Porthmadog Maritime Museum, The Harbour, Porthmadog, LL49 9LU 01766 514581 / 07866633927 contact@portmm.org

SS Florence Cooke

SS Florence Cooke

The FLORENCE COOKE was one of the few powered ships associated with Porthmadog (the others were the paddle tugs and the two REBECCAs).  She was also the last trader to claim Porthmadog as her home port although, in fact, she was registered in Sunderland all her life.

She was built at Hepples yard in South Shields to the order of Cookes Explosives.  Their offices and distribution depot, from where explosives were sent to the surrounding coal mines, was at Maiden Law, Co Durham.  The increased demand for explosives during the First World War forced the company to look for a quiet site to build a new factory, and Penrhyndeudraeth, near Porthmadog, was chosen.  The factory is now closed.

She started trading in 1923.  Her cargoes were raw material to Porthmadog for the manufacture of the explosives,  then the finished product was carried to the Tyne.  She had a hinged mast and funnel which could be lowered to allow passage up the river to Newburn.  The explosives were then taken by lorry to Cookes’ depot.  Explosives and detonators were delivered to other ports in Cornwall and Scotland.  The return cargo was usually household coal although she did sometimes wander further afield in the coastal trade.

There was some passenger accommodation intended for company personnel though the Captain could allow others to travel onboard.

She was requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1939 and used as an ammunition ship, first at Milford Haven and later at Scarpa Flow.  She took part in the Normandy landings and was released from the navy in 1945.

The FLORRIE continued on the explosives run until 1959 when it was decided that road transport was more efficient.  She was sold to a Dutch shipbreaker though there is a tantalising story of her being seen, minus machinery and accommodation, in use as a dumb barge, trading on the inland waterways.