“Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett” – a Cornish yarn

"Rhoda Mary" and "Katie Cluett"

Available as a signed limited edition print

Marine art measuring  76 x 120 cms (30″ x 48″), oils, by Gordon Frickers. Estimated current value £15000.00 to £25000.00

The painting

A dispute settled“. Rhoda Mary“, “Katie Cluettand the “Mary”.

This painting’s highly original composition was carefully researched including from family archives; more on the sources is at the end of this text.

This painting is a glimpse of the only day the pair raced and proudly records “Rhoda Mary‘s” victory for posterity.

A dispute settled” was commissioned by Mr Frank Trebilcock, who lived as does his son today within walking distance of the mud berth were Rhoda Mary was built and the grave of her principal builder William Ferris.

Frank was a direct descendant of the families involved thus a descendant of William Ferris the builder of the winner.

He lived near the site she was built (Devoran Creek).

The painting has now passed to the gentleman’s son.

A campaign started in 2014 at Truro, Cornwall, lead by a local shipwright and boat builder to recover the wreck of the


Rhoda Mary  from the Medway muds, return her to the Fal and rebuild her. I am told some funds have been raised and the project is beginning to look viable.

Rhoda Mary wreck

Rhoda Mary wreck

The ships & their race:

For years professional schooner men had argued about which ship was fastest. Most agreed it had to be one of the elegant pair “Rhoda Mary” or “Katie Cluett“.

This painting is a glimpse of the only day the pair, Rhoda Mary and Katie  raced and proudly records “Rhoda Mary‘s” victory for posterity.

Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett” were famous schooners as any reading of the story of the thousands of British merchant schooners soon reveals.

Most agreed it had to be one of the elegant pair “Rhoda Mary” or “Katie Cluett“.

It was said by sea men “Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett“, built by the Ferris family, were the fastest and most elegant of the 4,000 ‘ish working schooners sailing from British ports between the 1870’s and 1930’s.

The “Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett” crack ships, both Cornish built in the rival ports of Falmouth and Fowey.

Of Rhoda Mary:

Today the dilapidated hull of Rhoda Mary lies as laid up, at the end of her working life in a mud berth on the River Medway; the fate of many British coastal vessels. 

I write (24.06.15) there is a scheme to recover and restore Rhoda Mary lead by the distinguished boat builder Luke Powell of Truro, Cornwall; I wish that team all the best of luck and will help as best if can if asked.

The proposal is to recover the wreck of the “Rhoda Mary” from the Medway and rebuild her in Truro near her birth place. 

The schooners were built by different members of the same Cornish family; built and maintained to an equivalent standard to today’s yachts.

Built and maintained to an equivalent standard to today’s superyachts, “Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett” were considered the “Cutty Sark” and “Thermopylae” of the coast trade, crack ships & very smart.

My connection with Rhoda Mary lives on via my treasured friend, the son of a descendant of her builder William Ferris, and the people who operated Rhoda Mary, he still lives near the site she was built (Devoran Creek).


A model at the time at Cotehele House Maritime Museum was useful as was ‘Merchant Schooners’ by Bazil Greenhill and the archivists at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London.

I am too indebted to another good friend, Patrick Selman, sail maker, who took me to sea, to Falmouth bay in his Falmouth working boat ‘Agnes‘ to check out the background details for this painting and for Last Departure.

Although I have sailed those waters many times it still adds to the painting if I can see the location and make studies.

Would you like to commission a similar painting?

The Print

Created in cooperation with Alan Tooze of Adaptgraphics, Plymouth, this beautiful picture is reproduced to have the look and feel of the original painting.

Produced on finest cotton canvas using inks the manufacturer guarantees under normal circumstances for 70 years plus.

Print copyright Gordon Frickers (C) updated 14.04.2015.

A Dispute SettledFurther History of the painting

A dispute settled” was:

shown for the first time at Pendennis Castle and the picture chosen as a delegates memento for the British Marine Federation / Superyachtuk “International Tour of Excellence 2008”.

Published as a greetings card by Gordon Fraser Gallery 1990 under a 5 year licence agreement.

This painting has never been exhibited in public.


Some Sources consulted included:

Frank Trebilcock.

David MacGregor.

The World Ship Society.

The National Maritime Museum (Greenwich and Cotehelle).

There is a fine model of “Rhoda Mary“, last seen by Gordon Frickers and photographed with their kind permission (as the painting was to be for family descendants) in the National Maritime Museum annex at Cotehelle Quay.

Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett” are mentioned in several books including the rare “Coastwise Sail” and Basil Greenhill‘s excellent “Merchant Schooners“.


Our paintings Waterwitch off Gribben Head shows the last of the British square rigger and The schooner “Jane Banks” leaving Fowey a typical running mate to “Rhoda Mary” and “Katie Cluett“.


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Gordon Frickers © updated 24.06.15, updated 24.10.15


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