Launched from the Troon yard of Ailsa Shipbuilding Co Ltd on 3rd March 1904 the steel steamship the Emperor measured 185.0′ x 27.6′ x 10.8′ with tonnage of 626 gross, 248 net. She was powered by a compound steam engine by Muir and Houston Ltd., Glasgow delivering 80 registered horse power. Built for John Hay and Sons Ltd she was sold to John Kelly of Belfast in 1929 who renamed her Cushendall and operated her on the Irish sea routes until she was sold once again, this time to Brook Shipping Company of London in 1940.
Throughout 1940 and the early months of 1941 she operated in various convoys mainly between Southend and Methil. Her final voyage started on June 19th when she departed Southend headed for Methil and the Clyde in coastal convoy EC35. This huge convoy of over 100 ships reached the Firth of Forth on June 21st before Cushendall headed north intending to pass through the Pentland Firth and down the west coast to the Clyde. On 29th June she was off Aberdeen coast with a crew of sixteen men aboard when she was attacked by German bombers. She received a direct hit, killing two of her crew , chief engineer Walter Gent and fireman Frederick Lear, and soon began to founder. The remainder of the crew took to the ship’s boats and were safely picked up as the Cushendall sank beneath the waves.
The wreck of the Cushendall lies in position 56° 59.425’N, 02° 04.414’W oriented 025/205 degrees. She lies in 53.5 metres with a least clearance of 49 metres. The wreck is relatively in tact although partially collapsed in places.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Rod Macdonald – www.rod-macdonald.com in the preparation of this article.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.