I am extremely lucky to have in my possession a souvenir saved by Mervyn Watson after his voyage to Egypt on S.S. Orontes with Captain Fry, my Merry Millionaire character from my novel of the same name. The memento consists of the wallet given to the young chap on his boarding the ship on that bleary January morning back in 1937.
Mervyn would have found on his writing desk in his first class cabin an extensive description of the up and coming trip to Port Said including maps and descriptions of the ports of call, namely Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples and Port Said.
Also contained in the canvas bound wallet was a booklet explaining ship board terms and etiquette as well as another containing a complete list of the other first class passengers embarking on Orontes that day. Of course, this wonderful piece of nautical history has served as an invaluable piece of research material for my novel The Merry Millionaire since I have been able to identify real life characters who joined Mervyn and Ron on their voyage and place them in the story. This link will take you to the Wikipedia page devoted to SS Orontes as well as the other to cruise line history blog regarding the ship. In all her thirty three years service on the high seas SS Orontes saw many changes, from a regular route to Australia from her maiden voyage in 1929 until her being requisitioned as a troop ship at the beginning of WWII. Then her return to the Australian run at the end of the war and her eventual scrapping in 1962. In Mervyn’s day her staterooms must have appeared very grand to the young man from Lampard’s Buildings. I can just imagine him gazing around the first class dining saloon on his and Ron’s first night aboard, all the while SS Orontes navigating the waters of the English Channel. Might he and Ron have acknowledged some of his exalted fellow diners? Lord and Lady Castlemaine perhaps;
Lady De Isle Dudley; maybe Lord and Lady Butler and Lady Sulman; or how about Dowager Lady Steele- Maitland.
Moydrum Castle country seat of Lord and Lady Castlemaine. Described in 1837 by Lewis, “About a mile and a half from Athlone on the Leinster side of the Shannon is Moydrum Castle the handsome residence of Viscount Castlemaine a solid castellated mansion with square turrets at each angle beautifully situated on the edge of a small lake and surrounded by an extensive and richly wooded demesne.” In July of 1921 the British Army, searching for arms, burnt down three neighbouring farms, the local Republican army retaliated by burning down Moydrum.