Eric Schofield makes ‘a slight change of tack’ for the latest in his series prompted by tickets or other items of interest tucked away in his collection of steamer memorabilia.
The background to this adventure was a staff holiday organised by my then employers, Halifax Building Society, back in 1967. There were only 16 places available and I was delighted when my application was successful, the only one from the Scottish branches.
The fortnight’s holiday cost only £55 1s 3d. Backed up with a 50% grant from the Society, all I had to pay — apart from day-to-day expenses — was £27 10s 7d. (Even although the Halfpenny continued to be legal tender until 1969 I was not required to pay that!)
No. 12 Glenfiddich Pub Menu
Not a ticket this time, but a Menu from the onboard Bar Restaurant on the Swedish Sessan Line ferry Prinsessan Margaretha — a souvenir of a return trip from Gothenburg to Fredrikshavn during that wonderful two-week holiday.
I was intrigued, not to say completely surprised, to see this Scottish-themed attempt to attract custom aboard a ferry which sailed between Sweden and Denmark. I was even more taken aback when I hesitantly approached the bar to ask if I could possibly take a menu card home as a souvenir, and the barman answered in typical West of Scotland patois, “Aye son, nae problem”.
Although a Dane, he had spent about 10 years in Scotland during and after the war, and had clearly picked up the lingo. He then took me to see the Purser so that the ship’s name could be stamped on the menu card.
The holiday was packed with transport delights, full of wonder and excitement for me on my first ever overseas holiday. First there was the train journey to England via the Eden valley and Ribblehead Viaduct on the rather misleadingly named Thames Clyde Express service, with connecting train between Leeds and Hull — where I saw the port’s steam tugs.
Then there were the ferries of the England Sweden Line and the ferries across the Kattegat, not to mention Sweden’s west coast trains and buses, Gothenburg’s trams and buses, canal/harbour tour boats and small cruise boats to the north and south island archipelagos. Gothenburg’s busy harbour had a variety of shipping, and I was equally fascinated by the Sjöfartsmuseet (Maritime Museum) and the neighbouring Sjomanstornet, a memorial tower to Swedish sailors who lost their lives at sea and from which a magnificent view could be obtained of the harbour area.
The holiday was split into two parts, the first week based in Falkenberg, an attractive little beach resort and harbour town, and the second week in Gothenburg.
It was a packed fortnight of activity for me. A guided coach tour of the Swedish countryside around Falkenberg led to an unexpected bonus when the young tour guide Eva invited me and my room mate Geoff and his girlfriend to visit her parents’ farm one evening. That welcoming aspect of the Swedes was apparent even in the city of Gothenburg the following week: whenever we had to ask for directions, they were enthusiastically given — sometimes, without prompting, with additional information on other places or items of interest.
My crossings of the North Sea were on the ferries of the short-lived England Sweden Line, a triumvirate created by the Hull-based Ellerman Wilson Line and two Swedish companies, Svea Line and Swedish Lloyd. Each provided a vessel — Spero, Svea and Saga respectively. Although marketed under the England Sweden Line banner, I formed the impression that it was a rather loosely based partnership, with each company keen to corner as big a share of the traffic flow as they could.
I sailed outward on the British ship Spero, returning to the UK aboard the Swedish-flagged Saga. Within a couple of years the joint operation broke down, Spero carrying on the Hull-Gothenburg route alone until 1972. Sold to Greek owners in 1973, she was eventually broken up in 2004.
Saga, latterly operating from Gothenburg to Tilbury, was sold to the Stena Line in 1971, and changed hands several more times over the next 30 years, before ending her life as the Turkish-owned Sancak 1. She was destroyed by fire in 2003. Even in 1967 Svea seemed mainly to concentrate on the Tilbury route rather than Hull, and I never got to see her.
The accompanying illustrations include a couple of tickets from this holiday.
The Gothenburg ticket, covering bus and tram services in and around the city on 2 July, depicts the scene as the 1966 Clyde-built Swedish liner Kungsholm passes under the Alvsborg Suspension Bridge.
The other ticket is the outward portion for the Hull/New Holland crossing, dated 7 July. On my return to Britain I had stayed overnight in Brough with a Halifax colleague, and the next day, before taking the train from Hull to Leeds, I rounded off this great holiday adventure with a couple of crossings on the Humber paddle ferries.
ALL TICKETS PLEASE — the series so far: