People and Places
Melbourne author’s first ocean voyage
by MAURIE HUTCHINSON - President, Peninsula Ship Society

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Forteviot AJ

The four-masted barque Forteviot (renamed Bellands in 1916) was built in 1891 by W H Potter & Sons at Liverpool. Her length was 96.7m. Painting by Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921)

Death at The Heads in 1852

Ships are frequently seen leaving Port Phillip carrying cargoes of wheat, barley and canola ranging from 20,000 to 60,000 metric tonnes. Yet before the start of World War II, many of the grain cargoes were taken in sailing ships carrying 5000 tonnes or less. Well into the 1950s the transport of grain cargoes was largely in bags made of jute that held about 80kg of wheat. That was about the most that a man could carry on his back. The modern bulk carrier has the grain poured into it like filling a teacup.

The four-masted barque Bellands arrived at Melbourne on the night of October 18-19, 1920, after a passage of 103 days from Norway with a cargo of Baltic timber. Ship owners tried to arrange a paying cargo to Australia before loading grain for Europe, and timber was a popular choice. Loading of her cargo of bagged wheat was slow and it was not until January 5 that she departed from outside the Heads. Most sailing ships bound for Europe sailed eastward to round Cape Horn, but Bellands sailed westward – making a very slow passage of 151 days at sea before reaching St Nazaire, France.

Alan Villiers, the Melbourne-born author, was one of her crew. Villiers lived an adventurous life on many sailing vessels as a crew member, and later in command. He wrote more than 40 books about his own experiences and of maritime history, and his advice was sought in the making of films with a nautical background. During World War II he commanded a squadron of large landing craft and was awarded the DSC. He lived much of his life in England and died at Oxford in 1982 but is largely forgotten today in his home town. An excellent biography of Alan Villiers was written by Kate Lance in 2009.

The Bellands was launched in Liverpool in August 1891 with the name Forteviot. She was probably named after a Scottish village southwest of Perth. Before becoming Bellands in 1916, she was renamed Werner Vinnen in 1910 and Yawry in 1914. In 1926 she was broken up at Blyth, England.

MAURIE HUTCHINSON – President, Peninsula Ship Society

The Peninsula Ship Society usually meets at Hastings Yacht Club on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 10am. Meetings are not possible at present. Visitors will be welcome when things return to normal.

9787 5780

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