City of Adelaide (1864)

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SV City Adelaide Dutton Lithograph.jpg
Clipper Ship, 'City of Adelaide', 1000 tons, David Bruce, Commander. Hand-coloured lithograph by Thomas Dutton, August 1864. Dedicated "To Messrs. Devitt and Moore Owners, Messrs Wm Pile, Hay & Co. Builders & the Officers of the Ship this print is most respectfully dedicated by their obedient servant, Wm. Foster”.
Name: City of Adelaide (1864-1922)
HMS Carrick (1922–1948)
Carrick (1948–2001)
City of Adelaide (since 2001)
Owner: Bruce, Moore, Harrold Bros. & Martin, London (1864–1887)
Charles H Mowll, Dover (1887–1888)
Thomas S Dixon & Son, Belfast (1888–1893)
Southampton Corp. (1893-1922)
Royal Navy (1922–1948)
RNVR Club, Glasgow (1948–1989)
Clyde Ship Trust (1990–1992)
Scottish Maritime Museum (1992-2013)
Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd, Adelaide, S Australia (from 2013)
Operator: Devitt and Moore (1864–1887)
As per owners since 1887
Port of registry: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland London (1864–1888)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Belfast (1888–1893)
 Royal Navy (1922–1948)
Route: London—Plymouth—Adelaide—Port Augusta—London (typical 1864–1887)
Builder: William Pile, Hay & Co
Launched: 7 May 1864
Commissioned: 1923
Decommissioned: 1948
Maiden voyage: 6 August 1864
Out of service: 1893-1922; since 1948
Struck: Removed from register 7 February 1895
Homeport: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland London (1864–1888)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Belfast (1888–93)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Southampton (1893–1895)
England Southampton (1895-1922)
Scotland Glasgow (1948-1992)
Scotland Irvine (1992-2013)
South Australia Port Adelaide (from 2014)
Identification: Code Letters WCLQ
ICS Whiskey.svgICS Charlie.svgICS Lima.svgICS Quebec.svg
UK Official Number 50036
Nickname: The City
Status: Removal to Adelaide, South Australia
Badge: on stern
City of Adelaide Coat of Arms
General characteristics
Class & type: Composite Clipper
Passenger ship (1864–1887)
Collier (1887–1888)
Cargo ship (1888–1893)
Hospital ship (1893-1922)
Training ship (1922–1948)
RNVR Clubrooms (1948–1991)
Museum ship (since 1991)
Displacement: 791 tons
Tons burthen: 1,500 Tons
Length: 244 ft 1 in (74.40 m)
Beam: 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m)
Sail plan: Full rigged ship (1864–1881)
Barque (1881–1893)
Derigged since 1893

The City of Adelaide is a clipper ship, built in Sunderland, England, and launched on 7 May 1864. The ship was commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Carrick between 1923 and 1948 and, after decommissioning, was known as Carrick until 2001. At a conference convened by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 2001, the decision was made to revert the ship's name to City of Adelaide. The ship was formally renamed by The Duke at a ceremony in 2013.

City of Adelaide was built by William Pile, Hay and Co. for transporting passengers and goods between Britain and Australia. Between 1864 and 1887 the ship made 23 annual return voyages from London and Plymouth to Adelaide, South Australia. During this period it played an important part in the immigration of Australia, and on the return voyages carried passengers, wool and copper from Adelaide and Port Augusta to London.

After 1887 the ship carried coal around the British coast, and timber across the Atlantic. In 1893 it became a floating hospital in Southampton, and in 1923 was purchased by the Royal Navy. Converted as a training ship, it was also renamed HMS Carrick to avoid confusion with the newly commissioned HMAS Adelaide. HMS Carrick was based in Scotland until 1948 when it was decommissioned and donated to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Club, and towed into central Glasgow for use as the club's headquarters.

Carrick remained on the River Clyde until 1989 when it was damaged by flooding. In order to safeguard the vessel it was protected as a listed building, but in 1991 it sank at its mooring. Carrick was recovered by the Scottish Maritime Museum the following year, and moved to a private slipway adjacent to the museum's site in Irvine. Restoration work began, but funding ceased in 1999, and from 2000 the future of the ship was in doubt. After being served with an eviction notice by the owners of the slipway, the Scottish Maritime Museum was forced to seek the deconstruction of the ship on more than one occasion, while rescue proposals were developed by groups based in Sunderland and South Australia.

Following a review of options in 2010, the Scottish Government confirmed that the ship would be moved to Adelaide, South Australia, to be preserved as a museum ship. In September 2013 the ship moved by barge from Scotland to the Netherlands to prepare the vessel for transport to Australia. In late November 2013, loaded on the deck of a cargo ship, the City of Adelaide departed Europe bound for Australia, where it is expected to arrive in January 2014.


The City of Adelaide is the world's oldest surviving clipper ship, of only two that survive - the other is the Cutty Sark (built 1869; a tea-clipper in Greenwich). With the Cutty Sark and HMS Gannet (built 1878; a Sloop-of-war in Chatham), the City of Adelaide is one of only three surviving ocean-going ships of composite construction to survive.[1] [note 1]

The City of Adelaide is one of three surviving sailing ships, and the only of these a passenger ship, to have taken emigrants from the British Isles (the other two are the Edwin Fox and the Star of India).[note 2] The City of Adelaide is the only surviving purpose-built passenger sailing ship,[3]

Adding to its significance as an emigrant ship, the City of Adelaide is the last survivor of the timber trade between North America and the United Kingdom. As this trade peaked at the same time as conflicts in Europe, a great mass of refugees sought cheap passage on the timber-trade ships, that would otherwise be returning empty, creating an unprecedented influx of new immigrants in North America.

Having been built in the years prior to Lloyd's Register publishing their rules for composite ships, the City of Adelaide is an important example in the development of Naval Architecture.[3][4]

The UK's Advisory Committee on National Historic Ships describes the significance of the City of Adelaide in these terms:[1]

She highlights the early fast passenger-carrying and general cargo trade to the Antipodes. Her composite construction illustrates technical development in 19th shipbuilding techniques and scientific progress in metallurgy and her self-reefing top sails demonstrate the beginnings of modern labour saving technologies. Her service on the London to Adelaide route between 1864 and 1888 gives her an unrivalled associate status as one of the ships contributing to the growth of the Australian nation.

In recognition of its significance, until departing the United Kingdom in 2013, the City of Adelaide was an A-listed structure in Scotland, part of the National Historic Fleet of the United Kingdom, and listed in the Core Collection of the United Kingdom.[1]


Midship Section of a Composite Ship, by Henri Paasch, 1885

The City of Adelaide was designed to carry both passengers and cargo between England and Australia. Cabins could accommodate first-class and second-class passengers, and the hold could be fitted out for carrying steerage-class emigrants when needed.

The City of Adelaide is of composite construction with timber planking on a wrought-iron frame. This method of construction provides the structural strength of an iron ship combined with the insulation of a timber hull. Unlike iron ships, where copper would cause corrosion in contact with the iron, the timber bottoms of composite ships could be sheathed with copper to prevent fouling. The iron frames meant that composite ships could carry large amounts of canvas sail. Composite ships were therefore some of the fastest ships afloat.

Composite ships were built in the relatively short period from c. 1860 to 1880. The City of Adelaide was built in 1864 before Lloyd's Register recognised and endorsed composite ships in 1867. Before this, all composite ships were labelled by Lloyds as being "Experimental".[4] Being a developmental technology in 1864 meant that many of the structural features on the City of Adelaide are now regarded as being 'over-engineered', particularly when compared to other later composite ships like the Cutty Sark (1869). For example, the frame spacing on the City of Adelaide is much closer together than seen on other composite ships. This extra strength from 'over-engineering', together with the good fate to have benefited from human habitation and/or husbandry through to the late 1990s, has likely been a major factor why the City of Adelaide has survived, even after being grounded on Kirkcaldy Beach in South Australia for a week in 1874 - see below.

Captain David Bruce, first master and quarter-owner

Service history


After having gained much experience on the London to Adelaide run with his ship the Irene, Captain David Bruce had the City of Adelaide built expressly for the South Australia trade.[5] The order for the ship was given to William Pile, Hay and Company of Sunderland and it was launched on 7 May 1864.[6] Captain Bruce took a quarter-share ownership.[7]

The City of Adelaide is frequently referred to as being owned by the British shipping firm Devitt and Moore, but they were only the managing agents in London. Partner Joseph Moore snr. was a syndicate member, holding a quarter-share in the ship.[8]

The remaining two quarter-shares were taken up by South Australian interests - Harrold Brothers[9] who were the agents in Adelaide, and Henry Martin,[10] the working proprietor of the Yudnamutana and Blinman copper mines in the Flinders Ranges.

'City of Adelaide' stranded on Kirkcaldy Beach in South Australia, in August 1874.
Historic copper smelters of Yudnamutana (1910).

The South Australian Trade - 1864-1887

The ship spent 23 years making annual runs to and from South Australia, playing an important role in the development of the colony. Researchers have estimated that a quarter of a million South Australians can trace their origins to passengers on the City of Adelaide.[11]

At least six diaries kept by passengers describing voyages have survived from the 23 return voyages between London and Adelaide.[12]

On 24 August 1874, the ship was stranded on Kirkcaldy Beach near Grange, six miles south of Semaphore near Adelaide. On board at the time were over 320 people, including one of the diarists, a Scot named James McLauchlan. An outbreak of scarlet fever had occurred during the voyage and seven people died. Two babies were born on board during the voyage - one was "born dead".[13]

Upon reaching South Australian waters at the end of this voyage, severe gales were encountered resulting in the stranding of the City of Adelaide. The storms also caused accidents and losses of other vessels along the South Australian coast. The schooner Mayflower, on its way from Port Broughton to Port Adelaide, lost its mate Richard Burton, 32, overboard and he drowned: he was on his way to Port Adelaide to meet his wife, Isabella, 29, who was one of the immigrants on board the City of Adelaide.[14]

Amongst the cargo on this voyage were two Scottish deerhounds, bred by the Marquis of Lorne, John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll, and being imported by Sir Thomas Elder.[15]

A day after the stranding the passengers were removed by steam tugs. The City of Adelaide was refloated on 4 September after much of the cargo had been discharged and much of the rigging temporarily removed. The ship was virtually undamaged.

By the 1880s, the City of Adelaide was also calling at Port Augusta, South Australia on return voyages. At Port Augusta, copper from Henry Martin's Blinman and Yudnamutana copper mines in the Flinders Ranges and wool from outback sheep stations was loaded before racing to the wool sales in London.

During this time, in 1881, the ship was rerigged as a barque.

Route of 1874 Voyage

The following map traces the route of the 1874 voyage from the latitudes and longitudes provided in the diary of James McLauchlan.[13]

Voyage of the 'City of Adelaide' from London to Adelaide in 1874.
30 May
6 June
18 June
21 June
6 July
15 July
16 July
21 July
26 July
29 July
24 August
Voyage of the 'City of Adelaide' from London to Adelaide in 1874 from the Diary of James McLauchlan. Positions of deaths (red) are approximate.

Notable Passengers

First Class cabins of 'City of Adelaide', c1894

Coal Trade - 1887-1888

In 1887, City of Adelaide was sold to Dover coal merchant, Charles Havelock Mowll, for use in the collier trade carrying coal from the Tyne to Dover.

Timber Trade - 1888-1893

Butting square timber, Quebec City, QC, 1872.

In 1888, the City of Adelaide was sold to Belfast-based timber merchants Daniel and Thomas Stewart Dixon, and was used to carry timber in the North American timber trade.

By the start of the 18th century, Britain had exhausted its supplies of the great oaks that had built the Royal Navy]. The lack of large trees was problematic as they were a necessity for masts for both war and merchant shipping. A thriving timber import business developed between Britain and the Baltic region but was unpopular for economic and strategic reasons[17] The Napoleonic Wars and a Continental blockade had a large impact on the Baltic trade and so Britain looked to the North American colonies that were still loyal.

The North Atlantic timber trade became a massive business and timber was British North America's most important commodity. In one summer, 1,200 ships were loaded with timber at Quebec City alone.

As timber is a very bulky cargo, it required many ships to carry it from North America to Britain, but there was little demand for carrying goods on the return voyages. However, there was a market for carrying migrants, so many of the timber ships turned to the migrant trade to fill their unused capacity. Since timber exports tended to peak at the same time as conflicts in Europe, a great mass of refugees sought cheap passage across the Atlantic. This created an unprecedented influx of new immigrants in North America.

The timber trade not only brought immigrants to British North America but also played a very important role in keeping them there. While many of those disembarking from the timber- trade ships headed south to the United States, many stayed in British North America. At the peak of the trade in the 1840s, 15,000 Irish loggers were employed in the Gatineau region alone at a time when the population of Montreal was only 10,000.

The City of Adelaide was home-ported in Belfast and from there frequented several British North American ports, most frequently Miramichi, New Brunswick.

Of the thousands of sailing ships involved in the timber trade between North America and the United Kingdom, the City of Adelaide is the last survivor.

Hospital Ship 1893-1922

The 'City of Adelaide' as an Isolation Hospital off Millbrook, c1894.
A hospital ward on 'City of Adelaide' when being used as a hospital ship off Millbrook, c1894

The City of Adelaide ended its sailing career in 1893, when purchased by Southampton Corporation for £1750 to serve as a floating isolation hospital. During one year of operation, 23 cases of scarlet fever were cared for. In 2009, the National Health Service (England) named a new hospital at Millbrook, Southampton, in honour of the ship - the Adelaide Health Centre.[18]

Royal Navy & Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve - 1922-1948

In 1923, the City of Adelaide was purchased by the Admiralty and towed to Irvine, Scotland, where it was placed on the same slipway that it was to return to in 1992. After conversion to a training ship, it was towed to Greenock and commissioned as a Naval Drill Ship for the newly constituted Clyde Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).[19] As the new cruiser HMAS Adelaide had been commissioned only the previous year, to avoid confusion of two British Empire ships named Adelaide the clipper was renamed HMS Carrick.[20]

R.N.V.R. Club (Scotland) - 1948-1990

After the war the ship was scheduled for breaking up, but through the work of Commodore the Duke of Montrose, Vice-Admiral Cedric S. Holland and Admiral Sir Charles Morgan, it was presented by the Admiralty to the R.N.V.R. Club (Scotland), an organisation formed in the autumn of 1947. The towing of HMS Carrick upriver from Greenock to Harland and Wolff's shipyard at Scotstoun on 26 April 1948, was known as 'Operation Ararat'. A grant of 5,000 pounds was received from the King George's Fund for Sailors and 500 pounds was donated from the City of Glasgow War Fund.[19]

After fitting out, Carrick was towed further up-river to a berth at Custom House Quay, just above Jamaica Bridge. A plaque on board commemorates the opening ceremony of the Club, which was carried out by Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope. The ship stayed there until January 1954 when the Clyde Navigation Trust decided to move it to the opposite side of the river at Carlton Place.[19]

The City of Adelaide sank in Princes Dock, Glasgow, in 1991 under mysterious circumstances. Photo by SMM.

By the mid-1980s the Club realised that it could not afford to maintain its floating clubrooms. It commenced seeking ways of securing the ship's future and passing on ownership, and contacted various bodies with potential interest including the then recently established Scottish Maritime Museum.

Museum Ship - 1990 to Present

Clyde Ship Trust

In 1989 there proved to be some need for haste, when the ship was flooded when the deck edge was trapped beneath the wharf on a very low tide. The Club in some desperation took the option on its insurance of having the vessel declared a total loss. To facilitate the preservation of the ship, Glasgow District Council applied for Listed Building status. Historic Scotland agreed to take the unusual step of listing a historic vessel as Category A – normally only applied to historic buildings. Listing was viewed as a boost to the preservation project.

By 1990 a new body, the Clyde Ship Trust, had been formed and, in March of that year, had purchased the vessel for £1. Under the control of the new Trust the vessel was dismasted and prepared for removal and in August 1990, was towed downstream to Princes Dock.

Early in 1991, for reasons that have not been clearly identified, the vessel sank at its moorings. The Clyde Ship Trust was placed in a position of embarrassment, for, being already in debt, it was unable to put forward the funds required for a major salvage operation. It became necessary for other organisations to step in to attempt to prevent the total loss of the ship.

City of Adelaide being raised at Govan in 1992, SMM.
The City of Adelaide was salvaged by the Scottish Maritime Museum in 1992 and towed to Irvine. Photo by SMM.

Scottish Maritime Museum

In 1992, with the encouragement of Historic Scotland and Scottish Enterprise, who provided the bulk of the £500,000 required to fund the rescue, the ship was salvaged by the Scottish Maritime Museum and moved to Irvine, North Ayrshire, with the expectation to preserve and eventually restore the vessel.[21] The ship was identified as part of the UK National Historic Ships Core Collection.[22]

In September 1993 the City of Adelaide was slipped on the same slipway near the Scottish Maritime Museum that it had been converted in 1923. From then a programme of work was planned and operated on two fronts: preservation and restoration; and to allow public access and good quality interpretation.

Work continued until 1999 when Scotland regained its own parliament, UK funding sources for the Scottish Maritime Museum dried up. The museum was subsequently evicted from the slipway site, placing the museum under great pressure to remove the City of Adelaide and the museum began to seek alternative options for the clipper.

Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd. (CSCOAL)

The ownership of the vessel transferred from the Scottish Maritime Museum to Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd. (CSCOAL) on 6 September 2013.[23]


  1. The wreck of the composite clipper Ambassador (1869), a beached skeleton, also rests on a beach in Strait of Magellan, near Estancia San Gregorio, Chile.[2]
  2. The SS Great Britain a sail-steamship also carried migrants from the British Isles.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "City of Adelaide". National Register of Historic Vessels. National Historic Ships. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  2. "Chile - Magellan Strait - wreck of clipper Ambassador near Estancia San Gergorio". Flickr. 1 February 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "World Significance". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Roberts, Peter (2010). "Composite Clippers". The Royal Institution of Naval Architects 1860-2010 (Royal Institution of Naval Architects): 84. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  5. "SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE.". South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 8 November 1864. p. 2. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  6. "1864 Conception". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  7. "Capt. David Bruce". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  8. "Devitt and Moore". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  9. "Harrold Brothers". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  10. "Henry Martin". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  11. "1/4 Million Descendants". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  12. "Diary Transcripts". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Diary of James Anderson McLauchlan". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  14. "TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1874.". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia). 8 September 1874. p. 5. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  15. "VIII.—AGRICULTURAL.". The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858-1889) (Adelaide, SA: National Library of Australia). 10 September 1874. p. 5. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  16. "Diary of Frederick Bullock". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  17. Tim Ball, "Timber!", Beaver, April 987, Vol. 67#2 pp 45-56
  18. "Welcome to the Adelaide Health Centre" (Press release). National Health Service. 30 June 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Account of Maree Moore". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  20. "Renaming Ceremony - Greenwich - 18 October 2013". City of Adelaide - the Splendid Clipper Ship. CSCOAL. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  21. "City of Adelaide". Scottish Maritime Museum. Retrieved 15 July 2010. [dead link]
  22. "City of Adelaide". National Register of Historic Vessels. National Historic Ships. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  23. "City of Adelaide clipper handed to Australian owners". BBC News. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 

External links