The clipper ship Lightning was designed and built by Donald McKay of East Boston during the winter of 1853-54 at a cost of L.30,000. She registered 1,468 tons with a length of 244 feet, a beam of 44 feet and depth of 23 feet. Her main mast was 164 feet tall and her main yard 95 feet long. Originally Donald McKay gave her 13,000 square yards of canvas without flying kites and to this James Baines, her owner, added a moon sail over the sky sail at the main besides a host of ringtails and water sails. Although, when under all plain sail, without her stun'sails, she set 30 sails; a wonderful cloud of canvas.
James Baines sent his senior captain, the notorious Bully Forbes, across the Atlantic to take command of the new clipper. Forbes, with the aid of Captain Lauchlan McKay, the brother of the designer, raced the Lightning across to Liverpool in 13 days, 19½ hours. On 20th August 1854 she left the homeward run to Liverpool. Although having an unbeatable record run from the Heads to Cape Horn of only 19 days, 1 hour and for the complete run to Liverpool, the Lightning took only 64 days, 3 hours and 10 minutes, a sailing record which was never broken.
Under the new command of the famous Captain Anthony Enright, the ship became a great favorite with passengers and also became a troop ship during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. On October 11th 1869, when loading wool at Geelong, the ship caught fire and she was eventually scuttled, ending the history of one of the world's most illustrious sailing ships.