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Ship's figurehead of the schooner 'Spray'

Date made: 19th century

Maker: Hudson, James

Description: Ship's figurehead, from the Schooner 'Spray'. This takes the form of a full length figure of a woman or girl, wearing a low cut flowing dress. The figurehead has never been painted though the wood may have been varnished. There is a hole about halfway down probably through which it was fixed to the prow of the ship.

This is the figurehead of the schooner 'Spray', built in Port St Mary in 1877. The figure was carved by James Hudson (or Hudgeon). She was built for the Doran family, who owned and crewed her. She sailed across the North Sea between Stornoway and St Petersburg, and was described at the time as very fast. Having carried salt to the Outer Hebrides, her chief cargo on the Baltic run would be barrels of herring for the Russian market. It is recorded that on the return leg, sealskins were often brought back for Manx women to make into coats.

When the 'Spray' was lost on the east coast of Scotland around 1902, the figurehead was acquired by Mr William McGain of Port St Mary, one of the last of the old sailing skippers in the south of the island. He later presented it to the Manx Museum.

Ship building was an important Manx industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, and there were yards in most of the island's ports. The largest surviving Manx-built vessel is now the 'Star of India' (formerly 'Euterpe') which was built at Ramsey, and the oldest is the shallop 'Peggy', built for George Quayle in 1789.

The custom of carving figureheads for ships dates back to ancient times. Many are of women, as it was widely believed that a beautiful female form could calm a violent sea.

Materials: wood: other

Object name: figurehead

Collection: Social History Collection

ID Number: 1954-4453

Subject tags : #MM100COLLECTIONS


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