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A perfect storm.

IT's 75 years since the SS Millpool went down with all 26 crew - most of them from Hartlepool and the wider North-east.

Built in Stockton for local shipping magnate Sir Robert Ropner, it was caught up in a hurricane force storm in the middle of the Atlantic.

Local historian and former merchant seaman Billy McGee has been telling Remember When about that fateful night.

"In September 1934 the ageing SS Millpool was about to set off for what would be her final voyage.

"The worst storm of the year blew up on October 1, 1934, and caught in the middle of the Atlantic were the Ropner Company ships SS Ainderby and SS Millpool.

"The SS Millpool was already in severe trouble as mountainous seas battered the ship by the time she was half way across. On October 2 at 19.58 (GMT) the Belle Isle wireless station in Labrador received a message from the Millpool: Aft hatch stoved in, main topmast gone, three men injured, drifting helplessly before gale, using temporary aerial.

"The distress messages were picked up by a number of ships which fought through hurricane force winds towards her last reported position.

"Meanwhile, the SS Ainderby under the command of Captain E. Bestell, was also in trouble and had sent a radio message to all ships in the area asking them to stand by. His call was answered by two ships in the area. But the SS Millpool replied: "Helpless myself driving before hurricane..." The message was abruptly cut short suggesting the ship's aerial had been carried away by the waves crashing over her.

"The last decipherable message from SS Millpool stated: Working on an emergency wire set, engine room flooded". But her distress calls became fainter and fainter until, at 02.00 (GMT), they ceased altogether. No trace of the ship or her crew was ever found.

"An inquiry by the Board of Trade in July 1935 into the loss of the SS Millpool found that the ship had left in a seaworthy condition and that the cargo had been stowed correctly. The loss of the ship was attributed solely to the severe hurricane force storm that she encountered.

"The SS Ainderby suffering severe flooding, set a course for home, and on October 8 she limped into Swansea under her own steam."

In 2008 Stockton Council arranged a floral memorial to the SS Millpool in Ropner Park, Stockton, which coincided with the release of Billy McGee''s book Ropner''s Navy (ISBN 978-0-9558593-5-9) published by Cormorant Publishing, Hartlepool.

Remember When is very grateful to Billy McGee for his history of the sinking of the SS Millpool.

Lynn Kirwan wrote: Loved the article and pictures on Cannon Street. I spent the first five years of my life there. I think we lived two doors along from Varley''s shop. We were No. 150. I went to Sunday school at the Congregational church until it was demolished, and was married in the replacement church on Union St. Thanks. Liz Tempest wrote: I remember Pattison''s Tinsmiths. I believe it was next door but one to Kerrison''s Butchers. The butcher''s was on the corner of Cannon Street and Denmark Street. I went to school with one of Mr Pattison''s granddaughters. She also lived on Cannon Street, next door to Paxton''s, a little baker''s shop, on the corner of Gladstone Street. Her mother was Rosie Pattison.

Pat Davies wrote: I do remember Cannon Street. I was born in Duncombe Street and the memories were great I went to St Pats school. I now live in Australia but to see Cannon Street is great. Thank you.

Brenda Siddaway wrote: Just to say it was great reading all about Cannon Street. I am 61 but I remember most of it. I remember moving from there to Pallister Park. My name then was Brenda Poskett


LOST WITH ALL HANDS: The SS Millpool and, left, the floral tribute in Ropner Park
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 6, 2009
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