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.