Shell Wherries

Records of the activities once undertaken in Kirkcudbright Bay often include references to “shell wherries”. Today the term is a little confusing to most people and requires some explanation. In modern usage, a shell wherry can be a lightweight and very fast, sleek, canoe-like vessel used for exercise, pleasure and racing on ponds, rivers or canals. The more commonly used term of wherry describes a type of vessel peculiar to places such as slow flowing English rivers like the Thames. In that context, a wherry was a lightly built rowing boat, capable of being rowed by one man and carrying up to eight passengers. The much larger wherry utilised on the Norfolk Broads was heavily built and capable of carrying great amounts of cargo. A Norfolk Broads wherry was usually driven by a single sail when the wind was favourable, but being large and not easily manoeuvred, was also controlled at times by a quant pole which could easily reach the bottom of the shallow broads and rivers.

None of the foregoing vessels would seem likely to have been familiar to any of Kirkcudbright’s mariners, but a type of wherry that was certainly well known here was the Manx or Irish Sea wherry, originally built on the Isle of Man and much loved by those engaged in smuggling. Manx wherries were shapely little vessels with pronounced sheer, pointed sterns and finely shaped hulls of moderate draft that gave them a good performance under sail. They were largely open boats, the smaller ones rigged as sloops or cutters and the larger occasionally rigged as schooners. It is most likely that the term wherry was used in Kirkcudbright merely to describe a wide variety of small and fairly rugged open vessels of shallow draft, each controlled by one or two men, capable of carrying modest loads, doing some fishing, and perhaps making just the occasional foray into smuggling.

The operators of Kirkcudbright’s wherries were for much of the year engaged in the hard work of collecting sea-shells from the mouth of the bay and bringing them up river to the various farmers whose horses and carts had access to the shore. The shells were a useful source of lime in the fertilisation of farmland. The wherries were not of course used exclusively for carrying shells. Their versatile owners and crews also made use of them for the transportation of manure, seaweed, sand, and whinstone quarried from the shore at Torrs, Little Ross and the Isles of Fleet. It is perhaps worth noting that today, large quantities of scallop and queen scallop shells are discarded at sea by seafood processors, with the approval of the necessary authorities. This reflects changing agricultural practices and also the care necessary to prevent pollution of burns, rivers and water supplies by seafood waste.

Brief accounts have survived from the operators of three shell wherries, William White, (Mariner), described as being 50 and upwards in 1810, Alexander Kilpatrick, (Shipmaster), aged 45 in 1810 and John McLellan, (Mariner), of Torrs Lake, aged 63 in 1810. Their accounts refer to vessels that were clinker built and of 10 or 12 tons burthen. The activities of the shell gatherers began usually in April, and from then till November or December they worked night and day for six days a week. The long hours were necessary to use the tides to advantage, going down river with the ebb, beaching near to the banks of shells on the shores of Balmangan bay (now known as Ross bay), labouring to load their vessels to maximum capacity, then heading up river as soon as they were re-floated by the rising tide, travelling as far as Tarff and Tongueland (now shortened and corrupted to Tongland) to distribute their cargoes. John McLellan carried out this work for 22 years, making as many as 70 trips during each season.

Today there is no business to be had for the owners of little vessels like the wherries. They, like almost all other coastal traders and local railways, have had to give way to the perceived convenience and reliability of road transport. Perhaps in an independent Scotland there could be new opportunities for such vessels in smuggling. It is unclear however at this stage, the direction in which such a trade might have to be pursued, and the nature of the goods or passengers with potential to generate profit.
Copyright – David R. Collin 2013

The Mary B. Mitchell

At the south west end of Kirkcudbright harbour, close to the harbourmaster’s office, a large ‘fisherman pattern’ anchor embedded in cobbles provides a talking point for visitors, and a mini-adventure playground for small children. The extent of its own adventures however may not even be guessed at by most of the people that notice it.
On the West shore of Kirkcudbright bay, a little north of Senwick Churchyard, low spring tides expose the keel and a shattered mass of rusty metal that is almost all that now remains of the schooner Mary B. Mitchell.

The Mary B. Mitchell was a 227 tons gross three-masted tops’l schooner with double tops’ls and topgallants on the foremast. She was built in 1892 by the Paul Rodgers yard at Carrickfergus, for William Preston of Beaumaris. Her accommodation was particularly fine and featured a mahogany and maple panelled saloon, with a terrazzo floor. She was initially employed in the Welsh slate trade, and later carried cargoes of cement. Prior to 1919, she was owned by Lord Penrhyn, and is said to have been used as a yacht in the Mediterranean during the summer, reverting to the slate trade in winter.

In 1916, she was requisitioned by the Admiralty, and fitted out for service as a Q-ship operating from Falmouth under the command of Lieut. John Lawrie R.N.R.. Suitably armed, with a collapsible gun house on her stern, and under many different aliases, she sank one submarine in 1916, and evaded the torpedo of another while under sail. In 1917 she was refitted and an engine was installed after which she engaged a further three submarines, possibly sinking two of them in the Bay of Biscay.
After the war, she returned to the less glamorous role of carrying pit-props, coal, burnt ore, and china clay, but her days of fame were far from over as she featured in two films before the outbreak of the Second World War. The first was The Mystery of the Mary Celeste made in 1935, and the second was McClusky the Sea Rover made in 1936.

During World War Two, she carried coals to Portugal under the Irish flag of neutrality, surviving close encounters with both the Royal Navy and a German U-boat. On Wednesday 14th December 1943, having loaded burnt ore at Dublin she cleared the Isle of Man, bound for Silloth. A south easterly gale sprang up and blew out most of her sails leaving her with only one functioning engine, the other being ashore for repairs. In those unhappy circumstances she made increasing leeway towards the coast of Scotland and at 6.00p.m. on 15th December 1943, she grounded on the bar at the mouth of Kirkcudbright bay. The alarm was raised by the keepers at Little Ross Lighthouse, and Captain Brennan and his crew of eight were quickly taken off by Kirkcudbright lifeboat but at first light next morning, the vessel was found to have been driven right across the bay and onto the rocky shore at Senwick. Detailed examination revealed that the damage she had sustained, and her position on the shore, made salvage impractical.  A year later, she was smashed to pieces by a further violent storm.

Some years later one of her anchors was recovered by Mr Donald Tait, and brought to the harbour, where it now serves as a memorial to one of the fast dwindling number of sailing vessels that still plied the Irish Sea in the Nineteen-forties. A few minor bits and pieces of her deadeyes and fairleads can also be seen in the Stewartry Museum.
David R Collin, 2002

The Wooden Pier

A year or two ago at Kirkcudbright harbour I overheard a new resident giving a quick summary of Kirkcudbright’s history to a group of even newer residents. Having described the present harbour with reasonable accuracy he pointed downstream to the wooden pier, which he described as the old harbour where the sailing ships used to tie up. His lecture was given in ringing tones that do not invite interruption, so I kept silent. Now that the pier is reported to be about to disappear it is perhaps a good time to record its true story.

George Davidson, former coxswain of Kirkcudbright Lifeboat, had a brief but impressive career in the late 1960s in the stormy waters of local politics as a member of Kirkcudbright Town Council. Conscious of the large amount of revenue the town gained in harbour dues from coastal tanker operations he determined to use his influence to ensure that some of this money benefited harbour users. Having spent a large part of his life caked in River Dee glaur, George knew that a jetty or pier which would enable small boat users to pick up and set down passengers or crew, clean and dry, at times when tankers had priority at the quay wall, would be invaluable. He worked out a simple construction using second hand material, and in 1968, asked me to prepare a drawing of it, to illustrate the proposal to the town council. We were both aware that our combined effort had produced only a sketch which would ultimately need engineering input, and an analysis of its effect on the river flow and the glaur, before it could be seriously considered. Those were relatively carefree days however, and the town council decided to proceed forthwith, after minor amendment of constructional details by the burgh surveyor, the late Mr A L D Bowick.

A few months later, in response to an 8.00am knock at my front door, I found myself   assisting William McKie in the setting out of the pier’s vital statistics. W. J. Haley of Dumfries had won the contract with a bid of approximately £3000, and William Mc Kie was given a pair of wellies, an oilskin jacket, a squad of men and left to get on with it. William’s squad comprised: Hugh Higgins, Doug Ferris, Peter  Carmichael and Ian McRobert. Telegraph poles from all over the county were collected and deposited on the riverbank, upstream of the bridge, where they were stripped of metal fittings. They were subsequently towed downstream by Mr Stuart Gourlay in his boat Margaret Anne, six at a time to the site of the pier’s construction. Timbers for the longitudinal beams, and the original decking were yellow pine from an old warehouse building at Kingholm Quay, supplemented by floor joists from a mansion house near Dumfries.

Forming holes in the glaur, to take the ends of the uprights presented considerable problems, as anyone who has stood down there for more than a second or two will readily testify. Coxswain George sped to the rescue with a paneled door (minus one panel) and an auger which he designed and Willie Kerr of Mutehill manufactured. Using the door as a platform, a clean dry hole could be bored through the glaur and underlying clay, via the missing door panel, to a depth of six feet. By the use of ropes, a ladder, a small hand winch supplied by George, and the occasional oath, the poles were erected and slid into the holes, which they fitted so neatly that scarcely any adjustment or backfilling proved necessary. The level of the top decking was established by measuring from water level up to the top of the quay wall, adding one foot, and hurrying back to the pier, to measure the same distance up again from water level. The precise angle the pier makes with the catwalk was established by George Davidson, who laid markers to indicate the optimum line in relation to tidal and river flow. Construction work was awkward, dirty and dangerous and frequently had to be undertaken in the hours of darkness, to suit tidal conditions. In recognition of the hardships faced by William and his team, W J Haley sent them an old rowing boat, two oars and a few thoroughly disreputable looking lifejackets. In due course construction was complete and without ceremony the pier went into use.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the fishing industry prospered and Kirkcudbright’s fleet increased greatly. The new pier immediately began to fulfil an unforeseen function by providing berths for large numbers of fishing vessels of all shapes and sizes, displaced from the town quay by coastal tankers. The new pier’s designers and builders were more than a little concerned to see such vessels as the Solway Firth, Isle of Canna, Silver Fern II, and Radiance four abreast and leaning outwards, while a pick-up van was driven along the timber decking loaded with gear!

When the regional council took over as harbour authority, some reinforcing of the structure was carried out and to the relief of the original designers, a restriction on the size of vessel using it was imposed. Twenty-five years is not a bad lifespan for such a low-cost structure, subject to so many stresses, but better maintenance could have greatly increased it. In addition to meeting nautical needs the pier has provided an opportunity for landlubbers to enjoy a view of the town that was previously available only to mariners. It also acted as a wonderful grandstand from which to watch the comings and goings on the river, review the salmon fishing on the yair nets and feed the swans.

David R. Collin
This article was first published in the Galloway News in May 1993.

Photographs A.L.D. Bowick

Flint Bay, Kirkcudbright

Several of the place names of Galloway are known to be of great antiquity, often generating speculation about their origins, and prompting analysis of the various languages from which they may have been derived. Some of these names have been corrupted, mispronounced or otherwise adapted to suit changing spelling and diction over the centuries, a process which continues but is not always to our liking. A modern habit for example places emphasis on the first syllable of words, rather than on the second or last.  This is noticeable in names such as Dumfries, Stranraer, Auchencairn and Dundrennan. There are of course exceptions, Annan being a good example.  Visitors to the area frequently split Annan into two syllables of equal emphasis, eg Anne-Anne. Change is inevitable, but examples similar to those already mentioned make nonsense of many traditional songs and verses. Songs such as “The Road to Dundee” and “Bonnie Dundee” just do not work unless the emphasis is in the right place! Early maps, and particularly some of the Ordnance Survey maps of the late 19th Century are wonderful sources of information, providing very specific names for major and minor features of the landscape. Often the origins of these early names have been lost and they have fallen out of most people’s vocabulary. Many of these names related to individuals, occupations or incidents of local celebrity, fame or infamy and the names have simply died out with the people to whom they once meant so much. Flint Bay is the modern name of a very attractive indentation which occurs on the north side of Torrs Point on the eastern side of Kirkcudbright Bay, just at the place where the wooded shore gives way to steep and spectacular cliffs peaking at the headland. Almost everyone now uses the name “Flint Bay” and a few may wonder how it got its name and why its stony beach is comprised of such an abundance of flint. The mystery is compounded when study of the older Ordnance Survey maps referred to previously, reveals that the official name of Flint Bay is the Witchwife’s Haven.  Flint does not seem to my untutored eye to be a feature of local geology, though excavations in local caves at Torrs and Borness have yielded some flint artefacts. Were these introduced from elsewhere or is there a source of natural flint somewhere in the vicinity? Another possible explanation is that Flint Bay’s flinty shore may have resulted from a quantity of flintstone ballast either jettisoned from a ship, or cast up on shore following a shipwreck. Until recently however, no evidence has been found of any ships carrying flintstone ballast – ballast not being something that is likely to be specifically described in any shipping records. A few days ago however, I came across the following record of an early nineteenth century incident which could perhaps provide an answer: On 17th January 1816, the sloop Ellen and Agnes of Wigton under the command of Captain Hill was wrecked on the east side of Kirkcudbright Bay, close to Torrs Point. The sloop, her cargo of beef, hides, butter and flint and her three crew were all lost.

1816 is a long time ago! How long might it have taken for the Ellen and Agnes to break up and the cargo to wash ashore? When did the name Flint Bay first come into general use? How long will it be till the wonderful name Witchwife’s Haven disappears from the maps and is replaced by Flint Bay, and will we ever find out who the witchwife was? Next time you visit the bay, spare a thought for the unfortunate crew of the Ellen and Agnes, and another for the possibly even more unfortunate witchwife.

David R. Collin, March 2013

Solway Lass

I read with great interest of the history of Solway Lass in the Galloway News and the longer I looked at the photograph of her tied up near Palnackie, the more certain I became that I had seen her before. A brief check provided me with evidence to fill a gap in her long career.
I left Kirkcudbright in 1974, to live and work in Fiji, and was quickly drawn to the waterfront in the capital city of Suva, where a colourful and varied fleet of trading vessels is based. Fiji is a group of several hundred islands, most of which are served by the Government of Fiji’s fleet of locally designed and built ships and a great array of privately owned trading vessels, which carry cargoes and passengers of every kind to some of the most idyllic places in the world. Among these ships were several sailing vessels, and one in particular, called Sundeved caught my eye with her rakish sheerline and minimal deckhouse. She had recently arrived from what were then the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, via Wallis and Fotuna and had begun to trade in Fiji’s waters with an English master/owner and a Fijian crew. Her Danish name of Sundeved was soon painted over and she was given the Fijian name of Lawendua. Lloyds register of shipping for 1968/1969 reveals that Sundeved (register No. 534473) was formerly Bent, and Bent was formerly none other than Solway Lass.
In 1976, I was sent by my employer the Government of Fiji, to the island of Kandavu, 65 miles south of the main island of Viti Levu, to arrange the siting of six new houses at the government station of Vunisea.  Lawendua was chartered and we sailed at 5.00am on the 4th November with a Public Works Department supervisor called Motufanga and all the necessary materials, including six kitchen sinks! As we motored out of Suva Harbour through the main passage in the protecting coral reef, we met the long swell of the Pacific Ocean and even our cargo of concrete blocks and cement could not prevent us from rolling heavily.
Breakfast consisted of an animated fried egg, which the cook had intended to nestle in a bed of tinned spaghetti. A commotion broke out when a lee rigging screw came adrift and clanged against the wheelhouse before disappearing over the side. The cook’s best endeavours followed the rigging screw shortly afterwards. By lunchtime, we were in the lee of the great Astrolabe Reef, which is said to have some of the clearest water and most beautiful fish and coral anywhere, except of course for Palnackie!. Lunch of mutton curry, dalo and cassava was eaten on deck as the beautiful islands of Dravuni, Bulia and Ono were left to port. Before the sun had gone down we had steered cautiously through the jagged coral heads of Namalata reef, guided by a Polaroid bespectacled lookout aloft, and anchored at the tiny settlement of Vunisea. Motufanga and I went ashore to hire men from the village to unload our cargo into a fleet of canoe-like small craft, known in Fiji as punts, and work began immediately.
Three days later, on completion of unloading and our work ashore, we set sail for Suva with an empty hold, but one extra passenger in the form of a very excited pig.
The sails concerned consisted of a brand new mizzen and two elderly staysails, which the skipper hoped would add a knot or two to our leisurely pace. Due to the power and enthusiasm of the crew however, she was sheeted in far too hard, and with the wind on her beam, made nearly as much leeway as headway. We arrived at Suva wharf in the early hours of the morning of 7th November and Motufanga, the pig and I walked into town to find a taxi. A few days later, the pig was eaten and Motufanga was sent to prison, but that is another story! All three of us had good reason to savour our freedom and adventure aboard Lawendua.

David R. Collin
This article was first published in the Galloway News on 26th March 1987

The Barque John Tomkinson

In an article contributed to the Galloway News in 2010, I described the Barque Rory O’More, which was built in Kirkcudbright in 1842 and at 296 tons was the largest vessel known to have been built in the town. The main purpose of my article however was to accompany the magnificent illustration of a painting of Rory O’More that I had found in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. It was then the only illustration I had ever seen of a Kirkcudbright-built ship, apart from a tiny pencil sketch of the schooner Prince of Denmark which was reproduced earlier this year in my book describing the history of that well-travelled little vessel.

Although the painting of Rory O’More is unsigned, Daniel Shackleton, Kirkcudbright’s well known fine art expert quickly suggested that it might have been painted by Joseph Heard, an accomplished marine artist who was based in Liverpool between 1826 and 1857. Last week, I stumbled upon the catalogue of a sale of paintings by Joseph Heard, which took place in Bonhams Auction House in April of this year. Among the items offered for sale was a splendid oil painting of the inwardbound barque John Tomkinson of Liverpool, boarding her pilot in the Formby Channel of the River Mersey in 1840.

At the time of her completion in 1840, the barque John Tomkinson, at 260 tons, was the largest ship known to have been built in Kirkcudbright, and her launching was reported in the Dumfries Times of 29th September 1840, as follows:

On Saturday forenoon, a splendid new vessel, the John Tomkinson, of about 500 tons burthen was launched from the building yard of Messrs Jenkinson and McEwen. She made a most majestic plunge into her new element, and although the rain fell in torrents, thousands of spectators patiently awaited to witness the imposing and interesting spectacle.

The reporter’s estimate of her tonnage was probably as optimistic as his perception of the size of the crowd that assembled to await the launching, but his account goes some way towards conveying the sense of excitement there must have been in Kirkcudbright and the surrounding area at such a significant event in the town’s maritime history. The launch of Rory O’More only two years later however quickly took away John Tomkinson’s status as the largest vessel built in the town.

John Tomkinson was built for Rimmer and Co of Liverpool and sailed from there on 19th January 1841, for Batavia and Singapore under the command of Captain Hutchinson. In July 1841 she and six other vessels were dismasted off Canton during a typhoon, but she returned safely to Liverpool, and by 16th August was bound from Deal to Bombay. In 1843, Lloyd’s register of shipping recorded a change of ownership to that of W. Hay of Sunderland, and a new master, Captain Rhynas. John Tomkinson arrived at Bombay on 29th January 1843, sailing for China via Singapore on 26th March. Her cargo is not recorded but she had three passengers, Major Aldri, Captain Gifford and Colin Junor esq. Her ownership had reverted to that of Rimmer and Co., and her former Captain Hutchinson was once more in command.

On 2nd March 1844 she returned to the United Kingdom, and was reported as arriving off the Downs, from China. In May of 1844 she then sailed for Hobart, Tasmania with government stores and one passenger, arriving safely on 30th August 1844.

  1. Fitzgerald, Tailor and Clothier

begs to inform his customers and the public that he has received, ex John Tomkinson,

a choice and select assortment of spring and summer goods selected to or, and

comprising every description of goods requisite for a large and fashionable business, and will upon inspection be found superior to any hitherto imported. No1 Elizabeth Street, September 13th 1844

Colonial Times, Hobart 17th September 1844.

For Valparaiso Direct

The A1 Bark

John Tomkinson

300 tons register, D Hutchinson Commander will sail for the above port on Wed 18th inst. For freight or passage, apply to Captain Hutchinson on board, or to New Wharf. September 10th   Askin Morrison

Hobart Town Courier 14th September 1844

On 24th September 1844, John Tomkinson sailed for Valparaiso to take on a rather less attractive cargo of guano (bird lime) bound for the British market. Apart from one voyage to the West Indies in1847, carrying equipment for a sugar plantation, she was probably in the guano trade for the rest of her days, and is last recorded in Lloyds Register in 1856.

The fact that both Rory O’More and her near sister ship John Tomkinson were both built in Kirkcudbright and based in Liverpool make it seem highly likely that Daniel Shackleton’s opinion is correct, and that both ships were painted by Joseph Heard. Joseph Heard was born in Egremont in 1799, and after a short stay in London, moved with his brother and fellow artist Isaac, to Liverpool where they shared a studio. Both were well known and highly respected marine artists, but Joseph specialised in Marine paintings whereas Isaac also undertook commissions for portraiture.

It is exciting, not only to have more details of the astonishing careers of vessels built in Kirkcudbright, but also to know that they were vessels of sufficient substance, character and repute to merit marine portraiture by an artist of the calibre of Joseph Heard. The fact that the only three ships built in Kirkcudbright of which there are illustrations, should all be in Tasmania in the mid 19th century is also strangely impressive, and a testament to the quality of Kirkcudbright’s shipbuilders.

(copyright David R. Collin, October 2013.)

(first appeared in Galloway News)



Have another drink, boys. Well, have one with me.

We’re home from the sea. Yes, we’re back on the shore;

And if you get too drunk, boys, in this company,

You’ll roar’ round Cape Horn on the Rory O’ More.

Chorus of the Liverpool drinking song Dublin OShea.

The Rory O’More was a 295 ton barque, built in Kirkcudbright in 1842 for Moore and Co. of Liverpool. She was named after a celebrated seventeenth century Irish rebel leader, and was one of two barques built in Kirkcudbright, the other being the John Tomkinson, built in 1840. A barque is a sailing vessel with either three or four masts, square rigged on each mast except the mizzen. Rory O’ More and John Tomkinson were both three masted barques and Rory O’ More is the largest vessel known to have been built in Kirkcudbright.

The writing of this article was prompted by the discovery, in the course of other research, of a fine oil painting of Rory O’ More in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Apart from a very small pencil sketch of the Prince of Denmark, built in Kirkcudbright in 1789, the painting referred to is the only detailed image of any of the 62 vessels known to have been built in Kirkcudbright between 1789 and 1858. It is therefore unique evidence of the scale and quality of the shipbuilding undertaken at Kirkcudbright, contradicting the assumption of many people that all locally built vessels were modest coasters engaged in the humble trade of carrying coals and agricultural produce.

Captain Andrew McMaster of Stranraer took command of Rory O’ More in Liverpool in 1842 and made a voyage to Barbados followed by several voyages to Quebec carrying general cargo and passengers. He encountered ice off the Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, by which the Rory O’ More was damaged, causing the pumps to have to be manned continuously for two days. When leaving Montreal in the summer of 1846, the river was found to be so shallow that the yards and topmasts had to be sent down and floated alongside, while cables, chains and other rigging were put into lighters to enable the vessel to traverse Lake St. Peter, with her draft reduced to only nine feet of water. The following year Captain McMaster, again bound for Quebec, ran ashore in dense fog near Métis on the lower St. Lawrence River causing damage that forced him to abandon the vessel. After the cargo had been salvaged Rory O’ More was surveyed, condemned, declared a wreck and sold for £600.

Kirkcudbright ships were reputed to be more heavily built than their Canadian counterparts, and her new owners succeeded in salvaging her, refloating her, and bringing her to harbour in Quebec under sail after the tug that was towing her broke down. She is next heard of being loaded for a voyage to California in pursuit of gold, carrying a large number of passengers in addition to freight such as provisions, tents, frames for wooden houses, mining tools, etc.. She sailed on 13th November 1849 under the command of Captain McNab, rounding Cape Horn and arriving safely at San Francisco after a passage of 159 days.

Between 1850 and 1852 Rory O’ More made several voyages between San Francisco and Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), calling at Tahiti, Pitcairn Island, Sydney, Newcastle (New South Wales), under the command of Captains Brennan, Smart and Gardner. In 1853, she sailed from Sydney for Calcutta on the first of two or three such voyages commanded by Captain Joseph J. Church. On one of these voyages, Captain Church gave a very detailed account of the sighting of a waterspout, and accompanied it by his own sketch of the incident. Crew lists from this period give the names of 12 crewmen and 21 passengers. Of the 12 cabin passengers, six were children, and of the 9 passengers in steerage, one was a child accompanied by her father.

In 1855 Rory O’ More was in London but she soon returned to Australia from where she made frequent voyages between Sydney, Hong Kong, Perth, Singapore and Fremantle. She was sold to Singapore owners in 1863 and the last reference to her that I have found is her sighting by the Glasgow ship Bothwell Castle on 6th January 1866, while on passage from Foochow to Boston.

By a strange coincidence, three of the vessels mentioned in this article, the schooner Prince of Denmark, the barque Rory O’ More and the barque John Tomkinson, were in Tasmanian waters at various times between 1846 and 1856. In addition to the fact that they were all built in Kirkcudbright, they shared extremely good reputations as outstandingly fast vessels. It is gratifying to have finally produced evidence in the form of a fine oil painting confirming that Kirkcudbright’s craftsmen in the mid nineteenth century were building fine, fast and elegant vessels capable of distinguishing themselves in distant and dangerous waters.

Success in finding the painting inspires me to seek further information, so if anyone has in their loft a logbook, a painting or further details of any of the vessels or captains mentioned, I hope they will contact the Galloway News.

“Now Rory leave off sir you’ll hug me no more

That’s eight times today and you’ve kissed me before”

“Then here goes another,” says he, ” to make sure

For there’s luck in odd numbers.” says Rory O’ More.

From Rory OMore by Samuel Lover (1797-1868)

(copyright David R Collin)

(first appeared in Galloway News 2010)