This was one of the last sailing
ships built for the Colonial passenger trade to Australia. She still could get first class
passengers who wanted to have a restful sail to their new destination rather than putting
up with the noise and mess of steam ships. She still had no trouble getting the emigrant
and third class passenger traffic as was true of all sailing ships of this period.
She was launched in March, 1874, as
a first class 1,500 ton iron clipper. Built by Pile, of Sunderland, for Messrs. Devitt
& Moore, her registered measurements were: length, 235 feet 6 inches; breadth, 38 feet
4 inches; depth, 22 feet 6 inches; tonnage @ 1,447 tons. She had accommodations for 60
first class passengers, their cabins opening up on an 80 foot saloon. The two berth cabins
were 10 feet square and had, for her day, very unique fitted lavatory basins and chests of
drawers which were luxury novelties for her day. Her bathrooms provided hot as well as
cold water - another luxury for her day which was very unusual. Up to this time most
people took cold baths, no hot water being available.
Another luxury she was provided with
which is considered standard today. That is the smoking-room. This was located at the top
of the companionway leading from her saloon to the deck. Prior to this most smokers were
required to go to the weather decks to smoke, since the ladies could not abide the vulgar
and vicious habit of smoking.
The RODNEY'S saloon was lighted by
two large skylights, which were most fashionably decorated with stained-glass views of
Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Cape Town. This ship was considered elegant due to the
stained glass and the plush upholstery of her furnishings in the cabins. The galley of the
RODNEY could easily feed 500 people and she could also distill 500 gallons of water daily.
In other words, she was the height of elegance and fashion for her day. Pile, of
Sunderland, her builder, did not build very many iron sailing ships, but RODNEY was by far
his most successful, fastest and most famous iron ship he built. Devitt and Moore always
spoke of her as the fastest ship in their fleet, and her records confirm this opinion.
In 1880 she made her best passage to Adelaide, arriving on January 1st, 1881, 74 days out.
Under Captain A. Louttit in 1882 she made her best passage to Melbourne, arriving there 69
days out from the channel. In 1887, under Captain Barrett, she ran from the Lizard to
Sydney in 67 days, equaling a record made in 1870 by Patriarch.
Her best homeward run was made in
1889-90, when she made the Lizard 77 days out from Sydney. On this passage she had a
tremendous race with the Cutty Sark. They raced neck and neck the entire voyage, sighting
each other on December 1st, December 2nd, December 22nd, and December 28th. These two
ships raced each other and shifted position throughout the entire period, first one being
ahead and than the other. On January 15th, the Cutty Sark made the Lizard lights, 73 days
out. The RODNEY signaled the Lizard on the following day, 77 days out. Only two other
ships ever gave the Cutty Sark such a good race.
Captain A. Louttit commanded the
ship from 1874 to 1886; Captain Barrett had her for a short time, being succeeded in his
turn by Captain Forbes.
The RODNEY ran to Melbourne until
1887, with the exception of a voyage to Adelaide in 1880-81. From 1887 she was
continuously in the Sydney trade until 1897, when, after being badly knocked about on a
rough passage home, was sold to the French and renamed Gypsy. Four years later, on
December 7th, 1901, when homeward bound from Iquique with nitrate, she was wrecked on the
Cornish coast and became a total loss.