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Francis Pritt by Jim Lad - FINISHED - Scale 1:48 - Australian Mission Ship

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I currently still have the ‘Francis Pritt’ in the planning stage – currently working on the hull lines – but she should be ready to start making sawdust in a couple of weeks (says he hopefully).


In the meantime, here’s a bit of an introduction.


A (very) brief history of the evolution of T.I. luggers

The pearling industry at Thursday Island (known almost universally as T.I.) started as far back as 1870 using smallish lug rigged boats that had previously been used in the beche-de-mer fishery.  The later type of pretty ketch rigged boats were introduced into the T.I. fishery sometime after 1876, by James Clarke, a local entrepreneur, who is thought to have had the first of these type of boats designed and built in Sydney  on the lines of popular pleasure yacht design of the day with a beautiful ‘wine glass’ hull.  This type of efficient and seaworthy boat quickly became the standard type at T.I. and many were built by local shipwrights to a slightly simplified design with a plain wooden skeg instead of the shaped ‘wine glass’ type keel.  Although the popular ketch rigged boats were then almost universally used, the popular name of ‘lugger’ stuck and is still used today to describe boats of the pearl fishery.  By the way, the industry was mainly concerned with collecting the pearl shell, as the mother of pearl was used in all sorts of domestic applications before the invention of plastic.  Actual pearls were a bonus, when found.


Thursday Island

For those not too familiar with remote Australian geography, Thursday Island (T.I.) is a small island lying just to the north of the northern tip of the Cape York Peninsular – that’s the pointy bit of Australia on the top right hand corner that reaches to the north and almost touches New Guinea.


Francis Pritt

‘Francis Pritt’ was built in 1901 as the lugger ‘Santa Cruz’ by the famous T.I. builder Tsugitaro Furuta.  She was purchased by the Anglican diocese of Northern Australia in 1905 for use as a mission ship and renamed ‘Frances Pritt’ in honour of a former Archdeacon.  She was 50.58 feet in length with a breadth of 13.75 feet.  She was said to be an especially deep boat with a full load draft of 7.5 feet.  She was sold again to a local trader in 1910 and is thought to have been lost on a New Guinea river bar shortly thereafter.


Why Francis Pritt?

As some of you will know, I usually build models of ships with a personal or family connection, but the ‘Pritt’ is a little different.  A friend of ours used to live in the township of Ngukurr, in Arnhem Land, doing bible translation work.  Ngukurr had formerly been known as the Roper River Mission and was founded by the Anglican Church in 1908 after the Bishop of Northern Australia, Gilbert White, pleaded for a mission station in the area as a means of protecting the local Aboriginal people, who were being indiscriminately murdered by European settlers.  The ‘Pritt’ was the ship that scouted the area in 1907 and then took the first team of missionaries (both European and Aboriginal) to the Roper River in August 1908.  After the establishment of the mission, nearly all the surviving local Aboriginal people came to the Roper River and were protected there.


That storey, combined with the honest good looks of the T.I. luggers, seemed very good reason for me to depart from my usual approach and build the ‘Francis Pritt’ in memory of that first mission.


The Model

The model will be built plank on frame at a scale of 1:48, giving an overall hull length of 12 5/8 inches (320mm).  I’m building the ‘Pritt’ at this larger scale rather than my usual 1:96 as she will be on public display when completed (final location not yet finalised) and needs to be large enough for people to see properly.

There are no plans for the ‘Pritt’ – indeed plans for early luggers are few and far between as the Japanese builders on T.I*. built mainly by eye.  There is, however, a lines plan for one of  Furuta’s luggers from about the same time as the ‘Pritt’, and there is also a lines plan for a luggere built at the same time by one of Furata’s, Tsurumatsu Shiosaki.  Using these lines plans plus the broadside photograph of the ‘Pritt’ on the slip (below), I pretty confident of getting a hull pretty close to the original.  The rigging and deck fixtures and fittings will be taken from surviving photographs.





Francis Pritt under sail in 1907



Francis Pritt on an unknown slipway in 1908



Landing supplies from the Francis Pritt at Roper River, August 1908


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The new project revealed.  :)


She has a certain no-nonsense, workmanlike quality about her that I find most admirable.  I'm a bit startled by the draft ..... but the old designers had their reasons.


I'm certain you'll do her proud, John.  Particularly at 1:48.  Allow me to pull up a chair.


Bon Voyage !!

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The best of luck with this project John, I'm sure she will look fantastic. :cheers:


I'm with Dan on the working rigging, I feel sure your up for it. :D


Will you be building her at the museum again or will she be at home.


Either way I'm going to pull up a chair with a bag of pork scratching's. :)  :)



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Okay you lot, stand aside or lose a limb!!! I'm coming through - a little late, but in time for a second row seat at least I hope. Looks to be a really interesting subject John, I'll join the crowd and applaud as usual.

Edited by gjdale
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Thank you folks, one and all - plenty of room in the gallery, but there'll be a short intermission while I finish the lines plans! :)


For those with specific comments:


Danny and Mobbsie - I'm glad I didn't plan to build her as she was when she was pearling, otherwise you'd have been demanding a fully working air pump and diver's dress!


Hakan - the counter shape was pretty standard for the T.I. luggers - I think also for the luggers over on the nor' west coast at Broome.



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Well, a little sawdust has actually been produced.  The 'backbone' of the 'Pritt' is about halfway there.  It looks a bit odd at the moment with only the after end done and no stem, but I forgot to take my stock of wider timber to the museum with me so I had nothing to use to cut the curved pieces for the forward end - next time.


Here's the keel, sternpost and skeg/after deadwood, anyway.





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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, only a very small update again.  I seem to have spent most of my day today running around doing almost everything except model making.  However I did manage to get the stem on, so after cleaning up the basic backbone, the next job will be to cut the rabbets and then make the frame extension for the overhanging counter before making a framing jig and starting to give her some bones.





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