Rodney (clipper)

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The Rodney was a full-rigged iron-hulled clipper built in 1874 by William Pile for Devitt and Moore of London. She was engaged in the Australian immigration trade, and could accommodate sixty passengers in first class and approximately five hundred in steerage.

In November 1895, Rodney lost her lion figurehead during a gale in the English Channel while en route from Gravesend, Kent to Sydney, Australia. The figurehead washed ashore at Whitsand Bay, Cornwall, six months later. In 1897, (Miramar states 1896), the ship was sold to F Boissière, of Nantes, France, and renamed Gipsy (the cross-over year, per Lloyd's, is 1896–97). She was re-rigged as a barque. On 7 December 1901, the vessel was wrecked and became a total loss at Downderry, near Looe, on the coast of Cornwall, while on voyage from Iquique, Chile to France with a cargo of nitrate.


Rodney was one of the last sailing ships built for the Colonial passenger trade to Australia. She still could get first class passengers who wanted to have a restful sail to their new destination rather than putting up with the noise and mess of steam ships. She still had no trouble getting the emigrant and third class passenger traffic as was true of all sailing ships of this period.

She was launched in March 1874, as a first class 1,500 ton iron clipper. Built by Pile of Sunderland, for Devitt and Moore, her registered measurements were: length, 235 feet 6 inches; breadth, 38 feet 4 inches; depth, 22 feet 6 inches; tonnage @ 1,447 tons. She had accommodations for sixty first class passengers, their cabins opening up on an 80-foot saloon. The two berth cabins were 10 feet square and had unique fitted lavatory basins and chests of drawers, which were luxury novelties for her day. Her bathrooms provided hot as well as cold water – another unusual luxury. Up to this time most people took cold baths, no hot water being available. Another luxury which is considered standard today is a smoking-room which was located at the top of the companionway leading from her saloon to the deck. Prior to this most smokers were required to go to the weather decks to smoke, since the ladies could not abide the vulgar and vicious habit of smoking.

The saloon was lighted by two large skylights, which were fashionably decorated with stained-glass views of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Cape Town. The ship was considered elegant due to the stained glass and the plush upholstery of her furnishings of the cabins. The galley could easily feed five hundred people and she could also distill 500 gallons of water daily. She was considered the height of elegance and fashion for her day. Pile, of Sunderland, her builder, did not build very many iron sailing ships, but she was considered his most successful, fastest and most famous iron ship. Devitt and Moore always spoke of her as the fastest ship in their fleet, and her records confirm this opinion.

In 1880 she made her quickest passage to Adelaide, arriving on 1 January 1881, 74 days out. Under Captain A Louttit in 1882 she made her best passage to Melbourne, arriving there 69 days out from the channel. In 1887, under Captain Barrett, she ran from the Lizard to Sydney in 67 days, equaling a record made in 1870 by Patriarch.

Her best homeward run was made in 1889–90, when she made the Lizard 77 days out from Sydney. On this passage she raced the Cutty Sark. They raced neck and neck the entire voyage, sighting each other on 1 December, 2 December, 22 December and 28 December. Throughout the voyage first one was ahead and than the other. On 15 January the Cutty Sark made the Lizard lights, 73 days out. The Rodney signaled the Lizard on the following day, 77 days out. Only two other ships ever gave the Cutty Sark such a good race.

Captain A Louttit commanded the ship from 1874 to 1886; Captain Barrett had her for a short time, being succeeded in his turn by Captain Forbes.

The Rodney ran to Melbourne until 1887, with the exception of a voyage to Adelaide in 1880–81. From 1887 she was continuously in the Sydney trade until 1897, when, after being badly knocked about on a rough passage home, was sold to the French and renamed Gypsy. Four years later, on 7 December 1901, when homeward bound from Iquique with nitrate, she was wrecked on the Cornish coast and became a total loss.


An iron full-rigged ship built in 1874 by W Pile and Co, Sunderland. Dimensions: 235'6"×38'4"×22'6" and tonnage: 1519 GRT, 1447 NRT and ____ tons under deck. Equipped with a lion figurehead.


Launched at the shipyard of W Pile and Co, Sunderland, for Devitt and Moore, London. Assigned the official British Reg. No. 68905 and signal NCSH. Employed in the Australian trade.


In command of Captain Alexander Louttit late of the same owner's ship St Vincent.


Sailed from London to Adelaide in 74 days.

15 October–23 December 1882

Sailed from London to Melbourne in 69 days from the English Channel.


In command of Captain J H Barrett late of the same owner's ship South Australian.

17 October–26 December 1887

Sailed from Lizard to Sydney in 68 days or 71 days from the River.

4 March–11 June 1888

Sailed from Sydney to London in 99 days.

24 December–27 March 1888

Sailed from Sydney to London in 93 days.

29 May–22 August 1889

Sailed from London to Sydney in 78 days from the Lizard.

30 October– 17 January 1889

Sailed from Sydney to London in 78 days. She sailed four days before the Cutty Sark which together with the Cimba made this season's fastest passage with 75 days.


In command of Captain H N Forbes late of the same owner's ship Collingwood.


In command of Captain F Northey.


In command of Captain F W Corner.

1 November 1895

Left Gravesend for Sydney, but bad weather was met already in the Channel. The figurehead was lost during the gale and was washed ashore in Whitesand Bay, Cornwall, six months later. The Rodney arrived in Sydney 105 days out.


Sold to French owners in Nantes and was renamed Gypsy

7 December 1901

Wrecked on the coast of Cornwall on voyage from Iquique to France with a cargo of nitrate.

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