The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Home Ships Built in Leith 1918 to 1939 GOTHLAND - Yard No 192 - Passenger & Cargo Steamer - Jas Currie & Co Ltd - Built 1932

Leith Shipyards

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GOTHLAND - Yard No 192 - Passenger & Cargo Steamer - Jas Currie & Co Ltd - Built 1932


S.S.GOTHLAND Ship No 192 built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb for the local shipping line of The Leith, Hull and Hamburg Steam Packet Co, Ltd and managed by Jas Currie Ltd, which was to become the famous Currie Line. 
Owners    Leith, Hull and Hamburg Steam Packet Co, Ltd
     Managed by Jas Currie & Company Ltd      
Registered     Keel Laid    
Type of Ship    Passenger/Cargo Steamer Launched    09/03/1932
     Lloyds A1  Handed Over    
Ship Details          
Length Overall     Launch Details    
Length B.P.    250' 0" Weather    
Beam    38' 0" Time to Water    
Depth Mld     24' 9"      
G.R.T.    1286      
Engines    Triple expansion steam engine producing I.H.P.1800      
Props    1      
Speed    13.5 knots      
Other known names    1958-ASRAR    
Current Status    Broken up in April 1961 at Perama    

Content on the SS GOTHLAND will be added as and when available. 



The S.S.GOTHLAND seen here at the Shore Leith


Ships History

Once a ship had been built and launched she then had to be out-fitted, and then complete sea trials
before being handed over to her new owners, who would look to have that ship at sea, as long as possible to
pay for her build costs and of course to make the company good profits.

To this end one company may have had no requirement for a particular ship after a time and would then sell her on just like any other disposable commodity.

Hence a ship may have had a few owners and would go through many changes and names during what was
hoped for a long and successful working life.

The S.S.GOTHLAND was built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb for the local famous shipping line of Leith, Hull and Hamburg Steam Packet Co, Ltd and managed by Currie's of Leith. A line that had many ships under ownership and management, I could never understand why with so many local shipping lines in Leith, that the yard of Henry Robb never managed to build more for them, perhaps it was price or some could not be built in the yard due to size.

The order for the steamer GOTHLAND was given to the shipyard in spite of the depression going on at the time, a time when even the building of the two great Queen Liners at Clydebank was put on hold, but the GOTHLAND was built and she proved herself well worth the effort.

The Steamer GOTHLAND was built seven years before the outbreak of World War II, however she was soon to be pressed into service with the outbreak of hostilities. She had been used on the Leith to Hamburg run prior to war.

With the outbreak of warevery thing changed and The GOTHLAND was taken over by the Ministry of Defence.

She was given a special role as a Convoy rescue ship, being half way between a fighting ship and a merchant vessel.

During the first two years of the war, the GOTHLAND was employed in what was for her, long runs to Italy and North Africa.

Then in October 1941, she was called to higher service as a rescue ship attached to North Atlantic Convoys.

Many a ships master must have felt a bit more reassured as he saw the Gothland take up station at the tail of the many convoys knowing that in case of emergency she could help with every practicable rescue device known at the time and her hospital could cope with any injury or exposure.

Her skipper Captain Hadden and his men knew the huge risk they themselves ran in this most demanding of roles both on men and ship.

She was not designed for the stress of the long Atlantic rollers, nor the bitter weather off Nova Scotia and Labrador, which added tons of snow and ice to her upper structure.

For the next four years the GOTHLAND continued the arduous and responsible duty, fortunately without serious damage from the constant threat of U Boat attack and air attacks which became so frequent that because of her great value and the large numbers of survivors from sinking ships onboard she was provided with a fighting ship escort.

Her experiences, exciting and tragic, would take a small volume in themselves to relate. But one interesting occasion should be recorded.

Near the end of April 1944 a request was made from the corvette HESPELER of the Canadian Navy to take on an appendicitis case from one of her crew. During the transfer the officers of the two crews met and discovered to there great joy that the corvette had only recently been completed at the Victoria Shipyards in Leith and she was making her maiden voyage, it seems that both Commanders were full of praise for there Henry Robb built ships. 



Before being demobilised after the end of hostilities she came back to the yard for inspection.

To the satisfaction of the owners and the firm of Henry Robb it was found that after a prolonged period of excessive strain, the hull showed no sign of any structural defects, and the worst that could be found was a few slack rivets, a real testament to the shipbuilders who built her.

We try here to give as full an account of her history as time and research permits, if you know of missing info
or you have any photographs of her, then please get in touch and we shall update her story as we go along


 The above picture of the launch party at the launch of the SS GOTHLAND at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb in 1932

Sent into the website from Piers Currie via K. Scovell and shown here with permission

Tales from the Ship

Here you will find the stories from the men and women who sailed on the ships, what was it really like to be working on a ship in a raging sea and in the pitch dark of night, the real stories some funny some sad, some good and some bad.

Captain John Thorburn from Leith was master of the SS GOTHLAND from 06/11/1933 to 24/11/1935

He took ill and never recovered and passed away in Edinburgh 29th Feb 1936

Dedicated to all the brave men and women who sailed or served on the vessels from the Leith Shipyards.

A sailors tale from the SS GOTHLAND

I am a former member of the Gothland and was Mentioned in Dispatches for brave conduct, during the action when the two ships were sunk on April 18,1945.a total of  42 survivors were landed at Gourock, if I remember rightly,3 from the Empire Gold,and 39 from the Cyrus H,McCormack.I am now age 79 and have lived in California since 1976.I realised just now that this wednesday will be the 62nd anniversary of that action. Before this action, I was on another of the same company's ships, Currie Line of leith,and I went to Murmansk to be stationed in Murmansk as a "heavy lift"ship ,like a floating crane for 6 months,before being recalled to Leith,on May 22, take part in the invasion on June6.When we went up to Russia, this was the Xmas convoy 1943,and the one where the Scharnhorst was waiting to attack us. Thank God we had information she was up there, and had a heavy escort which sunk her, we knew nothing of what was happening, as we could only see the sky lighting up with the gunfire etc, I was only 16. Jim Mc Donald

James Mc Donald


The SS GOTHLAND was to go on to save more than 150 souls from almost certain death during her service as a Convoy Rescue ship, being involved in a total of twenty Convoy voyages and many a family alive today can be very grateful for the decision of the Currie line to go ahead and have her built.


The SS Gothland


I spent some time as a young steward on this vessel,, and much of the time pulling men out of the north Atlantic and unfortunately attending their burial the next day This ship survived the war due, to its small tonnage. It is my belief that the (new) Artic Medal be awarded to its past crew members. The British historic organisation responsible for the awards is sadly and seemingly unaware of this vessel proud war history John Hunter


The above was sent into the website by John Hunter now in Australia but originally from Leith. With more comment below, and indeed the crews of such vessels deserve all the praise possible and any medals going, the fact that someone has to contact through an unofficial website is a disgrace and perhaps something the Edinburgh Council members would wish to take up on their behalf, after all they are always looking into my website, although never any offer to pay anything towards the upkeep, so no surprises there.


thank you for your response to my comments re S.S Gothland It is so good to learn that after all the dangers this old vessel experienced she survived the war. How she took a battering braving the Artic waters I think that the Artic medal (recently introduced by H.M. Government) should apply to those who served in her !! John.. an old codger born in Leith


Should you know of anyone who may have sailed on her, then please feel free to get in touch so that we can add the story here.


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0 #2 Brian Dickson 2014-11-25 11:48
Sirs. My Grandmother was a stewardress on the Gothland prior to the 2WW sailing out of Leith, where she lived. I am trying to piece together more information about her time on the ship and wonder what crew lists etc there may be extant to search for details.
Her name was Margaret Johnston Dickson and she resided at 85 Leith Walk.
Many thanks, Brian Dickson
0 #1 Rosemary Thorburn 2014-07-31 15:37
My husband's grandfather John Thorburn from Edinburgh, was Master of the Gothland from November 1933 to November 1935. He left ill at Leith on 24 November 1935 and died in February 1935. Prior to the Gothland he was master of the Weimar.
(Information from shipping company records at Glasgow University library)

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