|The Posner Maritime Art Collection|
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Paddle Tug Aid
Frederick Tudgay came from a family of famous British marine artists. Other family members who were artists included I. Tudgay and John Tudgay. This painting has been conserved, cut down and relined. The signature of the artist, originally on the front, has been cut from the canvas and affixed to the back. The date is illegible, but is likely circa 1860. The Paddle Tug Aid of Ramsgate, England, is towing the lifeboat Friend of Nations, to rescue the crew of a vessel in this professionally done painting. Note the man on the bridge, steering Aid, in what must be a terrific storm. It is an old canvas painting, displaying a pattern of hairline cracks in the oil paint called craquelure. The name "Ramsgate" on the stern of the paddle tug only means that the tug is from the port of Ramsgate. No vessel matching this tug is listed in the 1859-1872 Lloyds Registers, but it does appear by 1875.
According to the British Mercantile Navy List, this paddle tug is likely the one built in 1855 at Blackwall, near London, for the Board of Trade, Official Number 24691. She was built of wood, measuring 89 feet and 2 inches in length. She was 112 tons gross, with a 50 horsepower engine. While registered at London, she operated out of Ramsgate from 1855 to 1889 and was sold in 1890.
This painting probably represents a famous event in 1860, when a Spanish Brig, the Samaritano, became grounded on the Margate Sands. Margate is a port just north of Ramsgate on the English Channel, east of the mouth of the Thames River. At Margate two lifeboats, including Friend of All Nations, were lost in the attempt to rescue the Spanish crew. The Lugger (a type of sailing vessel) Eclipse, also of Ramsgate, had left earlier to attempt the rescue. However, the men it put on the wreck also became endangered. A telegram asking for help was sent to Ramsgate, which had two steam tugs (Aid and Vulcan). Aid towed the lifeboat close to the wreck. Although a famous artist of his time, and still today, F. Tudgay apparently got the name of the lifeboat wrong. It should be Northumberland, the name of the lifeboat at Ramsgate. Friend of [All] Nations is the name of the Margate lifeboat, which had already been lost attempting the rescue. The Northumberland was a self-righting boat in service at Ramsgate from 1851 to 1865. The lifeboat crew was able to effect a rescue after much effort in the terrible storm.
An article in Macmillan's Magazine (1860), titled "The Ramsgate Lifeboat: A Rescue," describes the event, saying the Spanish Captain commissioned a painting of the event from Mr. Ifold of Ramsgate. It specifically mentions the tug Aid, and lists her crew by name as well as the names of the men in the lifeboat. We thank Dr. Sam Davidson, of West Kirby, England for his help in identifying the Tug Aid from the Mercantile Navy List, 1883. Another British screw tug, also named Aid, should not be confused with this vessel.
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