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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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MASON, ANDREW (1820-1867)

MASON, ANDREW, ship architect and master builder; b. Bo'ness (Borrowstownness), Linlithgowshire, Scotland (bap. 7 Jul 1820), s/o William Mason Sr and Grace Smith; m. 1845, Jane Currie, of Chatham; d. Pyrmont, Australia, 15 Aug 1867.

Shipbuilding was an established industry at Bo'ness, Scotland, by the 1750s. In 1796 there were two "builders of eminence" there who had thirty to forty men engaged in the construction of vessels between forty and 350 tons burden. In later years the port had more shipwrights than its yards could employ, which motivated some of them to emigrate to shipbuilding centers in North America and elsewhere.

Scottish church records show the Mason family to have lived in the Bo'ness area until 1824. The New Brunswick census of 1851 states that William Mason Sr, the father of Andrew Mason, entered the province in 1825, and his wife and family in 1828. Between 1828 and 1836 Mason Sr was the builder of at least two ships for Frasers on Beaubear's Island and of five or more for Joseph Russell at Chatham. After Russell moved his shipbuilding business to Beaubear's Island, Mason Sr worked for Joseph Cunard & Co. He was not the designated builder of any of Cunard's vessels, but he built the schooner Alexander at Tabusintac in 1850 for Roderick McLeod and was still listed as a shipwright in 1851.

William Mason Jr and his younger brother Andrew worked as ship carpenters at Russell's establishment on Beaubear's Island in the 1840s. In the census of 1851 for Chatham, William was enumerated as a joiner and Andrew as a shipbuilder. At that time, Andrew was master builder for the firm of Johnson & Mackie and had already acquired an enviable reputation in the business. The first of the ships to which his name is attached was the Sir Edmund Head, which he built in 1849. Two more of his vessels were launched in 1850: the barque Envelope, and the ship Gioja. He was both designer and builder of the Gioja, which came to an early end in 1851, when she was "dismasted and abandoned" at sea. The barque Coral Isle and the large ships Indian Ocean and Kaffirland all came down the ways in 1851. The Gleaner declared the Indian Ocean to be "a beautifully modelled and faithfully built ship, inferior to none ever built in this Province." The Kaffirland was owned in Aberdeen, Scotland, and was still in service in 1874.

The last and most celebrated of Andrew Mason's vessels was the Indian Queen, a 1040-ton clipper ship designed along the lines of Saint John's Marco Polo and was "a worthy rival of her famous sister ship." When she was launched in 1852 the Mason brothers sailed to England in her and then to Australia. Before they left Chatham they were given a tea party by the Sons of Temperance, "at which their sober and industrious characters were highly praised. Andrew Mason was presented with a silver snuff-box by the Sons of Temperance and with a piece of plate by the Mechanics. The Mechanics declared in their address that Andrew Mason's name was 'second to none in New Brunswick as draughtsman and naval architect, and the Indian Queen was the greatest triumph of his shipbuilding skill which had yet been launched on our waters'. In his response, Mason proclaimed the Miramichi to be unequalled as a ship building center, "on account of the size and quality of the hackmatack."

After his arrival in Australia, Mason was "employed in an important capacity on the Sandridge Pier," but his health failed, and it is thought that he never returned to shipbuilding. Following a lengthy illness he died at age forty-seven, leaving his wife, Jane Currie, and seven children in Australia.


[bap] LDS-IGI [m] NB Courier 18 Jan 1845 [d] Gleaner 16 Nov 1867 / Gleaner 30 Oct 1852, 21 Nov 1857; Manny (Ships); Mason family data