Maree Moore Devitt account

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An Account of the City of Adelaide

The information about the plea to save the ship City of Adelaide was forwarded to me from a 3rd cousin in England. I thought you may be interested to know that the City of Adelaide was the first ship to be built for the Devitt and Moore Line. It was designed for the passenger and cargo trade between London and Adelaide and was launched from the yard of William Pile at Sunderland on May 7th, 1864. Some of the information I am including below, you would already know but there may be some which could be of use to you in the utilization of your admirable 'plea' to save the City of Adelaide.

The Shipping Line Devitt & Moore was founded my an ancestor of my husband (Devitt) and of mine (Moore). Thomas Devitt founded the line with his partner Joshuah (?) Moore, and Thomas and was later knighted, thus becoming Sir Thomas Devitt. He was the founder of Pangbourne Nautical College in the U.K., which became a training college seamen.

Other famous ships owned by the Devitt & Moore Line were the Cutty Sark, the Hesperus (which became a training ship for mid. seamen), the Sobraon, La Hogue, Harbinger, St George, Duke of Athole, Tamar, Rodney, Torrens, Dunbar Castle, Queen of the Thames, South Australian, St Vincent, Pekina, Hawkesbury, Derwent, City of Adelaide, Illawarra, Macquarie, Collingwood, Port Jackson and the Medway. As far back as 1836, Devitt and Moore loaded ships bound for Australia.

Because mention of the Cutty Sark has been made in your article, and because it is the one that has been restored and is at Greenwich/near Pangbourne College, U.K. I thought you may be interested in the information below. Perhaps you can make use of the information on a comparative basis, e.g. pointing out the importance of the old sailing ships, in order to help save the City of Adelaide.

Quotation from the book titled The Colonial Clippers by Basil Lubbock regarding the Devitt and Moore Line.

"The company's ships were amongst the pioneers in the passenger and wool trade of Adelaide in South Australia. These were the days when great races home from Australia took place - not only did ship race against ship, but it was the aim and object of every skipper to get his ship home to the U.K. in time for the first wool sales in London. And in the wool trade, unlike the custom in the tea trade, the fastest ships were loaded last - the pride of place - that of being the last ship to leave an Australasian port for the London wool sales being reserved for that which was considered the fastest ship in the trade. In the eighties, when the tea trade was entirely in the hands of the steamers, this pride of place in Sydney, Australia, was always kept for the famous clipper Cutty Sark; no other ship, either wood or iron built, being able to rival her passages both out and home in the wool trade."

"The Devitt and Moore sailing ship, the Sobraon, who made her first voyage to Australia in 1866, was the biggest and most stately ship on the England-Australian run with a service record second to none. There was no Suez Canal in Sobraon's day so she took the long way round the Cape to England once each year. When she returned to London she was loaded with wheat and wool - her fastest trip was 68 days and it was said of her that she was never passed by any other sailing ship on or off wind."

(This article below, was amongst our family papers and I don't know hold old it is but a photo of it included in the article is dated 1950).

Excerpt taken from 'The Sailing Ships of Devitt & Moore' by Leigh Forebrace: "Five years older than the Cutty Sark, the City of Adelaide is still afloat at Glasgow as H.M.S. Carrick, now the R.N.V.R. Club (Scotland). Her original hull and frames are still in sound condition. She was a composite-built ship with iron frames and teak hull sheathed with copper. Although wooden and iron ships were being built in the 1860's - this decade was the heyday of the composite ships.

Their advantage over wooden ships was that the saving of weight in their construction allowed them to carry a greater deadweight on the same net tonnage. And longer ships giving them greater speeds could be built without increasing their weight to the same extent as in wooden ships. It was also proved that composite ships were tighter.

Although double topsails (lower and upper) had been introduced in 1854, the City of Adelaide was first rigged with the old type of single top-sails similar to those used in ships of the 18th century.

In the 1860's ships carried big crews - at least twice as many men as were carried in the sailing ships of similar size in the 20th century and, as the City of Adelaide was only 791 tons gross, the single topsails with their three rows of reef points for reefing sails were quite manageable.

A full-rigged ship, her dimensions were: length 176 feet 9 inches, breadth 33 feet 2 inches, and depth 18 feet 9 inches. She carried 1,500 tons of cargo, and first and second class passengers as well as emigrants. Always loading a general cargo in London for Adelaide, she usually took a wool cargo from Port Augusta, at the head of the Spencer Gulf, on the homeward run.

Captain E. Alston was her first master and he was followed by Captain David Bruce, whose three sons served their apprenticeship in the ship under their father; one of them, Captain S.J. Bruce, afterwards commanding the City of Adelaide.

Captain David is the best remembered. He has been described as being 'dressed in black broadcloth, straw hat and puggaree, stumping around the deck with a wooden leg'.

In 1867, under the command of David Bruce, she made a fast passage from London to Adelaide - pilot to pilot - of 65 days. This was a record held jointly with the Yatala until it was beaten by the famous Torrens, the full-rigged passenger ship, on the London-Adelaide run, of which Joseph Conrad, the well-known writer of the sea, was at one time first mate.

But the City of Adelaide was not consistently lucky with winds and weather. In 1872 she made a long homeward passage, round Cape Horn, of 140 days from Adelaide to London. An unusual succession of head winds and calms were experienced, and off Cape Horn she found herself becalmed. Instead of steep-to wild seas sweeping to the eastward, hurled by westerly gales of extreme severity, the sea was so subdued that one of the boats was launched and rowed right around the ship.

Mr Sidney Welcose of Adelaide was making the passage home that voyage. Although a small boy, he was allowed to go in the boat, the captain telling him that it was an experience which would be 'one in a million'. His mother and father were then newly married and had gone out to Adelaide in the City of Adelaide on her maiden voyage in 1864, and had returned to London in the same ship with their three children in 1872. On January 30th, 1873, the fourth child - a second son - was born in the ship off the Scilly Isles.

Devitt & Moore's passenger sailing ships could be truthfully called family ships, for families sailed in the same ship many times. Their comfort was specially studied by their masters. Mrs Welcose and her four children returned to Adelaide in the City of Adelaide in 1874. Captain L. Bowden was then in command. It was another unlucky passage. On the way out an epidemic of Scarlet Fever broke out in the emmigrant's accommodation. The surgeon did his best, for he limited the number of deaths to only eight, and prevented the scourge from spreading to the first and second class passengers which, in a ship so small, was a creditable achievement.

The City of Adelaide had left London River on May 25th, 1874, and, three months later, on August 24th, when almost at her destination, was stranded on the Kirkaldy end of Henley Beach about six miles to the southward of Semaphore, which is abreast of Port Adelaide. The St Vincent and Spencer Gulfs were not easy to navigate. Variable winds, and, on occasions, sudden southerly busters, gave many anxious times to the most experienced sailing ship masters.

A dark night and a misleading light, or missing stays on one of her tacks in a head wind, could easily have put the City of Adelaide ashore. The marvel is that she made her passages up and down the two Gulfs and down the two Gulfs, year after year, with only one stranding. It was indeed a credit to her masters.

When she went ashore on August 24th, 1874, she was unable to refloat without assistance and tugs helped to run her anchors out astern so that she could heave herself off the beach. But before this was possible a large part of her cargo had to be discharged into lighters and her topgallant masts and yards were sent down. This work was started on August 28th and the City of Adelaide was refloated on September 4th. The subsequent survey showed no damage to the ship.

The City of Adelaide remained on the London-Adelaide run until she was sold to T. Dixon & Son of Belfast in 1889, when she was cut down to a barque. In this rig she was employed as a timber drogher on the North Atlantic run. Then in 1893, the Southampton Corporation brought her for conversion to an Isolation Hospital, and she was moored in the River Test off Millbrook. This purchase resulted from an outbreak of cholera in 1892. The Corporation paid 1,750 pounds for her, and after keeping her for 30 years, sold her in 1923 to the Admiralty for 2,500 pounds.

Renamed H.M.S. Carrick, she was towed round to Irving in the Firth of Clyde and converted to a training ship for the newly constituted Clyde Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. After conversion she was towed to Greenock and commissioned as a Naval Drill Ship, being opened by the Marquis of Graham - later the Duke of Montrose, in May, 1925. The late Duke of Montrose was one of the founders of the R.N.V.R. and after the First World War became Commanding Officer of the Clyde Division. He had served in Devitt & Moore's full-rigged ship Hesperus as a junior officer in 1899, and celebrated his 21st birthday on May 1st on the homeward passage.

During the Second World War H.M.S. Carrick was used as an accommodation ship, and after the war she was scheduled for breaking up; but through the good work of commodore the Duke of Montrose, Vice-Admiral Cedric S. Holland and Admiral Sir Charles Morgan, she was presented by the Admiralty to the R.N.V.R Club (Scotland), an organisation formed in the autumn of 1947.

The towing of the H.M.S. Carrick upriver, from Greenock to Harland & Wollf's shipyard at Scotstoun on April 26th, 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.

After fitting out, H.M.S. Carrick was towed further up-river to her permanent 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 Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope.

The original figurehead of the City of Adelaide (H.M.S. Carrick), which had been removed when she was moored in the River Test at Southampton, was replaced by the figurehead of the Triad, said to be the last sailing ship to trade between Kirkaldy and the Baltic. It was presented to the Swan family of Kirkaldy. Sir Murray Stephen, Chairman of Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd., Linthouse, Govan, Glasgow, presented the three light alloy masts, each weighing half a ton. Unfortunately it was not possible to rig her with the masts and yards similar to those she carried in her early days on account of the top weight.

In January, 1954, the Clyde Navigation Trust decided to move her to the opposite side of the river at Carlton Place. Her original teak hull and iron frames are still sound after 90 years; a great tribute to her builders."

Hoping this information may in some way be of assistance to you,

best wishes, Maree Moore Devitt


Source: Forwarded to J. Stokes on 22 July 2000 from another subscriber to a maritime news list, written originally by Maree Moore Devitt, descendant of original owners of the City of Adelaide.