Story of the s.s. Glenroy Ship’s Bell

S.S. Glenroy by Robert Lloyd
S.S. Glenroy: Ship portrait by U.K. marine artist Robert Lloyd

S S Glenroy, built 1899 Wm Grey West Hartlepool,

Owners: Livingston & Conner,

Master: 1908-1914 John Frederick Hunter.

In 2003 in my early retirement from a career as a naval architect in shipbuilding and offshore construction, armed with only three old photographs of S S Glenroy from the family album, I decided to build a 1/96 (note the imperial scale!) model of the ship which had been my grandfather’s home and his life for 6 years.

Two years after he left deep sea with Livingston & Conner to join Stevie Clarke in 1914 in coasting colliers taking coal from Tyne to Thames, he learnt that Glenroy had been wrecked on 10th Feb 1916 on the coast of what was then French Algeria at a place called Les Falaises, in ballast from Malta to Bougie to pick up a cargo of ore.


The wreck hit the UK headlines as all the crew were saved under extremely difficult weather conditions from the bottom of steep cliffs to be eventually returned to the Tyne, and an unprecedented number of bravery awards were made to both members of the crew and local people who were instrumental in effecting the rescue.

In his old age apparently the pictures of the wreck were kept out of grandfather’s way in the bottom draw as they upset him greatly.

Whilst building the model I became absorbed with what little I knew of his life and decided to write a piece about him and his time on board Glenroy, illustrated with photographs, documents, and some press cuttings which had come to light, and to my astonishment it was published in Seabreezes a few years ago under the heading “Grandfather’s Ashes”, and also posted on a wonderful Sunderland History web site which is the life’s work of one Peter Searle who has never been to Sunderland but lives in Canada, which you can access here for some history and pictures of Glenroy. (link to page 150 of Peter’s web site)

(TASC readers of these pages may recall we ran Robert’s story of Grandfather’s Ashes some time ago – JKA)

With the publication of Grandfather’s Ashes, the completion of the model in 2004, and the completion of an oil painting of her, a ship portrait by Robert Lloyd on my wall alongside the model, I thought that to be the end of the matter, that the trail was exhausted, until to my amazement just the other day in June 2011…………………out of the blue, an e mail from Peter in Canada to say that an Algerian born Frenchman by the name of Henri Lunardelli from Lille in northern France had made contact as he had picked up the web site and page 150 specifically, and as a result he had solved a mystery which had been occupying his thoughts since 2008 when he had visited Bougie (now called Bejaia) and the Algerian coast at Les Falaises, and had noticed and photographed what appeared to be an old ship’s bell hung on the wall of a school inscribed:-

“S S Glenroy-1899-West Hartlepool”

Apparently nobody at the school could shed any light on the history of the bell or how it had got there, as it had been there for so long.

As Henri had visited West Hartlepool in the past he wondered for 3 years how on earth a ship’s bell dated 1899 from West Hartlepool was in pride of place in 2008 on the wall of a school in Bejaia, still being used to call the children to classes.

He eventually researched the internet, saw page 150 of Peter’s web site, solved the mystery and contacted Peter with the further information we now have, in terms of the bell, the school, and the site of the wreck.

What a result!!! I am overwhelmed. What a demonstration of the power of the internet to bring people together who would otherwise never meet, for without it non of this would have been possible.

Now of course, I do wonder whether the school would be prepared to part with it?

Robert S Hunter

8 thoughts on “Story of the s.s. Glenroy Ship’s Bell

  1. I have been going through my late uncle’s books and came across an old copy of ‘Hints to Captains’ presented by Lloyd’s (published in 1885) in which there is an ink drawing of a flag and the inscription ‘S.S.Glenroy’. On searching the internet I found this and another super item on a ship of that name and wondered whether indeed this booklet relates to it. I have a number of photos of the book and shall gladly email them to you if this is of interest. There is a story in the family that my great grandfather’s brother (surname ‘White’) was a sea captain in the Tyneside area so there might just be a link in that way.

  2. Thank you David for that comment but I have to say that if Hints to Captains was published in 1885 my grandfather’s SS Glenroy wasn’t built until 1899 so the pictures will be of another Glenroy, as there were several over many years. However if you care to send me some pictures from the book I would be delighted to add them to my collection. Robert Hunter.

  3. Thank you Mr Jacobs. I feel honoured that a learned University has thought to use my piece about my grandfather and the discovery of the ship’s bell being used by a school in Algeria more than 100 years after his ship Glenroy was wrecked.

    Have you read my earlier piece entitled “Grandfather’s Ashes” which I wrote about 15 years ago whilst building a model of Glenroy? If not if you go to Peter Searl’s Sunderland site you will find it there and although I say so myself I’m sure you would appreciate it. If you have difficulty finding it perhaps I can help

    Which university are you? Can I be of assistance in any way?

    My e mail is

    Regards Robert Hunter

  4. I think my great grandfather was captain went it went down, William Frederick Martin. Though later seems to have changed his name to Emmott?

  5. Thank you for your interest Mr Jason Martin…………However If you go to the Sunderland Site Page 180 and scroll down to the press cuttings reporting the wreck of S S Glenroy at Les Falaises, you will see that the captain of her at that time was a Captain Stokewell. If you do a search you will see that there was another ship S S Glenroy wrecked near Singapore at about the same time….and several more carried that name over the yrars

  6. Going through my Great Grandfathers discharge books (I have 1888 to 1927, later book sunk with him?), I came across a non-UK discharge port which was odd in those days.
    10/2/16 Les Falaises
    S.S. Glenroy 112403
    He was Joseph Johnson, Ships Cook

  7. Hi. I’ve got plenty of details on Glenroy shipwreck. I live very neat the spot where the wreck is still underwater. As the water is deep very rare people know the place. As I practise spearfishing I am one of them.

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