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Ariel and Taeping






Captain Alexander Rodger

Alexander Rodger, sea captain and shipowner, was born in November 1801 at 26 Shore Street, Cellardyke. He was educated at the Parish School in East Forth Street and passed the first 19 years of his life in his native village. At the fishing and by studying hard he acquired a knowledge of navigation which was unusual for someone of his age and limited opportunities.

At the age of about 19 he joined a collier as a sailor and in little more than a year was appointed second mate, being promoted two years later to the command of a brig in which he made many successful voyages to the Mediterranean. He subsequently sailed over the world and was the commander of the first ship of any size or tonnage to sail from Glasgow to an Australian port.

An incident that well illustrates his character occurred when he was making a voyage in his own ship, the Helen, through the Indian seas, when drifting with little or no wind but with a heavy swell, the ship struck a sunken reef where according to the charts there was a clear and open sea. The violence of the shock made the ship quiver from stem to stern and a large piece of her false keel was knocked away and floated alongside. Once clear of the reef it was ascertained that the pumps could keep the water from gaining a hold so Captain Rodger lowered a boat and made the most careful soundings and bearings of the reef. On his return home he reported the results to the Admiralty. 'Rodger's Rock' was thereafter recorded on the chart.

After years of hard service Captain Rodger was compelled by failing health to retire from the sea and it was about this time that the first news of the Australian gold fields reached this country. He immediately planned an expedition to the gold fields, which he led himself, consisting of sixteen young fishermen from Cellardyke, five of whom were his own nephews. After spending six months with the expedition, the success of which can be gathered from the fact that the £1,200 advanced towards the expedition was repaid and each member had about £200 over, he returned home.

He then began another speculative enterprise. He had long been convinced that fast clipper ships had great advantages in the China tea trade and by 1855 he was part owner of the Kate Carnie with C. Camie of Glasgow. This was the first clipper ship built by Steele & Co. Next came the Ellen Rodger, named after his wife, with Captain John Keay of Anstruther as her master. Next came Min, Captain John Smith, Anstruther, and in 1863 his most famous clipper Taeping, which in 1866 won the most exciting tea race of them all.

Taeping, Captain McKinnon, drawing less water than Ariel tied up in London docks twenty minutes ahead of Captain Keay, 99 days out of Foochow. Such a close and exciting finish had never been seen before in - an ocean race. Taeping divided her winnings of 10 shillings per ton with the crew of the Ariel and Captain Mckinnon divided the captain's £100 with Captain Keay.

Local interest in the race was intense as Ariel was captained by Captain Keay of Anstruther and included Anster men in her crew while Taeping was owned by Captain Rodger of Cellardyke and her crew included Dykers. His last clipper ship, the Lahloo , was built in 1867. When Lahloo and Taeping were both lost in the East in 1872 he sold the Mon and retired. He bought a field at the east end of Cellardyke for the use of the community and had rocks cleared from the harbour entrance and each winter he gave £20 for the poor of the burgh. For many years he was an examiner for marine certificates and served on the board of Clyde Lighthouses. He died on June 6th 1877 at Newton Place, Glasgow, after a short illness in his 76th year. Rodger Street, Cellardyke, was named after him.

If you would like to visit Cellardyke as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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