ProvenanceThe 287-ton barque ‘Claymore’ was built at Leith, Scotland in 1858 for Innes Brothers. Captain John Bickers of Port Adelaide purchased the vessel in 1869. Operating from Port Adelaide, Bickers established his BB Line (Bickers Brothers Line). Initially his vessels serviced remoter areas along the Australian coastline transporting, among other things, coal for local use from Newcastle, New South Wales. When steam colliers began to take control of the coal trade, Bickers' vessels switched to the trade between China, Japan, Mauritius, and South Africa. On outward runs flour was typically the main cargo, with tea on the return voyage from the East, and sugar from Mauritius. Among the vessels of his fleet were the brig ‘Phillis’, barques ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Claymore’, ‘Hannah Nicholson’, ‘Southern Belle’, ‘Jean Perrie’, brigantine ‘Annie Brown’ and the ‘Empreza’. Claymore remained part of his fleet until it was condemned and broken up in Calcutta in 1892. At this time, the figurehead found its way to the lawn of Captain Bickers' ‘Camilla House’ in Semaphore, where it stood alongside the figurehead from Hannah Nicholson.
The figurehead was donated to the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum on the death of the House’s subsequent owner, Mrs Abernathy, in 1936. It was in poor condition at this time and fitted with a new arm and shield. Cracks were filled with putty and three generous coats of paint were applied.
Established in 1872, the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum is the oldest maritime collection in Australia and represents the Port Adelaide community, businesses and seafarers - some returning home from abroad and others passing through. Formerly located in the museum of the Port Adelaide Institute, established 1851, it was a part of the 19th century movement for self-education that led to the establishment of public libraries, schools and museums. The collection is now held by the South Australian Maritime Museum.SignificanceFigureheads, carved wooden sculptures which ornamented the bow of a sailing ship, embodied the 'soul' of the vessel and were believed to offer the crew protection and safe passage on the seas. They were also used to identify a ship, reflecting its function or paying tribute to a person connected with the vessel. The South Australian Maritime Museum has a collection of seventeen ship’s figureheads - the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The figureheads were sourced and acquired by Vernon Smith, the Honorary Curator of the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum ( from which the current museum evolved) over a period of fifty years. He thoroughly documented his search and as a result most of the figureheads are well provenanced with a recorded chain of ownership. Well known Port Adelaide identity Captain Bickers owned the barque and cherished this figurehead as a memento of his ship.DescriptionThe figurehead from the barque Claymore depicts a red bearded clansman clad in a red kilt with sporran. He wears a black jacket and a black tam o' shanter on his head. He thrusts forward a gold shield with his left arm and grips a sword (claymore) in his right. Claymore’ is a Gaelic term for ‘great sword’, a two handed sword used in battle by the Scottish during the medieval period.AcknowledgementDate of Creation1858Date of UsageMaterialWood Accession NumberHT 2012.0652On DisplaySouth Australian Maritime Museum
PlacePort Adelaide, South AustraliaCollectionNeptune’s Wooden Angels
Image FilenameHT2012-0652_CI7407.jpgCopyrightHistory Trust of South AustraliaLicenseCC-0PhotographerKylie Macey