘Archibald Russell’ (1905) in the Millwall Docks.

The ‘Archibald Russell’ (1905) in the Millwall Docks.

The ‘Olivebank’ (1892) discharging grain at Millwall.

The ‘Olivebank’ (1892) discharging grain at Millwall.

The ‘Archibald Russell’ (1905, 2354 GRT) in the Millwall Docks in July 1930. Built at Greenock in 1905 for John Hardie & Son, she was active in many long-distance trades, carrying Australian wheat, South American nitrates and guano, Welsh coal and Scandinavian timber and many other goods. Bought by Gustaf Erikson in 1924, she was finally broken up in 1949.

The four-masted barque ‘Olivebank’ (1892, 2824 GRT) discharging grain in the Milwall Docks in August 1932. She had brought the wheat from Port Lincoln in South Australia. Built at Glasgow for Andrew Weir, she was sold to Norwegian owners in 1913. She was bought by Gustaf Erikson in 1924. She struck a mine and sank in the North Sea in September 1939, in the first days of World War II.
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