The Doric Columns
The Duthie Shipyards
Famous Shipbuilders. The family line came from near Stonehaven.
”The Duthies: Ship Building
and Dynasty-Building in the 19th Century, Aberdeen – by J. L. Duthie.
Satzuma – Barque built 1864 by Duthies Yard
26th July 1876:
Along the front of the shipbuilding yards in the Upper Dock was ranged in a line - known as Rotten Row - of melancholy brigs and schooners, worn out, disused, or for sale. A broom at the masthead indicated that the owner had not quite abandoned hope of a buyer, failing which, break-up or employment as a hulk - say at Newburgh - was the vessel's ultimate destination. Rotten Row had an increasing number of tenants after steam began to replace sail for coastal traffic. This displacement began in the early 1870s, when the SS. Hayle and the SS. Courier were acquired by Messrs. Adam & Co. to carry coal. From that time onwards the coasting brigs and schooners became fewer and fewer, and ultimately disappeared. The Brig Ploughman, of 168 tons, built in 1867 by Walter Hood & Co., was the last of this class
William Duthie & Co.
1817 William Duthie and Co. William Duthie 1st leased a shipyard from the Town Council in November 1816. It was a family business; his partners were his younger brothers John and Alexander. All 3 seem to have served apprenticeships with the Hall Shipyard before going into business.
In 1823, a floating dock was installed, allowing the yard to undertake repair work.
The 1st Duthie-built vessel Stranger 62' x 19' x 9' a Brigantine of 89 Ton dates from December 1816. Over the next 20 years, the William Duthie yard built sailing vessels of around 100-200 tons. These were mainly Brigantines and Schooners, constructed for local owners. In 1823, a floating dock was installed, allowing the yard to undertake repair work. Over the next 20 years, the William Duthie yard built sailing vessels of around 100-200 tons. These were mainly brigantines and schooners, constructed for local owners.
Alexander Duthie & Co.
William's brother Alexander took over as yard manager in 1837. His partners were his brother John and John's son John Jr. In 1838, the yard was renamed Alexander Duthie & Co., a name it retained until 1861. During this period, the size of vessel built at the yard increased. Following the Hall brothers' development of the clipper bow in 1839, the Duthies also began to build this type of fast sailing vessel. Some were built for the family or for local owners but the yard also began to win contracts from further afield - London, Liverpool and even New Zealand.
In April of 1848, Alexander Duthie & Company launched the clipper, Countess of Seafield, for Henry Adamson of Aberdeen. She measure 140.2’ x 25.0 x 18.2’. Her short life, spent entirely in the China trade, came to an end on 21 March 1855, when she stranded on the Pratas Shoal, China Sea. She was refloated and later sold to Cantonese owners.
The "Countess of Seafield," built 1848 by an Aberdeen Shipbuilders A Duthie. The "Countess of Seafield," which belong to our enterprising townsman, Baillie Henry Adamson, registers 520 tons, and brings a cargo of over 700 tons of tea and silk.' One of 3 Clippers built at Aberdeen in this year, she helped materially to give Aberdeen a good name in shipping circles. Alexander Duthie launched her in April for Henry Adamson of Aberdeen who, later, owned a number of tea clippers. The Lloyd's Register surveyor wrote in his report:- 'Has a raised quarter deck 3 feet in height. Clipper Bow as termed carried to an extreme in outreach and full length figurehead'. She had a 22 foot longboat and 3 other boats, and also a windlass, winch and capstan. Rigged as a ship she measured 140.2ft x 25.0ft x 18.2ft. 520 old tons and 451 new tons. Her short life, spent entirely in the China trade came to an end on 21 March 1855 when she stranded on the Pratas Shoal, China Sea - off Hong Kong. She was refloated and later sold to Cantonese owners'.
The Ballerat was built in 1852. Her first 2 voyages were made to Australia during the gold rush but thereafter were in the China trade.
Aberdeen Journal, 17th May 1854:
Aberdeen Journal, 26th Sept 1855:
A very fast ship was the British Merchant built by Alexander Duthie 1857. Her master, Captain Alexander Duthie in 1859-60 was bound for Sidney, Australia. On board was a Miss Rowland, a young woman whose fiancé was waiting to marry her in Australia. Before the ship reached Australia, Captain Duthie had married Miss Rowland. On board was a missionary who married the couple. It is interesting to note that in the LDS records there is mention of an Alexander Duthie married to a Christian Hogg Rowland having a daughter Ann on 10th November 1864 in Aberdeen. They had a William on 17th May 1867 and a Christian on 22nd December 1869.
Bay Coutier, 11th September 1860:
DUTHIE’ Built 1864.
She was placed in the Australian passenger trade in which she proved popular. [Passenger liner]
Hall, Alex. , & Co. , 40 York st. Hall, Russell & Co., Litn., York
John Duthie, Sons & Co.
In 1861, the company became John Duthie, Sons and Co. As the name suggests, John Duthie and 3 of his sons, Alexander, Robert and George, were in charge. The yard was rebuilt following a fire in the 1850s. By the 1860s, it consisted of 3 building sheds, following the line of the 3 slipways. There was also a joinery workshop, a smithy, a tool shed and a stove shed. The latter was used to steam the building timber, making it more pliable. 1862 The first vessel launched under the new company name was City of Aberdeen in January 1862. The yard continued to build wooden ships during the 1860s although competitors such as Hall and Hood were moving into composite and iron construction. The Duthie's 1st Iron Beamed ship was Abergeldie (ll), built in 1869. (Abergeldie l was built by Walter Hood.) John had been an apprentice at A Hall & Co.
The next Duthie ship was the Abergeldie II, 1869 of 1152 tons.
She was their first ship with iron in her composition, having iron beams.
The Wooden ship 'Abergeldie',
(Inset) in an unidentified port.
Many of Duthie's wooden ships in 1860s (Abergeldie named) were in the 950-1150 tons range. These were lofty ships, setting skysails on each mast above single topgallants and double topsails.
She was launched in 1869, the same year as the Windsor Castle, (below) a beautiful little wood ship of 979 tons, which Duthie built for Donaldson Rose. This Windsor Castle must not be confused with Green's Blackwall Frigate of the same name. For some years both ships were trading to Sydney, and one year there was more than a little confusion owing to the 2 Windsor Castles arriving out on the same day. Duthie 's Windsor Castle made many fine passages both out and home, her best known commander being Captain Fernie. After being sold her name was changed to Lumberman's Lassie, and under this name she was for many years a well-known Colonial trader, and finally a coal hulk
‘WINDSOR CASTLE’ Built 1869.
Duthie vessels such as John Duthie and Abergeldie, sailed to Australia with emigrants and returned with wool.
The Duthies began to produce iron sailing ships in the 1870s. By this time, the Hall Russell yard was building steamships. The Duthies were at a disadvantage in this market as they did not build engines. The engines of their first steamship Telephone (1878) were supplied by Blaikie Bros. of Aberdeen. By the 1880s, the yard's output was mostly trawlers and this continued until its closure in 1907. The company launched Aberdeen's 1st screw trawler North Star in August 1883. Most of their orders came from local owners but they did build vessels for Ireland, France and Belgium.
In 1880, “Old John Duthie” died. His sons, William, James and Alexander pooled some of their capital to have a large, ship-rigged, iron vessel built. The “Port Jackson” was 303’ long and listed as 2,132 tons gross. To cheat the tonnage laws in 1839 by decreasing the register tonnage, William Hall of Aberdeen, developed the raked hull. This form which became know as the Aberdeen Bow, also improved sailing characteristics. Eventually, the term “clipper” was described to describe the ship design. Here are but a few of the ships built by the Duthies.
Some other ships built by the yard included: Beautiful Star 1861, Cissy, 1859, City of Aberdeen 1862, and Dunkeld 1863. Alexander Duthie died in 1863 and the business was taken over by his brother, John. The yard, now named John Duthie, Sons and Co., produced the Peter Denny, (Below) which was largely used to transport immigrants to Australia. In the mid 1860s, the yard built several ships including the John Duthie 1864, Australian 1866, Agnes Rose 1867, and Ann Duthie 1868. The book, The Tea Clippers, by David R. MacGregor, reports that a Robert Duthie built a ship called Robert Henderson in 1857. She had a good life in the tea trade and was condemned in 1881-82. According to the book, ships by Alexander Duthie were very handsome although not very spectacular with the exception of Ballarat and Ben Avon. Numerous ships bore the Duthie name. It is told that a Royal Navy ship was heading home when it encountered the Alexander Duthie outward bound asking to be reported “all well”. Later, the naval commander spoke to another ship, which also asked to be reported “all well” and gave the name John Duthie. Next, day, another vessel was spotted, which turned out to be the Ann Duthie. The navy man burst out: “Good God, is the sea full of Duthies?”
DENNY’ Built 1865.
‘DUNKELD’ Built 1863. Wood barque of 699 Tons. Length; 170 ft. Breadth; 30.3 ft. Depth; 19.3 ft. Built by Duthie of Aberdeen for Foley. Master; Captain Toms. She was lost with all hands between Newcastle, NSW and Melbourne, Victoria in June 1870. [ Tea Clipper and General Carrier]
Iron Clipper ship of 1567 Tons.
This vessel was sold first to the Russians who renamed her the ‘Hellas’ and then to the Danes who named her ‘Alexandra’. She was a very good and tight ship while under the British but her troubles began when the Danes bought her on the 26th November 1907. She sailed out of Newcastle, NSW, for Panama and was posted missing in April of 1908. The 1st mate was found in charge of one of the lifeboats off the South American coast and when questioned about the fate of the ship, he stated that she was abandoned when she ran out of food supplies on the 8th of May 1908. There was no other reason given for the loss of this very good and sound ship. It can only be guessed as to what occurred aboard ship to have caused the crew to abandon this vessel. Why she was found washed up on rocks at Iguana Cove, Albermarle Island, as a total loss may never be known. [Passenger and General Carrier]
‘Brilliant’ was built alongside her great rival ‘Pericles’ and these 2 ships had many races with ‘Pericles’ taking passengers and her rival taking cargo. ’Brilliant’ was painted black with a white underbelly and she was a speedy ship. She was sold to the Italians in 1904 and was broken up in Genoa under the name ‘Nostra Signora Del Carmine’ in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. [General Carrier]
William Duthie Jr & Co.
Builder's List, William Duthie, Jr. & Co. 1855-1870:
William's yard built wooden sailing ships, mainly for the Australian trade.
Alma 1855 was the first vessel built by W. Duthie Jr. as a shipbuilder -
Cochar & Duthie , Montrose
Vessels built at the yard included the Duthie-owned Rifleman, and Martha Birnie. When the yard closed in 1870, other Aberdeen Builders were producing steamers and iron sailing ships.
John's son William established this yard in 1855 when he came ashore from his career as a Captain.
William's yard built wooden sailing ships, mainly for the Australian trade. Vessels built at the yard included the Duthie-owned Rifleman 1860, Martha Birnie 1863 and Alexander Duthie 1867. When the yard closed in 1870, other Aberdeen builders were producing steamers and iron sailing ships.
DUTHIE’ Built 1867,
Three-Mast square-rigger that was beaten by ‘Samuel Plimsoll’ while that ship was on her maiden voyage.
She was bought and renamed ‘Gunhilde’ by the Scandinavians and was still sailing for them in 1900. [Passenger and General Carrier]
As the name suggests, the last Duthie shipyard was located in Torry. This business, run by John (son of Captain Alexander Duthie and grandson of old John Duthie) operated between 1904 and 1925. John had been a partner at the Footdee yard but, in 1904, set up in partnership with his brother-in-law, Walter G Jameson, and John Fiddes, who had worked for the Footdee firm. The Drifter Choice, launched by Lord Provost Walker on 31 March 1904, was the 1st vessel built by the company.
During its career, the yard's output consisted almost entirely of fishing vessels, many for north east owners. The yard did not build engines and these were often supplied by local companies, such as J Abernethy and Clyne Mitchell.
The John Duthie Shipbuilding Co,, - Greyhope Road, Old Torry
Aberdeen Trawl Owners' & Traders' Engineering Co Ltd,
Albert Quay (Engine & Boiler)
Duthie's as Shipowners
Another well-known Aberdeen firm which was a pioneer in the Australian trade was Duthie's. They were builders as well as owners. The original William Duthie started his shipbuilding business in 1817. Besides owning many of the ships he built, he was also a large timber merchant, and kept some vessels in the North American timber trade. He was also one of the 1st to send ships to the Chinchas and Peru for guano.
He eventually turned over his shipbuilding business to his brothers John and Alexander, but retained his interest in some of the ships. The first of Duthie's ships of which there are records is the Jane Pirie, of 427 tons, built in 1847 for the Calcutta Trade and commanded by a well-known skipper of those days, Captain James Booth. The next vessel to be launched by Duthie was the Brilliant in 1850. She measured 555 tons, and, commanded by Captain Murray and sailing under Duthie's house-flag, she became a very popular passenger clipper in the time of the gold rush. On her 1st outward passage she went from London to Melbourne in 87 days, and this was about her average. She generally loaded wool for the London market at Geelong, and made the homeward run in under 90 days. Few ships came home from the Antipodes in those days without gold dust on board; and the Brilliant on one occasion brought home 7 tons of gold, giving Captain Murray an anxious time until he had it safely handed over to the Bank of England. After 12 years as a 1st class passenger and wool Clipper the Brilliant was debased to the guano and nitrate trades, being finally lost at sea when homeward bound from Callao with a cargo of guano.
The next of Duthie's ships was the James Booth, of 636 tons, named after the celebrated Captain.. She was launched in 1851 for the Calcutta Trade. In 1852 Duthie built the Ballarat, 713 tons, for the great shipowner Duncan Dunbar. The Ballarat distinguished herself by coming home from Melbourne in 69 days in 1855. All these early ships had the famous Aberdeen Clipper Bow and painted ports, and ably maintained the high reputation of the Aberdeen Clipper.
The honours for the year (London-Australia) for the year 1855 were taken by the Duthie built Aberdeen Clipper BALLARAT 1852 owned by Duncan Dunbar, which went out to Sydney in under 70 days and came home Melbourne-Liverpool in 69 days with 110,000 ounces (wool).
In the 1860s Messrs. Duthie launched the following well-known wool clippers, all called after various members of the family:-
The ships were all 3 skysail yarders, and good passage makers; they were kept almost entirely in the Sydney trade, and must have made good dividends in those early days. The John Duthie on 1 occasion made £5000 freight for the wool passage home. Her commander at that time was Captain Levi, a very well known character, who always offered a glass of Scotch and an apple to any visitor who came aboard his ship.
Clipper Ann Duthie - 1856 renamed Alexandria 1988. Part owned by George Washington Wilson
Aberdeen Journal, 24th Jan 1872:
It is told that a Royal Navy ship was heading home when it encountered the Alexander Duthie outward bound asking to be reported “all well”. Later, the naval commander spoke to another ship, which also asked to be reported “all well” and gave the name John Duthie. Next day, another vessel was spotted, which turned out to be the Ann Duthie. The navy man burst out: “Good God, is the sea full of Duthies?”
RIFLEMAN left London 28th December 1872.
Melbourne Argus, 06/06/1873:
In less than 5 decades, members of the Duthie family had moved house from the hugger-mugger of Footdee to the tree-lined quiet of Albyn Terrace. In 1811, William Duthie was earning 4s/6d (less than two dollars per day in 1997 costs) per day. When he died at age 72, in October, 1861 he left the sum of £70,000 pounds sterling, most of which was used to buy Cairnbulg Castle and the landed estate. The senior, male member of the Duthie family, John, now bore the title “of Cairnbulg” after his name and one of William’s grandnephews became “Sir John Duthie of Cairnbulg”
The 13th century castle of Philorth, now known as Cairnbulg Castle, property of the Comyns, came into the hands of the Frasers in 1375. Additions and changes in the 15th and 16th centuries gave the castle much of today’s look. In 1863 the ruin was bought by John Duthie. In 1896, his nephew Sir John Duthie, restored the castle using granite which was his wife’s tocher (dowry) from her father who was a stone merchant. Their initials and motto are over the present front door. Sir John died in 1923 and, in 1934 the late Lord Saltoun, 11th from the 8th Laird, bought it back and modernised it. This fairy-tale type castle is currently the home of the Saltoun family and open to the public by appointment only.
The shipbuilding firm had a house flag and a family crest for their vessels. On the flag’s blue base was a white shield with a clenched hand holding a sword aloft. They also had a family motto “Data fata secutus”. It’s meaning, “Follow the fate that is given”, was at odds with the family’s thrusting, business entrepreneurship. The motto and crest is to be seen carved into the stone above the entrance to Cairnbulg Castle.
The names entwined are those of Sir Duthie and his wife L. Fyfe. William and Alexander never married and were to die without issue. John had 6 sons and 3 daughters. John was born in 1817, and William in 1822, Alexander in 1824, Robert in 1831, James in 1835 and George in 1838. The daughters were called Ann, Helen and Mary.
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