History of the Merseyside Branch of the World Ship Society

From Ship News Club to World Ship Society

(Edited from notes by the late W.B. Hallam, Chairman, Merseyside Branch [1949-50 / 1959-60] published 1968 with additional material from the late Keith MacArthur.)

The Firth of Clyde presented a glorious picture from Canada Hill outside of Rothesay on a July day in 1948, as my wife and I were talking to Scottish friends as the JUPITER made her way from Wemyss Bay across the blue water and the SNAEFELL made a creaming wake as she underwent trials of Skelmorlie.

Two of our friends were members of the Clyde River Steamer Club, our conversation drifted from the ships in sight to aspects of club activity. During this conversation I was shown a copy of Marine News for April 1948 the journal of the Ship News Club.

My Scottish friends suggested that I contact “the young man from Kendal” (Michael Crowdy) for further particulars. This was on my return home, after reading in the local paper of a successful meeting held on July 17th, 1948, in the Mecca Café, Case’s Street, Liverpool, to inaugurate the Merseyside branch of the Ship News Club.

The first letter I received from Michael Crowdy was a most enthusiastic epistle. Stating how the Ship News Club had grown since January the 1st, 1947. That the progression of Marine News from duplicated sheets to a printed magazine had brought wonderful results and the formation of a London branch in June 1948.

The second Merseyside meeting was held on August 28th, 1948, followed by a visit to the radar station at Gladstone Dock.

I met the party in Fort Rd, Seaforth and from then a firm friendship developed between myself and Kenneth Brown who was the first member to whom I spoke and who was leading the party from Seaforth Sands station. Kenneth Brown introduced me to Michael Crowdy, who was bringing up the rear. It was a most interesting afternoon. The following January a joint meeting between the Ship News Club took place with Liverpool Nautical Research Society.

This was a useful meeting, but I felt that the Club should develop its own identity I went to the next joint meeting in February, armed with an invitation to members of the Ship News Club to attend the meeting in our own flat in March.

I told Mr. Crowdy of our proposals, details of which he inserted in Marine News and on the evening of the magazine’s arrival I had a telephone call from Mr. P. McManus who said he would like to come.

So, on the day March the 25th, 1949 who would come?

How would they react?

Would this give the Ship News Club a better prospect?

We soon found out.

For the record on that night Mr W.R.E Williams was first to arrive followed by E.G. Owen’s, E.P. McManus, K.C. Crafter and Kenneth Longbottom. Frank Howell and E.A. Worthy the sent their apologies.

The flat was in #2 the Esplanade, Waterloo. The lounge, being large with magnificent views over Liverpool Bay. A commodious veranda led to a large garden, to which we had full access. We could accommodate up to twenty visitors and we were sure that they would find something of interest in my own library and collection.

The first meeting was devoted to North Atlantic topics and was so successful that the last Friday in each month was allocated to Ship News club meetings. The gospel spread rapidly.

In June, 20 members attended, many of them from Wirral and Southport. At this time, a decision was made to seek a meeting place in Liverpool and to establish the branch on a formal basis with its own officers.

The Lord Nelson Hotel was the scene of a momentous meeting on July 13th, 1949. It was a very humid evening and during the election of officers a severe thunderstorm broke with flooding in the outside area. It gave me great personal satisfaction when Mr M.E. Fiske proposed that I should be chairman, to be seconded by Mr. R.B. Somerfield. Mr Ken Brown was appointed secretary. Mr Frank Howell, treasurer. With the committee consisting of Mr. Fiske, Mr. E.P. McManus, and Mr. E.G. Owens.

The branch programme derived from our own resources and the first open meeting took place at the Lord Nelson Hotel in August 1949. Talks by the Chairman in September and December were interspersed with excellent lectures by Mr Ken Brown on Belfast Built Ships ships and Mr Owen’s on the White Star line in October and November.

The first ship visit took place on September the 17th, 1949. When the branch limited to thirty people invaded the Britannic to a number more than fifty participants. The chairman received a polite reprimand from the shipping company for this display of zeal on the part of friends and members!

On board the WELLINGTON on the River Thames on September 21st, 1949, 130 members of the Ship News Club gathered to approve the change of name to The World Ship Society and installed Mr. A.C. Hardy. BSc, MINA as first President.

Branches were beginning to flourish in other parts of the country and overseas.

The Merseyside Branch continued to grow in strength with assistance being given by members of the Liverpool Nautical Research Society.

Mr A.M. Fletcher loaned his epidiascope for early lectures. Later Mr. A.B. Summerfield presented on an epidiascope to the branch.

This apparatus had seen wartime service and was adapted for peacetime work by Mr Ted Jones.

Some of the chairman’s best photographs suffered at the temperamental operation of this equipment, which seemed to know when and how to make condensation. We were, however, extremely glad to have it in any case, and it did useful duty until 1957.

The most notable event of 1950 was the dinner held in on board LCT LANDFALL at which Mr A.C. Hardy presided on March the 15th.

Mr. Crowdy accepted a business appointment in Liverpool at this time and took considerable part in local branch activities.

Friday nights with always open night at #2 Esplanade which meant that those members so minded could have a weekly get together among kindred spirits which was what the first Chairman wanted.

Between March 1949 and October 1952. At least 213 visits were made by members to the flat. It was a sad occasion on October the 11th, 1952, when will first treatment watch the KING ORRY sail for Douglas from that place for the last time. When the MONA’s QUEEN arrived at 12:45 it was observed from my new address.

There have been many notable people in the service of the World Ship Society from the Merseyside Branch who served with distinction. Pre-eminent among those is Mr A.L. Bland who has a permanent memorial in the central record. He remembered for presenting the World Ship Society flag, its first unfurling being from the mast head of Wallasey Ferries’ WALLASEY BELLE on June 14th, 1952.

Onwards to the 21st Century

Over the years we have various meeting places have been used since the early meetings at the Lord Nelson Hotel – Liverpool Museums, Royal Sun Alliance Building, The Ship and Mitre, Liverpool John Moore’s University, Sam’s Bar, The Fly in the Loaf and currently we meet at the Seafarers’ Centre at Waterloo in north Liverpool close to the current port entrance and only a few hundred yards from the Esplanade where the Branch’s inaugural meeting was held.

The Branch also established its own newsletter “Mersey Log” established in the 1960s initially in printed form – but as of 2022 will be switching to a digital format pdf format.

On the May 10th, 1997, the Merseyside Branch Celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a dinner at the Moat House Hotel, Liverpool in the presence of WSS President Rear Admiral Roger Morris, C.B.; Founder and President Emeritus Michael Crowdy, F.R.S.A and former Master of QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 – Captain Robert A. Woodall RD, RNR, Rtd.


In recent years the Merseyside Branch has successfully hosted several World Ship Society Merchant Ship Days at the Liverpool Seafarers’ Centre welcoming members from the wider area.

The Branch celebrated its 71st Anniversary on July 13th, 2019, when members, after a cruise along the Weaver Navigation from Northwich to Sutton Weaver on board the preserved steam tug DANIEL ADAMSON, assembled at the Hazel Pear at Acton Bridge for a celebratory meal.

In early 2020, shortly before the World shut down due to the pandemic, a group of members were able to visit the new Virgin Cruises Ship SCARLET LADY on her pre-launch visit to Merseyside.