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BigGuy

Phoenix of Leith 1666

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I recently found out that my 8 times Great Grandfather came to Virginia from Scotland in 1666 on the Phoenix of Leith.  I would love to build this ship if I can find a kit or plans.  Do any of you guys know of a model that would represent this ship?  Any help or advice would be appreciated.

Edited by BigGuy

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I doubt there is a kit of that particular ship. Perhaps with more info as in what type of vessel she actual was etc you may find suitable plans or even a kit of a similar vessel.

Edited by Tallshiptragic

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Quick search on Google reveiled the Phoenix - sailing from Leith near Edinburgh, Scotland - carried prisoners and 'persons unwanted in the Kingdom, such as idle vagabonds' to the plantations in the Americas.  These people were sold there as slaves.

 

This would suggest to me that she was a merchant vessel, rather than a military one.

Perhaps that helps you in narrowing down your search?

Peter

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This is an etching of an English armed merchant ship of around 1670 that sailed between England and Canada. Gives an idea of the type of ships sailing to the Americas from England trading in slaves of that period. Which from a Google search of the the 'Phoenix' leads towards.

 

Being late 17th century she's similar in appearance to a Dutch 'pinnace' though my knowledge of English ships of this period is far more limited to that of the Dutch so I'm sure more people may be far more knowledgeable. Though if this is what she may have looked liked, there are numerous plans available for a Dutch 'pinnace'

post-18517-0-45113000-1431846549.jpg

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On 12/29/2019 at 4:12 PM, Lewis Hunt said:

Who is your ancestor? So did mine (John Shields) except that I understand he went to Barbados, then figured out a way to Virginia.

Hi my supposed Ancestor was also on the Ship. The story goes it was 2 brothers kidnapped on the streets of Edinburgh and taken to Tolbooth Prison and given the choice of rotting in Jail or go to Jamestown to be 7 years a slave. Their names were John and James Farguson (Ferguson). 

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So it appears that if she's the Phoenix "of Leith" she would be a Scottish ship. Probably a fairly modest merchant ship, and built before 1666 - perhaps decades before - say 1630-1650. I think TallShipTragic's example might be rather too sophisticated and incorporating later details such as what appears to be a gallery near the stern that the Phoenix probably wouldn't have had. Probably only a very small number of guns and a simple sail plan - courses, topsails and a lateen mizzen, plus a small square sail on the bowsprit (that "mast" sticking out sideways at the front, or pointy end).

 

Have a look at Backer's superbly researched thread on the Golden Hind/Pelican at 

 - though too early for your purposes it forms a point to begin from - hull shape and rig didn't change all that much in the time between Golden Hind and Phoenix, but there were changes, such as in the shape of the beakhead and if I'm not wrong, the aftercastle was somewhat lower in later ships.

 

There won't be any available plans for the Phoenix - she almost certainly never had any, being built by rule of thumb. Merchant ships, though by far the most common type, are always the poor relations when it comes to contemporary representations because painters etc want to show big naval battles, important ships etc - that's what the people with money are prepared to pay for. There's the occasional "panorama of XXX sea-port" that shows ordinary ships, but you have to search for them, and I can't off the top of my head think of one from about 1640-50.

 

But with a bit of research you could build a model of a ship of her type and approximate size. The only even vaguely contemporary model of a merchant ship available as a kit would be of the Mayflower, (Billing, Model Shipways and Artesania Latina each have kits) but she was already old in 1620. However, it might be possible to "kit-bash" to make her look more like the pictures below of ships closer in time to the Phoenix.

 

Depending on how ambitious you want to be and what your modelling skills are you might want to use the pics below to draft a set of plans of your own and build her from scratch. If you need any help with that there are plenty of people on this forum who would be glad to point you in the right direction and give you a hand with drawing up the plans (there's a whole section of this forum devoted to that).

 

The first picture is from the 1629 Architectura Navalis by the German Joseph Furrtenbach and probably depicts something somewhat bigger and grander than the Phoenix (probably too many guns and I wonder about the stern gallery) but the general idea seems about right. This was probably cutting edge in 1629 - a small merchant ship built some decades later would probably be similar because the lower end ships would have been fairly conservative (i.e. a bit out of date). 

 

image.png.24a0fdc4eee99bfa50d7788ef445a0f3.png

And from 1616 the Livro de Tracas de Carpintaria by the Portuguese Manuel Fernandes there are some worthwhile pictures which incorporate some very worthwhile details of hull shape:

 

 

 sem+nome1.jpgImage result for Livro de Tracas de Carpintaria

 

Image result for Livro de Tracas de Carpintaria

 

The more modest of the above are probably a pretty good representation of the kind of ship the Phoenix was, allowing for the fact that the quality of the art is pretty basic. The second-last one is very pretty but she's probably too big.

 

The top coloured pic is most likely more like it - there are two ships represented on that picture; the upper one looks about the right size, and although the lower one shows too big a ship, the shape seen from above probably has the "tubbiness" you'd expect in a merchant ship. If you look at the black and white pic at the bottom you'll see that this ship is narrower in relation to its length - it would be a better sailer, but wouldn't be able to carry so much cargo.

 

Both German and Portuguese shipbuilding conventions (and the shape of ships) would have been different from those of Scotland, but it's pretty much all we have to go on. But with the above as a guide I believe you could make a very creditable model which wouldn't be exactly what the Phoenix looked like but would be as close as possible given the available information.

 

Steven

 

 

 

 

Edited by Louie da fly

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Well, yes, she was a merchant ship:

 

image.png.c76226ea5dc1586c49b03d9bf39ae3c5.png

from page 56 of the book Scottish Emigration to Colonial America, 1607-1785 by David Dobson, which you can find by Googling Phoenix of Leith. It might also have some family info for you.

 

Steven

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Did anyone notice that " BigGuy " hasn't been back in almost five years?

 

 

That said, the topic and research others have put into the subject is very interesting..

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D'oh! I never noticed the date of the first post. But it has sparked my interest in merchant ships of the mid-17th century, something I'd never really thought about before.

 

Steven

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