SS Oronsay (1950)
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SS Oronsay 1950
For other ships of the same name, see List of ships named Oronsay.

StateLibQld 1 137220 Borthwick's export meat truck alongside the Oransay at a Brisbane wharf.jpg
SS Oronsay and a refrigerated meat truck at Brisbane
United Kingdom
Name: SS Oronsay
Owner: 1951-1966 Orient Steam Navigation Company. 1966-1975 Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Operator: 1951-1960, Orient Line. 1960-1966, P&O-Orient Lines. 1966-1975, P&O Line.
Port of registry: London,  UK
Route: Tilbury-Sydney via Suez
Builder: Vickers-Armstrongs, Barrow-in-Furness
Cost: £4,228,000
Yard number: 976
Laid down: 1949
Launched: 30 June 1950
Sponsored by: Mrs A. Anderson
Completed: May 1951
Maiden voyage: 16 May 1951
Out of service: 28 September 1975
Fate: Scrapped, 1975
General characteristics [2]
Type: passenger liner
  • As built 27,632 GRT, 1969, 28,117 GRT. 1970, 28,136 GRT
  • 10,063 DWT[1]
  • 708 ft 8 in (216.00 m) o/a
  • 699 ft 10 in (213.31 m) p/p[1]
Beam: 93 ft 6 in (28.50 m)
Draught: 31 ft (9.4 m)
Installed power: 42,500shp
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
  • As built:
  • 1,551 passengers
  • 668 × First class
  • 883 × Tourist class
  • From 1972:
  • 1,400 passengers
  • also 370,000 cubic feet (10,000 m3) for dry and refrigerated cargoes
Crew: 622

SS Oronsay was the second Orient Line ship built after World War II. A sister ship to Orcades, she was named after the island of Oronsay off the west coast of Scotland.[2]

The liner was completed in 1951 at Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness, but was delivered several months behind schedule because of a serious fire that broke out in the fitting-out berth. The Oronsay operated the UK to Australasia service, via the Suez Canal. Her accommodation set new standards, in both first and tourist class, with decor by Brian O'Rourke. On 1 January 1954, Oronsay left Sydney on the first Orient Line transpacific voyage to Auckland, Suva, Honolulu, Victoria, Vancouver and San Francisco, returning via the same ports. In later years the transpacific sailings became a regular feature of the Orient/P&O services. In 1960 the Orient Line and P&O fleets were merged under the control of P&O-Orient Lines (Passenger Services) Ltd. Oronsay continued to operate under the Orient houseflag and retained her corn-coloured hull until 1964, when her hull was painted P&O white. In 1966, P&O having acquired the balance of the Orient shares (it had controlled Orient since 1919), Orient Line was wound up and Oronsay, along with her fleet mates, was transferred to the ownership of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and hoisted the P&O houseflag. Liner services were producing dwindling returns as jet airliner services between Europe and Australia expanded and Oronsay spent more and more time as a cruise ship, but, with declining passenger numbers, P&O could not sustain its large passenger fleet,[] withdrawals beginning in 1972. The large rises in the oil price in 1973/4 were the final straw and Oronsay was withdrawn from service, the penultimate example of the six post war 28,000 ton types (Arcadia sailed on until 1979). On 7 October 1975 she arrived at Kaohsiung to be broken up by the Nan Feng Steel Enterprise Co. [3]

In popular culture

Oronsay was one of the ships seen in the 1958 British comedy film The Captain's Table. Stock footage of all three post war Orient ships was used to depict the fictional SS Queen Adelaide and some scenes were shot on board at Tilbury Docks.[4] Orient ships were also seen in stock footage in the 1962 British comedy film Carry On Cruising.[2]

The ship is also the primary setting of the novel The Cat's Table (2011) by Michael Ondaatje. The novel tells the story of a boy's three week trip on the Oronsay.[5]

Notable passengers


  1. ^ a b c "ORONSAY". Retrieved 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Goossens, Reuben. "SS Oronsay". Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ Kludas, Great Passenger Ships of the World Vol.5
  4. ^ Sinden, A Touch of the Memoirs
  5. ^ McCrum, Robert (27 August 2011). "Michael Ondaatje: The divided man" – via The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Death Of Mrs. L. E. Polkinghorne". The Advertiser (Adelaide). 95 (29, 510). South Australia. 13 May 1953. p. 2. Retrieved 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "British migrants - Selection documents for free or assisted passage (Commonwealth nominees)". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 2011.
    NAA citation "NAA: A1877, 07/09/1960 ORONSAY ABBOTT R H".
  8. ^
  9. ^ "It Feels Like 'Coming Home': Mrs Eleanor Hibbert. English Author Would Like To Live Amongst Us". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 March 1970. Retrieved 2014.

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