As the winter draws towards its end, the thoughts of many will be turning towards the prospect of a holiday cruise in a sunny climate. Although cruise liners do not appear in the lists of Ayrshire-built shipping, passenger-carrying vessels were constructed for service on sun-warmed seas.
The replacement of merchant shipping lost during the Second World War resulted in a post-war boom for British shipyards, and the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company of Troon was able to secure a share of this work.
The vessels built at Troon during this period included two for Ellerman Lines Ltd, a company with head offices in Liverpool and Glasgow which was mainly involved in cargo and passenger services to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Far East. Well over half of their fleet had been lost during the war, and their replacement programme concentrated on fast cargo liners with accommodation of a high standard for no more than twelve passengers. These included Sicilian and Grecian, ordered from Ailsa Shipbuilding for voyages to the Mediterranean. They were sisters about 360 feet long and of around 3,300 gross registered tons. (Three cargo/passenger vessels were also built at Troon around this time for Ellerman’s Wilson Line Ltd of Hull – Domino and Dago in 1947 and Borodino in 1950. In 1951 it was reported that the shipyard had around 1,000 employees.)
Sicilian was the first to be completed – the largest ship built at Troon up to that time. She was launched on 27 April 1948, the naming ceremony being carried out by Mrs E. Thurley, the wife of a director of the shipping line. Having been sold in 1965 to a Liberian-registered shipping company, she was scrapped in 1971.
Grecian’s naming ceremony was performed on 18 January 1949 by Mrs Norah Latta, but the actual launch did not take place until ten days later due to stormy weather. (Mrs Latta’s husband, James Douglas Latta, was chairman and managing director of Scottish Stamping & Engineering Co. Ltd, Neptune Stamping Works, Ayr, and had been an ‘ace’ fighter pilot during the First World War.) In 1966 Grecian was sold to a Greek shipping company, and she was scrapped in 1969.