Unit History: Cairn Line
Cairn Line / Cairns, Noble & Co.
Formed in 1883 by Cairns and Noble, Newcastle, the company initially operated tramp ships, mainly to the Black Sea, Mediterranean and Baltic. In 1908, after several years of association with William Thomson and combining their services to Canada, the two companies merged to form Cairn-Thomson Line. Thomson Line operated passenger services between the Mediterranean and New York and a service from Southampton to Canada was later added. However, the three passenger liners were sold to Cunard Line in 1911. Thereafter, Cairn-Thomson Line carried only a maximum of 12 passengers, the limit for which a doctor did not have to be carried on board. After the Great War, the company virtually abandoned tramping and concentrated on trans Atlantic operations. In 1928 the company’s Newcastle and Leith trade to Canada was purchased by Furness, Withy & Co., but some cargo liners continued to operate independently, although services were co-ordinated with Furness, Withy to avoid wasteful competition. The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 enabled the company’s ships to sail direct to Toronto, Detroit, Duluth, Milwaukee and Chicago. In 1969 the last three cargo liners were transferred to other Furness, Withy companies and then sold on to foreign buyers. The remaining 85% of shares were purchased by Furness, Withy in 1967, but the name Cairn Line of Steamships was used to register ten small Mediterranean traders until 1983 when the Cairn Line finally disappeared.