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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website

R.M.S.   ORONSAY   1950 - 1975


Following the Second World War, the Orient Line began its passenger service from Sydney to Vancouver, via Fiji, with Orcades augmenting the new service.  Her sister ship was laid down in the same berth in 1949.

Oronsay (II) took her name, as did her forebear, from an island off the West coast of Scotland. In accordance with Orient Line policy, her interior theme was influenced by the nationality of her name. Public rooms, for example, were named Edinburgh, Fife & Drums and Balmoral. At her bow and funnel she displayed a targe and broadsword insignia, symbols of the area from which her name was derived.

Oronsay was a particularly spacious ship and her accommodation set a new standard for both first and tourist classes on the Australasian service.  She cost 4,228,000 (1951) to build and was the epitome of post-war British ship-building excellence.  Interior decor was entrusted to Brian O'Rorke, the designer responsible for the 'new look' on Orion, Orcades (II) and Orcades (III).  Dulcie Collings (1909 - 1988) and her artist husband, Geoffrey, collaborated extensively in painting, illustration and costume design ventures.  Collings designed fabrics for Oronsay.

Oronsay appears on several postage stamps including a 50 cent Fijian adhesive.



Displacement    28,136 gross tons

Dimensions       length 708 feet, beam 93.5 feet.

Draught            31 feet (9.4 m)

Propulsion         Parsons marine steam turbines capable of developing a     
                        maximum of  42,500 shaft horsepower. 
                        These drove twin screws and gave a service speed of 22 knots.

Cargo capacity   370,000 cubic feet.

Ship's company  622

Passenger accommodation   
                         668 first and 883 tourist class passengers on seven decks.

Registered signal letters    GCNB

Ship's Log

1949    Keel laid at Barrow-in-Furness, England.

1950    Friday June 30   Launched from the Vickers Armstrong shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness by Mrs A. I. (later Lady) Anderson, wife of the Orient Line Chairman.

1950    October 28    At 9 pm a fire started in the cork insulation in the No. 2 hold and burned for three days. The vessel developed a 20 degree list. Her completion was delayed by eight weeks.

1951   April 29-30   Speed Trials on the Clyde.

1951   May 3   Arrived at Tilbury, London.

1951   May 16  Maiden voyage from London to Sydney, commanded by Captain T. L. Shurrock.

1951   November 3   at Southampton.


1952   Summer   13 day Mediterranean cruise, tourist class fares were from 37 and first class from 66.

1952   Pictured above are school friends Keith Hall and Brian Ganderton sitting on one of the liner's cargo hatches at the Port of Naples, Italy. They were 16 year old Deck Hands and just venturing out from the Royal Merchant Navy School, having already passed a course at the Prince of Wales Sea Training School at Stalham in Norfolk.

1952   December 18   Departed from Tilbury for a 10 week return voyage to the Antipodes via the Suez Canal.

1953   March 6   Arrived back at Tilbury, where she remained for 10 days before commencing a 51 day line voyage.

1953   June 10   Departed from Tilbury for a 74 day return voyage to Australia and New Zealand.

1953   August 22   Returned to Tilbury, where she remained for 9 days before commencing a 20 day cruise.

1954   January 1   Departed Sydney for Auckland, Suva, Honolulu, Vancouver and San Francisco, returning to Sydney via the same ports.

1954   January 4   The Orient Line's new 28,000-ton luxury liner Oronsay berthed at Auckland at 7am today on her inaugural voyage reopening the Pacific service from Sydney to Vancouver and San Francisco.  The service was stopped when the 30 year old Aorangi went to the breakers' yard last year. 

Mr Irvine Geddes, Director of the Orient Line, said yesterday that the Second World War and its aftermath had shorn the Pacific of the fine passenger liners owned by the Matson Line and the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand, but it had brought the people of Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia closer.  The Orient Line's new Pacific venture was an experiment to find out if sufficient freight and passenger traffic
was offering to support as large and expensive a ship as
Oronsay, which cost more than 5,200,000 to build.  Three
round voyages would definitely be made this year and a fourth,
bringing in the line's latest and largest ship, Orsova, was being

Above right: Staff-Commander Roberts at the stabiliser controls on the bridge of Oronsay, the largest ship in the world to have gyro-controlled fins.

1954   March 30   Arrived at London from Sydney via Suez.

1954   April 15     Arrived at Fremantle.

1954   "Welsh Hat" extension fitted to the funnel.

1954 - 1958   "I was a printer on Oronsay (Orient Line), Rangitane (NZ Shipping Co) and Arundel Castle (Union-Castle Steamship Co).  All printers in the Merchant Navy - myself included - were called Inky." Rodney Lawrence, UK.

1954   January 1   The service was extended beyond Sydney to Los Angeles.

1954   April 15      Departed Fremantle.

1954   September   "I was 22, foot-loose and fancy free.  I'd always hankered after going to sea, so approached the Orient Line offering to take any berth they cared to offer.  I was told to report to their office at Tilbury, having first satisfied them that I had completed my national service.  This I did and was taken on in the catering department as a potato peeler and given a date to join their ship, RMS Oronsay, some days hence.

Walking along the dock, I was immediately impressed with her size.  Built by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness, she was launched in June 1950.  Over 700 feet long by 90 feet in the beam with a 31 foot draft, she had a gross registered tonnage of a little over 28,000-tons.  She was powered by Parsons marine steam turbines capable of developing a maximum of 42,500 shaft horsepower.  These drove twin screws and, flat out, she would top 22 knots.  She had a buff-colored hull and funnel with white upper works, more of a handsome ship than a beautiful one.  The only thing that marred her appearance was a black, 14-foot extension like a witch's hat to her funnel; this was to carry exhaust gasses clear of her decks."

The return voyage at the end of 1954 on "Oronsay" was a 26 day trip (broke the then speed record!) and visited Gibraltar, Naples, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle and Adelaide, I think the cost was only about 159.

My mother and her parents came to Australia in 1954 on the P&O Oronsay from the United Kingdom. For what it's worth, the one way tourist-class fare in a two berth cabin was about 144 Australian each, or about 10 weeks' wages for a young graduate engineer.

1955   November 8   Australia's one millionth post-war migrant, Mrs Barbara Ann Porritt, 21, of Yorkshire, England, (right) arrives at Melbourne on the liner Oronsay with her husband.

1955     December 28     Called at Vancouver.

1956   Pacific Cruise, souvenir; silver plated spoon with Orient Line enamel crest.

1956   June - August    Brochure for European cruises to and from the West Coast of North America via the Panama Canal and Trinidad. Eastbound June 1956 and westbound August 1956.

1956   September 1    Arrived at Tilbury from Sydney via Capetown.

1958   May 21   Departed Southampton for Australia via Suez.

"The journey took six weeks.  Oronsay was a passenger liner carrying both paying passengers and immigrants to Australia.  We were housed in six berth cabins that were meant to take 4 people.  2 extra bunks had been added to squash as many people in as possible.   Mum and I were in a cabin with four other women, my Dad and Teddy were next door with the husbands and fathers of these.  The cabins were on H Deck, below the waterline.  At sea, all I could see from my porthole was water swirling around like the laundromat machines, but in port I could see the ships cables and the pylons below the dock.  In one or two ports we docked with the other side to the land and I was able to look out and see the boats plying the harbour.  Most of the journey was hot and uncomfortable though, as we did not have air-conditioning, just blowers the could be turned on the bunks to give cooler air.

I was 12 by now, and considered an adult by the shipping line.  That being so, I was invited to the Captain's Cocktail Party on the first night out and permitted to participate in all of the activities on board.  Teddy, on the other hand was 7 and had to attend school on board.

We stopped first in Gibralter and made the mandatory trip up the Rock.  Next port of call was Naples and a day trip to the ruins of Pompeii was organised.  My love of history made this day terrific and memorable.  At Navarino Bay we picked up passengers, who came out to the ship in tenders, but didn't go into Port.  At Port Said we were not permitted off the ship.  The area was a tinder box and the troubles that caused the Suez Canal to be closed for many years were about to begin.  But we didn't miss out on shopping.  All around the ship were little rowing boats full of locals wanting to sell souvenirs.  They threw up ropes, on the end of which were cane baskets.  They held up their wares and shouted their praises.  When you saw something you liked you haggled over price.  When an agreement was reached, they sent the goods up in the basket and you sent down the money.  It was noisy and it was fun! The "Gully gully Man" came aboard and put on a show for the children.  He had a red fez and produced chickens out of nowhere.

The trip through the Suez Canal was slow and fascinating.  I remember high sandy banks on either side of the ship and seeing the sails of Arab dhows on the other side, I suspect they must have been on the Nile, as it was at the top end of the Canal.  We were delayed in the lakes, waiting for a large convoy to pass through.  It was June and very hot.  Men slept on mattresses on deck on one side of the ship, and women on the other.  As we passed through Suez, Ted collapsed with heat exhaustion and spent 48 hours in the ships infirmary.  At the end of the Canal was Aden.  Again it was a 'hot spot' and men only were allowed ashore.  Dad went off but soon returned.  The sight of armed soldiers patrolling the street made him a bit nervous.

We sailed on across the Indian ocean to Sri Lanka - then Ceylon - making port at Colombo. Once more we were not permitted ashore because of local unrest, but again the boats surrounded the ship and we were treated to the fun of haggling for souvenirs.  I bought a set of 6 carved elephants, each one a little smaller than the others.

The next leg was the longest between ports.  It was on this leg that we crossed the Equator with the usual festivities and frivolities, men shaved with a sword and thrown in the swimming pool, special dinners and dances.  There were special nights each week, a racing carnival, with horses drawn along the track by winding a chord on a reel.  My horse was 'Holy Smoke' by Bishop out of Temper, a fancy dress night, which I won by dressing in the classified section of the newspaper and saying to the Judges "Ssh - I'm classified information" and a concert put on by the passengers.  The trip was long but never tedious, except for poor Mum who was always a poor sailor and just could not appreciate the magnificent meals we were served. She was just too queasy most of the time.

Our first Australian landfall was Perth, for just one day.  Adelaide was next, across the Great Australian Bight and again a tour of the city in just one day.  In Melbourne we were two nights in port, so we spent the night with my Mum's cousin in Preston, outside Melbourne.  Funny, even though on land, I could still feel the boat moving all night.

Two days later we arrived in Sydney.  It was early morning, just on sunrise as we stood on deck watching as the ship sailed through the heads, down the harbour and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The city was and still is unbelievably beautiful seen from the water.  In 1958 there were no high rise buildings, no smog, no noise.  We slid down that magnificent waterway and under the bridge to dock at Pyrmont in silence.  There are no words to describe the feeling that morning, excitement, trepidation, sadness and memories, awe, a flood of emotion.  Then it was a flurry of activity, immigration authorities to see, bags to collect and the family waiting dock side."     Chris Ambler-Sutton, Australia.

1958   October 22   A fire in the ship's hospital.

1959   July 9   Arrived at Vancouver from Sydney.

1959   July 29   Departed Auckland, arriving at Liverpool on 4 September via Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Marseilles and Gibraltar.

1959   September - November   Extensive refit at Liverpool, including the fitting of air conditioning.

1959   The 1,416-passenger ship began running so-called "mini cruises," week-long trips out of Southampton to Casablanca and Tangier.

1960   May   Integrated into the P & O - Orient Line.

1960   September 7   Anne Landells (nee Briggs) travelled as a child with her parents and three siblings from Tilbury to Melbourne, Australia as "Ten Pound Tourists".

"I can remember leaving Tilbury Dock with the sound of 'Tooralai Addity' in my ears on a drizzly morning and sailing down the Thames to the sea. At 12 years old it was a fine adventure but also a little frightening to be leaving the known world to go to 'the colonies'. The liner took us to Gibraltar, Naples (where my father ordered lunch in a cafe, eggs and chips all round! I dearly wanted to try Italian food), Aden (where we were unable to disembark but I remember the 'Gully Gully Man' performing magic tricks from a dinghy), Colombo where we spent a day seeing the sights, including a trip to Mount Lavinia and a Bhuddist Temple and finally to Fremantle, where we children took great delight in jumping on the 'bouncy grass' in Australia and a train trip to Perth for the day. During the trip I remember seeing flying fish and dolphins for the first time and I was fascinated by the phosphorescence in the water at night time. Then it was on to Adelaide and finally Melbourne where we disembarked on 4th of October 1960 in more drizzly rain."

1962   Transferred to P&O Line ownership.

1963   November   "I was just off the coast of Cuba on Oronsay at the time. There were a few Americans on the sun deck and I was up there as well.  A transistor radio was going and everybody went deathly white.  I went into the radio room and said have you heard anything about this.  And they said no, and they scanned across the American broadcasts and eventually picked it up.  And about two hours later the old man came on the air on the ship and said the President's been shot."

1964   We had just disembarked for the day at Auckland from Oronsay on our way to Fiji and the Polynesian island of Samoa. John Atherton.

1965   December   Berthed at Wellington's Overseas Passenger Terminal.

1966   Became wholly owned by P & O.

1967   May 14   Berthed at Fremantle.

"I joined Oronsayon Voyage 48 (may have been 49). It was the voyage when we had the fire. The same voyage was outward bound via Suez, but on return we were diverted via Capetown when the Suez Canal was closed. I think we were en route to Aden at the time. I think the following voyage was outward bound via Panama." Dave Thompson, Second Electrical Officer.

1967   June 17   Berthed at Honolulu.

1967   July    Fire in a lower hold aft developed while homeward bound from the Pacific. 43 tourist class cabins were damaged, Oronsay subsequently called at Hong Kong, Bombay and Capetown.

1967   October 21   Berthed at Honolulu.

1967   Excerpt from Bastards, Bitches, and Heroes by Herman I. Neuman

"Our stateroom, a tiny cabin much like a coffin just big enough for sleeping, rocking and barfing, was located below the water line.  There was also a drive shaft spinning inside our coffin.  This did not matter much because we were headed to many exotic places and planned to stay on the upper decks during most of our waking hours.  We were scheduled to cruise to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong.  Then we were to continue to India, the Middle East, through the Mediterranean Sea and on to England.  Due to the sunken ships from the Arab/Israeli war, the Suez Canal was closed.  Therefore our itinerary was changed to bypass India and the Middle East, two places that we really wanted to visit and were rerouted around Southern Africa.

As we approached Japan we sailed roller-coaster-like through the fringes of a typhoon.  My necktie on the doorknob was our rock 'n roll indicator; it seemed to swing with a more or less steady rhythm, thirty-some degrees to the left, likewise to the right.  This was my second storm at sea and I wondered how many more we would have to suffer through on this trip.  Nightfall arrived.  The tossing about of our ship caused me severe fright and such claustrophobia that I was only able to stay in our cabin, a tempestuous bunker, for brief moments. I felt as if our ship had been abandoned since I seemed to be the only passenger staggering around the lounges and hallways, while Linda stayed in her bunk bed below the pounding ocean.  The doctor gave her an injection to ameliorate her seasickness.  I wanted to comfort her but always had to leave our coffin quickly because of my fright, while she seemed to be too ill or too doped up to care if our ship tipped over.

It did not help my confidence that crew members were raising the doorsills to the outside with boards, to keep out the sea that was crashing onto the decks.  To allay my fears and get some rest, I tried to analyse the action of the waves and the twisting of the ship to reach an objective conclusion about its seaworthiness.  I figured that there was no way that it would not burst its seams because even the floor tiles were popping off the bending steel structure.  Our ship creaked, groaned and crackled everywhere I went; there was no escape from it.  Intermittently it bounced with an agonising crunch that felt and sounded as if it hit a mogul on a downhill ski run.  I heard a crash.  A piano ripped from its tie-down and smashed into a wall. Someone sailed from his top bunk, mattress and all and broke his ankle.  Breakfast dishes set up in the evening jumped the rails around the tabletops and were sliding back and forth in pieces across the floor. Lone crew members scurried about.

I spent most of that night stumbling around our ship feeling like a caged lion about to face the gladiators.  I climbed the ship's ladders and experienced variable gravity. Climbing, while the ship went downward, I floated upward as the support gave away under me.  I felt almost weightless.  Conversely, when the ship rose under me my weight seemed to double.  I was a tiny bug on a twig bouncing about on a raging river.

Not being able to tolerate my confinement anymore, dwelling in the agony inside our ship, I burst to the outside even though this was strictly forbidden.  This little bug could get blown away and drown. When I opened the door to escape from my cage, an invisible force pulled it outward.  It drew me out while sucking the air from my lungs as well. Ducking into the storm, while clutching the handrails, I worked my way toward the front of our ship.  Screaming and whistling, it plowed through the night.  I worried about my hair, was it planted firmly enough or would my scalp be bare?

The bow smashed into a wall of water that rolled toward the stern. Our world tilted upward. Then downward, as we descended into the valley to crash into the following mountain.  Liquid thunder roared through the night. White water raced past our ship into the blackness behind.  Intermittently twinkling stars rolled about in the black sky somewhere above.  I tottered upward toward the stern.  As I approached it, an invisible mountain rose into the black void beyond.  I knew it was there because the gale ripped white water from it that reflected the glow from our lights.  While I clung to the rail, I craned my neck to find the peak of this rising mountain.  It blocked my view of the stars; it devoured them.

The bow dove down again as we plunged into the next valley, to labour up another mountain.  Reversing directions, the stern rounded the top of the wave and the ship shuddered as its propellers rose out of the sea, revving up speed as they churned the air.  Before we schussed down the next slope of water, I stared down into the abyss where moments before a mountain had been, the next one emerging to lift us again toward the sky.

We were tossed through the night on a wild roller coaster ride.  It gave me the greatest thrill of my life, while at the same time terrifying me as much as the conflagrations of my infant days.  However, I did propose to Linda that we debark in Yokohama, fly to Australia, from winter to summer, and meet Oronsay there.  But we abandoned this idea since it was too costly and we would miss many, many wonderful places along the way.

The next day the raging fury ceased and the sea calmed again.  I thanked God that we had survived.  A news bulletin reported that a lumber ship had broken apart not far from us.  After a good rest the following night, our trepidation became a faded memory as we continued to steam toward a new continent."

1968   March 14   Berthed at Hong Kong.

1968   April 13   Berthed at Lisbon.

1968   April 16   Returned to Southampton.

1968   September  Departed Fremantle heading for Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Paga Pago, Suva, Hawaii, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Acapulco, Panama, Nassau, Miami, Lisbon, Cherbourg and Southampton.

1968   "I sailed as a Radio Officer in the liner between 1968 and 1971 and had a great time!  I was only just 18 when I joined as 4th Radio Officer and it was an amazing time for a young man to be aboard such a ship.

We had lots of good times - often there were more ships' staff than passengers, especially when we left Southampton or Tilbury on a line voyage to Australia.  Cruising was introduced during this period and we used to do two week cruises into the Mediterranean, or when based in Sydney short cruises to the Pacific Islands.  The "Circle Pacific" cruise was always a great time.  The Aussies loved their cruising!

Each morning and evening we had to play a crackley old record to welcome sunrise and sunset.  When we were berthed at Circular Quay we used to crank up the volume and watch the people in the nearby offices opening their windows to find out what the hell was going on!  I suspect the crackle at the beginning of the records sounded like a gun going off!

We had a team of five Radio Officers keeping a continuous 24-hour watch between three of us whilst at sea (standard maritime watches, 12 to 4; 4 to 8; and 8 to 12 on a 24 hour rotation).  As R/O's we used to handle all the ships communications.  In those days it was mainly telegrams sent and received by Morse code. 

If conditions were good we could also arrange High Frequency Radio telephone calls.  The latter were always hit and miss, depending upon where you were and the time of day.  We also used to receive a newspaper by Morse code!  This was typed onto wax duplicating skins and printed in the Bureau for distribution the next morning.  Foreign language editions (also received in Morse) were challenging to say the least!  If you couldn't type from Morse code directly onto a typewriter you had to remain after your watch to type up your handwritten notes.  Needless to say you quickly learned to type direct - what a boon that proved to be for the rest of my time at sea!"    Derek Rice.

1968   December 5   Arrived at Southampton.

1969   January 20    Berthed at Madeira.

1969   February 18   Berthed at Honolulu.

1969   July 17   Berthed at Fremantle.

1969   August 2   At Tonga, a destination on the North of Capricorn cruise.

1969   October 30   Returned to Southampton.

1969   December 29   At Port Everglades.

1970    January 7 to February 4    Quarantined at Vancouver when 69 passengers developed symptoms of Typhoid fever.

"I was one of some fifty men who were sent to Vancouver to take over from crew members who had contracted the disease"    Bren Roberts.

"I remember particularly the "Typhoid Voyage" culminating in the quarantine period at Vancouver.  I believe the cause was found to be cross contamination between drinking and "domestic" water...!  I was told that the Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs was onboard at the time and was very concerned that he may be caught!"   Derek Rice.

1970   May 22   Departed from Southampton in the late afternoon.

1970   May 23   Arrived at Rotterdam in the mid-morning, departing in the early evening.

1970   May 26   Arrived at Lisbon in the early morning, departing at mid-day.

1970   May 29   Arrived at Dakar in the early afternoon, departing in the late evening.

1970   June 6   Arrived at Cape Town in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   June 8   Arrived at Durban in the late afternoon, departing at mid-day the following day.

1970   June 18   Arrived at Fremantle in the early morning, departing in the early evening.

1970   June 21   Arrived at Adelaide in the early afternoon, departing in the late evening.

1970   June 23   Arrived at Melbourne in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   June 25   Arrived at Sydney in the early morning, where she berthed at Circular Quay, departing on Pacific Cruise 284 at mid-day on the 28th.

1970   June 30   Arrived at Noumea in the late afternoon, departing in the late afternoon the following day.

1970   July 3   Arrived at Suva in the early morning, departing in the early evening.

1970   July 8   Arrived at Honolulu at mid-day, departing in the late evening of the 10th.

1970   July 15   Arrived at Pago Pago (Samoa) in the early morning, departing in
the late afternoon.

1970   July 20   Arrived at Auckland in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   July 23   Returned to Sydney in the mid-morning, departing in the mid-afternoon of the 29th on Pacific Cruise 285.

1970   August 1   Arrived at Noumea in the early morning, departing in the mid-afternoon.

1970   August 3   Arrived at Lautoka (Fiji) in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon.

1970   August 4   Arrived at Suva in the early morning, departing in early morning of the following day.

1970   August 6   Arrived at Nuku'alofa (Tonga) in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon.

1970   August 10   Arrived at Sydney at mid-day, departing at mid-day on the 13th for a Pacific and Far East voyage.

1970   August 14   Arrived at Melbourne in the late afternoon, departing in the late afternoon of the following day.

1970   August 19   Arrived at Auckland in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   August 22   Arrived at Suva in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon.

1970   August 23   Arrived at Pago Pago in the early morning, departing in the

1970   August 28   Arrived at Honolulu in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   September 3   Arrived at Vancouver in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon.

1970   September 5   Arrived at San Francisco mid-day, departing at noon the following day.

1970   September 12   Arrived at Honolulu in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   September 20   Arrived at Yokohama at mid-day, departing in the late afternoon of the following day.

1970   September 22   Arrived at Kobe at mid-day, departing in the late afternoon of the 24th.

1970   September 27   Above: arrived at Hong Kong in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon of the 29th.

1970   October 2   Arrived at Singapore at mid-day, departing in the late afternoon of the following day.

1970   October 8   Arrived at Fremantle in the early morning, departing in the early afternoon.

1970   October 11   Arrived at Adelaide in the early morning, departing at mid-day.

1970   October 12   Arrived at Melbourne in the mid-afternoon, departing in the late evening.

1970   October 14   Arrived at Sydney in the early morning, departing in the
mid-afternoon of the 18th for the homeward voyage.

1970   October 21   Arrived at Auckland in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   October 24   Arrived at Suva in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon.

1970   October 25   Arrived at Pago Pago in the early morning, departing in the

1970   October 30   Arrived at Honolulu in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   November 5   Arrived at Vancouver in the early morning, departing in the late afternoon.

1970   November 7   Arrived at San Francisco in the mid afternoon, departing in
the late afternoon of the following day.

1970   November 9   Arrived at Los Angeles in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   November 13   Arrived at Acapulco in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   November 16   Arrived at Panama in the early evening, departing in the early evening of the following day.

1970   November 19   Arrived at Curacao in the early morning, departing at

1970   November 20   Arrived at Trinidad in the early evening, departing in the early morning of the following day.

1970   November 21   Arrived at Barbados in the early afternoon, departing in the late evening.

1970   November 27   Arrived at Madiera at mid-day, departing in the early morning of the following day.

1970   November 29   Arrived at Lisbon in the early morning, departing in the late evening.

1970   December 2   Returned to Southampton in the morning after an absence of five and a half months.

1971   "My father and mother travelled overseas on Oronsay via New Zealand, Panama, Canada, Tenerife and Portugal to Southampton."

1971   February 25   Berthed at Hong Kong.

1972    Changed to a single class ship carrying 1,400 passengers. By now she was cruising year round, especially from Australia, in and around the Pacific.

1973   February 6   A former Stretford mother and seven of her children, who emigrated to Australia three years ago, today arrived back at Southampton after stowing away on the P & O liner Oronsay.  Mrs Audrey Henderson, aged 39, said: 'All I want is to see the dirty streets of Manchester again. The heat and the flies were appalling and the humidity was killing.  "You have to have two jobs to survive.  Eventually I asked to be repatriated, but the authorities took so long that I took matters into my own hands."

1973   March 1   Cherry Blossom Circle Pacific cruise.

1973   April 5   David Bowie travelled to Japan on Oronsay , he gave an impromptu solo acoustic performance for the passengers and crew.  "At 4 pm Bowie arrives in Yokohama, Japan on SS Oronsay having sailed from from Los Angeles."

1973  "We booked passage on Oronsay, leaving Sydney on April 29.  We will disembark at Vancouver and drive from there to Salem, Oregon.  The ship will be in Los Angeles for 5 hours on May 18th. We're taking a different route back so we will get to see Tahiti this time.

We have a very large 4-berth cabin.  The ship is finishing a three month cruise around the world.  There are only about 400 passengers and the ship holds 1300.  It is all first class.  I think the average age of the passengers is 85 - Doddering old people complaining about everything. There are only 24 children.

We spent some time in Noumea and Suva.  Today the sea is so blue and so is the sky with lovely white clouds. We will soon be stopping near an island to drop mail over the side in metal cans.  The natives paddle out in outrigger canoes and pick it up.  That's why it's called Tin Can Island.  Nothing is crowded on this ship, so it was easy.  There are about three crew members to one passenger.  We arrived in Tahiti yesterday morning and sail tonight at 4 pm.  It is very hot and humid. We spent the afternoon at the beach.  The voyage back to the States was very pleasant.  The entertainment was delightful, the meals were scrumptious, and the service was outstanding.  But all good things must come to an end."

1973   "My first lesson on change, was when we were advised at the last minute that Oronsay couldn't "afford" to pick up passengers in Vancouver, because of fuel prices resulting from the 1973 oil crisis.  Instead, P & O proposed to fly all of the Vancouver passengers to San Francisco, to join Oronsay on its Honolulu, Fiji, Auckland, Sydney trip."

1974   December    14 day cruise from Sydney, calling at Auckland, Suva, Pago Pago (Samoa) and Nuku-alofa (Tonga). The two photographs below were taken by Ken Williams of the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.


1975   July 22    12 day cruise from Southampton, calling at Gibralter, Casablanca, Tenerife, Madiera and Corruna.

1975    August 4    Farewell cruise commanded by Captain Jack Lefevre from Southampton to Sydney via Hamilton (Bermuda), Port Everglades, Nassau, Cristobal, Balboa, Acapulco, San Francisco, Honolulu, Suva and Auckland.

1975   September 16    Final voyage from Sydney to Hong Kong via Brisbane and Manila, with 700 passengers (Right).

1975   September 28    Docked at Hong Kong.

1975   October 9    Sold to Nan Feng Steel Enterprise Company of Kaohsiung, Taiwan for scrapping.

During her 25 year career she had called at 150 ports and had completed 64 line voyages and 37 cruises.


Geoff Bromilow, the Sculptor, was born in the middle of the Indian Ocean, on SS Oronsay which was taking his parents and two brothers to England.


"The Auckland Harbour ferry would head for the gap between Princes Wharf and Queen's Wharf.  If one's luck was in, one of the major passenger liners would be berthing and chaos would reign supreme.  The arrival of Oronsay would require all three of the Auckland Harbour Board's tugs to bring her alongside.  With the tide running strongly across the basin, the likelihood of the ship being all crossed up and blocking the entrance to the ferry wharves was quite high.  Even if things were going well, the wash from the three tugs straining to push the big ship into Princes Wharf made it difficult, if not hazardous for the ferries to sneak around the stern to berth."


Thanks to Chris Ambler-Sutton, John Atherton, Phil Cousins (Dock Museum, Barrow-on-Furness), Brian Ganderton, Herman Neuman, Derek Rice, Bren Roberts, Brent Thomas, Dave Thompson, Ken Williams, Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers ) and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together. 

This page is part of the Migrant Liners in the Antipodean Service section of the
New Zealand Maritime Record
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