Derek G M Gardner, RSMA
Clan Mackenzie running under full sail
Oil on canvas 24 x 36 inches
The fine Glasgow iron clipper ship Clan Mackenzie was launched in 1882 in Glasgow by Thomas Dunlop & Sons.
Thomas Dunlop of Glasgow was a provision merchant and later became a grain merchant. He bought his first ship in 1868 and eventually owned 14 sailing ships. In 1883 he purchased his first steamship. Confusion with the ships of Cayzer, Irvine's Clan Line caused Dunlop to change his naming system from Clan to Queen from 1878, and Dunlop's Clan Mackenzie is not to be confused with Cayzer vessels of the same name.
She was a fast ship carrying cargoes of coal from Cardiff to Shanghai, wheat from Oregon to the UK and under the command of Captain R J MacMahon was cited in 1900 by the Liverpool Journal of Commerce: During his command Capt. MacMahon has made good passage from Yokohama to Port Townsend in 23 days, being over 8 knots/hr from port to port, which is undoubtedly a creditable performance indicative of good seamanship."
In spite of this reputation for speed and good seamanship, the Clan Mackenzie had a chequered history and had been the subject of assorted mishaps the accounts of which demonstrate the perilous nature of life at sea in those times.
In October 1896, the London Standard reported that Clan MacKenzie was bound from Cardiff to Shanghai with coal… “terrific gale 800 miles from Capetown, 6 men over board including R.J.MacMahon. MacMahon and 2 others held on to a rope and saved themselves, the other 3 drowned. The cabin was washed out carrying away all instruments, charts, books and officers effects.
A wave caused the ship to heel till the sea was in line with the hatches, shifting the cargo, Fore and main lower top-sail sheets let go and the ship was badly damaged.
Put into Table Bay for repairs Sept 23rd."
After 5 weeks for repair in Table Bay the ship then suffered a series of further mishaps which MacMahon recorded:
“…shipping for Shanghai after a few days a sailor fell from a yardarm and drowned.
Arriving in Shanghai collided with a Japanese steamer Egio Maru and had plates stove in either side of the Bow.
After repair sailed for New York, on the way the foresail yard went over the side.
Arriving in New York ran afoul of Brooklyn bridge, result the topgallant mast broke in two.
While unloading, a ships joiner broke his neck falling thro' an open hatch.
On returning to Shanghai , the ships steward drowned while swimming in the harbour.”
He also reported the sinking of the ship while at anchor in the Columbia river, rammed by the O.R. &N steamer Oregon. The ship lay for 12 months at the bottom of the river before being raised and set to sail again. The case was eventually settled 5 years later for $50,000.
The Clan MacKenzie was sold to Norweigian owners in 1907 and renamed the Majorka and in spite of surviving such an eventful history, she was finally lost in 1918, sunk in what the London Daily Telegraph reported as "U-Boat Murders…with the loss of 4 ships including the Majorka.”