Intended for the China Tea trade and ordered by Walkers of London, Wild Deer was built by Charles Connell at Glasgow and was that yard's first composite ship. Registered at 1,126 tons gross (1,016 net) and measuring 211 feet in length with a 33 foot beam, she was launched in December 1863 but was dismasted on her maiden passage out and forced to put into Lisbon for repairs. Once that mishap was behind her however, she settled into a career of consistently good runs to and from China, including a celebrated race home against Douglas Castle and Peter Denny in 1869, until she transferred into the New Zealand emigrant trade in 1871. By then owned by the Albion Shipping Company, Wild Deer soon became one of the best known ships on that route and completed ten round trips to Port Chalmers, the best being in 1882 when she ran out from England in a notable 77 days. Just after the turn of the new year (1883), she sailed from the Clyde on 12th January carrying some 300 emigrants and a few other passengers bound for Port Chalmers. About 11 o'clock the same evening, the passengers were awoken with the news that the vessel had run onto a reef known as the North Rock, off Cloughey, Co. Down, and was in danger of foundering. Miraculously, not a single life was lost and everyone aboard was saved by the local boats which arrived with the dawn although, sadly, Wild Deer herself was a total loss.