<< Previous page

A Good Sailor's Woolwork Picture of the Ulrica Signed by Stephen Spewgett Thorsmonden, Circa 1880


A Sailor's Woolwork Picture of the ship Ulrica,

Signed with inscription by maker,

Circa 1880

The woolie depicts a port side view of the Ulrica, her name on a pennant on the fourth mast flying a Red Ensign from her stern on a beautifully depicted checkerboard sea with multiply shades of blue shading to white..  At the bottom the marker has embroidered his name-Worked by Stephen Spewgett Thorsmonden. All within maple frame.

Dimensions: 19 3/4 inches x 26 1/2 inches.


The Ulrica was an iron ship of 4 masts, rigged with royal sails over double top and single topgallant sails.

She was built by Barclay, Curle & Co. Ltd., Whiteinch (Glasgow) and was owned by Rae J.Greenock.

 Barclay, Curle & Co. Ltd., Whiteinch (Glasgow)

John Barclay became a shipbuilder and repairer in 1818 and passed on the business to his son Robert. Robert was joined in partnership in 1845 by Robert Curle and James Hamilton, when the firm became Barclay, Curle & Co.


From the Board of Trade, in the matter of a formal Investigation held at the Magistrates' Room, Liverpool, on the 29th day of January and the 1st day of February 1897, before W. J. STEWART, Esquire, assisted by Captain BRAGG and Captain BIGLEY, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British Sailing Ship "ULRICA," of Greenock, on the Little Copeland Island, Belfast Lough, on January 7th, 1897.

The "Ulrica," official number 87,399, was a four-masted British sailing ship of the port of Greenock. She was built of iron in 1884 at Whiteinch, Lanarkshire. She was 276.5 ft. long, 41.2 ft. broad, and 24 ft. deep. Her registered tonnage was 1840.9 tons. She was owned by the Ulrica Ship Company, Ltd., and her manager was Mr. James Rae, of Oriel Chambers, Water Street, Liverpool.

The "Ulrica" left San Francisco on August 22nd, 1896, bound for Queenstown for orders, with a cargo of 2992 tons of barley, and a crew of 28 hands all told, under the command of Mr. John Johnston, who held a certificate of competency as master. On January 4th. 1897, the "Ulrica" arrived off Queenstown, and was ordered to proceed to Dublin. At 8 a.m. on January 5th, between the Lucifer and Blackwater Lights, she fell in with the paddle-wheel tug "Flying Sprite," of Glasgow, and engaged her to tow her into Dublin. She was then under all sail, and on being taken in tow kept everything set, but rigged in her jibboom, the weather being fine and the wind from the S.E.

Between 6 and 7 p.m. they rounded the Kish Light, and took in all sail. The wind increased from the same quarter, and there was a nasty sea. The tug, which was only 23 tons net register, with engines of 80 horsepower nommal, working up to between 200 and 300 horse-power, continued to tow the "Ulrica" until the Kish Light bore S.E. magnetic and distant from one to three miles; but finding that it was impossible to tow the "Ulrica" into Dublin, the master of the tug decided to tow the vessel out to sea, and the "Ulrica" thereupon set her lower topsails and fore and aft sails, and the two vessels proceeded out to the cast-ward. The weather and sea became worse, and having towed out the "Ulrica" into what he considered a position of safety, the master of the tug, which had been making very bad weather, for the safety of his own vessel and crew, slipped the ship's hawser at about 1.30 a.m. on January 6th, and returned to Dublin. There lie informed his employers of what he had done, and a larger tug was despatched to the assistance of the "Ulrica," but failed to find her. Meanwhile the "Ulrica" drifted up the channel and passed the Rockabill Light at a distance of five miles. The wind had increased to a gale from the S.E., and there was a heavy sea, and the master did not consider it safe to rig out the jibboom again, though he set all the sail the vessel could carry, keeping the ship by the wind and heading about E.N.E. Shortly before 8 p.m. the wind went round to the E.S.E. and blew a whole gale. The vessel was still steered by the wind, making about three points leeway. At 8 p.m. the South Rock Light bore W. magnetic, distant about seven miles. Later the same night the Copeland Island Light was sighted, the vessel being then under her three lower topsails and fore topmast staysail. At 3.45 a.m. on the 7th the Copeland Light bore W.S.W. magnetic, distant six miles, and the master decided to alter the course for Belfast Lough. He accordingly wore the vessel round and put her on a course N. 1/4 N. magnetic. She continued on that course for about 20 minutes, during which time she ran, as the master judged, a distance of some three miles, when the vessel, being caught apparently by a strong tidal current, suddenly broached to on the port tack and refused to answer her helm. The head yards were braced up, the foresail set, the mizen lower topsail clewed up, and other measures taken. As in spite of all these efforts the vessel refused to answer her helm, the master thought of letting go the anchor, but anticipating no immediate danger, and expecting every moment that she would pay oil', and judging that with the speed at which the vessel was going the cable would probably part, the master decided not to let go the anchor. The vessel, however, continued unmanageable, and at about 4.30 a m. she ran ashore off the north end of Little Copeland Island. where she remained fast in spite of all efforts to move her. As she began to fill rapidly the crew took to the boats and remained by her till morning, when they landed on the mainland and proceeded to Donaghadee. It was found impossible to salve the ship, and she and her cargo became a total loss.

Mr. Dickinson on behalf of the master of the "Ulrica," and Mr. Bateson on behalf of the master of the tug having addressed the Court, the Court gave judgment as above and returned the following answers to the questions of the Board of Trade:—

1. According to the evidence of the master of the tug towing the "Ulrica," the cause of her failure to enter Dublin Harbour on the evening of January 5th was that the wind was blowing a gale from S.S.E.. the tide was flood, and although the tug was headed up to S.S.W., they were unable to clear Burford Bank.

2. Every possible effort appears to have been made by the master of the tug "Flying Sprite" to get the vessel into Dublin Harbour on the evening of the 5th January last.

3. On the 6th January at 1.30 a.m., when the tug cast off the "Ulrica's" hawser, it was blowing a gale of wind from S.E. with a heavy sea, and the "Flying Sprite" was unable to keep to sea, as she was shipping heavy seas, which partially flooded her stokehole. The Court consider that she was justified in not standing by the "Ulrica."

4. After the tug cast off, the master of the "Ulrica" took proper measures for her safety.

5. The master of the "Ulrica" was justified in attempting to enter Belfast Lough, and the Court is of opinion that he took proper precautions in order to do so.

6. When the "Ulrica" became unmanageable, the measures taken by the master were proper so far as they went, and it is probable if the anchors had been let go that the cables would have parted.

7. The vessel appears to have been navigated with proper and seamanlike care.

8. The cause of the casualty was that the vessel became unmanageable and broached to in a spring tide race, and although the foresail was set and the mizen topsail was taken in, she refused to obey the helm or to pay off, and consequently ran ashore on the Little Copeland Island.

9. The master of the "Ulrica" was on deck at the time, and had been for some time previous attending to his duties, and the Court considers that although the cables might have parted, the anchors ought to have been let go, but considers this omission to be an error of judgment, and does not attach blame to the master of the "Ulrica." No blame attaches to the master of the "Flying Sprite."