Recent Visits of the 'BEN' Fleet to Silloth, 2011-13
The 'Ben Varrey' & 'Maye' were the last two surviving vessels of the fleet to regularly visit Silloth. They were owned by the Ramsey Steamship Company until the company was wound up in 2013 when they were acquired by Absolute Shipping Limited of Maidstone.
Ramsey Steamship had a long & distinguished history but sadly ran into financial difficulties shortly after celebrating its centenary in 2013.
It began life trading coal and agricultural freights to the small IOM harbours. In the early years traffic was also seen at the Cumbrian ports of Maryport & Whitehaven. The fleet was expanded to several vessels including Ben Ain, Ellan, Rein & Seyr, all of which featured the prominent Maltese Cross funnel marking.
Both the 'Varrey' & 'Maye' regularly delivered grain to Carr's quayside flour mill from Sharpness & Liverpool.
Taking a pilot to enter the port is compulsory for ships of more than 50 metres in length. 'Ben Varrey' at 63m (Ben Maye 49m) exceeded the limit, however, the regular captain had earned a Pilot Exemption Certificate from the Harbourmaster specifically for the ship at Silloth.
Arrivals were usually uneventful as the fully loaded ships were guided gracefully through the dock entrance by the skipper.
Bow thrusters weren't fitted to these ships and the sight of Ben Varrey skilfully manoeuvring with the aid of its anchor was a memorable one.
The Filipino crews would appear happy to be arriving back at the port and bystanders were treated to enthusiastic hand waves as they drew alongside. Unusually for ship's crews, they liked their photos being taken and would pose with beaming smiles!
The Manx Ensign and Steamship Company flag were proudly flown by the Ramsey registered ships. Seen on 'Ben Maye' below.
Video coverage of BEN VARREY at Sharpness
BEN VARREY made regular deliveries of grain from Sharpness in Gloucestershire. Fellow enthusiast Chris Witts has had the foresight to produce a video of an arrival & departure while she was still under the ownership of the Steamship Company. A fascinating production illustrating the unique estuary approach on the River Severn, passage through the tidal basin and lock, & manoeuvring within the dock. 'Ben Varrey's history has been researched and is presented in the video together with technical details of the equipment aboard.
Lots more interesting material shot by Chris covering the River Severn, & further afield can be found on YouTube.
Chris is a recognised authority on life along the river, having spent time living & working there. He has written books & has an informative website, SevernTales, well worth a look, especially for anyone intending to visit the area.
Silloth Open Day
In August 2009 Silloth Docks reached its 150 birthday. As part of the celebrations the docks were open to the public over the weekend of the 8th & 9th. It was appropriate that BEN ELLAN was there to represent the Ben fleet, A quayside photo of her, suitably decked out, has been provided courtesy of Solway Shipping. The event was a great success attracting large crowds. Vessels on view included visiting heritage vessels, the fishing protection launch 'Solway Protector', Border Agencies patrol cutter 'Sentinel' and general cargo vessel 'Atlantica Hav'.
A Collection of Photos of the 'BEN' Fleet at Silloth
BEN MAYE (Ramsey) arrives from Liverpool, 10th Aug 2013
BEN MAYE (Ramsey) 29th May 2013
Looking somewhat dented in comparison to the pristine 'Scot Mariner' in the background.
BEN MAYE (Ramsey) inbound from Liverpool, 23rd Apr 2013
After being safely moored on the east quay the skipper enjoys a chat with dock staff. Meanwhile 'Wilson Almeria' can be seen unloading.
BEN VARREY inbound from Sharpness, 11th Apr 2013.
A textbook entrance into the dock as viewed from the east quay.
BEN VARREY inbound from Sharpness, 14th Feb 2013
Temporarily berthed on the east quay to await her turn to unload.
BEN MAYE (Ramsey) arrived from Liverpool, 10th Jan 2013
BEN VARREY inbound from Liverpool, 24th Apr 2012
A busy quayside reception party eager to get started on the cargo.
BEN VARREY unloaded & awaiting departure for Liverpool, 2nd Apr 2012
BEN VARREY inbound from Sharpness, 22nd May 2011
This photographer's first encounter with Ben Varrey