Massive Castle kept ship building afloat

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SHE was the biggest ship ever to be launched on the Tees when she slid into the water at Haverton Hill 45 years ago this month.

The 100,000 ton bulk carrier Dunstanburgh Castle was also the first launched since the Haverton Hill yard was taken over by Swan Hunter and Tyne Shipbuilders.

The launch came almost a year after Minister of Technology Tony Benn – or Anthony Wedgwood Benn as the Mail styled him in 1969 – announced the yard was being taken over by Swans from the Furness Shipbuilding Company.

Dan McGarvey, president of the Boilermakers’ Society, told the Mail: “The men will bend over backwards to make sure this yard is a success.

“As far as we are concerned this is the start of a new era.”

The ship had been ordered by the Sheaf Steam Shipping Company of Newcastle the previous October and was right on schedule.

“Before work started we gave September as the launch date,” said Terence Carr Stainton, of the planning department, proudly.

As well as a great range of cargoes the 855ft long and 133ft wide ship was to carry a crew of 38 all over the world and besides “ample accomodation” a permanent swimming pool was also provided.

The Dunstanburgh Castle was launched from No 2 berth by Mary Souter, wife of the chairman of the shipping company.

Sir John Hunter, chairman of Swan Hunter, said: “We are very grateful to both the Boilermakers’ and the Woodworkers’ unions for the helpful attitude they have adopted to deal with this situation.

“They have behaved with great statesmanship.”

He also praised the shipping company for ordering a ship already planned by the previous yard owners: “Valuable months were saved in resurrecting the yard, with all that this implies in terms of money and employment.”

Hopes were high that orders would keep the yard busy for several years to come and Mr Stainton’s only concern was “there are not enough skilled workers to go round”.

“There has been a great deal of interchangeability of trades,” he said: “We have had no demarcation problems like other yards.”

Swan Hunter would go on to complete ten ships at the yard, which dated back to 1917 and the wartime shipbuilding boom, before it was taken over again in 1978 by Smith’s Dock Company, who completed three more vessels that year.

The Dunstanburgh Castle crisscrossed the oceans for 25 years before being broken up in 1994, though she was renamed the Global Hope in 1982 following a change of owners.

Do you have any memories you would like to share with other readers? Send them to andrew.levett@jpress.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.