Ordered for the Greenock firm of A. & J. Carmichael, Golden Fleece - like all her owners' tonnage - was built by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow and launched in 1869, the same year as the two legendary thoroughbreds Cutty Sark and Norman Court as well as the ill-fated Caliph. Universally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful iron clippers ever built, Golden Fleece was perfectly sparred and had as graceful an appearance as could be imagined. Curiously, she had been designed with the very same dimensions as Noah's Ark and when a prominent Irish shipping personality, who had watched her glide faultlessly to anchor in the Queenstown Roads, was told she was a modern version of that biblical ship, he replied - "Now that just confirms what I have always maintained, that Noah was a first-class naval architect." Thomas Ismay, the founder of the famous White Star passenger line, also thought that she was "the handsomest sailing ship he had ever seen" when he spotted her from the ferry one morning as he crossed the River Mersey en route to his offices in Liverpool, and she was certainly the Carmichael's favourite vessel amongst their sizeable fleet.
Registered on the Clyde at 1,318 tons gross (1,257 net), Golden Fleece measured 223 feet in length with a 37 foot beam and soon proved to be as fast as she was handsome. Establishing records wherever she sailed, some of her most notable passages were London to Sydney in 72 days (1871), New York to Liverpool in an exceptional 13 days (1874), Liverpool to Calcutta in 77 days (1880) and San Francisco to Queenstown in 104 days (1884). Sadly, after a relatively short working life, during which she delighted everyone associated with her, she was wrecked when she stranded on Fly Island, off the coast of Australia near the Great Barrier Reef, on 27th December 1885.