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The Fleets

MacIver Line

The MacIver family were pioneers in steamships and operated coastal steamship services from Glasgow as early as 1831. David and Charles MacIver were closely associated with Samuel Cunard in the formation of the Cunard Line.
David MacIver, a nephew of the original founder was admitted into the Cunard partnership in 1863, but left the company in 1874 to found his own steamship line. His earliest ships were registered under the name of Birkenhead Shipping Co., Ltd and these were followed by a number of one ship companies, all managed by David MacIver & Co. In 1894 a new company was registered in the name of David MacIver, Sons & Co. and all subsequent ships were registered in this ownership.
In its early days, the MacIver Line had no regular routes, but in 1885 a regular trade was established between Liverpool, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Rosario.
Accidents were few, but in 1890 the Thessaly caught fire at sea while carrying a cargo of cotton between New Orleans and Hamburg and was lost. Losses were heavy during the Great War with the Araby being wrecked near Boulogne in 1916, Barbary was torpedoed and sunk near Port Said in 1917, Gascony torpedoed and sunk off Portsmouth in 1917 and the Brittany was sunk after collision with HMS Eglantine the same year. The last loss was the Tartary which was torpedoed off Ireland in 1918.
The whole of the shares of David MacIver, Sons & Co. were purchased by Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. in 1919 and the name of the company changed to David MacIver & Co., Ltd. Although owned by Royal Mail, the ships continued to sail under their old colours and Liverpool management.
In 1932 the whole of the MacIver ships were transferred to the Royal Mail Line and their grey hulls and red funnels were changed to the black hull and buff funnel of Royal Mail. At this time, the MacIver Line lost its identity and went into liquidation.

Many thanks to Ted Finch for his assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (onsite) or Immigrant Ship web site.

  • Routes:
    • Liverpool - Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Rosario.

Red with Black top.


Funnel Flag
Vessel Built Years in Service Tons
Albany 1883 1895 sold to J. T. Lunn & Co., Liverpool renamed WILLOWDENE, 1900 sold G. T. Monsen, Stavanger renamed VERDANDE, 1906 sold Japan renamed KANTON MARU, 1934 scrapped. 2,492
Araby (1) 1904 22nd Dec.1916 wrecked at Boulogne and broke in two, both sections refloated and scrapped. 3,303
Araby (2) 1923 1932 transferred to Royal Mail Lines. 4,936
Barbary (1) 1877 1882 sold to Booth SS Co., Liverpool renamed CLEMENT. 1,227
Barbary (2) 1901 12th Nov.1917 torpedoed and sunk by UC.34 near Port Said. 4,185
Briton 1883 1885 sold E & H. Packard, Ipswich renamed EXMOOR, 4th May 1888 sank in North Sea. 381
Brittany (1) 1898 5th Feb. 1918 sunk in collision with HMS EGLANTINE in position 55.50N 08.03W on voyage Liverpool - Montevideo. 2,926
Brittany (2) 1928 1932 transferred to Royal Mail Lines. 4,772
Burgundy 1901 1931 scrapped. 3,364
Gascony (1) 1908 6th Jan.1918 torpedoed and sunk by UC.75 in English Channel on voyage Southampton - Calais. 3,133
Gascony (2) 1925 1932 transferred to Royal Mail Lines. 4,716
Lombardy (1) 1895 1909 sold Spain renamed NICOLAS, 1918 renamed SENDEJA, 1928 scrapped after stranding damage. 2,423
Lombardy (2) 1921 1932 transferred to Royal Mail Lines. 3,379
Normandy 1895 1908 sold Spain renamed MANUEL, 16th Jan.1917 captured and sunk by German submarine UB.38 near Ushant. 2,419
Saxony 1894 1906 sold Strong, Reid & Page, Liverpool renamed PRADO, 1912 sold Alexander & Mair, Glasgow renamed LARCHGROVE, 27th Oct.1918 sunk in collision with s/s HAWAIIAN off Tangier. 2,430
Sicily (1) 1876 1899 sold to Cullum Steam Shipping Co., Liverpool, 1901 sold to E. Harder, Stettin renamed SICILIA, 20th Oct.1901 wrecked near Vinga. 1,675
Sicily (2) 1914 1932 transferred to Royal Mail Lines. 3,457
Tartary 1901 16th May 1918 torpedoed and sunk by U.86 off Skulmartin lightship, Ireland. 4,181
Thessaly (1) 1877 29th Dec.1890 burned and sank off Borkum on voyage New Orleans - Hamburg. 1,925
Thessaly (2) 1909 1932 transferred to Royal Mail Lines, 1933 scrapped. 3,128
Tuscany (1) 1876 1895 sold to Empreza Madeirense de Nav.a Vap., Funchal renamed MADEIRENSE, 1896 sold to Nunes & Vences, Lisbon renamed MARGARIDA, 1899 sold Italy renamed MARGARITA, 1908 CAPO ZAFFARANO, 1923 scrapped. 1,642
Tuscany (2) 1900 built as TABARISTAN for F. C. Strick & Co., Swansea, 1903 sold J. T. Rennie & Son, Aberdeen renamed INKONKA, 1911 transferred to T & J. Harrison, Liverpool, 1919 purchased by D. MacIver renamed TUSCANY, 1929 scrapped. 3,430

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