Lost at sea

Tales my grandfather would have told me. A sailor's life 1910-1941

Posts Tagged ‘SS Great Britain

Lost at Sea – 81. Monkbarns, lingering traces

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Monkbarns - Corsar white horse, photo E. Bainbridge estate

Monkbarns – and Corsar’s little white flying horse – “taken from the bowsprit end, plunging her nose in a foaming billow,” as the Sydney Morning Post correspondent put it. Photo E. Bainbridge estate

A colour piece in an Australian newspaper reflects the end of days for sailing ships like Monkbarns. While the writer “Sierra” was sauntering among the old-town dockside pawnbrokers and marine artists’ shops in Sydney as the Twenties roared around them, Monkbarns was being towed to Corcubion with her final cargo – to serve out her twilight in northern Spain as a coaling hulk for Norwegian whalers. Astonishingly, she remained afloat until the late 1960s.

Excerpts from A Sydney Street,
Sydney Morning Post, 28 March 1927 – page 19,
by Sierra

“…Here are ship-chandlers, seamen’s fitters, sail makers, fried fish shops, and Chinese laundries, pawnbrokers’ and curio shops packed with treasures from foreign lands, and nautical instrument makers … A peep at the curio shops sends the mind foaming in strange places. Chinese gods and ivory pagodas, chopsticks, Polynesian canoes, Burmese tatooing instruments, sea shells from every strand, guanaco skins from Patagonia, Esquimaux fish hooks and Zulu knobkerrles guide the roving fancy through mysterious lands.

Sydney harbour from Kirribilli, 1913, and Circular Quay

Sydney harbour from Kirribilli, 1914, and Circular Quay

Pawnbrokers’ windows bear witness to the pride once taken by seafarers in the art of sailoring. Stowed away here are the relics of a vanished race; their prized marlin spikes, their fids, prickers, sewing palms, and their Green River knives. Here, too, are their concertinas, sou’westers, badge caps; oilskins that seem to have caught and held a watery gleam of Cape Horn sunshine; a pair of evil-looking knuckle dusters, perhaps the last marketable possession of some stranded bucko mate; a rust-bitten cutlass, and ancient sea boots with desiccated dubbin still adhering in the cracks, reminiscent of the days when sailors really paddled about in salt water.

But the most fascinating shop of all is that of the marine artist. Tea clippers, wool ships, brigs and schooners, under flying kites or stripped for storms, are depicted cleaving the seven seas. Some, framed in miniature ships’ wheels and lifebuoys, are seen bounding along under the bluest of skies, their gaudy colours streaming from peak and masthead in greeting to distant promontories.

All the old-timers are here. The Great Britain in her glory of full canvas, and, in her decrepitude, a hulk at Falkland Island; the Cutty Sark running before a rousing gale; green Thermopylae racing up Channel under a cloud of stunsails; the stately Macquarie placidly gliding over smooth water; and the Loch Katrine, dismasted in a hurricane, her mainmast gone by the board, and her fore topmast diving into a turbulent sea.

Just as enthralling are the photographs. The Illawarra is shown rounding the Horn, decks awash in creaming seas; and the Monkbarns, taken from the bowsprit end, plunges her nose in a foaming billow. A Yankee

schooner deckloaded to the shearpoles waddles behind a squat tug; the barque Vincennes Iies wrecked on Manly Beach; and a superb clipper rounds to and drops anchor, her sails thrashing in the wind so naturally that the thunder of her canvas seems to reach the ear.

But it is only the rumbling of a six-horse lorry passing along this enchanting street.”