Many ships were named after the town of Carmarthen including several Carmarthen packets and the Carmarthen Castle. This does not seem to be the case for the town of Llanelly. The archives suggest that there were only three ships of substantial size named after Llanelly. The first steamship the SS Llanelly was built by the Llanelly Iron Shipbuilding Company in 1867 and was engined by Richard Neville at The Wern Foundry. This would have been a single shaft double compound steam engine producing 75 horse power from a single boiler. The foundry had been manufacturing marine engines since 1849 and it is worth noting that The Old Lodge Ironworks had also been producing marine engines as they had done for the Oliver Cromwell in 1864.A full description of the SS Llanelly appeared in the Cambrian Journal of 9th August 1867:

...an arrangement was entered into with Mr. William Nevill, of the Llanelly Iron Ship-Building yard, for the construction of a steam ship. The keel was laid down in January, and in due course the vessel launched, and has now for sometime been lying in the New Dock receiving her engines and other fittings. The name she has received was the "Llanelly". She is an iron vessel, built on the most approved plan for ships of that material. Her masts and funnel are slightly raked, and she is rigged in the usual fore and aft style. Her length of keel 147ft. and length over all 153ft. She has 22 feet beam, and her greatest depth of hold is 13 ft. Her construction is such that she is capable of division into four water-tight compartments, an arrangement which it has been proved is no inconsiderable safeguard against the danger of foundering from leakage. Her means of propulsion is by a three-bladed screw fan the diameter of which is 9ft. 6 in. Her engines have been built and fitted by Mr. Richard Nevill, of the Wern Iron Works, Llanelly. They are 75 nominal horsepower, but are capable of being up to 400. The registered tonnage of this vessel is 162, but she is supposed to be capable of carrying 300 tons. Her internal fittings are perfectly suited in point of elegance and neatness to her external appearance. The saloon is a moderately sized and carefully fitted cabin, and displays both a refined taste and a genuine appreciation of comfort, in the adaptation of its various conveniences. The furniture is of highly polished mahogany with the usual ornamentations, and the upholstery is done in bright scarlet morocco leather, which imparts a cheerful appearance to this apartment. The sleeping arrangements are no less perfect, and both cabins – the ladies and gentlemen's – have all those modern and commodious adaptations calculated to render sea travelling as tolerable as possible, to the unused and the "squeamish". The accommodation provided is for about 20 passengers.The stewards pantry, a small room close at hand, is well fitted up and stocked with a good selection of the implements generally required by that functionary. The galley is well situated, and the cooking apparatus which it contains is well adapted to minister to the physical necessities of the passengers. The poop is surrounded by a very strong double iron railing, as a guard, and the gangway leading from the quarter deck on to the bridge, as well as the bridge itself, is similarly protected. The steering can be managed by two wheels, one aft, in the usual position, and another on the bridge, just in front of the captain's state-room, which by the way, is a very pretty construction, standing on the centre of the bridge, and from which a good look-out can be kept. Just in front of this is a long rack in which the buckets are ranged. Further forward and swinging from the davits on each side, are two substantial and sound-looking boats, a very good provision being made for their rapid lowering in case of necessity. She has just been classed A.I at Lloyd's. The Llanelly is very neatly painted, and on her stern there is inscribed, in ornamental letters, her name and the town to which she belongs. Steam was first got up on board on Tuesday last, for the purpose of trying her engines, and they certainly worked well considering their newness. She propelled herself into the centre of the dock, and as she lay there, her well defined lines and graceful proportions suggested the idea that she is a handsome, and, indeed, a magnificent boat. Her draft of water is, if we remember correctly, is about 19ft. The command is to be assumed by Capt. Wm. Charles, of this town, and we understand that Mr. J. Bowen is to go out as chief -engineer on board.
The first SS Llanelly traded for only six years carrying tinplate between Llanelly and Liverpool before having the misfortune to strike the North Bishop Rocks near Ramsey Island in May 1873. She was under the command of that reliable Captain William Charles who had to date 29 years sea service. The Chief Mate was William Besley who was the great great grandfather of Steve Edwards, one of the researchers for this history file. Fortunately he was not on watch at the time which was established by The Court of Inquiry held at Llanelly Town Hall. The crew had managed to take to the boats shortly before the Ship went down. At one time the ship was managed as one of The Marker Fleet.

The Loss of the steamship Llanelly did not deter the Llanelly and Liverpool Steamship Navigation Company from ordering a second SS Llanelly from the Preston shipbuilders Allsup and Sons. Launched in 1875 she was a larger vessel with a cargo capacity of 500 tonnes. Captain Charles was again appointed Master demonstrating the full confidence of the owners in his abilities. This steamship traded until 1927, more than half a century before being broken up, and would have been a familiar site when she was berthed just outside of The Nevills Dock on the Liverpool Wharf.

On December 21st 1886 a headline appeared in the New York Times titled "Steamship Founders". This article went on to report the loss of the Steamship Llanelly off Amlwch, Anglesey, while steaming between Liverpool and Llanelly. The reason that the New York Times was interested in this disaster was that several South Wales tinplate exporting agencies had offices in New York including that of the well known company Phelps Dodge. On this occasion, probably to the confusion of many, the newspaper had got it wrong as the headline should have read "The Loss Of The Llanelly Steamship Fawn". This steamer had been built by the Samuel Brothers alongside the Carmarthenshire Dock in 1884 for the South Wales and London Steamship Company. During a fierce force nine gale she had run aground on the Coal Rocks, and despite all the efforts made by the Captain David Edmunds to save her she was eventually lost along with all twelve aboard.

The final ship that we can identify is the Llanelly Trader, owned by the London Welsh Steamship Company. This 700 tonne vessel had been built in West Hartlepool in 1913 and was described as a collier which was appropriate as during the First World War the ship was involved with channel convoys taking coal to France to assist the war effort. One of the Royal Navy ships to escort the convoys was HMS Sapper. The Llanelly Trader would eventually change names, and owners, on several occasions. After being renamed Yorkshire Coast she was evidently then transferred to the Norwegian flag and called Marino before being broken up in Yugoslavia in 1963 under the name Solin. One can only wonder at what other convoys she may have been involved with during the Second World War?

Of the four ships mentioned half were lost and this seems to be an accurate figure for the extraordinary casualty rate of the many ships of this period whether under sail or steam.

Notes and Citations:
Tinplate and Shipping by Robin Craig
The Cambrian Journal 9 August 1867 "The New Steamer Llanelly"
Llanelly Guardian 9 May1867
Photograph of the ship's bell courtesy of the owner, Goran Malcic

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