Proud Mary – by Mike Creasy
Everybody in Victoria knows of the Princess Mary restaurant…. But did you ever wonder where the rest of this proud old ship ended up? I thought you’d never ask!
The SS Princess Mary was built by Bow, MacLaughlin Co. in 1910 in Paisley, Scotland for the CPR’s new coastal operation, which had started in 1901 with the purchase of the Canadian Pacific Navigation Co. The CPN/CPR fleet was doing a roaring business up the coast to southeast Alaska, as well as the Gulf Islands and Puget Sound.
Originally 210 feet, she was lengthened to 260 feet in 1914 and converted from coal to oil-fired at the same time. The Mary quickly became a fixture on the south coast of BC, and a regular at the CPR dock in Victoria, joining such notables as the Princess Sophia, Princess Maquinna, Princess Patricia and others.
The Mary saw over 40 years of service before her retirement from the CPR fleet in 1951. She was then sold to rival Union Steamships Co. for conversion to bulk cargo hauling and it was during this changeover that her upperworks were planted on the ground on Harbour Road. Stripped of her boilers and engines (and her dignity) the Mary began a new life as the Bulk Carrier #2. She didn’t take kindly to it. When first put into service in 1953, she was, to quote the Marine Superintendent, “unmanageable”. She was quickly dry-docked and had skegs welded onto the hull. She didn’t seem to like these either, so she was dry-docked again in the fall of 1953 and larger skegs fitted.
Now – hopefully under control, she began her new life as a cargo barge. At the time, Union Steamships was busy hauling mining ore from Alaska and the Yukon, plus freight and passenger services to the new community of Kitimat/Kemano. By the spring of 1954, a backlog had built up on the White Pass dock at Skagway, and in March, Bulk Carrier #2 was sent north to pick up a load.