16 November 2021 – 3rd Robert Anderson Memorial Talk – “A Thorny Subject”

The Robert Anderson Memorial Talk

‘A Thorny Subject’


7.30 pm  – 8.30 pm 

Speaker: Neal Anderson


Neal Anderson

Coleraine Historical Society is delighted to host the third, annual Robert Anderson Memorial Talk on Tuesday 16th November. The talk is entitled ‘A Thorny Subject’ and will be given by guest speaker Neal Anderson, the son of Robert.

The invitation and link to the Zoom talk  will be on will be sent out to  our members and hopefully live streamed on Facebook .

                            ‘A Thorny Subject’

For over a generation, ships of S.W. Coe & Co. Ltd traded to and from the port of Coleraine. Locals might not recognise the company name, but they certainly knew their ‘thorn’ and ‘Bann’ ships that were regular sights along the quay and an intrinsic part of the fabric of the town centre from the 1910s right through to the late 1990s.

Neal’s talk fondly remembers the many steam ships and motor coasters of the ‘Thorn Line’, recalling and listing once familiar ship names and looking at what became of some of them. It also explores an opportunity for how their legacy might still play a key role in Coleraine’s future.

About Neal

With a father and grandfather who were experienced seafarers, it’s perhaps no surprise that Neal too took a keen interest in ships, boats and nautical matters from an early age.

Neal grew up in and around Coleraine Harbour from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the place and meeting many of the characters that once worked there. As a toddler he’d pester his Granny at Drumslade to take him ‘down the Bann’ to see the ships and wave at then pilot Tommy Lagan who would sound the ship’s horn in reply. Neal often joined boatman Ernie Yemen on the pilot boat S.G. Martin from Portstewart, later going onboard ships with his father Robert as he piloted them to Coleraine. He also spent many a summer onboard the dredger Bar Maid – all things that today’s health and safety rules and risk assessments would not allow.

Neal himself obtained a Boatmaster’s licence in his teens when he skippered the River Bann passenger vessel Cygnet. He took part in the 1991 Tall Ships Race from Belfast, before going on to university in Plymouth in 1992 to take a Maritime Studies degree. After that he moved to Portsmouth, serving as editor of the magazine Maritime Journal until 2001 when he went to London to embark on a career in business journalism, later taking on roles in content marketing, digital communications and PR.

Neal now lives near Bromley, Kent with his wife and two young children, yet he still retains a genuine passion for maritime matters and the local history of Coleraine and the Causeway Coast. As such he is extremely proud to be able to give the Memorial Talk in honour of his late father Robert Anderson this year.


Full details of the Coleraine Historical Society and how to become a member are available on the website Coleraine Historical Society ( where you will also find our on-line shop to order The Bann Disc Journal Visit & ‘follow’ us on Facebook Coleraine Historical Society NI | Facebook – where all updates are posted. Comments, queries & photos are welcome.


The launch of The Bann Disc volume 27 will take place on Saturday 20th November at 10.00am in The Sandel Centre & will also be streamed live via Zoom. John McNally of Discover Portrush will be launching the book which will be available to purchase on the day & via the website.

There is no talk in December, however the programme of talks will continue on 18/01/2022 with Guest Speaker Mary Hefferen on ‘Dr William Graham and the Purdysburn Hospital’

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