The "Lady of St. Kilda" was a yacht of about 136 tons that was launched in 1834 in Dartmouth, Devon, England and wrecked in 1844 at Tahiti in the South Pacific Ocean. During those ten years she had an eventful life and is today remembered in the name of a bayside suburb of Melbourne.
The launching took place on the evening of Wednesday, 2 July 1834 at Dartmouth in a ceremony attended by several thousand persons. At about 8.00 pm., following the preliminary arrangements, Lieutenant Charles Baldwin Dyke Acland, R.N., son of the owner, escorted a Miss Newman, believed to have been a daughter of the builder, to the head of the yacht. Here, according to ancient custom, a bottle of wine was placed in her hand, the bottle being suspended from the vessel by a string of satin ribbon of the Acland colours. The check shores were then knocked away, the bottle thrown, and the beautiful "Lady of St. Kilda" glided most majestically into her natural element, her bows smoking with Champagne.
The owner of the yacht was Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, Bart., of Killerton, Devon, England. The yacht was originally registered at 139 tons, but owing to her peculiar construction, of which Sir Thomas fully availed himself, he contrived to obtain more substantial accomodation on board than was to be found in any yacht of double her tonnage. The builder was Robert Newman.
Just over a week later, on 11 July 1834, at a general meeting of the Royal Yacht Squadron, held at the Squadron House, Cowes, Isle of Wight, with Commodore Lord Yarborough in the chair, Sir Thomas Dyke Ackland, Bart., was elected, by ballot, a member of that squadron. He also became a member ( and sometime Commodore ) of the Royal Western Yacht Squadron, whose headquarters were located at Mill Bay Club House, Plymouth, Devon, England.
Over the next five years Sir Thomas and his family made numerous voyages about the British Isles and into the Mediterranean Sea. One of their early trips saw them departing Leith, near Edinburgh on a voyage around the northern coast of Scotland, and visiting the Island of St. Kilda on 21 and 22 September 1834. Here, during calm and beautiful weather, they met the Rev. Neil McKenzie, who had resided there during the previous four years with his wife and children, acting as a missionary to the local inhabitants.
In October 1835 the "Lady of St. Kilda" J. Langdon, Commander, departed England on an extended cruise into the Mediterranean. Among those on board with Sir Thomas was his daugher, Lydia Dorothea Acland, an invalid on account of whose health the voyage was made. Sir Thomas and his family disembarked at Naples, Italy and travelled on to Rome where they spent some time while their yacht continued on to Malta to undergo some alterations. The yacht then returned to Naples to collect the Acland family and return to England. It was said that Miss Acland had become much better from the effect of the sea air.
In 1840 the "Lady of St. Kilda" was sold to Jonathan Cundy Pope of Plymouth, who later sold shares to Nicholas Were ( brother of Jonathan Binns Were ) and James Duck. On 28 February 1841 the "Lady of St. Kilda" sailed from Plymouth for Australia under the command of Lt. James Ross Lawrence, R.N. After experiencing some very boisterous weather she arrived at Melbourne, Port Phillip on 6 July 1841. It was reported that: "When south of the Cape of Good Hope she encountered very severe weather, her foreyard being carried away, and the gale continuing unabated she was compelled to strike her topmasts."
There are a number of variations to the story of her time in Melbourne. The common thread seems to be that at some stage, after a drunken brawl by members of her crew at Williamstown, the vessel was moved to the other side of the bay and anchored off a landmark then known as the 'Green Knoll'. Whilst there a picnic was held on the shore by Jonathan Binns Were at which Superintendent Charles Joseph La Trobe attended. La Trobe is said to have pointed to the schooner, and suggested naming the area 'St. Kilda' after her. Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn Liardet is said to have been one source for this story.
The "Lady of St. Kilda" appears to have been based at Melbourne for about two years while making occasional coastal voyages. She departed Port Phillip on 4 September 1841 for Sydney, New South Wales (14 September 1841) under the command of Capt. J. R. Lawrence with Mr. Duncan, Mr. Splatt and Mr. Inglis as cabin passengers, and Messrs. Watson, Rolls, Hughes and Haslett in the steerage. She arrrived back at Melbourne on 26 October 1841 from Sydney (10 October 1841).
On 8 November 1841 she departed Port Phillip for Launceston, Van Diemens Land (13 November 1841), arriving back at Melbourne on 22 December 1841 from Hobart, V.D.L. (17 December 1841).
About April 1842 the "Lady of St. Kilda" was purchased by the house of Manton and placed under the command of Captain Gildon Manton. On 25 April 1842 she departed Port Phillip for Newcastle, New South Wales, completing the voyage in 3 days. She arrived back at Melbourne on 18 May 1842 from Newcastle, N.S.W. (6 May 1842).
On 29 July 1842 she departed Port Phillip for Canton and Hong Kong, China (29 October 1842) under the command of Capt. Gildon Manton. On the return voyage she put in at Manila (3 March 1843) and arrived back at Port Phillip on 7 May 1843. The original log for most of this voyage, written by her Chief Mate, James William Usher, is now in the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
Following her arrival back from China the "Port Phillip Gazette" reported: "Three Chinese swells, ex Lady of St. Kilda, have been perambulating the streets for the last two days. They are, especially one, very handsome for Chinamen. They appear to like the look of things very much, and walk along as imperturable and, to all appearance, as content as if travelling the sacred precincts of Peking. We should like to see three hundred or three thousand arriving at a time; they are very industrious and generally steady, and if they should travel towards our Australian shores even in three and fours they will not only diversify the everyday scene in our streets of only Europeans, but increase the labour of the country. We must fête and feast the strangers, that they may send home ( to their home ) favourable accounts of the barbarous natives of Australasia, and the Chinamen may flock here as to an abundant land, and bring wares and merchandise."
On 23 May 1843 the "Lady of St. Kilda" departed Port Phillip for Sydney (2 June 1843). She was sold again in October 1843. On 13 November 1843 she cleared and departed from Sydney for the South Sea Islands via New Zealand under Captain Jackson. Her passengers were Mrs. Jackson, two children and servant, Mr. Law, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, Mr. J. Bastian, Mr. E. A. Suwerkrup, and two natives of Tahiti.
On 20 December 1843 the "Lady of St. Kilda", Capt. Jackson, sailed from New Zealand for Tahiti. Her passengers were Mrs. Jackson, Capt. Lowe, E.I.C.S., and Messrs. Suiverkrop and Bastian. She arrived at Tahiti on 14 February 1844 and while there was sold for £1,200. Captain Jackson and his family proceeded to Valparasio by other means. It was reported that both the "Lady of St. Kilda" and the "Challenger" were purchased by the French establishment at Tahiti for use as police boats between the islands, to prevent smuggling of arms or powder to the natives. The French also considered using the "Lady of St. Kilda" to remove the British Consul, Rev. George Pritchard from Tahiti to one of the Friendly Islands. About November 1844 the "Lady of St. Kilda" was totally wrecked on one of the coral reefs there.
Lt. James Ross Lawrence, R.N., who had brought the "Lady of St. Kilda" out from England, purchased a block of land at St. Kilda and remained at Port Phillip for a number of years acting as the captain of various ships. In April 1848 he was said to have been appointed as Superintendent of the Cape Otway Lighthouse, then under construction. He died on 29 April 1861 at sea in the South Atlantic Ocean ( 46.34 S longitude, 42.30 W latitude ) on board the barque "Bride" 546 tons, Capt. McDonald, en route from Nelson, New Zealand to London, England.
Though there are other theories, it is generally accepted that Sir Thomas Dyke Acland named his yacht, the "Lady of St. Kilda" to commemorate a visit to the Island of St. Kilda by his wife, Lydia Elizabeth (nee Hoare), about 1810. This is supported by their son, Thomas, who was born in 1809 and says in his memoirs that he was taken on a yachting excursion to the Island of St. Kilda as a little boy.
Some sources claim that the "Lady of St. Kilda" was built prior to 1834 and had merely had an extensive reconstruction of the interior in that year. They make the further claim that she had previously carried cargoes of fruit from the Mediterranean area back to Britain.
St. Kilda is a remote island which lies far off the north-west coast of Scotland. The name 'St. Kilda' itself is not thought to relate to any religious saint but to the Old Norse name for a well located on the island.
Captain Gildon Manton was sometimes mistakenly called Gideon Manton. The unusual name Gildon was his paternal grandmother's surname. He arrived at Sydney, New South Wales on the "Marquis of Hastings" on 24 January 1838 and was given a licence for departure from Sydney, N.S.W. by the Water Police on 20 April 1841 to proceed in the "Australasian Packet" to Port Phillip.
In a letter dated 18 February 1842 he wrote to His Honor Charles Joseph La Trobe, Esq., having noted that the position of Harbour Master was vacant, begged "leave to tender my services to your Honor on behalf of the Government" giving as his referees the "Heads of H. M. Customs, Sydney, and from his relations and friends in this town." Following the purchase of the Schooner "Lady of St. Kilda" by Manton & Co., Gildon was appointed Captain and sailed for Canton, China in July 1842.
He married Julia Ann Walsh on 26 June 1843 at St. James Church of England, Melbourne, Port Phillip District.
Gildon was declared insolvent in September 1843. By 1844 he was Captain of the "Martha & Elizabeth" and "Tobago."
The "Port Phillip Gazette" of 9 June 1845 reported "Mr. Gildon Manton applied to his Worship the Mayor for a warrant against Mr. W. P. Dana whom he charged with assault." The "Port Phillip Herald" of 10 June 1845 reported a "Regular horse-whipping affair between two gentlemen."
In 1847 he was a Commission Agent in Collingwood, near Melbourne. He returned to England where he died on 17 September 1865 at Limehouse Entrance, West India Docks, Middlesex, his occupation being given as Dock Master.
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