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The wreck of the Wild Deer
The Final Voyage of a Well-Loved Ship - by Jim Allan, Auckland, New Zealand

The story of the last hours of the ship Wild Deer has been written by Jim Allan whose ancestors were aboard. Thankfully they survived, as did everyone else, and they later arrived in New Zealand on board the ship Caroline. Jim has asked us to add this story to our web site and for this we are very grateful.

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My Great Grandmother, Jessie Maiden Arnott, her aunt Helen Arnott and her cousin William Bain Arnott were aboard were aboard the Wild Deer when she was wrecked. They subsequently came to new Zealand on the Caroline. These notes summarise my Research into the Wild Deer which was undertaken in an attempt to understand how the accident happened.                                                                       Jim Allan  Auckland, New Zealand

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Wild Deer
Photographed at Port Chalmers by de Mause
(Alexander Turnbull Library)                          

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Construction of Wild Deer

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WILD DEER was built at the Connell yard in Glasgow, for William Walker of London, and was launched in December 1863. In 1866 she became the property of the Albion Shipping Co., which merged with Shaw Savill in 1882.

She was Charles Connell's first composite ship. She had an elm bottom fastened with treenails and yellow metal, teak planking above the turn of the bilge, fastened with yellow metal screw bolts, and iron bulwarks above the sheer strake (see diagram). she came out with a 75ft main yard and roller-reefing topsails. Of 1016 tons net, she measured 211.0ft x 33.2ft x 20.7ft. Under deck tonnage was 955. (ref China Tea Clippers).


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Former Career of Wild Deer

Between 1864 and January 1871 the Wild Deer was engaged in the tea trade between Shanghai and London. In this respect she completed seven voyages making some very fast times and Basil Lubbock describes her as "The fastest of these China clippers". Indeed her figurehead was that of the Goddess Diana renown for her racing prowess.  Proof of this racing worthiness may be found in the voyage home from Shanghai in 1868, where Wild Deer took on Douglas Castle and Peter Denny - both later to become well known in the immigrant trade - and beat them both home.
The following is a list of voyages of Wild Deer while in the China Tea Trade
Master Date Sailed & Passage Arrived Days
G Cobb Shanghai 24th Aug 1864   Passed Anjer 25th Sept London 24th Dec 1864 102
G Cobb Shanghai 25th Oct 1865 London 3rd Feb 1866 98
G Cobb Shanghai 7th Sept 1866    Passed Anjer 14th Oct London 28th Dec 1866 112
Ganzwyk * Shanghai 13th Aug 1867   Passed Anjer 22nd Oct London 15th Jan 1868 155
James Smith Shanghai 26th Jul 1868     Off Scilly 16th Nov London 23rd Nov 1868 120
James Smith Shanghai 28th Jul 1869     Passed St Helena 17th Oct London 29th Nov 1869 124
Cameron Shanghai 1st Sept 1870     Passed Anjer 9th Oct London 3rd Jan 1871 124
* Master G Cobb died at Anjer on the outward voyage & Mr Ganzwyk (a Dutch Captain) completed the voyage.


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The New Zealand Run

On March 23rd 1871, Wild Deer sailed with immigrants for New Zealand. She completed ten voyages to Port Chalmers between 1871 and 1882 and brought out many hundreds of immigrants during which time she  maintained her reputation as a fast sailer.


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Left: Wild Deer and crew at Port Chalmers
(Alexander Turnbull Library)

Right: Stern view of Wild Deer (dry dock) Port Chalmers
(Alexander Turnbull Library)

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Soon after the start of her eleventh voyage to New Zealand, on 12th January 1883,  she was wrecked on the North Rock, Cloughy, Co., Down, Ireland. This is the story of that last voyage.
This report is taken from the GLASGOW HERALD, TUESDAY FEBRUARY 6th 1883
WILD DEER - The Board of Trade Enquiry
On the 9th January the Wild Deer, with a crew of 41 hands and a general cargo of 900 tons, left Glasgow for Otago, New Zealand. She proceeded directly to the Tail of the Bank, (Greenock) where she embarked 209 passengers. After the usual inspection by the immigration officer to the Board she was, on the 12th January, taken in tow by a tug, and proceeded on the voyage. She went as far as Pladda, when the tug was discharged, and sail was made for the South Channel. The lower top sails were set, and about 1pm the upper top sails and topgallant sails were set. The weather was overcast and hazy, and the wind was blowing a moderate breeze from the SE and about 2pm all sail was set. The tug accompanied the vessel until Ailsa Craig came in sight, when she took off the Pilot and returned. The wind was then blowing from SE and the vessel was steering SSW. About 5pm the wind increased and the weather bacame dark and hazy, sail was reduced and the mainsail was feefed. In a short time Corsewell light was seen bearing E by N N about 6 miles distant. The course was then S by W W.

The Chief Officer was on watch from 6pm to 8pm, during which time the last mentioned course was continued, and during that time neither lights or landmarks were seen. The vessel had been making 5 knots during that watch. At 8pm the Master came on deck and remained in charge until the casualty. Up until 10pm it appears no light was seen, although Copeland and Donagadee lights should have been observed before then. Shortly after

LastVoyage.JPG (195198 bytes) that hour South Rock was seen bearing S by W about three miles distant. About half past ten the Second Officer reported that light to the Master, who, upon making enquiry at the lookout man to know if it had been seen by him, was told that he had previously reported the light but no one seemed to hear him. It was reported to the Master, who gave orders for all hands on deck to put the ship about, but in putting her about she missed stays. Orders were then given to wear her around. The crew got the afteryards half up, and were squaring the foreyards when the vessel struck on what was afterwards proved to be North Rock, Cloughy Bay, and remained there fast.

This happened between ten and eleven o'clock. The lead did not appear to have been used at any time during the voyage. Signals were made and the coastguard boat came off, with other shore boats, and in the morning the whole of the pasengers and crew were safely landed. About 6 o'clock on the morning of the 13th the vessel commenced to fill , and at 7 o'clock the mainmast and all connected with it went over the side. Subsequently the vessel became a total wreck.

The Court of Enquiry found that Captain Kerr was totally accountable for the accident and his amsters certificate was suspended for three months.

i) Helen Arnott, together with Jessie and William would probably have travelled from Abernethy (where they lived) to Glasgow by train, and amy have taken accomodation in Glasgow until it was time to board the ship. The journey from Glasgow to Greenock would have been by train.

ii) It would seem that the tug tow from Greenock would need to have started about 8am (possibly first light) on the 12th in order for the ship to have reached Pladda by 1pm. Hence it is assumed that the passengers would have embarked at least the day before and much of their heavier luggage would have been loaded at Port Glasgow before the 9th of January.

iii) It seems surprising that the Captain chose to take the south passage given the South Easterly conditions. This would have required a tack which at best would  have taken him less than 6 miles from the lee shore of the coast of Irelend. He said, at the enquiry, that he had been delayed by 12 hours taking the North Passage on a previous voyage, indicating that this was the reason. However it would seem that on this occasion conditions were ideal to sail round the north of Ireland and into the Atlantic.

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Further reports of the wreck including documentation from 1883

White Wings by Sir Henry Brett
Original Report of the Incident
Reports from the New Zealand Gazette
The Down Recorder, Saturday January 20th 1883