John Willis now faced the fact that the tea trade was finished
and the Cutty Sark had to be deployed in other trades. This
also brought about the beginning of a very unhappy and luckless
period for the Cutty Sark. For a voyage to the East in the summer
of 1880 Wallace had the misfortune to engage a 'bucko' or rogue
mate called Smith, a belligerent coloured seaman named Francis
and an old doom merchant with the apt name of Vanderdecken.
During an argument Smith, who was being provoked as he was being
threatened with a capstan bar, struck Francis so hard that he
killed him. The captain managed to control the near mutinous
crew and put Smith under close arrest and then made for Anjer.
But Wallace was kind-hearted and let Smith escape to avoid possible
indictment for willful murder. This incensed the crew and the
incident preyed on Wallace's mind so much so that, four days
after leaving Anjer, he threw himself overboard. Lifebelts were
thrown into the sea and a boat was lowered but, as these were
shark infested seas, no trace was found of Captain Wallace.
The ship was left temporarily in the command of the incompetent
second mate who nearly wrecked her on Thwart-the-Way Island
before limping back to Anjer. The ship was then taken to Singapore
and the mate of the Hallowe'en, which was lying in Hong Kong,
was dispatched by Willis to take command.
The new captain, Bruce, was incompetent, obese,
hypocritical, a bully and physical coward; a supposedly religious
man who found more comfort in a bottle. His time in commend
was un eventful except for the fact that he carried the first
cargo of Indian tea from Calcutta to Melbourne. Finally, in
New York after carrying a cargo of Jute from Cebu, Bruce and
his mate had their certificates suspended. Bruce had refused
to discharge the second mate who, in turn, made a complaint
to the local Consul. An investigation ensued during which the
misdemeanors and malpractices of Bruce and his mate came to
light. The entire crew were paid off leaving John Willis with
a problem; what to do with Cutty Sark.
Accommodation for 12 crew
The Cutty Sark at Greenwich
Willis solved the problem by transferring
the captain, FW Moore, and most of the crew from the Blackadder.
Moore found the ship in a deplorable condition bordering on
criminal neglect but, by the time Cutty Sark returned to London
in 1883 she was 'ship shape and Bristol fashion' once again.
Captain Moore made two round the world voyages to Australia,
in 1883 and 1884, during that time showed what the ship could
really do under all weathers. Her spars had been cut down and
the crew reduced from 28 to 22,21 or even 19 and she thrived.
Taking 79 days from the English Channel to Newcastle, NSW and
82 days on the return in 1883 she beat all rivals, making the
fastest passage of the year.
The wool trade was completely different from
the tea trade. Whereas, with tea the first ship home brought
the freshest tea, with wool the aim was to be home in time to
catch the January and February wool sales. Consequently, the
slower ships departed first with the fastest clippers remaining
in Australia to pick up the later shearings. The Cutty Sark
came into her own as a wool clipper and consistently outstripped
all rivals including the Thermopylae.
After his two hugely successful voyages Captain
Moore was promote to the command of the Tweed, flagship of the
fleet. He was replaced by Captain Richard Woodget who had, since
1881, commanded the Coldstream and had achieved some remarkable
passage times. Woodget'e salary was £186 per annum; Moore
had earned £200.
Captain Richard Woodget
Captain Woodget had learned his seamanship
skills the hard way, he had gone to sea as a hand in the East
Coast billyboys and coasters. The son of Norfolk farmer he had
learned how to get the best out of a ship and his appointment
could not have been more fortuitous for the Cutty Sark. Apart
from being a superb seaman he was also a brilliant leader of
men. He would never let a crewman do anything that he could
not do himself and this attitude brought the best out of his
crew. His apprentices worshipped him. He spent his spare time,
what there was of it, breeding prizewinning collies and was
an avid photographer. Man and ship were perfectly matched.
The wool trade route round Cape Horn and through the Roaring
Forties suited the Cutty Sark far better that the tea run and
Captain Woodget was eager to put her through her paces. Leaving
the East India Dock on 1st April, 1885 she crossed the Equator
20 days later, passed the Cape 26 days later arriving in Port
Jackson, Sydney 77 days from passing Start Point in Devon. On
one occasion, on 4th June, she made 330 miles in 24 hours with
the wind still ahead of her beam. She was the winner of the
race out beating the Samuel Plimsoll by one day. The voyage
home was even faster. From Sydney to the Channel took only 67
days but calm conditions meant that she took 5 days to complete
the remaining 305 miles to the Downs. With a total time of 73
days she was the easy winner beating her rival Thermopylae by
"Old White Hat" was thrilled by
this performance and decided to have another go for a tea cargo.
In 1866 the Cutty Sark took scrap iron to Shanghai but, on arrival,
found that the steamships had the monopoly of tea cargoes. After
waiting 3.5 months Woodget sailed in ballast to Sydney arriving
too late to load wool for the wool sales. He waited until March,
loaded wool and raced back to London in 72 days, the Thermopylae
taking 87 days. In 1888 Woodget did it again with a record passage
of 71 days .from Newcastle, NSW to Dungeness; Thermopylae took
79 days from Sydney to London and Loch Vennachar 80days fro
Melbourne. In 1889, although completing a fast passage in 82
days she was beaten by the Nebo who took 82, the Thermopylae
taking 95 days. The two rivals had had their last race for,
in 1990, Thermopylae was sold to Canada and spent the next 5
years carrying rice across the Pacific fro the East.
A photograph of the Cutty Sark taken
by Captain Woodget
The photograph was taken in the open sea with a camera supported
on a plank of wood fixed between two of the ship's boats.
The Cutty Sark won the wool race in 1891 with
a passage of 93 days and on 5th November, sailed from Sydney
to make the fastest passage of 85 days to the Lizard with Cimba
a close second in 87 days. In January 1893, Woodget was unable
to obtain a cargo for London and had to load for Antwerp leaving
Sydney on the 7th. During this passage home the Cutty Sark encountered
a large ice-field and also lost two men when they were washed
off the flying-jib boom. The boats could not be lowered as the
sea was too rough but Woodget searched for two hours to no avail.
Woodget noted in his journal that, at no time during his seven
years in command, the Cutty Sark had never put the jib boom
Her next cargo was for Hull and she left Australia
on 24th December 1894 with 5,010 bales of wool worth about £100,000.
87 days later, on 21st March 1885 she sighted the Scilly Isles
but took a further six days to reach Hull where she became the
object of great interest by the locals. That was her last voyage
from Sydney. After being partially dismasted on the next outward
passage she put into Brisbane to load an incredible 5,304 bales
of wool which put her two inches below her Plimsoll marks. On
9th December, 1894 she left Brisbane on what was to be her final
voyage under the 'Red Duster'. When she arrived back in London,
some 84 days later, on 26th March, 1895, Woodget was infuriated
when he found out that "Old White Hat" was selling
the Cutty Sark to the Portuguese. Willis gave him the Coldinghame
but a unhappy Woodget only made one voyage on her before he
retired from the sea. Returning to his native Norfolk he bought
a farm at Burnham Overy and farmed there until he died on 6th
March, 1928, aged 82 years.
The Portuguese Ferreira brothers changed her
name to the Ferreira of Lisbon and she continued to trade round
the world for the next 26 years. Although times were hard for
sailing ships the Ferreira brothers did their best to maintain
the ship and keep her in good condition. Some credit must be
given to them for enabling her to become, by 1922, the only
clipper ship left in the world. However, the Ferreira's found
it difficult to make her pay and sold her to another Portuguese
company who renamed her Maria do Amparo but only for a few months.
Captain Wilfred Dowman
In January 1922, the Ferreira, having left
London for Lisbon, had to seek refuge from a storm in Falmouth.
There she was spotted by Captain Wilfred Dowman who had always
admired her since passing in 1894 her while on the Hawksdale
during his apprenticeship. Captain Dowman, negotiated her purchase
from the Portuguese and had her towed back to Falmouth. Together
with his wife, who also shared his enthusiasm for the Cutty
Sark, Captain Dowman began the task of restoring the old ship
to her former glory and thus began the chapter in the history
of the ship which still continues today at Greenwich.
In 1924 Captain Woodget made a nostalgic coastal
voyage to Fowey 29 years after leaving the ship as master.
The Cutty Sark alongside HMS Worcester
Captain Dowman died in 1936 and in 1938 his
widow generously presented the Cutty Sark to the Thames Nautical
Training College so that she could be used to train both and
Royal and Merchant Navy officers. She was towed to the Thames
by the William Watkin's tug Muria to be moored alongside HMS
Worcester. From that day on her teak covered hull would only
respond to the ebbing and flowing of the River Thames.
In 1951 she was moved to Green & Silley
Weir's Blackwall yard for a modest refurbishment prior to the
Festival of Britain, during which time she was moored above
Greenwich to be appreciated by visitors to the Festival. She
returned to the Blackwall yard to be fully overhauled and reconditioned
in 1954 and while she was there Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons
built the drydock at Greenwich for her final resting place.
Now safe from the ravages of the sea which she did her best
to conquer the Cutty Sark rests at Greenwich as a permanent
memorial to the sailing merchantmen who were the backbone of
British supremacy at sea for so many hundreds of years
The Cutty Sark at Greenwich (The English
When John "Old White Hat"
Willis asked Hercules Linton to build him a ship could he ever
have imagined that his dream, the CUTTY SARK would, 131 years
later, be proudly resplendent in her former glory alongside
the Millennium Dome still with an indefinite future ahead of
The story of the Cutty Sark has been extracted from a booklet
published many years ago called 'The Cutty Sark and the Days
of Sail" by Frank G.G. Carr, M.A. F.S.A for the Cutty Sark
Preservation Society. Our thanks are given to the original contributors.
For further information
about sailing ships and the Cutty Sark consider-
Clipper Ships and the Cutty
by David Johnson
The Log of the Cutty Sark
by Basil Lubbock
The Cutty Sark Preservation Society
is engaged in continual restoration work that fine vessel. If
you would like some information on what they are up to at the
moment and how you can help visit; www.cuttysark.org.uk or E-mail
them at firstname.lastname@example.org
They will be pleased to hear from you.
Two Victorian Sailing Ships Captains Thomas Mitchell and Thomas Taylor
Thomas Mitchell was born in 1832 in Newburgh, Aberdeenshire to Thomas Mitchell senior, who was a grocer, and Margaret Thomson. He had three sisters, the youngest of whom was my great-grandmother, Jane. They were a very devout Non-conformist family.
He gained his Mate's certificate in Newcastle in April 1851 and his first ship as mate was the Falcon, 226 tons, registered in Newcastle in 1840 and re-registered in North Shields in 1856. It had a crew of eight: Master, Mate, Carpenter, Cook, 3 Able Seamen, 1 Boy. In this ship he made two voyages from Sunderland to Stettin, Polonia, in June and August 1851.
Thomas then joined the Aberdeen Clipper Line, owned by Messrs G Thompson, Sons & Co of Aberdeen, later Messrs G Thompson, Junr & Co of London. The family firm included George Thompson, his son-in-law Sir William Henderson and his sons, Stephen, George and Cornelius. It was also known as the Aberdeen White Star Line, not to be confused with the White Star Line of Titanic fame.
All Thompson's ships were built by Walter Hood of Aberdeen, except the Thermopylae, and they were all registered in Aberdeen. According to Basil Lubbock in 'The Colonial Clippers', no ships that ever sailed the seas presented a finer appearance than the Aberdeen White Star Line fleet.
“They were always beautifully kept and were easily noticeable amongst the other ships for their smartness: indeed, when lying in Sydney Harbour or Hobson's Bay with their yards squared to a nicety, their green sides with gilt streak and scroll work at bow and stern glistening in the sun, their figure-heads, masts, spars and blocks all painted white and every rope's end flemish-coiled on snow-white decks, they were the admiration of all who saw them.”
The following are Thomas Mitchell's voyages, all to Sydney.
Dates of trips Rank
Date of reg
pages in Clipper book
John Bunyan 466 tons, about 16 crew: Master, Mate, boatswain, carpenter, steward, cook, sail-maker, 9 seamen/apprentices
Omar Pacha 1124 tons, about 65 crew and 30 passengers
Phoenician 478 tons, about 17 crew
Transatlantic 614 tons, 25 crew, 5 passengers
126, 131, 138
Queen of Nations 846 tons, 27 crew, 11 passengers
127, 131, 132, 139
Centurion 1097 tons, 29 crew
These ships were mostly used to transport wool from Australia to London but they carried other cargo and sometimes passengers. This was particularly true of the Omar Pacha, but it can be seen how much larger a crew was needed for passengers aboard the Omar Pacha compared to the Centurion.
There are Sydney harbour reports for all his voyages south on these ships, except John Bunyan. (http://mariners.records.nsw.gov.au/)
There is a gap on his record between 1860 and 1865 which includes short trips in Australian waters.
Georgina Smith of Melbourne 44 tons, 4 crew
sailing from Port Albert to Sydney
William Hill of Geelong 109 tons, 7 crew
sailing from Port Warnambool to Sydney and Melbourne to Sydney
In 1868 his sister, Jane, wrote in her diary that he had just managed to return from Sydney in time for her wedding to James Scroggie on 23 July that year. But for the remainder of the year and the beginning of 1869 he was overseeing the construction of the Centurion before her maiden voyage in June which he commanded.
He is mentioned in 'The Colonial Clippers'.
“The ship 'Queen of Nations', Captain Thomas Mitchell, belonging to Messrs G Thompson & Co, left Sydney on 21st September 1865 loaded with: 484 bales of wool, 44 bales of cotton, 1037 casks of coconut oil, 219 casks of tallow, 2602 ingots and plates of copper, 9452 hides. For ballast she had 30 tons of kentledge; dunnage, treenails and bones, 12 inches in the bottom, 18 in the bilges and 6 in the sides. The hides were laid from two beams abaft the foremast to the mizen mast; oil on the hides, with a tier of tallow between; the wool, cotton, gum, etc in the 'tween decks. Her best trim was 9 inches by the stern. So laden she drew 18ft forward and 18.5 ft aft. Pilotage in £14 2s; out £14 2s.”
“The second 'Centurion' was launched in the spring of 1869 and measured: length 208ft, beam 35ft, depth 21ft. Captain Mitchell overlooked her building and was her first commander. She was a very fast ship and he always hoped to beat the 'Thermopylae' with her, but never succeeded. On her first voyage she went out to Sydney in 69 days. It was a light weather passage and she never started the sheets of her main topgallant sail the whole way. She also made some creditable tea passages but was mostly kept in the Sydney trade. In 1871 she went out in 77 days and in 1872 in 78 days.” (Under Captain Taylor)
Thomas was married to Mary Elizabeth Alexander (1844, Swansea), daughter of George Alexander, also a master mariner, and Elizabeth Bennett on 15th April 1862 at 3 Springbank Terrace, Aberdeen by the Weslyan minister.
Thomas, Mary and one child, probably Thomas jnr
Thomas and Mary had four children: Thomas Alexander (1864-1930); George Bennett (1865-1941; Joseph F (1868-1873); Mary Elizabeth (1870). They were all born in Aberdeen except George.
Mary and Thomas junior went on the voyage to Sydney when Thomas was Master of Queen of Nations in 1865. George Bennett was born on board ship in the North Atlantic near Cape Verde on the return voyage. She and two of the children went on the same voyage when he was Master of Centurion in 1870. He died of a stroke on board ship in the North Atlantic near the Azores on the return trip, age 38. His First Officer, Hugh Wright, took command and reported the death of his captain at sea.
After the death of Thomas Mitchell, Thomas Taylor, born 1835, took command of the Centurion. He was probably a friend of the family because Mary Mitchell, still only 29 years old, married him in May 1873.
They had three children: Edward who was born on board the Centurion in the South China Sea off Vietnam in 1877; Thomasina (1880 Aberdeen); Cornelia (1882 Aberdeen).
Thomas Taylor made five voyages to Sydney in command of the Centurion, up to 1885. In 1887 he commanded the sailing ship Smyrna to Australia and back but on his second trip out the Smyrna collided with steamship Moto in the English Channel just off the Isle of Wight in fog and he was drowned. The wreck is still there after more than 110 years, in quite good condition, and is much visited by divers. http://www.deepimage.co.uk/wrecks/smyrna/Smyrna_mainpages/smyrna_mainpage.htm
In 1901 Mary Alexander/Mitchell/Taylor was still living in Aberdeen, in Springbank Road close to her grandparents old home from which she was first married, with her unmarried daughter, Mary. Thomasina, age 21, was a schoolmistress in London and her sister Cornelia, age 19, was a student at the same place.
Photo of Thomas Alexander Mitchell, from a public family tree
According to the above public family tree, Thomas Alexander Mitchell married Maud Thorndick from Chelmsford but I can't find any documentation on him after 1871. I can't find Edward Taylor after 1881, however, George Bennett Mitchell is well documented since he was a very successful architect in Aberdeen.
He married Margaret Ann Angus in Aberdeen in 1892. Her parents were James Angus (commission agent) and Elspet Helmrich (teacher) of 7 Bank Street, Aberdeen.
Georgeand Maggie had two children: Meta in 1894 and George Angus in 1896. George Angus became an architect like his father and they set up as George Bennett Mitchell & Son, a company which is still extant in West Craibstone Street, Aberdeen.
Omar Pacha in 1869 when it caught fire at sea, returning from Brisbane with a cargo of wool
Phoenician 1847 Aberdeen, wood, 521 gross weight, barque - square rigged on two masts of three
Queen of Nations
by Wendy Furey
great-great niece of Thomas Mitchell