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Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (British, 1895-1973)
Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (British, 1895-1973)

Stunsails Pulling - The Oberon

Montague Dawson, F.R.S.A., R.S.M.A. (British, 1895-1973)
Stunsails Pulling - The Oberon
signed 'Montague Dawson.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 50 in. (76.2 x 127 cm.)
with Frost & Reed, Ltd., London.
The Northrup Grunman Corporation, Los Angeles.
By whom gifted to the present owner, 2012.
R. Ranson, The Maritime Paintings of Montague Dawson, Devon, 1993, p. 90.

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Lot Essay

Designed as a steam clipper so as to embrace the newest technology of the age, Oberon was ordered by the firm of Shaw & Maxton, the London owners of the celebrated tea clippers Ariel and Titania. Built by A. & J. Inglis at Glasgow, she was of composite construction (i.e. wooden planking on iron frames) and measured 241 feet in length with a 36 foot beam. Launched in May 1869 and registered at 1,194 tons, she was heavily rigged yet fitted with an inadequate 120hp. auxiliary engine, with the result that she proved a costly disaster upon entering service and was nowhere near as fast as her design had anticipated.

Realizing their error immediately, her owners returned the unsatisfactory hybrid to her builders who, after ripping out the engine, refitted her as a pure sailing vessel whereupon she embarked on a very successful career in the Australian wool trade. This route was the one to which most of the redundant tea clippers had turned when the tea trade succumbed to steamships, and Oberon proved herself one of the fastest in the so-called 'Wool Fleet'. Her best-ever passage was Melbourne to London in 77 days when, after leaving Australian waters on 15th November 1874, she docked in London on 31st January 1875 having made - by a large margin - the best time of the season. Changing owners several times later in her life, she was eventually sold to an Italian concern in 1894 which renamed her Prospero Repetto, a more ambitious but far less attractive name than the one which had made her famous. Thereafter sailing out of Genoa, she finally disappears from record around 1905, presumably scrapped.

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