James Craig – Final Voyage by Robert Carter

We continue our series on the marvellous paintings by Robert Carter OAM, FASMA, FISMP of the sailing ship era and recently published in The Marine Paintings of Robert Carter1.

Robert is one of Australia's leading marine artists and is also joint founder of the Australian Society of Marine Artists with Dean Claflin.2 You can read more about Bob's biographical information by clicking here.

In this publication Bob has presented his paintings in five parts and we will follow this same format. At the moment we are admiring and learning about the ships from Part One: Maritime Australia. The barque James Craig is featured today as Robert perceived her to be in 1920.

James Craig – Final Voyage by Robert Carter ©

The year is 1920 and a newly rigged James Craig prepares to leave her anchorage in Johnson’s Bay for Newcastle to load a cargo of coal for Hobart. Riding high out of the water she only carries the ballast that is necessary to get her there. The crew is making final preparations for her departure.

The tug has taken the tow rope and the mate peers over the rail to see how much anchor cable has still to come in. It was customary for some sail to be loosened but not sheeted home until off the land and the tow dropped. This departure would be the last she would make from Port Jackson until her complete restoration by the Sydney Heritage fleet.

I wanted to record this happening which was described to me by Bob Hewitt a crew member on that voyage and had to decide on a background that would identify the location. I chose the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as it appeared in 1920. Apart from the Glebe Island Bridge the CSR complex was the logical choice. I searched through my files on early Sydney without finding anything that would help me portray this scene. On contacting the Colonial Sugar Refining Company I was informed that all archived records now resided in the Noel Butlin Library at the Australian National University from whom I was able to obtain some aerial photographs. I assembled a ground level elevation which had many features that have changed little in 80 years.

James Craig had many colour changes during her life time, as well as a name change. Built as Clan McLeod her hull had been black, white and had also been decorated with painted ports. The latter was a feature of the fleet of New Zealand ships owned by J.J Craig & Co. of Auckland. I had to make sure that I chose the correct one for this period. Her last colour scheme was the grey and black which I have chosen.

The tug in the foreground is a composite of features of tugs of the period as I was unable to determine the identity of the tug that took her to sea. The name Janet is a whim that I employ in such cases. The letters are an acronym for Jonathan, Andrew, Noni, Timothy, my children and Elizabeth my wife.3

And as Robert Carter has explained above the James Craig was fortunate in that she was completely restored though as you will read below - this was a monumental effort.

James Craig - in Darling Harbour by Robert Carter ©

The barque James Craig returns to her berth in Darling Harbour after a day cruise off Port Jackson.

Restored from derelict condition to sailing survey by the Sydney Heritage Fleet, James Craig is a testimony to the hundreds of volunteers who have spent thousands of hours over 40 years on her reincarnation.

To one side is another vessel from the Heritage Fleet, the steam tug Waratah. It too was brought back to life by another group of volunteers.

I have taken a certain amount of licence with this painting, as it is unlikely that in this part of the Harbour that this amount of sail would be set. A person in her crew commissioned me to paint the vessel with all sail set and with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.3

© Thank you to Robert Carter who kindly gave permission for the image of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life.

Please check out the Robert Carter Website.

And also the site for the Marine Artisits Australia.

The next glorious vessel in our Robert Carter Marine Series will appear in about a week.

1. The Marine Paintings of Robert Carter , Published in Australia by Robert Carter Maritime, Gosforth NSW, 2320, Australia, 2022
2. Correspondence with Robert Carter
3. robertcarter.com.au