‘Bread upon the Waters’

The ships in the story

The Kite
Owner: McNaughton & McRimmon
(The Blackbird Line)
Tramp freighter, compound engines.
2,500 tons, normal speed 8.3 knots.
Master: Bell
Engineers: McPhee (1)
Kinloch (2)

The Lammergeyer

Owner: McNaughton & McRimmon This ship and the Kite were named after scavenger birds. (The Lammergeyer is the bearded vulture.) The names are entirely appropriate for a tramp steamer, picking up a cargo here, a cargo there, taking what the big liners have left.
Engineer: McIntyre

The Breslau

Owner: Holdock, Steiner & Chase Passenger and cargo
Master: Hay (1)
Bannister (2)
Engineers: McPhee (1)
Calder (2)

The Torgau

Owner: Holdock, Steiner & Chase All Holdock, Steiner & Chase’s ships are named after towns in Germany, including Breslau, Torgau, Spandau, Koltzau, Grotkau..
Master: Hay

The Grotkau

Owner: Holdock, Steiner & Chase An iron ship, built on the River Clyde, in Scotland. At this date, most merchant ships were built of iron. She had formerly been The Dolabella, of Piegan, Piegan and Walsh’s line. She was a freighter of 5,000 tons, very big, by the standards of the 1880s when she was built, with “a clumsy iron 19 feet Thresher propeller cast in one piece”.

She was called “the Hoor” by McPhee (the reference is to Revelations 17,5 and Ezekiel 23: ‘the whore of Babylon.’) McPhee – and most readers of the day – was probably thinking of a of a ‘painted whore’, which would accord with the owners lavish use of paint to hide deficiencies, though neither Ezekiel nor Revelations make mention of female cosmetics.

Master: Bannister
Engineer: Calder


Owner: Ramsay and Gold
(Cartagena Line)
Towed The Breslau to port after she had broken down

Kipling gives no details of the un-named Mail liner which took off
the officers and crew of the Grotkau when her propeller dropped off