Saturday, 19 January 2019

Otago Wrecks and Hulks - Barque "Talbot/Tarbert Castle"

RIBS OF THE TARBOT CASTLE ON THE SITE OF THE NEW DOCK PORT CHALMERS Captain Bascaud brought the vessel over from Melbourne in 1861 She was conveited into a lighter, and subsequently took a further step down hill by becoming a coal hulk. Her usefulness in this respect becoming a thm» of the past, she has been allowed to gradually decay and tumble to pieces, with the result shown in the picture. (Otago Witness, 20 June 1906).  Hocken Library photo.



...April 17—Tarbort Castle, 189 tons, Spain, from Port Bluff. Passengers — Mr. and Mrs., and 2 Masters Ellistons, J. McKinnon...

DEPARTURES...April 18— Tarbert Castle, 189 tons, Spain, for Melbourne, in ballast...

The barque, which was signalled throughout the greater part of the two previous days, came into harbour on Wednesday at about. 3 p.m. She proved to be the Tarbert Castle, 189 tons, Captain W. Spain, in ballast, from the newly named port of Invercargill in the Province of Otago, situated at the southern extremity of the middle island of New Zealand, in about 46° 30. S. Lat, 168 °E. Long. Of this port little is generally known. Captain Spain reports it to be a fine spacious harbour with deep water, regular ebb and flow, a tide of about 4 knots, and accommodation for some seventy sail. Captain Spain left Invercargill on the 16th of March, and never had ten hours of a slant during his weary beat of thirty days. He made an Eastern passage, encountered a succession of light and contrary winds, and was drifted to the northward as far as Cape Brett. The Tarbert Castle was once a Clyde steamer; one of no mean reputation in her day. She ran for a longtime between Glasgow and Rothsay,—a line celebrated for the character of the vessels employed in it. In fact, the history of the Tarbert (not Talbot) Castle is that of several vessels now trading in these seas. Built at Dumbarton, in 1836, in the same, or adjoining, yard to that from which the William Denny was launched, she plied, for three or four years, as one of the crack boats of the crack Clyde. From the Clyde she was transferred to the Leith and Montrose station, on which she continued to run for six or seven years; at the expiration of which term the Company having been dissolved their vessels were sold. From their hands she passed into those of ship builders in Montrose who gutted her of her machinery and nearly rebuilt her. This change effected, she commenced a fresh career as a sailing ship in the Baltic trade; and from that she was withdrawn when the demand for Shipping in Australia became known. Having changed hands from Scotch to London owners she was forthwith dispatched to Melbourne, where she arrived in those halcyon days when lightering on the Yarra was as golden an occupation as man or ship could be employed in. For this trade her light draught of water, great length, and roomy decks especially qualified her; and being only a few tons under the measurement prescribed for vessels going up the river she reaped the benefit of a trade for which she was so well adapted. Her occupation as a lighter also gone,she now presents herself in our harbour after so many varieties in her strange, eventful, history. Better masted and rigged, both her sailing powers and her appearance would, no doubt, be improved; but come under whatsoever aspect she may, there are not a few of our fellow townsmen to whom her presence has failed to awaken a remembrance "o' the days o' lang syne." 

It would almost seem as if the Tarbert Castle were destined to render her visit memorable to the good folks of Auckland. On Thursday, as Captain Spain and three of his passengers were going off to the vessel, the boat was assailed no less than three consecutive times by an immense shark, which only beat a retreat after having been struck by the chief officer. The steer oar is completely bitten through in several places, a guarantee sufficient to authenticate the fact, and to serve as a wholesome caution to bathers in the vicinity of Auckland.  -New Zealander, 19/4/1856.


are instructed to Sell by Auction, at PORT CHALMERS, on TUESDAY FIRST, at One o'clock, on the Beach, 
The Fittings and Stores of the "Tarbert Castle,"consisting of — 

2 barrels Beef, 
40 Water Hogsheads, each 60 gals.
4      "   Puncheons,      "   250 " 
Hardwood Fittings, sufficient for 52 horses 
200 5-feet Palings 
Lot of Berth Fittings 
Long Boat, about 4 tons burthen   -Otago Witness, 19/10/1861.

On Thursday night the barometer in the Harbour Office stood at 28-50, while others on board ships in the bay and on shore showed from five to seven-tenths lower. During the night vivid lightning was seen, and thunder heard in the S.W. Shortly after midnight the N.W. breeze veered round suddenly to S.W., and increased to a complete hurricane, with terrific sleet squalls, its greatest height being between four and five o'clock yesterday morning, at which time the Bay was lashed into foam, presenting the appearance of a massive white sheet, broken only here and there by columns of spin drift, raised by the squalls, showing a scene of magnificent grandeur. The good holding ground of Port Chalmers Bay suffered the severest possible test, but not a single ship drove from her moorings. One casualty, however, occurred, viz., the parting of the chains of the hul.k California. She was moored stern on to the hulk William Hyde, and had alongside the barque Collingwood, fitting out for Newcastle, and the coal tender Tarbert Castle, when a terrific squall struck the group, parting the hulk's stern cables, flying along at several knots an hour. It was thought that the hulk would part her head moorings, but they fortunately held on, and brought the vessels round, head to the wind, but not until they had nearly reached the bank-side of the channel, off Observation Point. In slewing round the barque Record was fouled, the whole four vessels being in a cluster. The Record's jibboom was rigged in to prevent damage. The Tarbert Castle had, however, her covering board cut through by the barque's bobstay; the only injury the barque received was a few scratches about the bow, that of the figure-head being the most prominent. During the forenoon the gale moderated, and the tug Geelong, on board of which was the Harbour Master, towed the vessels clear, and placed them in safe moorings.  -West Coast Times, 26/10/1868.

Another attempt was made this morning by the contractors, Messrs Buckland and Co., to remove the hulk Talbot Castle, which has been lying on the beach for the last two years, and is now in the way of building the new pier. At low tide yesterday a number of men were employed digging round her for the purpose of making her more buoyant, and placing logs under her keel for her to slide off; and at high water this morning, by the aid of screw-jacks and a rope from the hulk to the jetty and then to the Cincinatti, they succeeded in shifting her from her old bed where she has so long lain, and expect to remove her altogether next tide, when she will be moored alongside the Industry off the head of the Graving Dock.   -Evening Star, 28/11/1873.


At half-past 1 o'clock. 


McLANDRESS, HEPBURN, and CO. are instructed to sell by auction, at Port Chlamers, on Friday, 5th November, at half-past 1 o'clock, the hulks Industry and Tarbert Castle as they now lie at Port Chalmers. Terms at sale.   Otago Daily Times, 4/11/1875.

The pumping-out of the new dock site revealed the remains of the old derelict Talbot Castle, a boat which earned distinction as being one of the first steamers to ply between Leith, Dundee, and London. In those days (date not ascertainable) she was fitted with paddle wheels. Some years later these were removed and the vessel was rigged out as a barque, and traded for some time between Great Britain and the Baltic. It appears the vessel narrowly missed being condemned as unseaworthy at Archangel. Between 30 and 40 years ago she came out to Melbourne, and subsequently came on to Port Chalmers, where she was engaged lightering between Dunedin and Port Chalmers. Subsequently she passed into the hands of the late Captain McKinnon, by whom she was used as a coal hulk for some years. About 30 years ago she was deemed unfit for further service, and was taken over to her present resting-place, where she gradually crumbled to decay. She was of composite build, and was considered a very fast boat in her day, but now little beyond the outline of her hull is visible above the ooze of three decades. About 100 yards away the towering hulk of the stately Delphic gives a fair idea of the strides which have been made in shipbuilding since the days when the Talbot Castle first paddled along beneath the admiring gaze of interested spectators on the banks of the River Clyde.  -Otago Daily Times, 5/5/1906.

(by "Mainsail")
Excavations for-the new graving dock at Port Chalmers have unearthed the remains of an ancient and interesting vessel — namely, the Tarbert Castle. It is said that as a steamer she was the first of her kind to ply between Aberdeen and London. At a later stage in her career she was converted into a three-masted schooner, and sailed out of Melbourne, being put in the coasting trade and subsequently plying to New Zealand. Eventually Captain McKinnon, of Port Chalmers, bought her, and after being used in various capacities on the coast, she became a hulk at Port Chalmers. In her last days (says the Dunedin “Star") she was dismantled on the old foreshore at the Port, which is now, of course, well inland, and by degrees cut down to the water line, the under portions being buried in the mud. It must be nearly thirty years since this happened to her, yet such is the vitality of the true English oak, that the wooden framework, which is now being cut to pieces, seems to be as sound in the wood as when it was first hewn.  -NZ Mail, 31/10/1906.

Sir, —I have read with pleasure your article on ‘Relics in Otago Harbor’ in your issue of May 20. There are one or two corrections I would like to make, with your permission. The first vessel is wrongly named Amethyst; it should be Amherst. This vessel was engaged in the China trade before coming to the colonies, and was then commanded by Captain Robert Allen, afterwards harbor master for many years at Port Elizabeth, near Cape Town. He was a brother-in-law of the late Captain Charles Clark, of Port Chalmers. There are two oil paintings of the Amherst, done in a Chinese port, under brig-rig, that I have seen in the possession of the Clark family.
The next has reference to a one-time steamer in your article under the name Talbot Castle. This  should be Tarbert Castle. She was originally built as a steamer, but, not being suitable, was altered to a sailing vessel before coming to Australia. She was engaged in the coal trade between Newcastle and Melbourne under a Captain Jack, and was credited with some very smart runs between the ports. In your issue of July 8, inst., there appears a “Bully” Hayes story, and in the introduction is the statement that “there are several old identities still alive who remember distinctly his arrival at Port Chalmers about the year 1874.” When I arrived at Port Chalmers in May, 1863, “Bully” Hayes was living in Carey’s Bay with the Buckingham family — i.e., those that were left, the father and mother having died in Australia several months before I left for New Zealand. How long before my arrival Hayes had been in the town I do not know, but he was almost a daily visitor for several weeks at the ship chandler’s store where I was engaged. One of the family was the late Con. Buckingham, remembered by large numbers of the Dunedin people for his ability as a cornet player. The eldest daughter was said to have married Hayes after leaving Port Chalmers, and is the woman mentioned by Mr Robertson in his narrative as having been drowned; but I think not at Nelson, for if I remember rightly it occurred in Cook .Strait, where Hayes said he took his wife on a fishing excursion. Hayes was a powerful, squarebuilt man, with massive jaws, but he did not seem to enjoy a close scrutiny. This revealed the fact that he had no lobes to his ears, these, it was generally supposed, having been removed as a mark of appreciation by some Vigilance Committee in California.
 I am, etc., G. H. Asher  -Evening star, 18/7/1922.

Another photo of the graving dock area.  The debris remainng on the mud and on the right edge of the photo are possibly the last of the "Tarbert Castle."  Hocken Library photo.

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