The Loch Long of Glasgow was a clipper ship engaged in the Australian wool trade in the second half of the 19th century.

Her story is mirrored by the story of many other such vessels from a long-lost era - even the names of the most famous scarcely survive today - Cutty Sark, Thermopylae, Ariel. But in the 19th century hundreds of these ships and their crews set off from British ports on annual voyages around the world, carrying the manufactured goods from industrial Victorian Britain and outbound emigrants to the colonies, and returning laden with raw materials - tea, wool, jute, grain. They sailed the most inhospitable seas on earth without engines or mechanical power, without electronics, out of sight of land or other contact with the world for the hundred days or so of both outward and return passages. Sadly, many simply did not return. I am completely in awe of the skill and fortitude of the men, such as my grandfather, whose way of life this was.


The LOCH LONG was an iron three masted ship built by J.& G.Thomson for the General Shipping Co. of Glasgow (Aitken, Lilburn & Co ) in 1876. She was 1261 tons, 255 ft in length, 35ft in the beam and 21ft in depth. She is went into service as a "wool clipper" operating from the Clyde to Australia, carrying general cargo to Adelaide (photo above is of the ship 'alongside' in Port Adelaide) then sailing to Melbourne to load wool for London or Hull.

Originally fully square rigged, she was cut down to a barque rig along with others of the Loch Line as trade became more unprofitable, because of competition from steamships, and crews became scarce around the turn of the century. She is recorded as a 'barque' in the ship's log of her voyage of 1900/1901 - see full size photo of the vessel, without her mizzen yards, coming through the Rip at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay with the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse behind, under almost full sail in light winds, with her anchor hanging at the cat-head, ready for use. She appears to be in ballast, presumably having discharged in Adelaide before moving to Melbourne to load wool. (see Google Maps)

Throughout her life she consistently made good passages to Adelaide and Melbourne, her best being 75 days in 1884, having left the Clyde on the 1st June and enjoyed a race with 'Militades' and 'Cimba'. She was 96 days from Melbourne back to London. In 1889 she is recorded as having made the passage from Geelong to London in 99 days.

For her voyage of 1886/1887 there is recorded, in the form of a letter, a fascinating account of the experience from the point of view of passengers aboard the ship. This is available from the excellent and informative site run by Sue Swiggum, the wife of a direct descendant of one of those passengers.

Under the command of Captain James Strachan of Banff, my grandfather, the ship's log for the voyage of 1900/1901 records a departure from Greenock on 15th September, crossing the line on 27th October and arriving in Adelaide 97 days out. She left Melbourne on 18th February 1901, rounded Cape Horn at a distance of 2.4 miles on 2nd of April where she 'passed a large steamer' and had the Lizard abeam, 102 days out, on 31st May. Captain Strachan again took the Loch Long to Australia in 1901/1902, this time recording a slower passage of 103 days out and 115 days back.
In 1903, again under the command of Captain Strachan, the Loch Long was once more Australia bound and is recorded as having only two passengers on board, a Mr Gordon and a Mr Ballantyne who, in a letter of sympathy to Capt. Strachan's widow, spoke very highly of the whole experience.
However, having failed to secure a cargo of wool in Melbourne for her return voyage, this time she was sent to New Caledonia to load nickel ore. She sailed from New Caledonia on 29th April bound for the Clyde but never arrived. Wreckage was discovered on the east coast of the Chatham Islands – the wreck is reported by Chatham islanders to be lying just inside Blind Reef, near the NE tip of the island.
All hands were lost including the Captain, his brother Alexander (the first mate) and his brother-in–law John Cameron Geddie (ship's carpenter), all of Banff. One (unidentified) body was washed ashore, and is buried in Te Whakaru cemetery, the grave being marked by a single whale’s vertebra. A letter from Capt. Strachan, sent home to his wife by steamer from New Caledonia while the Loch Long was loading, presaged her doom. Capt. Strachan was deeply concerned about his heavy cargo (ore-carrying was the death of many a sailing vessel) and the fact that a passage had to be made to and round the Horn 'out of season'. In the event, the Long Long did not make it south to pick up the westerlies, having apparently struck the north east tip of the Chathams in fog.

See Google maps for the location.

A memorial to the ship, captain and crew was placed on the shore at Kaingaroa on the Chathams in 1998 by Capt. Strachan's grandson and his wife, on the first occasion any member of the family had visited the wreck site - see photo (inset courtesy of Kath Morrison)


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The Loch Long in Port Adelaide