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British Industrial History

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Elders and Fyffes

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1917. From The Year-Book of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony
1950. Banana Steamer "Golfito".

of 9 to 12, Bow-street, London (1909), Shipowners, Banana Growers, and Importers.

1888 E. W. Fyffes and Sons, of 148½ Fenchurch St., received their first shipment of bananas from the Canary Islands

1898 Joseph Chamberlain as Colonial Secretary suggested to Elder Dempster and Co that they investigate the potential for carrying bananas from Jamaica to Britain (a 14 day voyage).[1]

1901 Alexander Stephen and Sons built the first ship to carry bananas to Britain, the SS Port Morant, for Elder Dempster and Co, and continued to be closely connected with the development of the banana trade.

1901 With the availability of refrigerated shipping, the importing of bananas from the West Indies became possible. Elders and Fyffes was incorporated as a Limited Company to enable shipment of bananas from the West Indies using these ships which made it possible to ship larger quantities of bananas on a reliable and consistent basis. Bananas became much more widely available.

1905 The first vessel constructed by Alexander Stephens for Elders and Fyffes was the SS Nicoya, of 3,617 tons

Sir Alfred Jones led the company and drove its growth initially; Mr. A. H. Stockley, Mr. Ackerley and Captain H. F. Bartlett were other directors who contributed to the growth of the company.

1909 Elders and Fyffes (Shipping) Ltd was wound up voluntarily[2]

1909 Alteration to registration of Elders and Fyffes Ltd under the Railway and Canal Traffic Act to include unripe bananas[3]

1929 The Fyffes Blue Label was introduced, making Fyffes the first fruit company in the world to put a label on its produce.

By 1930 The company had been so developed that its fleet included 38 vessels of a total of 202,000 tons, all engaged in the transport of bananas to Europe.

1939 Captain Hugh Roberts, Master SS Mopan (Messrs. Elders and Fyffes) was awarded the OBE for great courage, resolution and skill in saving his unarmed ship, when under continuous fire from an enemy submarine for over four hours. "The U-boat opened fire at about 4,000 yards, her speed being, approximately 16 knots. SS Mopan's normal speed was about 13.5 knots. Captain Roberts at once brought the U-boat astern and on his instructions the Chief Engineer worked the ship up to about 16.5 knots. The enemy fell slowly astern and ceased firing at about 8,000 yards. All the officers and men behaved most admirably."[4]

1941 'The Commonwealth War Grave Commission casualty record for Francis James Roberts, aged 46, his wife Mary Roberts, aged 48, and their son David Iowerth Roberts, aged 15, states that their address was at 19, Spencer Road, and that they died on 11th January 1941 in the premises of Elders and Fyffes, Bow Street....F. J. Roberts was a Printing Dept Supervisor'[5]

1968 Fyffes expanded into other fruits and vegetables.

1969 renamed Fyffes Group

Later ships for the company by Stephens were:

  • T.S.S. Camito
  • SS Chagres (II)
  • SS Telde
  • SS Barranca
  • T.S.S. Bayano (II)
  • SS Tortuguero (II)
  • SSOrotava
  • SS Tortuguero (I)
  • SS Manzanares
  • T.S.S. Cavina
  • SS Nicoya (II)
  • SS Corrales
  • T.S.S. Chagres (I)
  • T.S.S. Bayano (I)
  • T.S.S. Ariguani
  • SS Tucurinca

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times , August 3, 1962
  2. The London Gazette 7 August 1906
  3. London Gazette 15 Jan 1909
  4. London Gazette 3 Nob 1939
  5. Mitcham History Notes