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Title: The Ship and Her Master
Author: John Arthur Barry
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1302321h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  May 2013
Most recent update: May 2013

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The Ship and Her Master.

(Author of "Steve Brown's Bunyip," "Red Lion and Blue Star," "The Luck of the Native Born," "In The Great Deep," etc.)

Published in the Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW)
Wednesday, September 28, 1904

When, in 1850, Mr. Richard Green determined to build an English clipper that should compete with the American flyers then snatching the China trade from the grasp of English merchants, Aberdeen, and Greenock, and Glasgow were unthought of as candidates for a share in ship-building fame. "Dicky" Green's clippers were purely English—Blackwall from truck to keelson. Then Messrs. Jardine and Matheson chipped in with the Stornaway and the Cairngorm, built by Hall, of Aberdeen. But, apparently, for a long time nothing could he turned out by the builders of the United Kingdom to stand up to the wonderful fabrics that Donald M'Kay and other Americans were launching from the slips of Boston and Baltimore; to say nothing of the beautiful fabrics taking the water from New York, Portsmouth, and Philadelphia. Perhaps, actually, Greenock was the first to have a look in when the new departure from wood to iron arrived, with the Lord of the Isles, built by Scott in 1853. But such ships as the Flying Cloud, the Sovereign of the Seas, the Nightingale, the Lightning, and a score of other softwood clippers, took a tremendous lot of beating before victory eventually remained with the Red Ensign. Greenock and John M'Gunn gave us the first composite clipper-yacht in the Sir Lancelot, which ran the 14,000 miles home from Foo-Chow in 89 days, the best part of the distance against head winds. In Greenock, too, were born the Guinevere, the Min, and the Taeping. Dumbarton also was building ships, as witness the Cutty Sark. Aberdeen and Glasgow were apparently just biding their time.

Then, all of a sudden, in the latter sixties and the seventies, arose a worthy rival to Donald M'Kay in the person of Walter Hood, of Aberdeen; and from his yards famous clipper after clipper appeared to contest the supremacy of the seas with everything under canvas. He gave to the world such wonderful racers as the Jerusalem, the Thermopylae, the Fiery Cross, the Black Prince, the Patriarch, Salamis, Samuel Plimsoll, and dozens of others, whose names are now historical in the annals of swift seagoers. In the meantime, while Aberdeen was sending out its fleet of small, full-rigged ships, in composite and iron, Port Glasgow, to the west, was awakening, and building big in iron—not tubs, but beautifully-modelled cargo-carriers, scarcely if at all inferior in their gracefully-curved clipper stems, elliptic sterns, and fine lines under water, to the work of Walter Hood. Thus, in 1875, the Loch Garry appeared, built by Messrs. Barclay, Curle, and Company, a fine type of the Iron clipper of her day, and one of the first of a long line of Lochs, pre-eminent among all of which is the subject of the present sketch—the Loch Torridon, now in Port Jackson.

There were probably "Lochs" before the Garry, seeing that the celebrated Line was founded in 1867; but certainly the Garry, and five years later the Loch Torridon, the work of the same builders, were the ships that first drew the attention of seafarers to their doings. If not actually the pioneer of the four-masted clipper barques, then the Loch Torridon must have been very nearly so. She certainly was the largest of her class, and her size, 2000 tons, was made the subject of much comment among the shipping circles of the time. When Sir William White, at that period Director of Naval Construction to the Admiralty, and designer of all H. M. ships, saw the Loch Torridon does not exactly appear. Possibly he may have been present when she slipped off the ways. However that may be, he was greatly taken with her looks, and pronounced her one of the most graceful vessels that had ever left a Glasgow yard—a eulogium, which, as we shall presently see, the newcomer thoroughly earned for herself. Of course, since her birth, in 1880, the Loch Torridon, as is only natural, has experienced many vicissitudes in her travels to and fro the Seven Seas; long passages and fast ones; short round voyages, and others that might have been shorter. But, taking her average record throughout, it will be found that she is a most consistently swift ship, so much so, indeed, that it is pretty certain that, if not at present the fastest sailing ship in the world, she is, without a doubt, the fastest ship of all the great fleet of sailors that still fly the Red Ensign of the British Mercantile Marine. Throughout her career she has kept up the promise of her maiden passage from Glasgow to Melbourne in 80 days; a performance bettered by the 82 days from Sydney to London in 1892; she also holds the record of 45 days from Sydney to San Francisco, in 1903, beating her previous passage of 46 days in 1897.

It must be remembered, too, that shipmasters nowadays are not "out for gore." They run their vessels on strictly commercial principles; and their owners generally load them on the same lines. It does not pay a man, either financially or professionally, to drive his craft in these times. He gets no thanks from anybody for so doing; a quick passage is scarcely noticed, except perhaps by an extra line in the shipping reports. At least such is the case this side of the world, where once upon a time an exceptional trip called forth columns of praise. But to anyone who knows a ship, a glance at the Loch Torridon will be enough to make him certain that, with his craft in racing trim, and given a fair share of luck, Captain Pattman could send many a wonderful standing record "kite high." She is exceptionally lofty as to her masts, exceptionally square as to her yards; looking at her in harbour, and with her sails unbent, she seems full of great spaces aloft, spaces to be filled at sea by vast areas of canvas. She carries nothing above a royal, but her royal yards are as long as the topgallant yards of most vessels. Her lower yards are enormous: and, as our illustration shows, when under all plain sail she carries enough of it to cover a good-sized paddock. The mention of "plain sail" reminds one that the Loch Torridon carries nothing else; she has no "frills" of any description; even her top gallant yards are single; nor are there any exceptional extravagances in the way of jibs or staysails. The vessel is uncommonly well manned with twenty hands in her forecastle. In addition, she, of course, has the usual complement of petty officers aft, together with three mates and four apprentices. Looking for'ard from the break of the poop, one is struck by the immense amount of clear room on her decks; her great length and corresponding beam, too, give the visitor a sense of spaciousness and freedom that forms a marked contrast to the often lumbered-up decks of the average sailer.

Inseparable from any mention of the Loch Torridon must be her commander, Captain Robert Pattman, who has been in charge of his fine vessel for no less than twenty-two years. Born at Southwold, in Suffolk, he went to sea as a lad, making his first voyage in 1864. His first command was in 1879—one of the "County" line of four-masted full-rigged ships. Then, in 1882, he entered the employment of Messrs. Aitken, Lilburn, and Company, of Glasgow, the owners of the present splendid fleet of thirteen "Lochs"—one of the handsomest crowd of sailers afloat. As master of the Loch Torridon, apparently, the man and the ship, suited each other so admirably that they forthwith agreed to part company no more. Captain Pattman is one of the best types of master mariners; one who, while feeling a pride in his profession that is unfortunately somewhat rare to-day under canvas, has by no means allowed himself to sink satisfied into the mere routine of it. On the contrary, he takes a keen and intelligent interest in the political and social conditions of any of the countries he visits. He has, too, identified himself with several scientific associations, and has invariably been accorded a welcome place amid the local social surroundings in which he has temporarily found himself when abroad. In a word, the master of the Loch Torridon and his ship represent the best traditions of a service that at one time was almost wholy composed of such ships and such men—the Mercantile Marine of Great Britain.


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