The steel steamship Teign was launched from the Southampton yard of Day, Summers and Co Ltd., on 9th July 1914 for the Royal Steampacket Company Ltd London. She measured 110.3′ x 21.1′ x 10.1′ and her tonnage was 204 gross tons,88 net tons. She was powered by a reciprocating compound steam engine by Day Summers delivering 37 registered horse power.
Following multiple ownership changes until March of 1935 she was finally purchased by Fredrick Taylor of Sunderland and renamed Taylor who operated the small coastal steamship on the east coast routes.
Only two and a half years later, on 30th October 1937, she was en route from Buckie to Sunderland with a cargo of timber under the command of her Norwegian skipper John Olsen who had a crew of five men aboard. The was a gentle south south west wind blowing creating some bumpy conditions for the crew but the voyage proceeded normally until the Taylor was passing Rattray Head Lighthouse in the gathering darkness around 8:00pm. At this point Olsen was alerted by a crewman that she seemed to be sitting low in the water towards the stern and, as he climbed down the engine room. he was met by the first engineer George Oag who confirmed that water was flooding the engine room. Soon the ship was settling by the stern and taking on a heavy list to starboard.
Attempts to lower the lifeboats were unsuccessful and, as the Taylor took a sudden lurch, the skipper was thrown into the sea. He managed to grab hold of some floating debris but then watched as the Taylor sank beneath the surface. For a time Olsen could hear voices of some of the crew in the darkness but he could not see them. She sank between 8:15 and 8:30 pm but Olsen spent a further four cold hours in the water before he was luckily picked up by the trawler Ocean Princess alerted to the sinking by the floating debris of the ships‘ cargo. Olsen was rescued after James Innes, a deckhand on the Ocean Princess, bravely dived into the ice cold water with a rope to pull Olsen aboard. Alex Bruce, the skipper of the Ocean Princess spent some time searching the area for signs of the rest of the crew but eventually had to abandon the search and return to port to drop of the Taylor’s skipper before continuing on their way to the fishing grounds.
The subsequent enquiry focussed on the loading of the Taylor’s timber cargo and found that the main hatch was not battened down by a tarpaulin once the hold was full and further found that the deck cargo of more timber was loaded on top of the hatch and not lashed down. Both these failures were in breach of the regulations for correct stowage of the Timber Cargo Regulations and each were described as rendering the vessel unseaworthy. However, there was no firm evidence that these errors resulted in the loss of the ship as the ingress of water appeared to be in the engine room area rather than in the hold or through the unsealed hatch. A copy of the three page report is provided below.
We would like to acknowledge the assistance of Buchan Divers – www.buchandivers.com in the preparation of this article.