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WM. MILBURN & CO.

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Around 1885 trade to and from New South Wales and, in particular, Queensland was hit by a series of droughts with the failure of the wool crop. The service to Australia was reduced to five ships, the Chollerton, the Haverton, the Port Adelaide, the Port Jackson and the Port Phillip sailing on an occasional basis, the twice monthly service having been temporarily abandoned. The European trade was still catered for by establishing Antwerp as a regular embarkation point for passengers as well as for loading cargo. The sailings were advertised as the Australasian S. N. Co. During this time William Milburn continued to trade to India with the Teddington and to South America in conjunction with the Hamburg-Sud Amerika Line, other surplus ships were re-deployed elsewhere.
However, by January 1887 the monthly service was, once again, being advertised. Other ships belonging to the Anglo-Australasian fleet were being chartered to John Flint's Colonial Line and when Flint died management of these ships transferred to G. D. Tyser & Co. This led to a business relationship developing between Charles Milburn and George Tyser. To supplement the Australia run the Hankow, formerly owned by Watts, Milburn but at the time owned by George Milburn, was transferred from the China run but she was never considered to be an Anglo-Australasian S. N. ship.

During 1887 the Port Denison and the Port Fairy joined the fleet followed, in 1889, by the Port Caroline.


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Twice monthly sailings to Australia were re-established in 1890 and the was company restyled The Milburn Line, bringing the two companies together under a less cumbersome corporate entity. The pennant houseflags of the two companies were amalgamated into a single rectangular flag.
In 1892 Eastern Australia was again hit by drought which severely disrupted the regular pattern of trade. Ships temporarily abandoned scheduled sailings and embarked on tramping operations calling at ports as and when cargoes became available. This made the carriage of passengers difficult and, as a result, the company decided to end the practice, sell the passenger ships and replace them with cargo only vessels with accommodation for twelve 1st Class passengers only. This, in effect, was the second phase of the development of the Australian operations. Passengers continued to be carried in existing ships especially on outward voyages on a seasonal basis and where there was still a demand to carry emigrants. On the return voyage passengers could book a berth but only at the final departure port and when the ship was ready to sail for the United Kingdom.

The first of the new class of seven cargo ships, the Port Elliott, was delivered in 1894 bringing the number of the ships in the fleet to twenty seven. There was , however, an odd-man-out, the collier Woodhorn. She was owned by the Ashington Coal Company, named after George Milburn's birthplace and kept the London sailings bunkered. As the new larger cargo ships replaced the passenger ships the service was reduced to a monthly sailing via the Suez canal


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In 1905 the Port Caroline was delivered and heralded the arrival of pure cargo ships severing links with the passenger era.
The company restyled itself as Milburn & Co. Ltd. in 1912 and, in the same year, signed an agreement with the Government of the State of Victoria to carry emigrants to Melbourne. The Port Macquarie and the Port Lincoln were built to carry 600 steerage passengers in 'tween deck dormitory accommodation. The third ship in the venture was Royden's Indrapura (3).

In 1914 Milburn & Co Ltd was one of the four companies who formed the Commonwealth & Dominion Line and contributed their nine 'Port' ships to the new company. However, Milburn Line Ltd. continued to operate from its office in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and resumed shipowning in 1927 with the Benwell Tower and the Fowberry Tower but had nothing to do with Port Line.

The history of Wm. Milburn & Co. and its' ships has been extracted from
Merchant Fleets 21: Port Line by Duncan Haws
to whom we extend our grateful thanks.
Available from TCL PUBLICATIONS

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