Mary Sue Hubbard's letter to Sir John Foster

(From the Foster Report, 1971, chapter 8, pages 167-9)


215. In a letter to me dated 6th November 1969 Mrs. Hubbard complained as follows: -

"In 1967 the Board of Trade made two dangerous stipulations with regard to a vessel we had purchased. The first of these was that the scuppers on the main deck be fully welded shut which would have prevented the drainage of water if the vessel had taken any seas over the side.

The second was that the forward and aft hatches be welded shut which would have prevented us from using the kedge anchor and from handling any emergency situation which might have developed in one of the holds.

When we could not get these two restrictions lifted, we were forced to safeguard the vessel and the lives of those who sailed in her by placing the vessel under foreign registry thereby circumventing the necessity to comply."

216. The Board of Trade is of course responsible for the safety of United Kingdom registered ships under the relevant legislation. According to its records, the sequence of events was as follows: -
(1) On 7th November 1967, they received a telephone call from the Solicitor to the new owners of the Motor Vessel called the "Royal Scotsman" (but now re-named the "Royal Scotman") which had previously been used as a passenger / cargo ship on the Irish Channel service. The purpose of the enquiry was to ask whether the vessel could be re-registered as a pleasure yacht and cleared for a voyage to Gibraltar. He was told that re-classification would require considerable modification of the vessel, and that clearance for such a voyage would require (under the Safety of Life at Sea Convention 1960) valid load line, cargo ship construction, safety equipment and radio certificates.

(2) The vessel thereupon put into Southampton, where the owners attempted to clear her with the Port Authorities as a whaling ship. In response to that application, and having regard to her condition, the Deputy Principal Officer there issued a provisional detention


order on 24th November 1967 to prevent her from putting to sea until the necessary safety provisions had been complied with.

(3) The owners next requested clearance for a single voyage to Brest, saying that they intended to have the repairs carried out there. Such a voyage would of course have been comparable with the short runs on which the vessel had previously been engaged.

(4) Surveys for load line and safety construction certificates are in such cases delegated by the Board of Trade to approved Classification Societies, and in the present case these were referred to Lloyd's Register. By 28th November 1967, Lloyd's surveyors were in a position to give the relevant certificates, but limited to a single voyage to Brest and valid until 6th December 1967 only. By that date also, the Board of Trade had been able to satisfy itself that the safety equipment and radio were sufficiently in order for such a short cross-channel run. The vessel would not in her then condition have been cleared for a voyage to Gibraltar.

(5) Accordingly, the "Royal Scotman" was cleared on 28th November 1967 for a single voyage to Brest, and she sailed on the same day. She did not however put in to Brest, but continued to Gibraltar and beyond.

(6) When the owners first requested clearance for a voyage to Gibraltar, they were advised by Lloyd's that this would require the taking of measures to ensure the watertightness of the scuppers and hatches, but not that these should be fully welded shut.

217. The doubts expressed by Lloyd's surveyors about the "Royal Scotman's" seaworthiness when she left Southampton proved to have been wellfounded, for Mrs. Hubbard's next complaint is in these terms: -

"Also in 1967 while outside the Straits of Gibraltar, the steering mechanism of the vessel became damaged during a storm. Although we had in advance arranged to enter the port, we were refused entry when we urgently radioed for assistance and clearance. We were forced to flounder in the open sea in storm conditions with the vessel not under command while we desperately effected repairs."
218. In answer to this, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told me that the Gibraltar authorities could find no reference to the "Royal Scotman" in their records, and that the Captain of the Port was sure that no disabled vessel of any description was refused entry to the port, and left in open sea, in 1967 or - for that matter - at any time.

219. Even this was not the end of the misfortunes suffered by the "Royal Scotman" and her owners. Mrs. Hubbard goes on: -

"While in Corfu in 1968, the British Consul, Major Forte, spread rumours about us to the effect that we held black magic rites aboard ship, were poisoning the wells and were casting spells on the cattle.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Patakos, stated that he had had so much pressure put on him by the British with stories that we were under investigation by Interpol for various reasons that he had been forced to ask us to leave. He has since apologized and invited our return.

A man by the name of Jack Lundin who was staying at the British Consulate in Casablanca represented himself to be a reporter for the "Manchester Guardian" and spread rumours to the Panamanian Consul and to the editor of a local newspaper that we were wanted by Interpol for smuggling hashish to France and South America."

220. At my instigation, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office investigated these complaints also, with the following results: -
(1) By August 1968, the "Royal Scotman" had been transferred to the Panamanian Register, and once more re-named; she was now the "Apollo". She had been joined in the Mediterranean by another Scientology vessel, the "Athena", also flying the Panamanian flag: this ship too had been removed by her owners from the United Kingdom register, on which she had previously figured as the "Avon River".

(2) Both vessels put into Corfu, and their owners began to negotiate for the purchase of a property there. This brought them to the attention of the local authorities, and the Nomarch sought the views of Major Forte, the Honorary British Vice-Consul. Major Forte, as he was bound to do, told the Nomarch that the Scientologists' presence in Corfu was of no concern to Her Majesty's Government, and referred him to the Government's official statement of policy about Scientology given to the House on 25th July 1968. He volunteered no further information to the Nomarch or to anyone else.

(3) Major Forte also became involved in the repatriation of two British seamen (not themselves Scientologists) who had been recruited in the United Kingdom to serve as engineers in the "Royal Scotman" and who having become suspicious and dissatisfied with activities on board the vessel, left their belongings on board and sought the Vice - Consul' s protection.

(4) On 2nd November 1968, there appeared in the Corfu newspaper "Telegrafos" an article critical of Scientology, stressing that the Greek Government would not tolerate anyone spreading within her territory theories "religious, political, or even of black magic." Major Forte had no connection of any kind with the publication of this article.

(5) In January 1969, the Greek Government made further official enquiries about Scientology, both through the Greek Embassy in London and the British Embassy in Athens. In each case, they were given copies of the issues of Hansard covering the adjournment debate on 6th March 1967 and the statement to the House on 25th July 1968.