Money Wigram paddle tug “Buffalo”

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    Robin S
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    The “Buffalo”

    In 1871, a steam tug was needed for the developing port on the Buffalo River, East London. Tenders were called for and on the 8th April 1872 the contract to build a steam side-paddle tug was entered into between the Crown Agent for the Colonies and Money Wigram and Sons of Blackwell, London. On 13th June 1872, a further contract was signed between the Crown Agents and John Penn and Son of Greenwich, for the two oscillating steam engines – each of 15 horse power – which would give the vessel a speed of 9 knots.

    On 14th December1872, the completed vessel was given her certificate of tonnage by the Surveyor General of Tonnage. “Buffalo” was of 49.76 tons nett with a length of 24.4 metres (80ft) and a beam of 5.2 metres (17ft) and moulded depth of 2.2 metres (5ft). “Buffalo” sailed from Southampton on26th march1873 bound for Cape Town and East London. At 2.45pm on the 15th July 1873, she steamed into Cape Town where she spent some six months undergoing minor repairs and alterations.

    The Government then sent the “Buffalo” to the Kowie (The developing harbour of Port Florence which then became Port Alfred) where she arrived on the 20th December 1873. There she spent an idle year before being dispatched to East London, on the 24th December. “Buffalo’s” career in East London was far from one of success and glory and she served the Kowie with no greater success than she had previously in East London. She was scuttled ignominiously, some 12 years later, in the Kowie River on 19th July 1889;

    Although the “Buffalo” was no shining example of British maritime engineering, she remains the only tangible relic of the mid-1800s and what’s left can still be seen, some 130 years later, in the Kowie River.

    I have embarked on an almost impossible task of making a model of this vessel for the Port Alfred Museum and would greatly value and appreciate any information from members of the Society. Perhaps, somewhere, there might be drawings in any archives of Money Wigram – if such a thing even exists.

    Further Reading:

    Denfield, J. 1965. “Pioneer Port”. Howard Timmins, Cape Town.

    Langley, R. 1985. “The Buffalo I”. Fathoms, May-June 1985, p14.

    Murray, M. 1933. “Ships and South Africa”. Oxford University Press, London

    Murray, M. 1953. “Union Castle Chronicle” Longbow, London.

    Stobbs, R.E. 1990. “Port Francis, Port Alfred or ‘The Kowie?’ Part two. Ichthos, Newsletter of the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology Newsletter. No 25 March 1990

    Turpin, E.W. 1964. “Basketwork Harbour: the endeavour of the 1820 settlers to build a harbour at Kowie River”. Howard Timmins, Cape Town

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