The figurehead from the ship Garthneill depicts a white painted figure of a Scottish woman wearing a jacket and skirt, with a tam-o’-shanter on her head. She holds a flower in her left hand.

Garthneill was the first figurehead secured for the Nautical Museum’s collection. Figureheads, carved wooden sculptures which ornamented the bow of a sailing ship, embodied the 'soul' of the vessel and were believed to offer the crew protection and safe passage on the seas. They were also used to identify a ship, reflecting its function or paying tribute to a person connected with the vessel. The South Australian Maritime Museum has a collection of seventeen ship’s figureheads-the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. The figureheads were sourced and acquired by Vernon Smith, the Honorary Curator of the Port Adelaide Nautical Museum (from which the current museum evolved) over a period of fifty years. He thoroughly documented his search and as result, most of the figureheads are well provenanced with a recorded chain of ownership. The figurehead from Garthneill is an evocative relic from a Scottish windjammer active in South Australia's grain trade. The vessel was later moored as a floating grain silo and was a familiar fixture in Port Adelaide. The museum also holds other fittings from the ship removed when it was scuttled, and personal items linked to those who lived on the ship during its life as a floating silo.


  • Title: Garthneill' figurehead
  • Date Created: 1895-01-01/1895-12-31
  • Location: Port Adelaide, South Australia
  • Provenance: The 1470 ton, three-masted barque 'Garthneill' was built by Russell and Company in Glasgow, Scotland in 1895 for George Milne and Company. At this time, the entire fleet was named with the prefix ‘Inver’, and the vessel was originally named 'Inverneill'. The barque was an international trader, carrying cargoes of timber from Canada and cargoes of wheat and wool from Australia to Europe. Inverneill also made regular voyages to South America to collect cargoes of saltpetre and copper. When the Inverneill was sold in 1916, it was renamed the 'Garthneill' by new owner, Sir William Garthwaite. The vessel was brought to work in Australian waters. In 1919 Garthneill sailed in ballast from Melbourne for Bunbury, Western Australia. The barque battled relentless westerly gales, ultimately turning east with the weather, towards Cape Horn. When the vessel eventually arrived in Bunbury, it had almost circumnavigated the world to collect its cargo of jarrah. In July 1926, Garthneill was one of the last British square-rigged sailing vessels to be decommissioned. At this time, it was sold and brought to Port Adelaide where it was converted into an electric barley-grading mill and storeship: the only one of its kind in Australia. In November 1935, the hulk was towed to the Ship’s Graveyard at Garden Island on the Port River.
  • Rights: History Trust of South Australia, CC-0, photographer: Kylie Macey

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