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The Harpley

Build me straight, 0 worthy Master!
Staunch and strong, a goodly vessel,
that shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
The merchant's word
Delighted the Master heard;
For his heart was in his work, and the heart
Giveth grace unto every Act.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882

The Harpley

The Harpley was built near Exeter on the River Tamar in Tasmania, in the yards of the Patterson Brothers, and launched in 1847. She was measured as being of 547 tons and had two decks, a square stern and was ship-rigged on three masts. She was 122.4 feet long and 26.3 feet wide at the widest part and her depth from deck to keel amidships was 18.6 feet. She was built for James Raven, a merchant of Launceston.

between two and three hundred passengers for Spring Bay, to witness the launch of Mr Raven's ship. A portion of the band of the 11th accompanied the steamer, and played several enlivening airs during the trip down. The launch was effected without delay, in a most skilful manner; but the tide having ebbed about six inches, the vessel grounded within a few yards of the shore. Mrs Raven performed the ceremony of christening the ship, to which the name Harpley was given; she is 544 tons new register. The Swan was stationed in the Bay, where the spirited owner entertained a large number of guests; in the evening she was towed up by the steamer. The Harpley is as fine a ship of her class as was ever built in the world; her model is considered excellent, whilst the work is admirable, and reflects the highest credit upon Mr Patterson the builder. Wherever she goes, the fact of such a vessel having been built on the banks of the Tamar, will excite astonishment, and must tend to raise the capabilities of our port in the estimation of all.

On 10 February she was registered at Launceston as No 1 of 1847 and made her first voyage out of Australia in March 1847. She carried a full cargo of primary produce, then called at Hobart to embark 50 soldiers, 26 women and 40 children. She left Hobart for England on 20 March, and reached England in July. The London Times reported:

"The Harpley" - Under her three topsails and jib, with a stiff breeze from the north east, and strong ebb tide, the smart ship Harpley appeared of Plymouth on Monday morning, the 17th instant, and notwithstanding the opposition of both elements, she, cutter-like, gracefully entered the sound, and with a conscious pride took up her anchorage at the appointed station. Comparatively a few years since no one would have imagined that the far distant colonists of Van Diemen's Land would have sent to the mother country a fine specimen of naval architecture, so well qualified to mingle in one of her noblest ports, with the merchant shipping of the parent state. The Harpley was launched in Launceston on the 2nd February, 1847, and with the exception of her chain cables, was there supplied with all her materials, stores, rigging, pumps, &etc.

There are stories of her being unsound, with fault being found with the Australian timbers used to build her. This was untrue and her registration was changed from Launceston in 1847 to London at the end of her first voyage there. She was commissioned to carry the Lacemakers out of England to South Australia and she departed Deptford on 12 May and reached Adelaide on 2 September. Her next voyage from England carried an interesting contingent of Baptists. John Chandler was a child at the time, but he remembered:

In the year of the Great Famine in Ireland in 1848, there was a great stir amongst the Chartists, and much excitement in Brighton. Wagner, the Vicar of Brighton, was pressing for the Church Rates, and the Nonconformists would not pay, so he stopped the clock at St Peter's Church, which many of the town people depended on for their time. All the boys took up the cry whenever they saw him, "Who stopped the clock?" We all knew him by the grey pony that he rode. When we saw him coming we would look out for some place to escape in where he could not ride, and then shout out with all our mights and run, for he had a whip like the huntsmen have...

Provisions got very dear at this time, and many people were talking about emigrating. Many were leaving for America. There was gold discovered in California... This was in 1848. Some of the members of the Ebenezer church met together and after much talk and many prayers, they resolved to emigrate... The Harpley having got all her cargo aboard and most of her passengers, we started from St Katherine's Dock on 9th September, 1849 and were towed down to Gravesend... *

From information supplied by Richard Lander, John Donisthorpe, Rolicker Chandler, Ronald Parsons & A H Bradfield.

* Forty years in the Wilderness, John Chandler, revised Michael Cannon, Loch Haven Books,1990