The City of Adelaide

City of Adelaide

The 791 ton sailing ship The City of Adelaide was built at Sunderland by William Pile, Hay & Co in 1864. Its dimensions were 176L, 33B and 18D. The iron framed and timber planked ship was built for the South Australian trade and was owned by a syndicate of four, half of them being former businessmen of Hindley Street Adelaide. Its members were Captain David Bruce, who owned a one quarter share and had previously commanded the 447 ton Irene, Joseph Moore, Henry Martin and the Harrold Brothers. This is what the Observer had to say about the ship when she arrived in November 1864.


Henry Martin had migrated with his brother Thomas in 1839 and established a butcher shop in Hindley Street. After the death of Thomas' wife, Mary Fiveash, Thomas returned to England. Both Henry Martin and members of the Fiveash family were heavily involved in mining matters. They had numerous leases and at one stage were also involved with the Yudanamutana copper mine in the northern Flinders Ranges.

The ship had provision for carrying first class and second class passengers as well as migrants and cargo. David Bruce, 'one of the old breed of sea dog, a sturdy, weather-beaten, grey-whiskered Scot', captained the ship until 1868 when he transferred to the South Australian. His sons later also captained both the City of Adelaide and the South Australian. Joseph and Daniel Harrold, ironmongers of Hindley Street had done well enough to be able to retire and live in England.

From 1864 until 1886 the City of Adelaide made yearly voyages (a total of 23) between England and South Australia, carrying both cargo and passengers. On these trips she carried minerals, wheat and wool for England and general cargo and passengers for Adelaide and Port Augusta. Several of her passengers, mostly migrants, did very well for themselves in the colony. While in Adelaide in 1869, the Captain advertised for a surgeon.

One of the first passengers to sail on the City of Adelaide was Mathilda Methuen in 1864. Three weeks after her arrival she married pastoralist Peter Waite. They had not seen each other for five years. Other notable passengers were Frederick William Bullock in 1866, Frederick Edelstone in 1867 and Frances Goyder and her nine children during that same year. In 1873 and 1874 she was chartered to bring out English migrants and a group of German migrants in 1876.

City of Adelaide stranded during a gale on 24 August 1874
between Henley Beach and Semaphore.
There were no casualties.

She was regarded as a very fast little ship, sometimes taking only 65 days to reach Adelaide. On one occasion, after leaving London on 29 May 1874, with Captain Bowen in charge, she carried 300 migrants and in sight of Port Adelaide she went ashore on Kirkcaldy Beach, between Grange and Semaphore, on 21 August 1874. Among the passengers were Dr William Campbell, the ship's surgeon, his widowed mother and his two sisters.


On 4 May 1880 the City of Adelaide left England once more for South Australia. This time she carried Alfred Cheadle, his wife and half-brother. After a voyage of 88 days they arrived on 27 July. Cheadle carried letters of introduction to Robert Barr Smith and soon started work at Beltana Station. Within 6 years he had done well enough to marry Margaret Loutit on 28 January 1886.

In 1887 the ship was sold to Charles Mowll, a Coal merchant from Dover. Within a year she was put to work for the Canadian timber trade. In 1893 she became a floating hospital at Southampton. In 1923 the ship assumed a new role when it was converted as a Naval Reserve ship at Greenock and renamed H.M.S. Carrick.

Still there was plenty of life left in the old lady. During the Second World War she was used as an accommodation ship and after that as clubrooms for the RNVR. By 1991 in dire straits and at risk of total loss, she was salvaged and removed in 1992 to Irvine, the headquarters of the Scottish Maritime Museum, for preservation and future restoration.

The Trustees of the Museum have raised 1 million which have been spent on the first phases of the restoration of the vessel. The appeal for additional funds launched by the Trustees in November 1999 failed to raise sufficient sums to continue. Having outlived all of her contemporaries she now is fast rotting away.

The City of Adelaide has been, and still is, an integral part of South Australia and its history. She is as significant as the old gum tree at Glenelg or the Overland Telegraph. Many people who travelled on her have left their mark on South Australia.

One of her younger passengers, on the 1867 trip to South Australia, was three year old May Ann Cameron from Perth, Scotland. On 10 March 1886 she married William Walter Warren at Kapunda. Warren was closely associated with horse racing and Aurifer, winner of the 1913 Caulfield Cup came from his stable.

On 2 July 2011 the Advertiser reported that the clipper was still cutting a lonely figure on the slipway in Irvine. Her decks still eerily silent, the only noise the wind whisling through her hull. Port Adelaide Mayor Gary Johanson expects the clipper to come home soon to be displayed at Cruickshanks Corner. After working tirelessly for more than 10 years, the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust needs a further $2 million to realise its dream of getting her home in time for South Australia's 175th birthday when she can be admired by the more than 200.000 descendants of migrants who travelled on her to South Australia to start a new life.

At Last - Home Sweet Home

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