The Elder Dempster Line - On the West Africa Run

Travel to West Africa in the 1960s was almost always by sea. I only traveled by air once in all the years I lived and worked in Ghana. One left Liverpool and stopped on route at Las Palmas, Freetown, Monrovia, Bathurst (on some sailings) and then to Tema (southbound or Takoradi (northbound) and the final destination would be Lagos.

China used by the younger passengers

A telephone in an officer's cabin

A bookshelf in an officer's cabin
A plate used on board the passenger vessels
There were three vessels in the passenger fleet - the flagship the Aureol, The Apapa and the Accra.

The brochures advertising the Line changed throught the history of the company some of them can be viewed here......

Future information will be posted on the Friends of Elder dempster blog at


The following request for information has been received from James Gareth Davies []
I'm researching into a canoe, we have in our collection at our maritime museum in North West Wales. We know it comes from West Africa, and following new information we believe it could have been on board a Elder Dempster ship and thrown over board on a return passage to the port of Liverpool.
This is the new information i received from a ex crew of an Elder Dempster ship (Note this is not about the canoe we have in our collection but general information):

They'd make first landfall in Freetown, Sierra
Leone, where they'd pick up 'crewboys'. These would come to the ship in their canoes which would be hauled up on deck and the crewboys would sail with the ship to their various destinations as far south as Angola, then back to Sierra Leone. They did various laboring jobs on the ship in return for a daily meal. Sometimes the canoes didn't return to their owners but stayed on board (often mixed with the timber cargo) and would be thrown overboard when the ship approached Liverpool Bay. Sometimes there would be up to 9 canoes still on the ship.

Following a conversation with him- he notes on one occasion they threw c15 canoes overboard on between anglessey and Liverpool- before reaching port.

Also i have had further information from another crew member that the same thing happened with an Elder Dempster ship off devon.

Therefore it seems this was a widespread practice and that at the time nothing was thought of it- however it may provide a source of origin for canoes within museum collections?

Therefore i wonder whether any of you remember such incidences- as it may help provide a provenance to similar canoes in museums across the UK?



My name is Tom Headon and I am a Great Nephew of a radio officer who was aboard the MV Abosso which was torpedoed in 1942, his name was Richard Joseph Dowling. I notice a photograph of the crew and was wondering would it be possible to obtain a larger scale copy of this picture. Any help you could give me in this regard would be greatly appreciated as we have very few pictures of Richard in the family. The picture is located at the following link - Tom Headon []


Thank you for your attention.


Tom Headon.

Memories of Nick Clibborn written to Odette Lind

On my first voyage on the Accra I was asked by the Purser to request the attendance at the Bureau of a certain passenger, who had (alledgedly) a string of titles and decorations. This was of course a wind-up, of the kind where a Cadet was sent to get a tin of tartan paint, or for a long stand. In this case it backfired. Not only did I read out all the titles and decorations, but because I had been to school at a naval college (HMS Worcester) I then went on to say the passenger "should REPORT to the Bureau". The Captain, Bill Lightbody, heard the announcement, and gave the Purser a rocket for a) setting up a youngster, and b) telling passengers, even imaginary, to REPORT to the Bureau.

Speaking of passengers, do you remember the Deck Passengers we used to have? Sometimes dozens of Africans travelling between the various ports, and living under hatch-tents for the few days they were on board. You may not know, however, that it was generally recognized by African ladies that if they were very pregnant a deck passage on an ED ship would guarantee them excellent medical attention if they had the baby whilst on board. This they would try to do, as all ships with more than 12 passengers had to carry a doctor. In gratitude for the attention when the baby was born onboard the mother would frequently name the child after the doctor, or indeed after some piece of shipboard equipment which captured her attention. Hence, and particularly among the Kroo-boys out of Freetown, we later sometimes got sailors called
"Snatchblock", or "No.4.Hatch", or the one I liked best, "Heavy-lift Derrick".

Visit the Apapa Page for photographs of deck passengers on that vessel. Click here....

Elder Dempster & Company / African Steam Ship Company

Elder Dempster & Company, Limited, was formed in 1852 as the African Steam Ship Company, Limited, with a contract to carry mail from London to Madeira, Teneriffe and the West Coast of Africa. In 1856, the home of Elder Dempster was Liverpool.

In 1894, the African Steam Ship Company entered the Canadian trade by taking over the Avonmouth service of the Dominion Line and in 1898 the Beaver Line was purchased together with their Liverpool - Canada service. Elder Dempster Shipping Limited was formed in 1899 and in 1901 the Imperial Direct West India Mail Service Company was set up to operate services to the West Indies. By 1903 their Canadian interests had been sold to Canadian Pacific together with 14 ships.

Elder Dempster & Company, Limited, was formed in 1910 after the sale of the company to Lords Kylsant and Pirrie. After the collapse of this company in 1931, the company was run by a board of trustees until, with government help, the company could be re-organised and refinanced. The ships of both companies then came under the control and colours of the new company the British & Burmese Steam Navigation Company in 1951 After this date, there were many in-group transfers between Elder Dempster, Guinea Gulf, Blue Funnel and the British & Burmese Steam Navigation Company.

In 1965 the ownership of Elder Dempster passed to the Ocean Steamship Company (Blue Funnel Line). The passenger service to West Africa was terminated in 1974 and in 1989 Elder Dempster was sold to French owners and Ocean Shipping was no more.

Ships of the Line

From an Officers Point of View - A Purser's Life on the Elder Dempster Line

John Dempster's Site

Memories of The Elder Dempster Line

The Fourah Bay - Elder Dempster Cadet Ship
A passenger list
Ships UK - an interesting site on shipping
Elder Dempster Page
A story from West Africa
The Lind Pages

These officers sailed with the Elder Dempster Line and were on the Titanic's fateful voyage

Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller

Titanic Engineers

Visit the Forum to discuss the Elder Dempster Line - meet old friends and colleagues and keep in touch!

The Ship Pages | Elder Dempster Line | People of the Elder Dempster Line | A Passenger and Officer List | Introduction to Shipboard Life | The Accra | The Apapa | Life Aboard the Apapa | Apapa in the Sun | The Aureol | Life Aboard the Aureol 1 | Life Aboard the Aureol 2 | Life Aboard the Aureol 3 | Rebuilding a Dream | The Onisha | The Lind Pages | Forum | email The Linds