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Catherine Adamson 1855

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.
In the course of the 19th Century, William, Alexander and John Duthie of Stonehaven, followed by John’s sons and grandsons, established a business dynasty whose interests covered the broadest range of harbour-side activity in Aberdeen. Either continuously, or at one time or another, the Duthies were involved in wooden and iron ship building, ship owning, whale fishing, coastal and trans-oceanic trading, rope and yarn manufacture, sail, hemp and wire making, herring curing, company directorships and steam trawler construction.

Upper Dock Shipyards
The whole
South side of the Upper Dock at what is now Jamieson's Quay was occupied by shipbuilding yards; an 1865-7 map suggests 5 slipways. Three were parallel to Regents Road and 2 were slightly diagonal and launched towards Weighhouse Square The owners of these yards were, reckoning from East to West, William Duthie, John Humphrey & Co., and Richard Connon. The launch of the Strathnaver in 1865 from the yard of William Duthie was the last launch that took place in the Upper Dock. At the south-east corner of this Dock was moored HMS Winchester, for the training of the Royal Naval Reserve. She was approached by a floating gangway which ran westward from Regent Bridge. When a launch took place the Winchester had sometimes to be moved to make way for it. In the corner between this gangway and the Bridge was laid up in winter the smack Cock of the North, of 48 tons, built at Aberdeen in 1835, which belonged to Messrs. Hogarth and was employed to bring to Aberdeen via the Pentland Firth the salmon caught on their net fishing's at Gairloch and elsewhere on the west coast. In the Moray Firth Messrs. Hogarth had another smack, called the Dora. They employed smacksmen from East Anglia to command their little vessels, and so brought to the port not a few fine seamen who took root there, and subsequently were promoted to command the steamers of the Aberdeen Steam Navigation Co., of which Mr A P Hogarth was Chairman. These fine seamen, all now passed on, among them Captain Dowman, Captain Andrews, and Captain Howe.

Satzuma – Barque built 1864 by Duthies Yard
The owner Charles Thomas Glover having all 64 shares, empowered Thomas Blake Glover to sell the ship for a sum of no less that £500 in any place outside the UK
Lost on the Japanese coast in 1865

Aberdeen Journal, 26th July 1876:
Intelligence from New South Wales states that HMS NYMPHE has been ordered to visit the Auckland Islands to search for any persons who have survived from the Aberdeen ship STRATHNAVER, which sailed from Sydney last year and has not since been heard of.

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:
Ben Avon - Launched last Saturday from yard of Messrs A. Duthie & Co.  Clipper built (of course) property of G. Leslie for probably India or China trade.
Commanded by Captain Budge, formerly of the Balmoral.'

Freeman's Journal, rd Sept 1856:
Regret to announce total loss by lightning and shipwreck of ship BEN AVON, bound from London for Shanghai, with distressing sacrifice of human life. She was owned by Leslie & Co., chartered by W.O. Young & Co., left London Docks 9 March with valuable cargo of merchandise. Wife of Commander, Capt. R. S. Scott & Mr. Leslie, son of owner (both passengers) were among those drowned.  Capt. Scott reported her loss on 16 June as follows:- On 8 June we encountered dark and cloudy weather, with torrents of rain - about 1 o'clock there was a tremendous deal of thunder and ship fore and aft was struck by lightning.  Everyone on deck was struck down and whole vessel and rigging presented a vivid mass of fire.  On recovering themselves they examined the damage.  It has stripped most of copper off rigging and mast, melted lead off rudder head and damaged compasses.  We proceeded, using compass we thought least in error.  On the 12th we got a very imperfect sight of the sun.  We shaped a course accordingly, keeping the lead-log constantly going and from then till 16th, on night of which she was lost, no further observation could be made.  In gale and heavy rain, ship at 8.30am was felt to graze as if she was passing over a shoal, but directly after she struck with great force, parting in 2 immediately and fell over with her deck to the sea, which broke furiously over it, sweeping everything from it.  In less that 10 minutes the whole ship was broken up.  The ship's company clung to the spars and rigging which were floating. In this way 23 of 28 succeeded in gaining the shore, but were all more or less wounded, cargo was thrown out onto different parts of coast, which was plundered immediately by the natives, who mustered in great numbers and beat off the men who attempted to retrieve it.  The spot where the ship struck was on a point to the westward of Hentoo, 40 miles from Amoy [Chinese Coast opposite Taiwan].
Aberdeen Journal, 10th Sept 1856:

Deaths - near Amoy, in wreck of ship BEN AVON on 16 June, John, third son of Mr. George Leslie, Shipowner, Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Journal, 26th Sept 1855:
The fine new ship CATHERINE ADAMSON, launched by Alexander Duthie recently, sailed from the bay on Saturday evening at 7 o'clock and a telegraphic dispatch has been received notifying her arrival in the West India Docks, London, yesterday forenoon (Tuesday) at 11 o'clock, a splendid run.

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.

Moreton Bay Coutier, 11th September 1860:
The clipper ship BRITISH MERCHANT, of 900 tons, was totally destroyed by fire at Sydney on morning of 2nd inst. Captain A Duthie states that at about 3.00am he was awoken by a crash. He felt stupefied from a suffocating sensation, but contrived to get the Cabin Window down and saw flames coming up the quarter-hatch.  He at once hurried ashore with Mrs Duthie, the fire even scorching him as he passed the gangway. Having placed her in safety he gave the alarm.  So dense was the smoke in the cabin that the officers were nearly suffocated before they got clear.  The port master hurried on board and gave orders for the ship to be hove off into the stream so as to save the stores and wharf.  When the ship was clear of the wharf Capt. Duthie commenced scuttling her, causing the ship to list over considerably. The steamer WASHINGTON now towed her down the harbour to Gemorne Point, where she was anchored about 100 yards from the shore.  It being considered more prudent to get her into shallow water.  She was warped with her head on the rocks.  Two holes were made on her port side and she gradually settled down by the stern. So dangerous had it become on her passage down the harbour that the Helmsman jumped overboard, but the Chief Officer quickly took his place. About 6.30am the main and Mizzen masts went by the board and shortly after the Foremast also fell (but most of yards and upper spars expected to be saved, as also tallow and cocoanut oil from cargo). Capt. Duthie and the Officers have lost everything, but the crew fortunately saved all their things. Capt. Duthie is utterly at a loss to account for the accident, but is of opinion it originated near the Mainmast and close to where are kept the ship's paint and oil stores. The BRITISH MERCHANT was owned by Messrs Duthie & Son of Aberdeen and was only half insured. She had aboard 100 bars railway iron, original cargo from London and homeward cargo 2000 hides, 85 tons cocoanut oil and 35 casks tallow.


‘JOHN DUTHIE’ Built 1864.
Iron ship of 1031 Tons.
Length; 196 ft.
Breadth; 34.7 ft.
Depth; 21.8 ft.
Built by Duthie of Aberdeen for themselves.
Master; Captain Levi.

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.

Little is known about J. Duthie except that it was a shipbuilding yard based at Torry on the South side of Aberdeen Harbour in Scotland. The yard built many trawlers and drifters at the end of the 19th century. Prior to this, the yard had built sailing ships. In the late 1890s the yard made a series of steamers and continued doing this until the early 1920s before closing for good in 1925.

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.
218.2 x 37.2 x 21.8, 
J. Duthie, Sons & Co, Aberdeen, Owners:
J. Duthie, Sons & Co, reg. Aberdeen.
Iron beams, sometimes incorrectly described as a composite ship

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.
Wood ship of 979 Tons.
Length; 198 ft.
Breadth; 35.3 ft.
Depth; 20.6 ft.
Built by J Duthie for Donaldson, Rose.
Master; Captain J.Smith in 1912.

She was sold and renamed ‘Lumbermans Lassie’ and was credited under that name of bringing the largest load of steel railway line to the port of Cairns, Nth Queensland. [General Carrier]



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 1863Alexander 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?”

‘PETER DENNY’ Built 1865.
Iron ship of 998 Tons.
Length; 197.3 ft.
Breadth; 34.6 ft.
Depth; 20.8 ft.
Built by Duthie at Aberdeen for Patrick Henderson.
Master; Captain J Barr then Captain Gronn. She was sold to J W Turner in 1881. Registered; Glasgow.
She was sold to Larsen of Sandjeport and he renamed her ‘Inga’
She was wrecked in 1889. [Passenger ship]


‘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]


‘CAIRNBULG’ Built 1874. Iron Clipper ship of 1567 Tons.
Length; 261.3 ft.
Breadth; 39 ft.
Depth; 23 ft.
Built by Duthie of Aberdeen for William Duthie Jnr.
Master; Captain Birnie.

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’ Built 1877.
Iron ship of 1613 Tons.
Length; 254.8 ft
Breadth; 39.7 ft.
Depth; 24.2 ft.
Built by Duthie of Aberdeen for J Duthie & Sons.
Master; Captain Davidson.

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 Duthie Junior. John's son William established this yard in 1855 when he came ashore from his career as a captain. His yard at the Inches was across the harbour from the family business at Footdee.

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
Aberdeen Journal, 11/01/1871:
Aberdeen vessels lost in 1870 - ALMA, ship, 582 tons, 15 years old - put into Algoa Bay [Port Elizabeth] in a disabled state and was condemned.

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.

Wood ship of 1159 Tons.
Length: 211 ft,
Breadth: 35.2 ft,
Depth: 22 ft.
Built by Wm Duthie Jr and Co,
Reg. Aberdeen 56600 J.N.K.T.
Master: Captain J. Donald in 1884.

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]

John Duthie
Torry Shipbuilding Co. Ltd

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 1925John 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

This yard was located at what became the Industrial Area of Old Torry, west of St Fittick's Road and bounded by Baxter Road and Abbey Road - site of the Old Torry Brickworks

The John Duthie Shipbuilding Co,, - Greyhope Road, Old Torry

Aberdeen Trawl Owners' & Traders' Engineering Co Ltd, Albert Quay (Engine & Boiler)

J. Abernethy & Co, Ferryhill Foundry (ditto)  Triple Expansion Engines

Clyne, Mitchell & Co Ltd, Commercial Road (ditto)
A. Hall & Co Ltd, York Street (ditto)

Hall, Russell & Co Ltd, York Street & York Place (ditto)

John Lewis & Sons, Albert Quay (ditto)


The Launch of the steamer 'Ballochbuie' at the John Duthie, Torry Shipyard, Abbey Road, Old Torry - 1905, the vessel under construction was the French trawler Alexandra, 1905.

FEASIBLE was built in 1912 by John Duthie of Aberdeen as a steam drifter and still has her original steam winches and derricks. She was called up for service as a patrol boat in World War I and assisted in the destruction of U-Boat 48 on 24 November 1917. Once demobilised, she went back to herring fishing. She had no less than 5 accidents including a collision in heavy seas, on one occasion losing a crew member overboard.  At the outset of World War II she was again requisitioned by the Admiralty, this time as a minesweeper. Commanded by CC Findlay RNR, under orders from HMS, she was ordered to Dunkirk, where she picked up soldiers from smaller vessels who were ferrying them out from the beaches. Her engineer, A A Storr, was later decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal. On one of her returns to Ramsgate, FEASIBLE was bombed and disabled. After the war, she was sold to Norway and given the name MELOY after an island above the Arctic Circle. She was also fitted with a 22hp diesel engine.

Arctic Shipping of Cowes, found her 70 miles from the sea in Veafjord and brought her across the North Sea from Bergen to Cowes under her own power. A snapshot of the life and times of a steam drifter/trawler is provided by the personal log of Roy Jenner Breach during a voyage to the West Coast of Ireland in March 1937. He sailed on one of a fleet of 9 fishing vessels under the ownership of his father, John Victor Breach. FEASIBLE was one of this fleet. Leaving Lowestoft on 24 March the fleet tracked north. The log notes 'very impressive to see vessels under one ownership and newly painted in owners' colours steaming in company.' The 1st port of call was Hartlepool for bunkers on 25 March and Aberdeen was abeam at 3pm on 26 March; the potentially dangerous waters of the Pentland Firth and Cape Wrath were navigated the same night and the fleet arrived at Mallaig for bunkers at 10pm on 27 March. The fleet had run down the West Coast of Scotland partially under the shelter of the Western Isles and the Isle of Skye. Now they headed west into the open Atlantic Ocean and abeam of Aran Island off Donegal they commenced fishing:

It was now 29 March and had taken them 5 days to reach their fishing grounds. The log tells that 1 of the vessels was appointed 'Admiral', co-ordinating the fishing and designating 1 of the vessels to be 'fleet carrier' for the day. During 30 March, weather conditions worsened and the fleet ran for cover in Killybegs where their catch of herring was sold by a local agent. Leaving the next day, they continued fishing for 4 more days. They then retraced their steps round Malin Head and to Ayr in Scotland where on 4 April, fish was landed and the log ends. It is assumed that Roy Breach left the fleet at Ayr and returned to Lowestoft. In 1937, fishing lacked technology and choosing fishing grounds was by visual observation and the knowledge of skippers; frequent calls had to be made at ports to take on coal bunkers and navigation was less sure - the log records that on the voyage back to Ayr they were steaming on dead reckoning and later 'cruised about trying to locate our position.'

In 2007, FEASIBLE was located in Penzance harbour having been bought by her current owner in 1997 and sailed down from the Isle of Wight. Each time an attempt was made to round Land's End with her 1903 engine, it stopped and the lifeboat had to be called. Finally, the engine was given back to its country of origin; Norway, for use in the Bruvnoll Museum. The owner has plans to restore FEASIBLE, but is currently awaiting funding.


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:- 

1862 William Duthie wood ship .. .. 968 tons. (Above)
1863 Martha Birnie ,. .... .. 832 Tons
1861 John Duthie 1031Tons
1861 Alexander Duthie 1159 Tons
1868 Ann Duthie 994 Tons.

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:
Quick sailing - we notice arrival again in London of the favourite clipper ship "ANN DUTHIE" (one of Mr. William Duthie's Australia Line) from Sydney under Capt. Birnie. Few ships show such a combination of speed and regularity, although better single passages have been made. Outward passage London - Sydney 75 days, homeward Sydney - London 77 days, vessel fully laden both ways.

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?”

Sydney Bound on the Ann Duthie

RIFLEMAN left London 28th December 1872. 
In March 1873, en route to Sydney, Australia, Captain Longmuir, a native of Stonehaven was beaten to death while he slept by the steward, a German named Wilhelm Kraus, aka William Cross. The 1st mate, George Morgan, another Stonehaven man, was lured into the Captain’s cabin by the killer and attacked, but managed to overpower the steward and grappled him to the ground as he produced a pistol and tried to shoot him. The killer was kept tied up in the wheelhouse as Morgan proceeded to master the ship successfully to Sydney. The captain’s body was kept in a barrel of spirits and buried at Sydney. Kraus was tried and convicted and hung the same year. It seems he had also tried to poison the entire crew and there was speculation that he had intended to take over the ship. He pleaded insanity at the trial and claimed not to remember the incident; however, he was found guilty and hanged. George Morgan, who had so successfully taken control of the ship, went on to marry Ann Duthie, the sister of ship’s owner, William Duthie. Captain Longmuir had been due to take charge of the new Duthie ship, also named Ann Duthie, on his return to Britain, however, this then went to George Morgan.

Melbourne Argus, 06/06/1873:
At Central Criminal Court, Sydney, William Cross (otherwise Wilhelm Krauss) found guilty of murder of Capt. James Longmuir on board British ship Rifleman whilst ship was a few hundred miles off the South American coast on 16 March. Plea of insanity rejected and Cross sentenced to death. Judge said "you availed yourself of your position of Steward of the ship to mingle narcotic poison in the cabin food and grog served out that night to the crew. Capt. Longmuir appears never to have stirred in his bed nor resisted either the savage blow by which you fractured his skull or the fatal cord with which you strangled his dying breath. The seven other cords found on the same night ready to your hand in your own pantry, the revolvers and dagger found upon you, the long iron bolt with which you attacked the Chief Officer and the General stupefaction of the ship's crew who had drunk the grog all prove beyond the slightest that yours was a cunningly devised plan to obtain possession of the ship. No evidence to implicate a single individual on board that ship".

Aberdeen Journal, 9th July 1873:
Well attended meeting of shipmasters and others connected with the trade of the port of Sydney was held aboard the ship ANN DUTHIE. Mr Williams stated meeting had been called to convey the family of the late Captain Longmuir sympathy in their great bereavement [poisoned by ship's steward]. Chairman spoke at some length on high character of deceased and hoped those who knew him would lighten the heavy blow fallen on widow and orphan children. Captain Moodie proposed and Captain Benzie (ANN DUTHIE) seconded resolution that subscription be raised - £300 already received.

Aberdeen Journal, 10thSeprtember 1873:
No clue as to motive for killing of Captain and attempted murder of rest of crew. Theory has been advanced that Krauss [the murderer] had some hope of obtaining sole possession of the vessel, running in upon the coast of Brazil, in order to secure everything valuable in the ship and then abandoning her.

For further information on the RIFLEMAN and Captain Longmuir, please see the journal of the Aberdeen & NE Scotland Family History Society, issue February 2010.

Passages of Aberdeen Ships to Sydney, 1872-1873. The best passage made out to Sydney between these dates was that of the iron tea clipper Hallowe'en on her maiden voyage. She left the Thames on 1st July, 1872, crossed the line in 27° W. on the 20th, 19 days out, crossed the meridian of the Cape on 10th August, 40 days out, ran her easting down in 42° and arrived in Sydney on 8th September, 69 days out. Another very famous Aberdeen ship, the Star of Peace, left London, 21st September, 1873, and arrived at Melbourne on 16th December, 86 days out.

Duthie Homes

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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Last modified: 01/09/2013