People: Sir Charles Barrie
Born in Dundee, in 1840, Charles Barrie began his maritime career in the Crimean war as an apprentice on the supply ship Sutlej in 1855. We have not yet established what vessel this was. The navy had a frigate Sutlej and at least two mercantile vessels with the name were in service: a paddler built by Cammell Laird for the East India Company and a 659 ton barque built in New Brunswick in 1846.
After the war he worked his passage to Australia on a Dundee ship carrying emigrants attracted by the Australian gold rush. (Supposedly this was the Ann Milne, although we have no records of her sailing to Australia after her 1852-3 voyage from Gravesend to Portland Bay). It was gold again which took him over the Tasman Sea to Dunedin in 1861 and the first New Zealand gold rush at Holy Joe's Gully.
The following year he left New Zealand, an able seaman on the Akbar and left the ship in South Africa. Here he found work as manager of a whaling station north of Cape Town, a job he apparently made a great success of.
1866 saw him back in Dundee and working his way up through the maritime ranks. He was second mate on the brig Ranger then first mate of Gilroy Bros' clipper Dundee at which time he received his Master's certificate. In 1868, he took command of the barque Alpine sailing from Dundee to Calcutta. Two years later he was apponted master of the Broughty Castle but left this for steam, in 1873, as mater of the Ducal Line f barrow's Duke of Argyll. The following year he took command of their Duke of Lancaster before joining the City Line, in 1875, as master of the newly built City of Venice.
In 1881 he left the sea and began to establish his own fleet of sailing ships for the jute trade with his first ship being the Adelaide Baker. Between 1882 and 1884 he bought up the Castle ships from Donald Currie renaming them London, Dacca, Chittagong and Glasgow. He also bought his first steamer, the Invertay at this time. From 1895, when he purchased the Den of Airlie he concentrated on steam and the Den line. The full list of vessels is in the Source Material section.
His profile in Dundee's business community grew and between 1902 and 1905 he was Lord Provost of Dundee. He donated many things to the city, a clock in Coldside; the land from his former family home which became the site for Coldside Library and established the Charles Barrie Fund for Aged Seamen.
He retired in 1915 and most of the fleet was sold, to Cunard and to the Furness Line. His son, Charless C C Barrie (later MP for the Elgin Burghs) took over the firm, as an agency business, with only a brief return to shipowning with the Den of Airlie (IV) between 1921 and 1923. In 1919 he was knighted and died in 1921. In 1966 the firm merged with B L Nairn and continues today, as a removal company, Barrie & Nairn.
The pictured ships are the famous clipper, the Lawhill, built at the Caledon shipyard in 1892 and photographed in the 1930s. The oil painting, artist and date unknown, is of the Den of Ogil.
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© Douglas MacKenzie, 2002
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