Mr Maurice Mulcahy, the last known surviving crew member, onboard the James Craig during her restoration.
Nearly 80 years ago, as a 16 year-old, Maurice Mulcahy ran away to sea from his home in Hobart to the tall ship James Craig. Recently the 96 year old was back on deck.
Mr Mulcahy is the last known living crew member of the ship and has provided the Sydney Heritage Fleet with invaluable information to help restore the ship.
Mr Mulcahy joined the ship in 1920 after a schoolmate told him it was loading timber in Port Huon, south of Hobart.
Maurice said his father, a conservative Tasmanian politician, Edward Mulcahy, was tipped off that his son was boarding the James Craig. “I didn’t know at the time my father was told where I was. But apparently all he said was, ‘Let him go, it would do him good’.”
As the ship sailed up the west coast of Tasmania, “a feat in itself”, the cabin boy, in a crew of 16, looked after the skipper’s wife and two young children while dealing with seasickness and the usual ribbing from older sailors.
He remained with the ship as it wound its way to South Australia, got a promotion to ordinary seaman in Auckland and returned to Melbourne and to a career with the Hydro-Electricity Commission in Tasmania.
“When I came back I left the sea for the rest of my life. I guess I wasn’t that keen on a career at sea”, he said.
Speaking of the James Craig, he said: “She’s become a very important part of my life. I’ll be pleased when she gets out beyond the Heads when they finish restoring her.”
We recently received the following from Mr Mulcahy’s Son in Law:
While his short-term memory is failing badly, at the aged care home he recently related the following which you may care to add to your records:
“At Adelaide he remembers seeing a four-masted barque, one of the wheat clippers named the Kirkudbrightshire. From there they sailed to Auckland with a good following wind. At the Three Kings islands on the extreme North of N. Island N.Z. the ship was becalmed in heavy swells for three days. Maurice remembered fulfilling his cabin boy duty of checking the gantlines. (From Canadian sail training programme: The term ‘gantline’ is a corruption of an earlier word, ‘girtline’, and both mean a single ‘whip’, or line through a block, that was rigged from aloft to hoist a sail up to the yard from the deck when it was to be bent on, or to hold standing rigging or gear up to the cap or masthead when work was going on aloft and other rigging was cast off. It is a temporary arrangement, and not part of the usual standing or running rigging of a ship. An expression was current at the time that someone was ‘as thin as a gantline’.) Aloft he vividly remembered, that despite the calm, experiencing with fear the accentuated roll of the ship in the swell.”
??Derek Stone, Hobart, Tasmania (son in law of Maurice Mulcahy)