Messrs. Harland & Wolff launched the BRITISH MERCHANT in August 1880. She was built for the well-known and respected ship owner, James Beazley, who was managing director of the British Shipowners Company. At the time the BRITISH MERCHANT was launched, the Company's fleet consisted of seventeen iron ships, headed by the 1,800 tonners BRITISH AMBASSADOR and BRITISH GENERAL. The line was noted not only for good management, but for liberal treatment; thus there was great competition amongst officers, and also amongst foremast hands, to serve in these ships, where kind and just treatment and good food were the invariable rule.
Her measurements were: registered tonnage, 1,742 tons gross, 1,698 net; length, 262 feet 9 inches; breadth, 38 feet 3 inches; depth, 23 feet 3 inches. She had an old fashioned bowsprit and jib-boom, extending 65 feet outside the knightheads, for and main lower topmasts in one, fore and main lower yards 87 feet 11 inches, lower topsail 78 feet 6 inches, upper topsail 71 feet 6 inches, topgallant sail 54 feet and royal 40 feet.
Her first commander was Captain Edward John Molony. She sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool on November 3rd, bound for Melbourne. On the second night out in dirty and thick weather she lost her bowsprit in collision with the German ship MARGUERITE. No other damage was done and the ship was able to proceed, but it took a while to rig a jury-spar for the bowsprit that resulted in a poor run to the Equator.
The BRITISH MERCHANT entered Port Phillip Heads, Melbourne, on January 22nd, 79 days out from Liverpool. This was an exceptional performance considering that she had lost her bowsprit and was running under jury-rig. She then loaded coal at Newcastle, N.S.W., for San Francisco, sailing on March 15th, 1881. She made the run across the Pacific in 57 days. This was again a fine run.
She then loaded wheat and made the run home around the Horn to Queenstown in 101 days. This maiden voyage was very satisfactory in every way, the ship proving herself to be everything that was expected of her.
On her second voyage she went out to Calcutta, making the run from the Tuskar to the Sandheads in 93 days. This was again a fine performance, beating several well-known clippers. While running her easting down, she had runs of 330 miles and 300 miles in a 24-hour period.
Her third passage saw her making her first passage outwards around the Horn. She reached San Francisco 114 days out on this voyage in 1882-83. In this time she sailed 16,118 miles at an average of 141.3 miles per day. She made on of the quickest runs of her career on her homeward passage. This was also a very taxing passage, the BRITISH MERCHANT experiencing a very heavy gale that tried both her captain and crew. The seas were tremendous, with hurricane squalls out of the W.N.W. She lost her bulwarks, her boats and one man washed overboard. Several other ships met with disaster in this same gale. She managed to cover the 16,872 miles in 95 days, averaging 177 miles per day! This, at that date, was the quickest passage recorded between San Francisco and Liverpool.
On June 8th, 1883, she began her fourth voyage, leaving Liverpool for Melbourne. Once again, the weather was none to kind, but she managed to make an excellent run of 78 days to Port Phillip Heads. She again loaded coal for San Francisco, making the run from Newcastle in 64 days. She then went back to Newcastle in 48 days for another cargo of coal, which she took to Wilmington in 65 days. She then went from Wilmington to San Francisco to load a cargo of grain for Havre. She had a rather long run of 124 days to reach her final port, but she was also rather foul after being twenty months out of dock.
The fifth voyage was unusual only in the fact that Captain Molony did not take her. He was sick, and command was given to Captain D.C. Lewis for the one voyage. On her sixth voyage, with Captain Molony back in command, was again involved in heavy weather and lost her boats and had other damage done to her decks. As a result of this damage, she was in her homeport for almost a year before her next voyage.
The BRITISH MERCHANT continued to make good passages through 1892-93, when she completed her twelfth voyage, the last one being made a little exciting due to the large number of icebergs she had to run through on her passage to Queenstown. Captain Molony then left the ship for another command, and Captain W. Thompson took over. The ship only sailed under the red ensign for another three years, she then being sold to D. Cordes & Co. of Bremen. She was renamed the AUTHUR FITGER. She sailed under the German flag until 1908, where she caught fire while laying in Shilshole Bay, Seattle, with a load of timber aboard. After the fire had been put out the ship was bought by Captain Griffiths, of Seattle, and converted into a towing barge, with her name again changed to QUATRINO.
The end came in October 15th, 1909. In tow of the tug GOLIATH she was being taken to Cordoba with 3,000 tons of coal. The light on Green Island was out, and the pilot, mistaking the surveyor's beacon on Grey Island, headed the tug between the two islands and piled his tow up, the poor old ship becoming a total loss. The design stamp is made after painting of Jack Spurling.
Is.Canouan of St.Vincent 2020;(8x3)$
Sources:http://shipmodelersassociation.org/research/fam0011.htm. http://www.spurlingandrouxwatercolours.com/ mpgt2.html
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