The Montreal Ocean Steamship Company (Allan Line)
The ship belonged to the Montreal Ocean Steamship Company, more popularly known as the Allan Line, which was established in 1854. On 16 September 1854 the company’s first vessel, the Canadian, had sailed from Liverpool on her maiden voyage and reached Quebec on 28 September.
Alexander (Sandy) Allan (1780–1854) came into shipping in 1819; today he is acknowledged among the forerunners of the transatlantic voyage. Two of his five sons, Hugh and Andrew became two of the partners when Montreal Ocean Steamship Company was floated. In 1891 the Company took over the financially ailing State Line, another shipping company which ran services between Glasgow and Liverpool to New Orleans and New York. Since this time the ships and services of the Allan Lines were operated under the name of Allan & State Line. The Company continued their business till about 1911 when negotiations began with the Canadian Pacific Line. Finally the former was merged with the latter in 1915, and the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Limited was born; though the official announcement of the merger remained withheld till 1917. But the Glasgow-New York service of the Allan Line had been closed before the merger took place. This was when the Numidian left for New York from Glasgow for the last time on 28 September 1905. On that very day the New York Times wrote: ‘The Allan Line’s Glasgow-New York service will be suspended temporarily at least after the sailing of the Numidian from Glasgow tomorrow [the news was datelined the day before]. A circular sent out to agents and shippers says that in consequence of the expiration of the lease of their New York pier and inability to arrange for renewal of secure other suitable accommodation, they are obliged to suspend the service….’ May be it had been the increasing pier rentals which prompted the Company to go for a termination of the lease. But the low profitability of the route, which was further complicated by the arrival of second series of large twin-screw steamers of rival companies, were seemingly no less responsible for the decision.
Built in 1891 by D & W Henderson Ltd of Glasgow, the Numidian was a 4836 gross ton ship with length and beam measuring 400ft and 45.2ft respectively. She had a straight stem with one funnel, and two masts with single screw. With a speed of 13 knots the Numidian could accommodate 1180 passengers — hundred in her first class, 80 in second class, and a thousand in the steerage or third class.
The Gradual End
When her Glasgow-New York route had come to an end, the Numidian was put to the Glasgow — Quebec — Montreal service on 21 April 1906. This was followed by a service in the Glasgow to Montreal, Boston or Philadelphia route during 1906–1914. But with suspension of her first class accommodation in 1906, the ship had been downgraded and carried only second and third class passengers. Later, with her Glasgow — Quebec — Montreal — Glasgow service discontinued since 24 November 1914, the Numidian was sold to the British Admiralty, and they filled the once glorious ship with cement and allowed her to sink as a blockship. [Normally the word blockship is not available in the frequently used dictionaries, the meaning indicates a ship which is moored or grounded in a channel in order to block it, for purposes of war or to provide shelter] According to the Scapa Flow: Historic Wreck Site, the ‘SS Numidian, a steel steamship, was … scuttled on 30 Dec 1914 in Kirk Sound. Much was salvaged in February 1924 by the East Coast Salvage Company although some plating still remains, along with the rocks placed in the hull to accelerate the sinking.’
Vivekananda left India with extreme unfriendly health. It was expected that long sea voyage would bring improvements to his adverse health. Though the hope was partly achieved when he landed at the Tilbury dock, that did hardly last long. This, as had been arranged for beforehand, led the Swami to stay for around two and a half months for prolonged rest at a country house close to New York City that belonged to one of his ardent admirers. Later he travelled to California and remained there for around six months while delivering his loftiest message to mankind. This was his last visit to America which came to its end on 26 July 1900 when he left New York aboard SS La Champagne.
Sir Hugh Allan
Montreal Ocean Steamship Company Logo
A Third Class Passenger Ticket of Allan Line in 1885
Refloated Blockship Numidian
Steerage passengers on the deck of S. S. Numidian in 1900
New York Port in Early 1900s