Some New Zealand figureheads

around New Zealand are housed a number of Figureheads taken from the sailing ships that connected New Zealand to the rest of the world. These warrant a reassessment under the entire scope of the history of the Figurehead.

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Some New Zealand figureheads from Peter Dennerly’s “Clover’s Folly – the Figurehead collection of His Majesty’s New Zealand Navel Base Devonport, Auckland”

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A Cursed Figurehead (in Italy)figureheads 8

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A Figurehead used as a grave marker (Auckland Islands)


On 20 March 1887, the Derry Castle, ran aground off of Enderby Island, nine days into its journey en route from Geelong, Victoria to Falmouth, Cornwall. Manned by a crew of twenty-three, it carried one passenger and a cargo of wheat. At the time, the Derry Castle was registered out ofBoston, Massachusetts and owned by P. Richardson & Co. It was under the command of Captain J. Goffe.

After foundering, eight of the 23 crew made it ashore.[1] At that time the New Zealand government maintained a number of castaway depots on their subantarctic islands equipped with emergency supplies. Unfortunately, the depot at Sandy Bay on Enderby Island had been looted of all but a bottle of salt.[2] The castaways constructed crude shelters and subsisted on shellfish and a small quantity of wheat recovered from the wreck.[1]

On a cliff overlooking the water, they buried the bodies of their fellow crew members that had washed ashore. The grave was marked with the ship’s figurehead.

The Derry Castle grave site was maintained for many years by the New Zealand government until it sank into the ground. However, during World War II, the figurehead was resurrected by those stationed on the islands. The figurehead can now be viewed (along with other items from the wreck) at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Figurehead is interesting to consider as the symbol of a small closed society under the complete dictatorship of one individual (provided he can maintain the loyalty of the crew).

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