Last week, at work, I was faced with one of those records where the information is so scant, it barely exists. In fact the only information I had to go on was the name of the ship model (Vasco de Gama) and the person who sold the model to the museum (M. Mackrow).
I didn’t have a lot of time to research it at work so, tonight, after dinner, rather than watch the TV, I decided to do a bit at home.
My first discovery was that the ship was built at Thames Ironworks (remember them?). The second was that M. Mackrow was a Miss and she sold it for £12 in 1907. To be fair, I found both of those facts out last Friday. It gave me somewhere to start.
I then discovered that the Vasco de Gama was designed by a chap called George Colby Mackrow. George, it appears, died in 1907. Suddenly it was all so obvious and went something like this…
Born in Limehouse in 1830, George started his apprenticeship at Ditchburn and Mare, shipbuilders in 1844 and remained there through the Charles Mare & Co fiasco and, eventually, was working at Thames Ironworks.
He not only ended up being a naval architect and director at Thames Ironworks, he also found time to design ships and invent new things to make life easier for those working on the ships.
One of his inventions was for ‘improvements in the construction of batteries for ships of war’. Another was for a new type of hoist for lifting things.
He was admitted as a member of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects sometime in the late 1800’s and designed ships for the Portuguese, Greek and British navies. Clearly a very clever and industrious chap.
I have no idea whether Miss M Mackrow was his sister or daughter, but it doesn’t really matter. Clearly she was made executrix of his will. He’d designed the Vasco de Gama and, possibly when he retired, had taken the model home from work with him as it was part of his estate.
Miss M did the perfect thing in selling it to the Science Museum. In a way, by doing so, it has enabled me to remember the largely forgotten George.