Named for Baron Dunira, the secondary title of Viscount Melville [the former Henry Dundas, president of the E.I.C.'s Board of Control], the ship bearing his name was built in Robert Wigram's yard at Blackwall and launched on 25th October 1817. One of numerous large Indian traders laid down once the Napoleonic Wars finally ended in June 1815, Dunira was ordered by Mr. George Palmer who had himself been the captain of his father's East Indiaman Boddam before retiring from the sea in 1799. Exchanging his career at sea for one in business, Palmer moved into premises at 2, Frederick's Place, Old Jewry, where he prospered and, in 1836, became a long-serving Member of Parliament.
Measured by her builder at 1,325 tons, Dunira was 138 feet in length with a 43 foot beam and was, in every respect, a handsome and well-found ship. Her first master was Captain Montgomerie Hamilton and, apart from one voyage in 1830-31, he commanded her throughout her twenty-year career. Crewed and provisioned, she left home waters on her maiden voyage to China, via Bengal, on 27th March 1818 and was back home safely on 5th September 1819. On her second round trip [March 1820 - September 1821], she called at Bombay on her way to China whilst on her third voyage [December 1821 - March 1823], her outward-bound cargo consisted of troops rather than the usual manufactured goods. Sailing from London on New Year's Eve, 1821, Dunira found herself filled to capacity with 18 officers, 25 N.C.O's., 7 trumpeters and 243 troopers of the 4th Regiment of Light Dragoons, as well as 33 soldiers' wives and 32 of their children. In addition to the detachment of 4th Light Dragoons, Dunira was also carrying a further 20 civilian passengers and 2 infants, with the result that she was hugely overcrowded for such a long journey and conditions were extremely cramped. In the event, the voyage passed quickly if somewhat monotonously, and was enlivened only by the births of three soldiers' infants and the sight of a waterspout before Dunira dropped anchor in Bombay Harbour on 12th May 1822; in recognition of their fast and safe passage to India, Colonel Dalbiac and the officers of the 4th Light Dragoons presented Captain Hamilton with the handsome and generously inscribed silver cup and cover offered in the next lot.
Back in home waters on 29th March 1823, Dunira departed once again for the East on 26th February 1824. Although she got home safely in April the following year, she was extremely lucky to have done so having been totally dismasted in a vicious Indian Ocean hurricane on 20th January 1825 which almost wrecked her. Four further round trips occupied the next seven years, all but one under the command of Captain Hamilton, but when she returned home in April 1833, she was laid up pending demolition and finally broken up in 1836.
Born on the Isle of Wight in May 1768, Thomas Buttersworth followed the tradition of English marine painting that had derived from the work of the Van de Veldes, using a low horizon and concentrating on the effects of light and air on his subject. His ability to portray ships with great accuracy stemmed from his own naval career, from 1795 to 1800, during which he saw active service off the Spanish Atlantic coast. Buttersworth drew on these experiences in his early work, typically painting large scale naval battles. However, as his career progressed, Buttersworth preferred to concentrate on images, such as this one of the Dunira, which displayed 'the striking grace of yachts under way.' (John Wilmerding, American Marine Painting, 1987, p.88)