Polly Woodside

Polly Woodside

The "Polly Woodside" is a British built, three-masted, iron-hulled barque, preserved in Melbourne, Australia and forming the central feature of the Melbourne Maritime Museum. The ship was originally built in Belfast by William J. Woodside and was launched in 1885. The "Polly Woodside" is typical of thousands of smaller iron barques built in the last days of sail, intended for deep water trade around the world and designed to be operated as economically as possible.

Voyages 1885-1904

The "Polly Woodside" was built at the north ship-building yard of Workman, Clark and Co, Queen’s Island, Belfast during 1885, for William J. Woodside and Co. She was launched on November 7, 1885; the christening performed by the owner’s wife, Mrs Marian (“Polly”) Woodside, after whom the ship was named. [ Darroch, V.(1978) "Barque Polly Woodside (Rona)" p.1. Lowden Publishing, Kilmore Australia. ISBN 0909706646 ] The "Polly Woodside" operated as a cargo vessel carrying coal, nitrate, and wheat between British ports and the ports of South America, such as Montevideo, Valparaiso and Buenos Aires. In sixteen voyages between December 1885 and August 1903 she made a number of arduous passages around Cape Horn. The "Polly Woodside’s" operating crew, including Master and Mate was generally less than 20.

Voyages 1904-1922

In 1904 the "Polly Woodside" was sold to A.H. Turnbull of New Zealand and renamed "Rona" after Miss Rona Monro, daughter of a shareholder in the company. Valued in 1906 at £4300, "Rona" then generally operated on the New ZealandAustralian run, carrying timber, salt, cement, grain and coal. The ship changed hands in 1911 for £3000 to another New Zealand trading consortium and again in 1916 to the George H. Scales Company. Because of the heavy of loss of shipping in the 1914-1918 war, "Rona" also traded between New Zealand ports and San Francisco, carrying case oil and copra. [ Darroch, V.(1978) p.68-71 ] Two mishaps occurred in the last years of the ship’s sailing career. In March 1920 the schooner "W.J.Pirie", under-tow in San Francisco harbour, collided with "Rona" at anchor, carrying away her headgear. Then in June 1921 the "Rona", carrying a cargo of coal, grounded on Steeple Rocks, off Wellington Heads. Fortunately, the shingle bottom caused little damage and she was able to be towed into Wellington harbour. However, some slight stress fractures to the hull plating could still be seen when the ship was dry-docked in 1974 [ Darroch, V.(1978) p.79 ]

As a coal lighter 1922-1962

Maritime historian Georg Kåhre has described the early 1920s as the final abandonment of sail by most of the world’s maritime nations. “In the hectic economic climate of the great war there had been no question of scrap prices [for sailing ships] ” [Kåhre,G (1948) "The Last Tall Ships". p.101. 1978 Translation and new edition, Bay Books, Sydney ISBN 0858352818 ] . However, by 1922 this had changed. “World freight rates were sliding in the post war slump; what had been marginal before was now uneconomic” [Darroch, V (1979) "The Polly Woodside". National Trust of Australia (Victoria) p.12. ISBN 0909710228 ] A few larger sailing ships defied this trend, [ Gustaf Erikson’s Passat and Pamir made the final commercial voyages under sail from Australia as late as mid 1949. ] but not the relatively small "Rona". In September 1921 the ship was laid up, then sold to Adelaide Steamship Co for service as a coal hulk in Australia. She arrived in Sydney on October 8, 1922, and by early 1923 had been stripped down. In March 1925 the "Lammeroo" towed "Rona" to Melbourne for this purpose. She spent the next 40 years quite unremarkably, bunkering coal-burning ships in the Port of Melbourne. An exception was her war service; during the Second World War. In 1943 she was requisitioned as a dumb lighter by the Royal Australian Navy for service with other hulks in New Guinea waters. Captain Douglas Strath described her thus; “queen of this dumb (ie lacking self propulsion) but mighty workforce was "Rona". She was big enough to supply, unload, store, repair, construct and function in so many ways... she was an integral part of the vital servicing fleet.” [ Darroch, V. p.81 ] She was towed back to Melbourne in 1946, resuming her career as a coal hulk.

Preservation and restoration since 1968

A number of half-hearted efforts were made in the mid 20th century to preserve Australia’s sailing heritage, at the same time as it rapidly disappeared from Australian ports. In 1934, the Shiplover’s Society of Victoria arranged for the coal hulk "Shandon" (a 1,400 ton former barque) to be partially re-rigged and refitted as a static display, to celebrate the centenary of European settlement. [ "Centenary Maritime Exhibition Program, Souvenir Catalogue", Ship Lovers Society of Victoria, 1934. The "Shandon", owned by McIlwraith McEacharn, returned to her former duties as a coal hulk after the exhibition, until broken up around 1960.] However, by the early 1960s, "Rona" was the last of her kind still afloat in Australia. A few others lay full of water, abandoned and forgotten – the James Craig in Recherche Bay, Tasmania; the "Santiago" in the Port River, near Adelaide. The "Polly Woodside’s" restoration owes much to the efforts of Karl Kortum, former director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, who inspired Dr. Graeme Robertson of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) to put up a proposal to save the ship in 1962. In the context of the time, this proposal was quite risky but showed extraordinary vision. [ Only a few years before, the National Trust had been thwarted in an effort to preserve the famous Melbourne steam tug "James Paterson". The Government of the day would have none of it. ] The National Trust of Australia relied entirely on volunteer labour, and it had no experience in restoring a sailing ship, even for static display. The restoration of the "Rona/Polly Woodside" would be a massive task. A long campaign led to the National Trust of Australia purchasing her from Howard Smith Industries for one cent in 1968.

An estimated 60,000 hours of painstaking voluntary labour saw the ship refurbished close to its original state. [Darroch, V (1979) "The Polly Woodside". National Trust of Australia (Victoria) p.12. ISBN 0909710228 ] The project received strong support from businesses, unions, former crewmembers and several Captains. The first Master of Restoration, Captain G.H.Heyen was a master in sail. "Polly Woodside’s" chief rigger for 27 years of restoration was Tor Lindqvist, a former able seaman and sailmaker on Lawhill, Passat and Viking. [ Carter, R (2004) "Windjammers, The final story". p.230 Rosenberg Publishing, NSW, Australia. ISBN 1877058041 ] In 1978 she was opened under her original name to the public, and is now permanently moored at the old Duke and Orr's Dry Dock on the Yarra River near Melbourne. Now landlocked by a nearby roadbridge, she cannot take to sea like the restored barque James Craig, of Sydney.

In 1988 the World Ship Trust awarded their seventh maritime heritage award to the "Polly Woodside", for "supreme achievement in the preservation of maritime heritage" — a first for a restored merchant ship. [ Brouwer, N.J. (Ed.) (1993) "International Register of Historic Ships". p41. Second Edition. Anthony Nelson, Avon, England. ISBN 0904614468] In March 2007, the "Polly Woodside" was added to the Victorian Heritage Register. [ [http://www.theage.com.au/news/travel/pollys-heritage-listing/2007/03/09/1173166937674.html Polly Woodside scores top heritage listing] , "The Age", 9 March 2007 ]

Notes

External links

* [http://www.pollywoodside.com.au/about_polly_woodside Polly Woodside website]


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