Manx Maritime History of the 1800’s

The "Star of India" ("Euterpe ") at San Diego USA in 1978 …by Brian E. P. Kneen . 1999


Gross tonnage 1,197 tons. Built 1863 at the Gibson, MacDonald and Arnold shipyard in Ramsey, Isle of Man.  Total years in service 28 last sold 1899.

The Euterpe, as the Star of India, has been restored and is the showpiece of the Maritime Museum at San Diego U.S.A. She now has a full set of working sails. Indeed, she is more than a sight for admiring eyes whenever she takes to the open sea again. Virtually as staunch game and functional as she was well over a hundred years ago. When she lumbered and screwed her weary way around the world twenty-seven times, mostly for Walter Savill and his colleagues. She was always desperately slow, but a comfortable and happy ship not given to sensational escapades or nasty habits. The Maritime Museum has done wonders for her and deserves universal acclaim from all that care about old ladies of the sea.

The Depression and the World War, and its aftermath delayed much needed restoration until a visit to San Diego by author and sailor Alan Villiers in 1957. Re-ignited enthusiasm for the project , restoring was a long and painstaking task . But on July 4th, 1976 - 113 years after she slipped into the water in Ramsey, she sailed under her own canvas out through San Diego Bay and into the Pafific Ocean. During our last visit to San Diego, in California, we toured the beautifully restored sailing ship which the Maritime Museum there has listed as the oldest merchantman afloat. She was launched on November, 14th, 1863 from the yard of Gibson, Mc Donald and Arnold in Ramsey, Isle of Man. An iron, full-rigged ship, 205' on the waterline and 35' beam she was named "Euterpe" and was designed for cargo and passenger service between England and India.Between 1864 and 1866. She lost her masts in a hurricane in the Indian Ocean, was stranded in Sri Lanka and re-rigged in Calcutta. A few years later the Shaw Savill line bought her for the New Zealand run.

When the Suez Canal opened, the new steamships - which needed frequent coaling stations, no longer had to sail around the Cape and were better able to compete with sailing ships. Many sailing ships were taken out of service, in 1902, the "Euterpe", which was now owned by the Alaska Packers Association of San Francisco was re-rigged as a barque and re-named "Star of India". In 1923 she was finally laid up. During her working life she had suffered two collisions, been on fire in Liverpool, dodged icebergs in the Roaring Forties and been hung up on a reef in Hawai'i. A few years before the Great Depression, JamesWood Coffroth bought the "Star" for the Zoological Society of San Diego. It was intended to be used as a floating museum.

It is an extraordinary phenomenon that of all the many thousands of sailing ships under the British flag one hundred years ago, only seven have been identifiable from the wreckage to be chosen to represent for ever that vast fleet, carefully restored as museums, of’ which three are in the USA. the Euterpe (built 1863), the Balclutba (built 1 886) at Los Angeles, the Southgate (built 1885 and renamed Wavertree) at New York, the Falls of Clyde (built 1878) in Hawaii, the Polly Woodside (built 1885) at Melbourne, and the Cape Finisterre (built 1874 and re-named El-Faroukieh) at Alexandria. Whilst the seventh one - the Cutty Sark (built 1869) in London - is in a class of her own in terms of grace, beauty and speed, the others are more typical of the fleet of workhorses plying their trade year after year in a spectacular manner across the oceans. John Willis’s Cutty Sark and Walter Savill’s Euterpe are probably the two whose performances were most in contrast, but both served equally usefully and arrived at the extremes of the laws of survival, with the result that they now share the honour of preservation as fitting representatives of their kind.

But the greatest survivor of them all must be the Euterpe - the oldest - in her new glory under all plain sail again at sea as the Star of India.Possibly another old Shaw Savill ship could have been preserved, in New Zealand, if spirit and cash had been as forthcoming as in San Diego. A unique opportunity to re-create an indivisible part of that country’s history ‘has probably been missed. The ship is the Edwin Fox, now a hulk at Picton. She was built of teak in India for the East India Company ten years before the iron hull of the Euterpe went down the slipway in Ramsey , Isle of Man. In a way she is of even greater interest - not only because of the survival of her wooden hull but because of her historical past. She was involved in trooping for the Anglo-Russian War in the Baltic and Crimea, and for the Indian Mutiny.

After her voyage to Australia with convicts, Walter Savill bought her in 1873 and ran her in the emigrant trade until 1884, when he fitted her up with refrigerating machinery to be used as a meat-storage ship at Dunedin, such was the demand for cold storage in New Zealand following the successful shipment of frozen meat in the Dunedin in 1882. As an emigrant-carrier she had her moments. She grounded on the Goodwin Sands off Kent and was refloated, suffered a crew too drunk to man the pumps in a gale and had to hoist aloft ladies’ red petticoats to indicate her distress at sea. Emigrants usually had more than the usual discomforts’ to put up with on board her, yet, on her arriving in Wellington it was once reported that there was not a cleaner or more comfortable ship entering New Zealand waters, her ‘tween decks in the pink of order and cleanliness and in a manner to indicate the superior character of her passengers. Perhaps the reporter had broached the cargo of spirits.

Nineteen of the twenty-six ships in the Shaw Savill fleet were transferred to the new Shaw Savill & Albion Company in 1882. Only two of these were less than twelve years old. The venerable age of the rest caused a stir in the City when the new Company was floated but the fact remains that they were off-loaded onto the public without any difficulty, seemingly on the basis that the older the ship the greater the privilege of possessing her!

Photograph's by Brian E. P. Kneen 1978 1999

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If anyone has any other Manx Maritime History items , I would appreciate them contacting me .



Acknowledgements to Terry McCaffery and the "History of the Shaw - Savill Line".