The launch of the Wimmera took place at 2.30 pm on Monday 15 August 1904. The following description of the occasion was published by The Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, on the following day, Tuesday 16 August 1904:


Messrs Caird & Co., Ltd., launched at high water yesterday afternoon the handsomely modelled single-screw steamship “Wimmera” for Messrs Huddart, Parker & Co. Proprietary (Ltd.), Melbourne. The vessel is 348 feet over all, 43 feet beam, and of a moulded depth of 30 feet 10 inches to poop deck, with a gross tonnage of about 3,100 tons.  Handsome accommodation is provided on upper and poop decks for 170 first-class passengers, and for 100 second-class passengers…

William Cumming, Superintendent Engineer, Huddart, Parker & Co.
William Cumming
Superintendent Engineer
Huddart, Parker & Co.

The vessel has also a full cargo outfit for handling a cargo of about 3,000 tons deadweight, four winches being placed forward, and four aft, with heavy cargo derricks to each. A powerful windlass is placed on forecastle head for working the ship, and the vessel is steered by latest arrangement of steam steering gear and telemoter. She is provided with eight boats, all fitted with patent davits. The vessel will be neatly rigged as a fore-and-aft schooner. On leaving the ways the new vessel was christened “Wimmera” by Mrs Wm. Cumming, wife of the superintendent for the company. The Wimmera, which took the water in fine style, was towed by two of the Glasgow and Greenock Shipping Company’s tugs to the Albert Harbour, where she will be furnished by the builders with her engines and machinery. The construction of the vessel was supervised by Mr Wm. Cumming, local superintendent for the company.

Among those present at the launch were: Mr P. T. Caird, Dr Robert Caird, Mr and Mrs Arthur Caird and party, Mr John L. Webb (managing director of Messrs Huddart, Parker & Co.), Mr and Mrs Cumming and Master Cumming, Mr and Mrs P. Forester (Manchester), Mrs James Paterson, Mrs R. R. Paterson, Mrs D. Kerr and party, Mrs J. Kerr and party, Miss Glen, Mr H. J. Taylor (superintendent of P. and O. Company) and the Misses Taylor, Mrs Wilson and the Misses Wilson; Mr, Mrs, and the Misses Smith; Mr Lowe (P. and O. Company), Captain Roberts (commander R.N.R., P. and O. Peninsular), Mr Oxford (P. and O. Peninsular), Mr Brooks (P. and O. Isis), Captain Free (Lieut. R.N.R., commander of the Wimmera), Captain Cameron (Union s.s. Company, New Zealand), and Mrs Cameron; Captain Livingston (do.) and Mrs Livingston; Mr John Arnot (editor “Greenock Telegraph”), Mr Smith, Mr Cocks (chief engineer of the Wimmera), Mr William and Mr Arthur Appleton (Melbourne), Mr Thomson (superintendent engineer for Messrs McIlwraiths, Melbourne), Mr and Mrs Begg, Mr and Mrs Archd. Shearer, Mr and Mrs Cameron, Mrs and Mrs Martin David, Mr and Mrs Houldsworth, Mr W. Gray, Mr W. W. Wilson, Mr J. T. Smith, &c.  After the launch the invited company adjourned to the drawing office, where cake and wine were served – Mr Patrick T. Caird presiding.

The Chairman, in proposing “Success to the Wimmera,” said they had just witnessed the initial step of what he hoped would prove a long and successful career for the new steamer Wimmera, owned by Messrs Huddart, Parker & Co., Melbourne.  So far as the builders were concerned, he could say that they had had the greatest pleasure in carrying through the work. Their business relationship with the directors of the company had been of the most pleasant kind, and he only hoped that on some future occasion they might again have the pleasure of renewing their connection with Messrs Huddart, Parker & Co.  (Applause.)

Mr John L. Webb, whose name was coupled with the toast, said he was satisfied that his company had got a first class ship, and one which would be satisfactory in every way for the work she would have to perform. As the chairman had remarked, the business relations between the builders and the directors of the company had been of an exceedingly pleasant kind, and he reciprocated the hope that the connection might be renewed at some future time.  As shipbuilders and engineers, the reputation of Messrs Caird & Co. stood very high, and he had the greatest pleasure in asking the company to drink “Success to the firm of Messrs Caird & Co.”  (Applause.)

Dr Robert Caird thanked them for the hearty way in which they had responded to the toast, and concluded his remarks by proposing in appropriate terms the health of Mrs Cumming – the lady who had christened the Wimmera.

Mr Cumming acknowledged the toast on behalf of his wife. The proceedings then terminated.

The James Watt Dock, Greenock
Postcard. Early 1900’s. Author’s Collection.

As referred to in the above, the Wimmera was christened by 46-year-old Alice Cumming, the wife of Huddart Parker’s superintendent engineer. She attended the launch with the couple’s 10-year-old son, William Henry.

It was not the first occasion that the superintendent’s wife had taken an active part in the launch of one of the Huddart Parker company’s vessels. Prior to the Wimmera Alice Cumming had christened the cargo steamer Moorabool in January 1899 and in later years would also launch the Werribee (1909).

Launches on the Clyde August 1904

The Wimmera was one of 22 launches of new vessels made that month from the yards of Clyde shipbuilders. The total tonnage of ships launched in August 1904 was some 29,996 tons – a much lower output than the previous August, 1903 with 25 vessels that exceeded 69,000.

Amongst those vessels also launched were the Ghazel of 5000 tons built by Russell and Co., Port Glasgow, for the Mogul S.S. Company of London; the Martaban of 5000 tons built by Denny Brothers of Dumbarton for P. Henderson and Company, Glasgow; the Cape Breton of 4000 tons, built by Russell and Co., for the Lyle Shipping Company, Greenock; the SS Gladiator of 3230 tons built by Charles Connell and Co., Whiteinch for T. and J. Harrison, Liverpool; HMS Forward of 2850 tons build by the Fairfield Company for the Admiralty; and the Silvia of 2030 tons built by the Clyde South and Eastern Company, for Neil and Company, Glasgow.[i]

HMS Forward
One of 22 other vessels launch on  the Clyde in August 1904.
Detail from Postcard. Early 1900’s. Author’s Collection.


[i] Clyde shipbuilding in August. The Scotsman, 31 August 1904

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2009-2021