SS St Albans

There are 284 digitised Australian newspaper articles on SS St Albans covering the period 1881 and 1931 in the Trove database, accessed 29 June 2014. In 1931 this steamship, which Chinese crew had left two rock engravings on sandstone surface at North Head – one in the Wharf Precinct of the Quarantine Station and the other at Old Man’s Hat – became unseaworthy in 1931 and paid its last visit to Australia when it called at Townsville in August on its way to Japan, where it was going to be scrapped (Morning bulletin, 22 September 1931, p. 14). On 29 August 1931 it is reported in the Tasmanian newspaper Advocate that the Eastern and Asian liner SS St Albans was sold to Japan for £7000 and would be replaced by Nankin. St Albans played a significant role in the trade between Australia and Asia and in fact held a place of cultural significance in the Chinese community in Australia, when its status in society was far from normalised due to the White Australia Policy. A maritime link to China offered by steamships provided a vital connection for the Chinese community to the land, the people and the goods of its ancestors and its families and relatives.

The same Advocate article describes SS St Albans as a “4119-ton, two-deck passenger liner, built at Belfast in 1910, and re-engined in 1930″ (Advocate, 29 August 1931, p. 14). The St Albans engravings, both in Chinese, were made when the ship was quarantined twice in 1917. The second engraving, far less elaborate than the first one and is today found right next to a Japanese engraving of Nikko Maru made in 1971, in fact indicates the second arrival of the ship at North Head in the same year.

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