RMS Celtic (II), the first of White Star’s Big four class ships, and the first ship to have a larger tonnage than Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s, SS Great Eastern, that had been launched in 1858, and broken up for scrap in 1889.
Celtic, with the yard number 335,was launched at Harland and Wolff, Belfast on 4th April 1901, at the time of her launching Celtic was the largest ship in the World. While under the command of Captain Henry St George Lindsay, on 26th July 1901, Celtic departed Liverpool for her maiden voyage to New York, where she arrived on 4th August 1901.
While in the Mersey, under the command of Captain Lindsay, on Wednesday 15th April 1903, Celtic collided with the British Steamer, Heathmore, which was under the command of Captain Hignett, the collision resulted in damage to Heathmore’s bow and a small hole to Celtic’s port side. Celtic’s departure that day was delayed until the next day while repairs were carried out.
Celtic departed Liverpool on 22nd July 1901,under the command of Captain Lindsay, who was making his last voyage before leaving Celtic. The voyage was not uneventful as a steerage passenger had to be rescued after attempting to commit suicide by jumping off the ship and later hanging himself.
At 7.30pm on Christmas Day 1905, while enduring a voyage in bad weather to New York, Celtic was struck by a massive wave causing some passengers to be thrown to the floor, and causing some flooding and minor damage to the ship. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt and the voyage was not delayed by the incident, although due to the weather Celtic was a day late arriving in New York.
During a severe storm on 28th December 1912, a wave caused Celtic’s stern to lift clear of the water, causing damage to an air valve, resulting in Celtic having to steam extremely slowly while repair work was carried out.
While at Naples, on 18th February 1914, although only causing slight damage, Celtic collided with Madonna of the Fabre Line. Both ships were able to continue with their schedules.
Following the out break of the First World War, Celtic was converted to an armed merchant cruiser, complete with eight 6 inch guns. Celtic remained in war service until 1916, when she was released to continue her normal service, even though Celtic was still used to ferry war supplies and carry troops.
On 15th February 1917, while temporarily under the command of Olympic’s Captain Bertram Hayes. Celtic was struck by a mine off the Isle of Man, that had been laid by the German submarine U-80. Although Celtic survived, seventeen people lost their lives. Her passengers were taken to Holyhead, Wales, and Celtic was taken to Liverpool. Celtic was then taken to Belfast, where she was repaired and returned to service around two months later. U-80 was later responsible for the loss of the White Star Liner, Laurentic (I).
Just over a year later on, 31 March 1918, Celtic was again struck, this time by a torpedo from U-77, near the Isle of Man. Celtic survived the attack and was repaired at Belfast. Six people were lost during the attack.
Following Albert Einstein’s first visit to the United States, he sailed for home aboard Celtic, with his wife, on 30th May 1921.
While in the Mersey, preparing to disembark passengers, on 21st April 1925, Celtic collided with the Coast Line’s Hampshire Coast. Fortunately there was nothing but minor damage caused by the incident.
After loosing her starboard propeller in Boston harbour, on 27th October 1925, the propeller had to be recovered by divers, and had to be refitted to the ship at the Boston Navy yard.
On Saturday 29th January 1927, in thick fog, about 25 miles off Fire Island, Celtic was rammed in to by Anaconda, of the American Diamond Line, resulting in Anaconda’s anchor being lodged in one of two holes caused by the collision, and the loss of around 20 feet of her forward port railings. Everyone aboard were described as being safe (by the New York times), and Celtic was quickly repaired at Boston. Anaconda arrived back at her pier with a missing anchor and a crumpled bow.
On 19th December 1928, under the command of Captain Gilbert Berry, while on her way back from New York, Celtic went aground at Roches Point, Cobh. To free Celtic her engines were ordered full astern. However after being freed Celtic again become stuck, this time on Cow and Calf Rock. The ships passengers were safely taken from the ship by tender and most of the ships cargo was removed. Following many attempts to free the ship it was decided that the ship was permanently stuck, and was considered to be a total loss.
Still stuck on the rocks, Celtic was sold to a Danish company, Petersen and Albeck who broke the ship up on the spot; although, it was not until 1933 that the salvage was complete.