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McGeoch Technology Limited
Lower Tower Street,
Birmingham B19 3PA
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From Coathooks To Control Panels
Published 3rd June 2019
During the first world war, McGeoch’s business was almost entirely devoted to Government contracts for electrical and
general equipment, particularly those from the admiralty, for whom the company was making many standardised
electric light fittings , watertight plugs and sockets, switchboards, control panels, switchgear, ironclad distributing
boards and other more general items of hardware!
With huge losses in the principal merchant navies of the world to be made good when peace came, by 1919 orders were
being placed for new tonnage by all the leading shipping companies. These included Cunard, White Star, Canadian Pacific,
Anchor, Donaldson, British India and Red Star.
The race for the Blue Ribband of the Atlantic held by the ‘Mauretania’ since the sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ in 1915, was at full
steam again and Cunard’s favourite yard, John Brown, who were building ‘Acquitania’ when war broke out, were soon adding
to their fleet with ‘Franconia’ in 1923 followed by ‘Alaunia’ in 1925. Oddly enough, Cunard’s first post-war ship, the ‘Lancastria’
(1922), was not built by John Brown but by William Beardmore who enjoyed a period of great success during the following
decade and which resulted in an interesting series of contracts for McGeoch. Between 1922
and 1925, McGeoch supplied many of the fittings that went into the magnificent public
rooms and luxurious cabins of those ships.
‘Lancastria’ was launched in 1920 as ‘Tyrrhenia’ by William Beardmore on the River Clyde for
Anchor Line, a subsidiary of Cunard. She was the sister ship of ‘RMS Cameronia’ that
Beardmore's had built for the same customer the previous year. ‘Tyrrhenia’ was 16,243 gross
register tons, 578 feet (176 m) long and could carry 2,200 passengers in three classes. She
made her maiden voyage, Glasgow - Quebec City - Montreal, on 19th June 1922.
In 1924 she was refitted for two classes and renamed ‘Lancastria’ after passengers
complained that they could not properly pronounce ‘Tyrrhenia’. She sailed scheduled
routes between Liverpool and New York until 1932, and was then used as a cruise ship in
the Mediterranean Sea and Northern Europe. With the outbreak of the Second World War
she carried cargo and was then requisitioned in April 1940 as a troopship, becoming ‘HMT
Lancastria’. After several other operations, she was sunk on 17th June 1940 off the French
port of St. Nazaire while taking part in Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British nationals
and troops from France, two weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation.
Top: A magazine advertisement for McGeoch Ironclad Distributing Boards, circa 1922. Above: A magazine
advertisement highlighting McGeoch’s ability to supply builders’ ironmongery as well as ships’ brassfoundry and
electric fittings, circa 1921. ▲Click images for an enlarged view.
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