Harbour Workhorses

By Derek Longly

The two dredgers Testside and Foremost Prince seemed to be an almost permanent part of the harbour scene in the 1950's and 60's. They were forever busy either inside the harbour area in the case of the Testside, or clearing the channel into the port in the case of the Foremost Prince.

The clanking and puffing noises produced by the pair was fascinating to listen to whilst if you got close enough to either when they were working you would have a stimulating whiff of the mud that slid glutinously down into the barges that accompanied them.

At one time in 1959 I was offered a job on one or the other of them by James Contracting & Shipping, their owners, but was either lucky enough, or unlucky, depending on the viewpoint, in being at the same time offered more lucrative employment within the American oil industry in Libya, so was able to decline the opportunity to work on either of them.

Both vessels were around for many years, had a great deal of character and, I am sure, are fondly remembered by many residents of the town.

Photo:Testside getting up a head of steam

Testside getting up a head of steam

Derek Longly

Photo:Testside busy at work in the harbour

Testside busy at work in the harbour

Derek Longly

Photo:Testside resting

Testside resting

Derek Longly

Photo:Foremost Prince dredging the channel into the port

Foremost Prince dredging the channel into the port

Derek Longly

Photo:Foremost Prince alongside the former London & Paris Hotel in the 1950's

Foremost Prince alongside the former London & Paris Hotel in the 1950's

Derek Longly

This page was added by Derek Longly on 18/09/2011.
Comments about this page

That clunking and clanking sound was unmistakable and carried for miles, on a still summer's morning. As for Foremost Prince, I still find it amazing that she made it all the way to New Zealand under her own steam, to start a new life there.

By Andy Gilbert
On 22/09/2011

Foremost Prince was towed out to Australia and New Zealand by the M.T. Humber a large ocean going English tug. She worked first at Gisbourne before going to Christchurch for docking then went to Whangarei to remove a rock bar. From there she was towed to Singapore where she worked for several years. The tug "Teal" (TID 53) was shipped over to work with her. F-M was sold from there and went to Turkey, working until about 1985. Teal was scrapped at Singapore.

By ray morey
On 22/11/2012

I worked on the Foremost Prince as an apprentice fitter during a major refit in Lyttlelton, New Zealand, where she was fitted with a new dredging ladder.

By Ross Stevens
On 30/10/2019

Did the James contracting and shipping company, whose signboard can be seen in the first photo have a lot to do with the harbour?

By Terry Howard
On 03/11/2019

This company was dissolved in 2011, but appears to have been involved with Newhaven for a number of years.

By Neill Jupp
On 04/11/2019

Dredging of Newhaven Harbour was originally carried out by the Railway Company.  During the 1920s, James took over the contract, and James were, in turn, taken over by Westminster Dredging in the 1950s.  Despite the name, Westminster was a Dutch company and appears to be still very much alive, see website https://westminster.boskalis.com/about-us/history.html

My former neighbour Charlie Dean worked in the boiler room of dredgers going back to Railway days, even the old wooden dredger Hercules, which had been put back into service when the new dredger Leven was sunk by a WW1 mine.  Foremost Prince came round from the Clyde shipbuilder with a run crew; taking over, Charlie had a steep learning curve, as he had never seen oil-fired boilers before!  

Under Railway management, deckhands and firemen were in the NUR but James was a non-union firm.  Westminster, however, encouraged them to join the T&GWU!  Westminster Gravels (Seastone, Wightstone, etc) was also part of the Boskalis Westminster Group, but this side of the business went over to ARC in 1982.



By Bruce Macphee
On 08/11/2019

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