A Thoroughbred of a Ship


The early history of the James Craig, née Clan MacLeod

Part I

The first owner

Museum member David Wenban begins the first of three articles on the early history of the beautiful barque James Craig. He begins with matters leading up to her launching in 1874 and ends about 1900 describing the period when the ship was in her hey-day.

Most of the information in this article was supplied by Sir Thomas Dunlop Bt., who passed away towards the end of 1999. He was a great grandson of Thomas Dunlop, the founder of Thomas Dunlop & Sons, Shipowners, who commissioned construction of our vessel in 1873. Further information comes from other sources, including the Scottish Clan Macleod Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 65, 1987 and written by Harold Macleod, past President of NSW and Queensland branches of that clan.

The Scots were sailors long before steam was thought of and most came from Glasgow, the Hebrides, the west coast of Scotland or the Shetlands. This suggests that their call to the sea originated in the predominance of Scandinavian blood in the veins of their ancestors.

For many decades Glasgow was one of Scotland’s busiest seaports and was home to many shipyards. In Old Monkland Parish of this city of 17 April,1831, Thomas Dunlop was born. He was the first of a family of three and both his parents, William Dunlop and Mary Anne Stirling had died by the time Thomas was ten years of age.

From the letters he wrote we can deduce something of the character of Thomas Dunlop. He seemed to have been God-fearing, temperate and a man with the utmost respect for the importance of family life. In a letter to an acquaintance in 1870, he briefly sketched out his own background.

“I was left without father or mother at ten years of age and my friends left me to fight my own battles. I can tell you I often wished I had mother to tell my troubles to. I daresay the want of a home caused me to get married so soon – at twenty one – which has been a blessing to me. My wife is a good motherly little woman and you would like her if you knew her.”

This “motherly” little woman was Robina Jack who Thomas married in 1852. A year earlier, at 231 Cowcaddens, Glasgow, young Thomas Dunlop, a grocer’s son began as a provisions merchant, to subsequently found the firm of Thomas Dunlop & Sons.

In 1851 the Cowcaddens was struggling towards pretension as an important city thoroughfare. It was narrow and congested, echoing to the rumble of Menzies’ tartan horse buses as they rattled over the stone paving, and to the cries of vendors pushing barrows or driving carts. Pride and poverty mingled as pinched-faced women in shawls haggled over purchases and elegant women gathered their voluminous skirts in ripples of silk as they passed in their private carriages.

Here and there a carter swore at his horse and exchanged banalities with his mates; a whiskered businessman in a top hat, dark coat and shepherd-tartan trousers paused to take a pinch of snuff, and smart little boys from the High School nervously eyed the bare-footed, ragged urchins following with mimicry in their wake.

A few minutes’ walk from the Dunlop shop the young couple set up house, in a middle class dwelling, at 20 Buccleuch Street, no doubt typical with its lace curtains, venetian blinds, antimacassars, elaborate gas chandeliers and horse-tail sofas.

It says much for Thomas Dunlop’s enterprise that without the experience and wisdom of his father to guide him he quickly made a success of his first commercial venture. So rapid was his success that within a few years he moved to larger premises as grain merchant at 249 Argyle Street, and celebrated his improved commercial position by moving his home away from the madding crowds to the select western fringes of the city at 2 Great Kelvin Terrace, Hillhead.

With his brother-in-law, James Jack, admitted as partner, he looked for wider spheres to conquer and dreamed of owning a fleet of sailing vessels to carry his commerce across the oceans of the world. Thus, 1868 he traveled to London with his friend John Neil, biscuit manufacturer, and for the considerable sum of 2,800 Pounds they bought the wooden barque Wye, a vessel of 334 tons.

Thomas wrote to another brother-in-law, Captain William Jack, that the “Wye is a nice little barque (sic)…She requires no ballast to shift and carries 550 tons deadweight. She sails fast in light winds and I think will do well for us.”

Although circumstances forced Thomas Dunlop to be self-reliant from childhood and perhaps accelerated his business success, his self reliance was always tempered by his faith in his God. He was a strict Sabbatarian and amidst a host of practical instruction to the first captain on the Wye he wrote in October,1868. “I hope you will do no unnecessary work on the Lord’s Day. I have never seen much peace or prosperity where this has been neglected.”

Dunlop’s education was not bookish, but learned in the hard school of experience. Often he depended on those whom he assumed to know better than he did for information concerning world affairs. For example, although he had not visited America, he spoke of it with the authority of one who knew the country well. Writing to Captain Dunlop, master of the Wye, in 1869, he remarked: “Should you charter from New York be sure to get put into your charter party ‘freight to be paid in gold.’ And as there is a very bad lot in New York you would require to have all your wisdom about you.”

Perhaps this impression of New Yorkers persisted throughout Thomas’ life; initially it was well founded, but other early impressions of foreign places he learned to amend. Such an amendment as the following makes amusing reading now although to Thomas Dunlop, shipowner, it was a matter of considerable importance.

Writing again to Captain Dunlop, he said: “I find I made a very grave mistake in the letter I wrote you by last mail. I stated that if we go into war with France that you would be going into the lion’s den by going to Mauritius. Observe my mistake. I thought then that it belonged to France and only found out this morning that Mauritius belongs to Britain.”

From one small wooden barque, the Wye, the fleet changed with changes in shipping construction, remaining small but keeping abreast of the times. Tramp shipowning required a high degree of personal attention, and for this reason the small fleet, usually kept close under the eye of the management as far as employment was concerned, was typical British shipping. The tramp owner could do little to affect the circumstances in which he traded; he could not restrict competition as liners can, nor was able to fix the rates at which he offered his ship. In swiftly-changing markets, only an organisation capable of making immediate changes itself could survive. This demand for flexibility reflected itself in the kind of enterprise which managed tramp ships, usually a collection of small separate companies owning perhaps only one ship, but all brought together under one holding for financial purposes. With changing market forms, and particularly the difficulties of collecting enough money to buy new, larger and costlier ships, the Dunlop company had, in later years, new problems to deal with.

Returning to the firm’s early history, Thomas Dunlop, while still managing the Wye, added flour importing to his grain merchant business. As he became a leading flour importer he moved his premises to the city’s commercial hub in the Corner Exchange (now demolished) at 81 Hope Street, just around the corner from Central Station. In this period Thomas Dunlop was a parishioner of Dr. Norman Macleod and worshipped in the family pew in the old Barony Church, Glasgow.

Within the next six years Wye was sold (1872) and three other barques were purchased jointly by Dunlop, Neil and Reid (Neil’s partner in biscuit manufacturing). They were Marion Neil (1871), Andrew Reid (1872) and the Robina Dunlop which was launched prior to the Clan Macleod in the same year, 1874.

As the Dunlop business flourished, his family grew to nine children – five boys and four girls, although three of the boys died in childhood.

In 1873, Thomas Dunlop placed an order with the firm of Bartram Haswell & Co. of Sunderland, in the northeast of England to build a barque which was to become the first ship of the Clan Line.

Although the Clan system of life was nowhere more prominent than on the west coast and highlands and there were a great number of Clans, relatively few achieved the distinction of having a vessel named after them. One that did, however, was the Clan Macleod after which this first Clan Line ship was named. Subsequently the Dunlop “Clans” were to form an impressive fleet of 10 sailing ships and one steamship.

Unlike the Robina Dunlop which was of wooden construction and somewhat smaller the new Clan Macleod was to be constructed of iron. She was to have a length of 179 feet 5 inches below her main deck.

In the following year, the vessel known only as Yard No. 75 during construction, was launched on 18 February, 1874, and was christened by Mrs. McMacallum. In that year Thomas Dunlop’s eldest son Thomas (junior) entered the firm and in 1879 he and his brother Robert, were made partners. James Jack then retired from the firm. The creation of the new name, Thomas Dunlop & Sons, ended the first chapter in the history of the firm and marked the beginning of a new and still more prosperous period in its history.

Thomas Dunlop was just 61 when he died on 30 January 1893. He entered the business world as a provisions merchant, a mere nonentity in Glasgow’s business life, but he left it as an important trader and the founder of the firm of Thomas Dunlop & Sons, grain merchants and ship owners.



Part II

The Builders

In the previous article David Wenban dealt with the background of the original owner of the Clan MacLeod. Now he profiles her builders, Bartram Haswell & Co. of Sunderland and their construction of the 1873 barque.

The material comes from many sources, but mainly from John Lingwood, a former employee of Austin & Pickersgill – the firm that combined with Bartrams in 1968, and from Christopher Bartram, a direct descendant of one of the original builders.

Our family history of the Bartrams start from 1797 when a Thomas Bartram married Mary Lister of Durham and had a son, George Bartram who was born on12 September 1800. George, first of the shipbuilding Bartrams was orphaned fairly early in life, but at the age of 11 began an apprenticeship, with the consent of his parents, lasting seven years, with W & J Gales (shipbuilders) of Hylton, County of Durham.

The Indenture between George Bartram and firm states among other things that: “the said apprentice his Masters well and faithfully serve, their secrets keep, ….Fornication or Adultery shall not commit …. Taverns or Ale houses he shall not haunt or frequent shall not play ….. Matrimony with any woman ….. etc.”

In return the apprentice would be: “taught, learned and informed in the Art Trade or Business of a Ship Carpenter,” paying up to …..”Nine shillings a week for the seventh and last year ….”

On completion of his apprenticeship, George went to sea and after returning to the River Wear area worked from 1822 to 1831 as foreman (or manager) for a Mr Dryden who built ships at Biddick Ford near Hylton. In 1828 he was in partnership with J.M. Gates and, was later associated with Robert Reay, known at Hylton, as “Squire Reay”.

George Bartram married Margaret Appleby in 1834 and in 1835 had a son Robert Appleby Bartram. Sadly, eight other following children died.

In 1837 George started as Master Builder with John Lister who has been trained to draft and lay out a ship by Robert Thompson Snr. It was on 14 January 1838, that the keel of the first ship as built by the partnership of George Bartram and John Lister was laid, or “ramed” as it was called in those days. On 7 July 1838 their first ship, the Crown was launched for William Thompson, baker, of Monkwearmouth. From that first ship, which carried a cargo described as “of 16 keels”, they made a profit of 77 pounds after paying for wages for carpenters, sawyers, joiners, blacksmiths and painter, which meant that the six months’ work brought the partners in about 30 shillings each per week. Four days after the launching of the Crown, the keel of the second ship as laid. She was named City of Rochester and her owners were Benjamin Grainger of Whitby and William Hayman of Rochester.

George Bartram took great pride in his work and wrote accounts of those early launches in a most methodical manner, for example:
“She glided down the ways into her destined element.” Sometimes she went off “like a shot” and usually, “a goodly company was present.”

During this partnership, Georges’s son, Robert Appleby Bartram, was receiving and education and later served his time with his father, acquiring a through and practical knowledge of wooden shipbuilding. The partnership lasted 17 years and nearly 40 ships were launched, comprising barques, schooners, snows, brigs and brigantines. Of these, only one – John and Mary – exceeded 400 gross tons. She was noteworthy in 1851 as being Bartram’s first ship to exceed 100 feet in length (keel?). The John and Mary carried a three quarter male figurehead. She was sold to John Patten of Ouseburn Pottery, Newcastle.

After the partnership was dissolved in 1854, George Bartram was working on his own at South Hylton by 1855. About this time George’s son married Ann Naisby and subsequently fathered two sons, George and William Naisby Bartram. A daughter or daughters are mentioned. In 1865 the name of the firm was given as “George Bartram & Son.”

Up-river building in their South Hylton yard must have been worrying in winter time. It was recorded in January 1864 that the brig Charante of 340 tons was ready to leave the ways at Bartrams but, owing to the river being frozen, the launch had to be postponed for nearly a week.

After business was transferred to a new site downstream at the South Dock, Sunderland in 1871, George Bartam retired and eventually died on 19 August 1891, at the ripe old age of 91, being the oldest shipbuilder in the country. Following the business transfer to the South Dock, Robert Bartram formed a partnership with George Haswell, son of John Haswell, the firm being styled Bartram, Haswell & Co.. George Haswell had been connected with that Sunderland shipbuilding genius, William Pile for a number of years and with his father John Haswell, had been building iron ships since 1866.

Perhaps we might now look at the background of the Haswells who had been building on the Wear for a considerable time. John, father of George Haswell, began shipbuilding in 1837, the same year that George Bartram took over the site at Hylton. At 25 his first venture was formation of a partnership between himself and seven or eight other shipwrights. They commenced building at Hylton.

It was a remarkable partnership and well illustrates that labour is capital. Having very little money between them they were able to employ workmen, therefore the firm was the workmen and the workmen were the Masters. In summer they began at 4 am and continued for 15 hours. In winter they started at 6 am and finished at 6 pm. The partnership was short-lived and after it was dissolved, John Haswell, restarted with two other men.

This arrangement continued until 1850 when Haswell began to build on his own account. He must have been successful because he did not retire from shipbuilding and go into ship owning until 1870. The Hylton yard was closed in the 1850s as the size of ships increased, and John Haswell transferred his activities to Arye’s Quay, where he launched many fine ships. Several vessels were built during the 1850s for John Hay’s Sunderland fleet and there were a number of coastal brigs and schooners.

Perhaps the best connection was with the world-famed Blackwell firm of Green & Co. for which Haswell built several high class ships. Towards the end of his shipbuilding career, he opened the yard at South Docks for the building of iron ships. He remained only a short time on the new site and at the age of 68 collapsed while witnessing the launch of one of his son’s ships at the Bartram, Haswell yard. He was taken to his home in West Sunnyside and died there that evening.

Returning to the start of Bartram Haswell & Co. in 1871; the new firm went straight into shipbuilding an on 6 June 1872 launched its first ship, the steamer Ardmore for Liverpool owners.

The era of the sailing ship was by no means over the firm built some very fine barques and full-rigged ships. Several were built for Hine Brothers of Maryport, a firm which traded their ships at Adelaide, Brisbane and Tasmania. A barque named Mercia was the last of her class from the South Docks shipyard. Between 1874 and 1876 Bartram Haswell & Co. launched nine sailings ships, including our own Clan MacLeod described as a “smart iron barque”.

George Haswell retired in 1889 and 1890, Mr R.A. Bartram’s elder sons George & William joined the firm which then took on the title of Bartram & Sons.

During her construction the Clan MacLeod had many surveys leading to her 100A1 classifaction at Lloyds of London. The first was on 7 October 1873 and the last on 18 March 1874, four weeks after she was launched and christened. The survey report No. 12470 states: ” The plating is well wrought (& although a little rough, the workmanship is generally sound); the vessel is a sister ship of the Cumbria report No. 10787, and is constructed with a raised quarter deck about 35 feet in length, for the accommodation of the Captain and Chief Officer; two pairs of diagonal plates are fitted upon the Hold Beams in the way of the Fore and Mainmast Partners.

The report also states that the Standing and Running Rigging is of “wire & hemp”. The vessel’s official No. was 68086 and she carried 11,500 square feet of sail and cost 11,375 pounds to build.

Clan MacLeod‘s first master was William Alexander and typically she carried a crew of 17 being Master, Mate, 2nd Mate, Cook/Steward, Cabin Boy housed aft under raised quarterdeck, and 12 seaman-housed forward in a small deckhouse, and no passengers.

Robert Appleby Bartram was very active in public affairs and greatly interested in education. In the 1870s he became a member of the School Board at Hylton, and was chairman for nine years. About 1880 he was on the Sunderland School Board and was later a co-opted member of the Sunderland Education Authority. He gave many gifts to charity, as well as 10,000 guineas to Town Council for the establishment of technical scholarships.

Bartram support also went to many social welfare causes such as Sunderland Royal Infirmary, the Town and Police Court Mission, Northern Society for Granting Annuities to Governesses and various temperance societies of the town. He was also a magistrate for the Borough.

From the time Bartram came to Sunderland he was active in St. George’s Presbyterian Church and fostered interest in Sunday School work and in working among the young. In 1921 Bartram received a Knighthood and died in 1925 during his 91st Year, as the oldest shipbuilder in the country, a distinction which had also belonged to his father.

Part III

This is the third and final article on the early history of our ship, the first being on her original owner and the second being on her builders. Here I describe her launching and aspects of her history until 1900.

Two days after her launching on 18 February 1874, the Sunderland Times reported: “On Wednesday afternoon, Messrs. Bartram Haswell & Co. launched from their yard, an iron sailing vessel for Messrs. Dunlop, partners, of Glasgow. Dimensions:- Length 180; depth 17.9; breadth 31 feet; and classed 100 A1 at Lloyds. The vessel is fitted with all the latest improvements in the trade. The cabin is beautifully decorated and provided with roomy apartments for the captain and officers, and a second cabin, suitably furnished for the crew. As the vessel left the ways she was christened by Mrs. Macallum of Glasgow, and named Clan Macleod. This is the second sailing vessel launched by this firm this year, and the trade generally shows a decided increase of orders in this district for sailing vessels.”

Mrs. McCullum was the only woman who advanced money for the building of the ship. The original shareholdings were:

•    30 March 1874 Thomas Dunlop, Glasgow, shipowner, 64 shares.

Thomas Dunlop then sold shares as follows:

•    16 April 1874 eight to John Thompson, baker and 12 to Andrew Reid, Glasgow, biscuit manufacturer.
•    17 April 1874 four to Charles Ferguson, Greenoch, grocer.
•    18 April 1874 eight to Samuel Wilson, Glasgow, glass manufacturer.
•    22 April 1874 eight to John Dickson, Glasgow, baker.
•    24 April 1874 four to Alexander Scott, Glasgow, bookkeeper and four to Mary Boyd McCullum, widow.

Whilst named after the Macleod Clan evidently our vessel was specifically named in honour of the Rev. Norman Macleod, DD., Minister of Barony Parish, Glasgow, who died on 16 June 1872. Thomas Dunlop worshipped in the family pew of his old Barony Church, was a strict Sabbatarian and had a strong faith in God. He knew the Rev. Norman Macleod very well and two letters from the shipowner to his minister survive in a letter book and related to Dunlop recommending an assistant minister for Dr. Macleod.

Norman Macleod was born on 3 June 1812, and after completing a university education was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in May 1837. Subsequently he was transferred to the Barony, Glasgow on the 17 July 1851. On 11 August he married Catherine Anne MacKintosh. They were to have three sons and six daughters.

The Rev. Norman Macleod was honoured by a doctorate of divinity in 1858. His brother, the Rev. Donald Macleod, DD. noted that in about 1862-63 Norman’s theological views were gradually expanding into a more spiritual and living apprehension of the purpose of God in Christ. The subject of the atonement of Christ much engrossed his thoughts and although he had long been familiar with his cousin’s view on that subject, he now found in them new meaning and adopted them more fully.

He was at the time preparing the Old Lieutenant for republication, it being his first serious attempt at writing fiction, and in a letter to J.M. Ludlow, Esq. he maintains the book.

“… is a picture of real life. And the critic says I don’t know the sea! I wish I met him on some deck. The funny thing is that the Examiner of Sea Captains in Liverpool was so astonished at my knowledge of the sea that he begged to know how I got it, or if a seaman had written the sea parts for me. If I know anything, I know about a ship.”

At the funeral of Rev. Norman Macleod in 1872, behind the hearse and mourning relatives, there followed long line of nearly 3000 people of all classes of the community. This demonstration of respect was the more gratifying as it was entirely spontaneous. The great procession was watched along the whole route by a vast multitude featuring a large proportion of working men and of the poor, who came to pay honour to the memory of Norman Macleod.

Three immortelles were placed on the coffin prior to burial, the first was inscribed “A token of respect and friendship from Queen Victoria.” The others were from Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice.

Under the ownership of Thomas Dunlop & Sons Clan MacLeod made 11 voyagers between 1874 until 1887. On her maiden voyage loaded with coal, she sailed on 6 April, 1874 with Captain William Alexander as Master and with a complement of 17 which include his wife and three apprentices.

Running short of fresh water rounding Cape Horn, she made an unscheduled stop at Rio de Janiero. Having discharged the coal in Callao, Peru, she proceeded to Portland, Oregon and loaded wheat and flour for the United Kingdom. The master’s wife gave birth to a son on 29 November and he was named William Macleod Alexander in honour of his birthplace. The return voyage across the Atlantic took a protracted 171 days and Clan MacLeod finally anchored in the Humber on 10 July 1875. Before berthing she parted her anchor cable and grounded on a sandbank but came off without help and was towed into dock.

Clan MacLeod first reached Australian waters in January 1877 on her third voyage but ran her easting down below Tasmania to call at Dunedin in New Zealand. Unfortunately this passage saw the mate, William Morris aged 24 of Glasgow, washed overboard and drowned. Returning to the United Kingdom she again put into Rio de Janiero after suffering severe damage around Cape Horn. The rudder was loosened, her long boat and some spars washed away, her hatches were burst and the grain cargo was overheating. Some cargo was discharged to lessen the risk of fire breaking out but it was over a month before she finally sailed for Liverpool.

Our ship finally reached an Australian port, Brisbane, on 9 August 1879 and later that year made a quick passage of 113 days from Portland, Oregon to Queenstown, Ireland. In 1881 she made another fine passage, of 28 days from Kobe, Japan to Astoria, Portland, USA.

In 1888 Clan MacLeod visited New Zealand, having in the intervening time been used as a “shopping basket”, sailing across every ocean and carrying almost every kind of cargo.

The ungainly steamship was, however, beginning to make inroads into the windjammer trade and in 1883 Thomas Dunlop took delivery of the Clan Davidson, the company’s first steamer. In 1887, Clan MacLeod was sold to the shipbuilders Russell & Co. of Glasgow in part payment for a much larger sailing ship built by this company. Since 1874 the size of the Clan ships had grown some fourfold.

Russell & Co. quickly resold Clan MacLeod to Sir Roderick W. Cameron, a Canadian living in New York. She joined his Pioneer Line of sailing ships in the trade between the east coast of the United States and Australia/New Zealand with occasional trading to the UK. At that time many sailing vessels were similarly employed, most being barques and barquentines, similar to Clan MacLeod. Cargoes outward included paper, crockery, glassware, machines and tobacco as well as cased kerosene, wool, flax and Kauri gum on the homeward leg. Coincidentally, Captain A.D. Mcleod of St. George’s, New Brunswick, Canada, took over as master in May 1888.

In 1891 she made an excellent passage of 75 days from Wellington to Boston. Each voyage entailed a world circumnavigation outward via the Cape of Good Hope and homewards via Cape Horn. With the ship’s complement now reduced to 12 there were many desertions. Handling a short handed windjammer was hard enough, but in the gales, ice and heavy seas encountered almost every day in the southern oceans, life on board was very hard indeed.

In 1893 bound for Brisbane Clan MacLeod encountered immense ice floes and icebergs some 60 metres high. A big sea came over her stern and stove in the cabin doors and damaged the steering wheel, forcing her to heave to for 45 hours while repairs were made.

As steamers expanded their routes the tall ships were gradually withdrawn but in this period Clan MacLeod rounded Cape Horn no less than 23 times. On 15 August 1900 she was sold to J.J. Craig, shipowner of Auckland. New Zealand and on 19 October 1900 her former owner, Sir Roderick Cameron, died in London.

Information for this final article was drawn mainly from “The James Craig”, by Jeff Toghill, a Memoir of Norman Macleod DD, by the Rev. Donald Macleod DD, and from the Clan Macleod Magazine, vol. 10, No. 65, 1987.

*Alan Villiers