Lady of St Kilda

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Lady of St Kilda
Lady of St Kilda sketch by Jno. R. Browning.jpg
Sketch of the Lady of St Kilda by Jno. R. Browning c 1890
United Kingdom
NameLady of St Kilda
OwnerSir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Baronet
BuilderRobert Newman
Launched1834 at Dartmouth, Devon, England
FateWrecked November 1844
General characteristics
Tonnage139 tons

The Lady of St Kilda was a schooner which served from 1834 before being shipwrecked off Tahiti shortly after 1843.[1]

It is notable for its cultural importance to Melbourne, Australia where it was moored in the 1840s. Several places in bayside Melbourne, including the suburb of St Kilda, and the former municipality the City of St Kilda (now part of the City of Port Phillip) take its name from the ship, its owner and captain.[2][3][4][5]


The schooner was bought by Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, a member of a prominent British political family in 1834. Built in Dartmouth, Devon, England to carry fruit from the Mediterranean to London it was named Lady of St Kilda after the island of St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland to commemorate a visit to the island by his wife, Lydia, in 1810. Acland had named the vessel after Rachel, Lady Grange, who in 1734 was imprisoned by her husband and a group of Jacobite Noblemen on the St Kilda archipelago in Scotland for 17 years. The Lady of St Kilda is the only woman in Scotland known to have had three funerals.

Lady Grange is reported by Tom Steele to have been a bad tempered woman, who overheard her husband James Erskine, Lord Grange, plotting a rebellion in 1731. After she threatened to expose the conspirators, the Jacobite noblemen who were assembled at her house in Edinburgh decided to imprison her and pretend she was dead. Her fake funeral was held the next day. Rachel was first taken to the Isle of Heisker, off North Uist, then to St Kilda, where she was a virtual prisoner for eight years, from 1734 till 1742. She was then brought to Uist, then to Assynt, and next to Skye, where she learned how to spin wool. While on Skye, Rachel managed to smuggle a letter to her cousin, the Lord Advocate, who sent the Royal Navy to search Skye for her, but no trace of her was found on Skye, and her captors, the Macdonalds, had her taken back to Uist and from there to the Vaternish peninsula, where she died in 1745. Her captors were still afraid their false imprisonment of her would be discovered, so they held a second fake funeral for Rachel and buried a second fake coffin at Duirinish, while her body was interred at Trumpan, above Ardmore bay, on the Isle of Skye. Rachel stayed longer on the isle of St Kilda, the most remote of the Western Hebridean islands, than any other outsider, except for the Ministers who were sent there.[6][7]

Thomas Acland sold the vessel in 1840 to Jonathan Cundy Pope of Plymouth. The vessel was again used as a trading vessel and sailed for Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne in February 1841. The vessel was usually moored off the foreshore, which was soon known as "the St. Kilda foreshore."

In July 1842, the Lady of St Kilda sailed for Canton (now Guangzhou).[citation needed] In November 1844, she was wrecked on a coral reef in Tahiti.[citation needed]


The ship's legacy includes the naming of the town (and later city) St Kilda by the former ship master Lieutenant James Ross Lawrence.

One of the town's main streets, Acland Street, was named after the former owner Sir Thomas Dyke Acland.

There is a mural of the Lady of St Kilda on the Sandringham Railway Line overpass at Balaclava, Victoria commissioned by the City of Port Phillip. The Lady of St Kilda sculpture on the Carlisle St Bridge was commissioned by the St Kilda Council in 1993 as a result of a competition and the mural was completed on 29 November 1993.[8] The artist who designed the sculpture was Alex Nemirovsky.[9] His father, Ruv Nemirovsky, a sculptor, helped him design and mould the metal sculptures in a factory and they were then brought to St Kilda. Architects Kirsten and Eric Hoak made the frames for the sculptures to fit on the bridge. There was a limited budget and Alex gratefully received the aid of his brother- in –law, Constantine Kozelsky, who helped weld and cut the metal in the workshop. He was also lucky to have sponsorship from Dulux Paints. A large number of volunteers helped him and the final construction on the railway bridge was completed by ten workmen taking two nights for each side of the bridge, which incidentally had to be done in the dead of night after the trains stopped running. The sculpture was restored by the City of Port Phillip in 2014.

A scale model of the Lady of St Kilda by retired boatbuilder John MacAulay is now exhibited in the Kilda Cruises Centre on the Isle of Harris in Scotland. A book describing her complete history entitled 'Lady of St Kilda' by John M MacAulay is now available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Despite its huge popularity, a 2006 art installation by a different artist, depicting a mock shipwreck at St Kilda Main Beach was later disassembled by the City of Port Phillip because of public safety concerns despite calls to keep it.

The bell from the Lady of St Kilda hangs over the doorway of the Chapel of St Leonard, Tivington in Somerset, England.[10]



  1. ^ Lady of St Kilda Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "LADY OF ST. KILDA". The Argus (Melbourne) (20, 873). Victoria, Australia. 18 June 1913. p. 5. Retrieved 14 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "Melbourne Place Names". The Argus (Melbourne) (30, 862). Victoria, Australia. 28 July 1945. p. 24 (The Argus Week-End Magazine). Retrieved 14 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "HISTORY OF ST. KILDA". The Argus (Melbourne) (26, 319). Victoria, Australia. 20 December 1930. p. 22. Retrieved 14 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "THE YACHT ST. KILDA". The Australasian. XCIII (2, 432). Victoria, Australia. 9 November 1912. p. 38 (TOWN EDITION). Retrieved 14 August 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ UN World Conservation Monitoring Centre
  7. ^ The St Kilda Historical Society Series, 'A Place of Sensuous Resort', Part 15, Summerland Mansions, Naming St Kilda
  8. ^ Lady of St Kilda, By Irene Ritchie, 01/07/2015, St Kilda News
  9. ^ Lady of St Kilda page on Alex Nemirovsky's website
  10. ^ Historic England. "Chapel of St Leonard (1345394)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 August 2017.