Launching of "Lady Egidia" at Ardrossan in 1860
The "Ardrossan Herald" of Saturday, September 8, 1860 announced the purchase lately by Potter Wilson & Co.,of Glasgow, of the large vessel on stocks in Messrs. Barr & Shearers ship-building yard here. Since the purchase workmen have been preparing her for the launch which was looked forward to with great interest, both on account of the size of the vessel and from the length of time which has elapsed since a like event took place in this locality.
It came off on Wednesday last under circumstances which will long be remembered. The day was remarkably fine. From an early hour the harbour presented a gay scene with flags of all nations floating from ships and buildings, and as the hour approached every available spot which commanded a view was crowded. No fairer sight was ever witnessed at any previous launch, and we believe at no former period was the anxiety so general that Messrs. Barr & Shearer's usual good fortune should attend them on this occasion.
On a platform, raised near the dry-dock, was the Earl and Countess of Eglinton, Lady Egidia Montgomerie, and party from the castle, Colonel and Mrs Wylie, Miss Moffat and party, John Moffat Esq., W.B. Huggins Esq., Dr. Robertson, G. Thomson Esq., Misses Houston, Rev. M. Rorison, Mrs Rorison, Misses Buchanan, and a large number of strangers. Whilst in the several groups in the yard, but especially on the vacant space between the pig iron and the edge of the dock on the opposite side, were mingled together all classes drawn together from Stevenston, Saltcoats and Ardrossan.
At about 3 o'clock, expectancy is at its height as heavy hammer and mallet wielded by strong arms drive in the wedges which are to relieve the props which fasten the vessel still to the ground. These are at length removed and:
There she stands
With her foot upon the sands.
Decked with flags and streamers gay
In honour of her marriage day.
Her snow white signals fluttering blending
Round her like a veil descending
Ready to be bride of the gray old sea.
At this moment, Lady Egidia, accompanied by her noble father, The Earl of Eglinton, by the members of the firm and by the owners stepped forward and, having broken the bottle upon her bow, the noble vessel slowly, majestically, and without a pause, slid into the embrace of the old ocean, amidst the once again and again congratulatory shouts of friends.
Lo from the assembled crowd
There rose a shout prolonged and loud
That to the ocean seemed to say
Take her O bridegroom, old and gray'
Take her to thy protecting arms
With all her youth and all her charms.
The "Egidia" is one of the largest, if not the largest wooden vessels ever built in Scotland. Her model was the General theme of admiration, and we believe the timber of which she is built is the finest that could be procured. She measures 219 1/2 feet long, extreme breadth 37 1/3 feet, depth 22 1/2 feet , registered tonnage 1,235, builders measurements 1,461 tons.
She has a well executed female figure at the bow, and at the stern there is a figure of Mercury and two female figures representing commerce. the ornamental carving at both the bow and stern is very tastefully designed. She goes immediately into dry-dock to be coppered and finished, and no expense will be spared in fitting her out in a style in keeping with the superior build of the vessel. She is advertised to sail for Otago on 10th October, and we do not exaggerate when we say that no finer or better built vessel ever sailed for the Australian sea. The vessels name "Lady Egidia" is that of a daughter of a noble Scottish House, the Montgomeries of Eglinton Castle. The e name Egidia has been traced back more than 600 years. It has been bestowed on female members of the family and its branches right up to the present day.The historical committee thanks most sincerely Miss Winifred Montgomerie of Wanganui, who so kindly and willingly offered her assistance, together with the use of several booklets and photographs as well as the chart showing the derivation of the name Egidia.