Shipbuilding on the banks of the River Clyde was well established and Scott of Greenock was not only the builder of Timaru but also one of the very earliest of shipbuilders in Scotland. Founded by John Scott in 1711 his business became a leader in the industry and with several mergers over the last two centuries remains still active on the Clyde contributing principally to Defence submarines and ships. One of the earliest images of the shipyard is below:
Not surprisingly it was to this builder that the construction
of Timaru and her sister ships: Oamaru; Dunedin; Auckland;
Nelson; Invercargill and Canterbury were entrusted.
Timaru was an iron full-rigged skysail yarder:
Built at Yard # 159
1363 Gross Tons
Length: 239’ Breadth: 36’
Specifically built to carry up to 500 passengers in the emigration trade.
Named initially Scotia but the reality of ‘sister ships’ with the names of New Zealand towns prevailed.
Launched in the bitter winter of December 1874 at a time when some of the very finest of full-rigged sailing ships were being made in Scotland against the stiff competition of steam.
Certainly the people of Timaru back in New Zealand would have been proud of her; interestingly the Timaru Rowing Club was founded in the same year of 1874 and this in itself was indicative of the love the early settlers of New Zealand had for all things nautical, particularly their sailing ships.
Patrick Henderson & Co of the Albion Line commissioned Timaru along with her sister ships. Although the Albion Line began trading to New Zealand as early as the 1850s emigration didn’t really pick up until two decades later, the 1870s. Simultaneously operating to New Zealand with the Albion Line was Shaw Savill & Co. It was natural therefore to see that both these companies eventually, in 1882, merged to create the Shaw Savill and Albion Line and a year later Timaru was transferred in ownership. One of the Shaw Savill & Co posters encouraging emigration shows us not the Company flag but that of the very earliest of flags recognised in New Zealand: the United Tribes of New Zealand. This tribal group really only reflected the upper North Island tribes and flew during the years 1834-1840, prior to the Treaty of Waitangi.
For owners the year 1882 also had major significance: some of the sister ships were the very earliest to be converted to carry frozen meat. Dunedin made the first passage with such a cargo, on 15th February 1882 but Timaru also took on this task. In the two images below it will be seen that Timaru had a chimney; this was not for an auxiliary engine but the refrigeration plant fitted:
Notes by Wing Commander Roland R PARSONS, (RNZAF & RAFO)Rtd, FRGS.
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