Mary Dugdale, River Tawe, Swansea, circa 1840
Scene of the Mary Dugdale on the River Tawe, Swansea, circa 1840. Looking south down the river towards the town and open sea. To the right of the ship is Landore Copperworks and to the left is the region known as white Rock.
The Mary Dugdale was a passenger-carrying three-masted barque, built in Kingston on Hull by Humphrey & Co 1835. Her tonnage 375 and her dimensions 109 ft x27 ft x 20 ft, registered in Bristol with a passenger capacity of 150 people. The industrial revolution had brought a change to the rural landscape of the Lower Swansea Valley with smelting works and factories replacing the farms and fields. It brought a great deal work to the region with powerful industrial and wealthy families such as the Vivian’s, Talbot and Dillwyn families. With a vast supply of coal to fire the furnaces available locally the works soon spread along the banks of the river Tawe, Swansea. With more and more works setting up, came a lot more people to work in the industries. This also had the effect of the works requiring a lot more raw material such as copper ore. The use of burning coal to smelt the ores and fumes from the ore itself caused very high levels of toxic pollution and people working in the factories only had a life expectancy of 35 years. Copper Ore was imported to Swansea by fleets of tall sailing ships trading from all parts of the world, making Swansea a very busy port. The Mary Dugdale was one of the merchant ships that would sail around Cape Horn of South America to the Port of Valparaiso in Chile, where copper ore from the region of Santiago would be brought 100 miles to the port by donkey trains. The ship would then sail back to Swansea a journey of 6 to 7 months.
The Mary Dugdale was later used to transport migrants from Ireland to Australia and would carry 250 passengers at a time. There is in Australia a Mary Dugdale Society where descendants of the migrants can trace their ancestry back to those who travelled on board the ship.