This photograph in my collection always intrigued me as it showed a magnificent ocean liner anchored in the harbour with local ferries alongside but no clues as to the date. I eventually researched this vessel uncovering an interesting story.

The brand new P&O liner Caledonia paid an important visit to the port in 1894 when she arrived from her builders.

Caledonia, carrying P&O chairman Sir Thomas Sutherland, accompanied by 85 distinguished guests and personal friends, steamed across the bay at 19 knots before anchoring north east of Black Rock where she remained for three days.

The latest addition to the P&O fleet was on a shakedown trials trip from her Clyde builders.

With a gross tonnage of 7,558 tons, length 486 ft the new liner made an impressive sight in the harbour. Fitted with triple-expansion steam engines developing 11,000 bhp the ship had a service speed of 18 knots with accommodation for 315 first class passengers and 175 second class along with 294 crew.

The public were invited to view the ship during one afternoon at a cost of one shilling per ticket. Some 700 people boarded the ship from local boats raising £38 6 shillings, the money being handed over to the Falmouth Hospital Committee.

During the three days the ship was at anchor numerous excursions were laid on for these important guests. Half of them were landed at the Docks where local agent Robert Fox acted as a guide when they were taken around the Castle Point and other places of interest.

Local pleasure boats took other guests to Market Strand from where they explored the town and Burton’s Old Curiosity Shop before visiting the Helford River or River Fal to Tregothnan and Truro to see the cathedral.

The Falmouth Harbour Commissioners paid an official visit to Sir Thomas Sutherland. Harbour dues for the ship were waived by the Commissioners as the ship was on a pleasure cruise.

A local newspaper commented: “Such a large and splendid liner will undoubtedly attract a great deal of attention, and the hope will be uppermost in the minds of many persons that some day a regular line of such ships will regularly ply between Falmouth, America, and the colonies.”

Built to Admiralty requirements the Caledonia like other ships in the fleet could act as a an armed cruiser in the event of war.

The liner entered service where it was expected to carry mails and passengers to Bombay in 12 days, and to Adelaide in 25 days.

During her career she broke several records including the fastest time for the outward passage record to Bombay, also she broke the London Calcutta record.

Off Marseilles in December 1916 the ship struck two mines. Her 500 passengers were discharged in 15 minutes allowing a skeleton crew to take her into port where she was repaired.

Commissioned as a troop carrier in 1917 Caledonia carried 104,000 troops without loss. A routine inspection at Bombay in 1925 showed her propeller shaft to be cracked, A decision was made to scrap the ship and she was sold for demolition for £10,000.

The P&O Company has a long and distinguished history with a close link to Falmouth stretching back to 1837 when the company was founded. The first mail contract for P&O began in September that year when the Don Juan sailed from London to Spain and Portugal via Falmouth.