UPDATE - March 2017

It is hoped to keep this active site refreshed regularily. Much has been happening in the intervening periods. New maritime friends have been in touch, and there are further fascinating stories emerging to enhance our understanding of the glorious era at the 'high point' of the sailing ships. As is often quoted ~ "please watch this space" . . . .

Note for Readers: If you have any suggestions which might assist in making this site better please do leave a message!

"The first 4-mast 'full-rig', iron hulled, merchant vessel in the world"

A copy of original design drawings (by Barclay Curle of Glasgow) was located in Chile (24th Dec'2009). After further detailed research, a 'well-worn' original drawing, dated 1874, was eventually retrieved from a 'cubby-hole' in a Glasgow storage vault in 2011. The familiar outlines of the side-elevation and plan view of this first 4-masted iron-ship are shown in the section entitled "High Point". This exciting find adds to the fund of knowledge being accumulated about this historically significant vessel.

After a coat of paint ~ circa 2004


Your interest in 'ScottishClipper' is greeted with thanks.

The amount of interest in late 19th Century sailing vessels was underestimated when the website was first launched. It was always intended that any enquiries would be followed-up. Please however allow for, in some cases, a few days before you receive a response to an enquiry.

Topics of enquiry

Here are a few examples of the range of topics so far received at 'ScottishClipper':

" . . . . the free standing 'post' between the mizzen and jigger masts was a pole compass; it was quite difficult to read in heavy weather - from below  . . . ."

"I own a painting of the ship County of . . . . , 1898; where is the best place to have it restored in the UK"?

" . . . my maternal grandfather sailed on some of these ships. I have a cap badge & braid from a County ship officer's uniform . . . ."

". . . found in my late father's belongings a sea-box inscribed County of . . . ."

" . . . have an original dated certificate from the ship County of . . . ."

" . . . great grandfather was a crewman in 1882 on the County of . . . ."

". . . have a painting showing a rig-detail of the ship County of . . . ."

through to sometimes broader enquiries such as:

". . . where can I find further details about the crew of the "County of . . . .?"

". . . have an un-dated photograph of the County of . . . ."

" . . . how was it possible for a large ship to be 'lost without trace' . . . ?"

". . . how long did it take to load and unload the County of . . . . ?"

". . . where were COUNTY vessels surveyed on long voyages?"

and similar questions.

New friends

As correspondents to date know, all genuine enquiries are being answered. Sometimes this has resulted in the identification of a new "discovery" about our seafaring forebares. One recent contact has identified ancestral friendships going back to the early 1860's; it is remarkable how that era can come into sharp focus with such knowledge!


This site becoming a "site-of-call" for many 'ship-lovers'

Many square-rig enthusiasts, and experts in related aspects of maritime history, are making this site ( a port-of-call in their researches. An increasingly large group of contacts (around the world) intimates a wide range of erstwhile hidden knowledge of 19th Century iron and steel ships, and in particular four-masted sailing vessels. This is good news.

Numbers of 4-masted ships?

There are signs of on-going work, by dedicated enthusiasts, to identify each of the 4-masted iron/steel ships, barques and shipentines (a term used in USA) which were built. Work continues to establish exactly how many 4-masted 'full rig' ships and barques existed. Ask this question of the experts, and it reveals a considerable debate about the precise number of "4-masted ships ever built". Adequate specification or other evidence is not always available. Estimates range from 397 to 445 at the last count, depending on a number of factors. Allowances must also be made for many 'converted' vessels where the number and utilisation of masts varied. If you have more up-to-date numbers please contact this site.


Book title: "GONE"

A Chronicle of the Seafarers & Fabulous Clipper Ships of R&J Craig of Glasgow: otherwise known as Craig's "COUNTIES"

The book "GONE" (author 'Bill' Cumming), is about the very first 4-masted iron sailing ship County of Peebles and its 11 sister ships - al built on the River Clyde. Copies have been cropping-up all over Scotland, and in England, but they are to be found in the USA, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, South America, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and other Baltic states and now also Russia. Foyles Bookshop of London (usually send-out postage free) was the first major bookstore to stock it in England. You should be able to buy a copy at any good 'independent' bookseller, quoting the title, author, publisher and publication date (December 2009).

You could obtain a copy through Amazon Books (just type-in GONE, Bill Cumming) or order directly from the Publisher:

T: +44(0)14-1883-0141 (Glasgow)

In 2015, Brown Son & Ferguson relocated from their previous building to new, modern offices in central south west Glasgow.

'HOT OFF THE PRESS'!  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ->

The book 'GONE' as above, was reported to be on display in several new locations this year, namely:

British Maritime Book Festival - "Leviathan": held at Weymouth, Dorset on 11th & 12th March 2016. A local main bookseller has copies for sale. This was an inaugural event, attended by many of the leading international Maritime Authors. The organisers have plans to make this a regular annual get-together of maritime writers, speakers and marine experts.

Falmouth, Cornwall: in a leading independent bookshop close to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC).

San Diego Maritime Museum (California - USA): on-sale in this important museum's Shop.


The book was re-priced some months ago. A nautical commentator said that it was "quite excellent value"! If you have not yet acquired a copy of "GONE" you may wish to order NOW, as stocks are diminishing at the Publisher - as we deliberate . . .  (September 2016)

Other observations of readers include:

" . . . the book took-over from where Basil Lubbock left -off about the early big iron ships; it is a more interesting read than the title suggests . . ."

" . . . thank you for a great read. I have learned a lot, enjoyably!"

". . . unexpectedly, full of human interest . . ."

" . . . much more interesting than run-of-the-mill maritime books. I am onto my second read of it . . ."

"Having just finished GONE . . . . I found it very enjoyable from start to fish"

". . . I was given GONE as a birthday gift . . . it's a very good read"

". . . there are previously unpublished letters and notes; all in all, a good working of a history, from the days of sail, written by an enthusiast". (Editor of a UK Maritime Journal).

" . . . this was an ideal birthday gift for my husband, he was enthralled . . ."

A synopsis of the book GONE follows at the end of this section.

5.0   COUNTY OF INVERNESS (June 2016)

Dundee's Heritage Trust at VERDANT WORKS acquired a fine oil painting of the "County of Inverness" (as a full-rig ship) - resulting from lengthy facilitations made through this website!

A former jute mill has become a major exhibition centre for the Trust. Expert curators continue to develop a visual & documented history of the original 19th/20th century JUTE industry on the River Tay. It is one of the 'must see' museums when visiting Dundee.

The painting is attributed to the well known pier-head artist Lai Fong of Calcutta. It has been revealed to the public in 2016.

This was the third 4-masted ship for R&J Craig, launched on 4th January 1877. It was another highly successful vessel with a long career as a "County" until 1911; ultimately it had 5 owners! From 1925 a trading Company in what is nowadays Tallin (in Estonia) operated the vessel mostly to countries bordering the Baltic. In this latter period the ship visited Hull (N.E. England) on several occasions. It was renamed "Dora" from 1911, "Carmen" from 1916 and "Nemrac" from 1925. Its last name change was to "Amicizia" around 1940. It came to a sudden and sad end . . . .

Nemrac" (ex "County of Inverness”) as a steam powered vessel, under
Estonian ownership ~
circa 1928. {Courtesy Tallin Maritime Museum 2010}.

6.0 MARPESIA (ex. COUNTY OF KINROSS) (August 2016)

A whiff of some more recent history on this 4th of the big-twelve "Counties" has appeared. A salvage Company, operating on a huge "clear-up project" in the River Parana (Argentina) between 1969 and 1973, reported having encountered a large submerged hull, with characteristics similar to this vessel - "full of sand" and left on the River bed. Although at first it was considered a likely candidate for the hull of the old 'Kinross, it transpired that it was a later design of ship - made of steel. But the possibility of finding remnants has not gone away. Images are still being traced of a reputed picture of the old hull (as a hulk) whilst named "Marpesia" - possibly in the 1930's.

“Marpesia” meaning butterfly, ex “County of Kinross”, reduced to barque; under the Norwegian flag (after 1906) {Courtesy Norwegian Maritime Museum - Porgsgrund}

Update: It has since become clear that many submerged wrecks were disposed of progressively by the Government. However there are continuing hopes that something or some things of this old vessel have been preserved in local institutions or scrap-yards . . . .

Watch this space . . .

(Continuing review in progress: October 2015)

7.0 "KATERINA" - petroleum tanker (ex "County of Linlithgow")

If you live in or near Piraeus Greece, you may have knowledge of the above vessel which was damaged/lost in or around Piraeus / Methana sometime after 23 April 1941. If you have any details about what happened to this vessel (whether it survived, where it was sunk, if it was repaired or broken-up) please contact us! So far the evidence is that the vessel (converted to a motor-tanker) was badly damaged in April 1941, but may have survived for use until circa 1948. Does anyone have photographs of Methana, or Piraeus, anchorages where fuel-tankers were berthed around that time? This was the last, and largest, of the 12 R&J Craig 4-mast hulls, and was a very fine, late, example of a square rigger - technically known as a "full rig ship". Friends in Athens are attempting (January 2012) to track-down the local harbour records.

"County of Linlithgow" at sea with topsails, whilst owned by R&J Craig {Private collection}

8.0  TALKS ON CRAIG'S "COUNTIES"                               (March 2017)

A series of presentations, with digital-projection, on the "People and Ships of R&J Craig" has been delivered to appreciative audiences around the UK and further afield. The series commenced by a talk given on the 'high seas' whilst rounding Cape Horn in a cruise ship in December 2008 - within 'hailing distance' of the shear face!

The Dorset World Ship Society (WSS) booked a talk (14 months in advance) delivered in May 2009. There was a presentation to a large gathering on RRS Discovery in June 2009. The latter was sponsored by the Tayside - Family History Society (Dundee). Other societies and Club bookings have followed.

One recent Talk (to a private Society with a keen interest in maritime matters) was sold-out at 160 seats. A delegation of members from the International Association of Capehorners had also requested places - and a few late comers had standing room only! The popular questions and answers session included a rich variety of insights (from the learned audience) covering 19th century aspects of navigation, build materials, anti-fouling and top sailing speeds.

A further series of talks is planned for those with a major family interest in (or link with) UK Maritime History.Two recent talks were delivered on board a large cruise ship navigating around New Zealand en route to the Tasman Sea. The smaller audience (of around 80 people) prompted an outstanding crop of interesting and fruitful questions.

Some recent comments are:

"  . . . we want to book you again to have another great evening"

" . . . wonderful illustrated talk, giving fascinating details"

" . . . the speaker certainly knew his stuff . . . "

". . . impressive photographs of that era"


"Not to be missed" said another attendee.

Presentations, with digitally-upgraded images of R&J Craig ships, have been given to substantial audiences on-board two large Cruise Ships. Feedback included:

"The story explained why a small country (Scotland) got so well known around the world"

"I hadn't realised that Britain had so many important ships - before the Cunarders"


" . .  when is the next talk . . . I want to be there"!

Anyone for a Talk on the “High Point of Sail-Power”?

If you or your organisation would like to book a presentation on the above subject, please supply your organisation's details in the "Contacts Section".  Please note that the schedule continues to fill-up through to January 2018.


There are plans to point / link to a other relevant web-sites, or web-sites having particular associations with the concept of 'Scottish Clipper'.

Because many (perhaps most) of the Scottish built clippers were 'Cape Horn capable', we have initially agreed to collaborate with the highly regarded International Association of Cape Horners (IACH).

Look out for news on this.  See:

World Ship Review

The Chairman* of the World Ship Review (the Journal of the World Ship Trust) discussed the County of Peebles (Edition No63, March 2011) in comments about ship restoration. A close-up image of the remains of the ship were also highlighted.

* The Rt Hon The Lord Greenway, Chairman & Vice President of Council - World Ship Trust (WST); the motto of the WST is "Implacable "Never Again".

See:    References to the World Ship Society - through various web-addresses. (September 2015)

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Synopsis of the book "GONE" (1st published 2009):

Based on real people and events, this is  gripping factual account of the repercussions of the milestone launch of the world's first 4-masted iron merchant ship in 1875. The phenominal success of this large square-rigged sailing ship, named County of Peebles, prompted R&J Craig of Glasgow to launch a further eleven fabulous jute clippers. Initially they traded between Cardiff, East India and Dundee, and were referred to as the Scottish East India Line. R&J Craig's bold decision to build sailing vessels, during the ascendancy of steam power, created an unanticipated demand for 4-masted iron and later steel windjammers. these flourished at the peak of the 'sailing ship era', and continued for 50 years longer than predicted. One of these, the County of Roxburgh, was perhaps the fastest merchant wind-ship ever created. The careers of each of the twelve renowned 4-masters are revealed in detail for the first time in one publication. Remarkably the dilapidated hulls of the County of Peebles (Magellan Straits, Chile) & County of Roxburgh (stranded mid Pacific) still survive. New and previously unseen material on the people and vessels of R&J Craig is unveiled for the first time.

More News updates in due course  . . . . . . .

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