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Reproduced courtesy of Mr George Mosby

Pearling lugger MERCIA

Date: 2010
Overall: 950 x 1120 x 260 mm
Medium: timber, paint, fabric, plastic, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Mr George Mosby
Object Name: Model
Object No: 00050472
Place Manufactured:Torres Strait

User Terms

    Model of the MERCIA pearling lugger by Torres Strait Islander and member of a long standing pearling industry family, George Mosby, grandson of 'Yankee Ned' Mosby.

    George worked with his father on pearling luggers and remembers the MERCIA when it was owned by the Bowden Pearling Company before World War II.

    SignificanceThe model is an excellent reconstruction of a significant Torres Strait pearling vessel made by former pearler George Mosby. It is a link between several generations of an important pearling family that highlights the diverse cultural and maritime history of the Torres Strait Islands.
    HistoryGeorge Mosby's grandfather was Edward Mosby, commonly known as 'Yankee Ned'. Mosby was born in the United States in 1834 and was a veteran of the American Civil War. He was related to the famous Confederate Partisan Ranger General Mosby. Mosby family history suggests George deserted the US Navy after the war (1861-1865) and settled in far away Torres Strait.

    By the late 1860s Mosby was working in the pearling and beche de mer industry in the Torres Strait islands. He apparently began to convince Indigenous islanders that, according to Civil War researcher Jim Gray, other pearlers were gathering the profits from the waters around their islands, that should by right be theirs.

    Mosby was soon a popular outsider amongst the islanders. He then arrived on Massig island with a boat and promised the islanders a share in the pearl shell harvest if they joined his crew as divers and fishermen.

    Mosby married an islander, who he called 'Queenie'. He was not accepted as a leader on Massig until, some time between 1871 and 1879, the Murray or Mer islanders attacked Massig and 'Yankee Ned', perhaps with the benefit of his military experience during the American Civil War, led a successful defence of the island.

    The as yet uncolonised Torres Strait Islands were 'annexed' by the Queensland Colonial Government in 1879. At this time, Mosby had already established a school and houses, and introduced cattle, horses and European style agriculture to Massig. Mosby carried on pearling with the islanders, many of whom owned their own luggers during the height of the pearling industry prior to World War II. Four of his sons owned and operated luggers.

    Ned Mosby died in 1911, but is still a significant figure in his Torres Strait Island family's history, as well as in the history of the Torres Strait and the pearling industry.
    In 2011, Yankee Ned's grandson, George Mosby, lives on Thursday Island. George worked with his father on pearling luggers and made this model of the MERCIA as he remembered it when it was owned by the Bowden Pearling Company.

    The MERCIA was built by the Japanese boat builder Furuta on Thursday Island in the early 1900s. Furuta built at least 41 pearling luggers between 1899 and 1930, including the MINA (now an Aboriginal cooperative run vessel the TRIBAL WARRIOR and the oldest extant lugger).

    The MERCIA was built for the proprietor of Hodels Ltd, Frederick Charles Hodels, one of the numerous small operators in the Thursday Island pearling industry in the early twentieth century. Many found it difficult to compete with the larger company operations and in 1911 Hodels sold his business including MERCIA to the Wyben Pearling Company Pty Ltd - which was owned by Burns Philp & Co.

    Wyben Pearling Company operated MERCIA for nearly three decades until it was requisitioned by the government for war service in the 1940s and was used by the RAAF in Port Moresby.

    After the war, the vessel was sold to Mr W.R Albert (4th Aust Heavy W/T Section AIF) for 100 pounds. The shortage of boats at the end of the war, and the high price of shell, meant that there was a concerted effort to round up the remaining boats during the period 1945-50 and get them back into work. In 1948 the boat licence was issued in the name of Bowden Pearling Co.

    In 1957 the MERCIA had a new engine installed and was re-registered and continued working with Bowdens up to 1960. In the 1966-67 season, the MERCIA was renamed PENGUIN, and licensed to the Aucher Pearling Shelling Company Pty Limited.

    PENGUIN was later acquired by the Commonwealth Government and returned to a standard pearling vessel rig. It was placed with the Dauan Island Council for use as the island service vessel. When it was decided that PENGUIN should be replaced with a more modern vessel, the Queensland Maritime Museum was approached by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1981, and advised that the Dauan Island Council would agree to PENGUIN being made available to the QMM provided it was maintained permanently with its Dauan Island colours and number.

    PENGUIN has been restored and rebuilt by the Queensland Maritime Museum and is now on display with its red and white colour scheme, white star on a black circle insignia and the number A61, at their Southbank museum site in Brisbane. It is listed on the Australian HIstoric Vessels Register.
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