The Duncan Guns

The Duncan Guns are a selection of weapons currently on display at HMS Unicorn, that belonged to Admiral Adam Duncan, Dundee’s famous naval hero of the Battle of Camperdown (11 October 1797). The collection consists of two 4-pound and two 6-pound bronze cannons which were originally held at Camperdown House; the Duncan family home. After conducting some new collection-based research, we have been able to uncover fascinating insights into the cannons, revealing secrets about their origins an...
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Meet the Team: David

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself?“My name is David and I help to do maintenance on HMS Unicorn.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship?“I found out about volunteering on the ship through The Inclusion Group in Dundee. I started helping out on the ship in 2014 and have kept helping out ever since.”Q3 – How do you help on the ship?“I help with in lots of maintenance areas around the ship such as clearing, tidying, constructing units, woodworking (particularly san...
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The Siege of Antwerp

105 years ago, on the 28th September 1914, the Siege of Antwerp began. It was a massive victory for the German Army during World War I as Antwerp was - and still is - the most important port in Belgium.On the night of the 27th September the German troops, led by General Alexander von Kluck, launched an artillery bombardment in the southern sector of the outer ring of fortifications which protected the city. They fired over 160 heavy guns, including four 42cm (16.2”) howitzers. The British...
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Meet the Team – Bob

Q1 – Can you introduce yourself? “My name is Bob and I help with guiding and cleaning on HMS Unicorn.”Q2 – How did you get involved with the ship? “I have always been interested in ships and I saw an advert in the local paper looking for volunteers to join the team at HMS Unicorn. That was back in 1984 so I guess I have been with the ship for 35 years… Can’t believe it’s been as long as that!”Q3 – How do you help on the ship? “Well I do guiding and cleaning. I love doing the guidi...
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Navy Blue: Uniforms of the Royal Navy

Why do we wear uniforms? It’s not just a naval thing. Wearing uniform is something all organised bodies have in common. It serves to identify our place and our rank – which organisation we belong to, and where we belong in that organisation. Donning a uniform also shows that we are playing a role or performing a function; we put on a suit to go to the office, or a high viz vest to work on a construction site, but when we are off duty we probably wear something rather different. In short, unifor...
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Black Tot Day

#OnThisDay in 1970 the Royal Navy stopped its daily rum ration, also known as the daily tot, and the 31st July has been known since as Black Tot Day. To commemorate this historic moment, we have a free rum tasting and tour today at 11.30am. Learn more about maritime history and have a wee tot!The tradition of a daily rum ration began in 1655, when Jamaica was taken from the Spanish and rum became a staple on Royal Navy ships. It was implemented initially to boost crew morale and maintain hi...
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Harold Wyllie

On this day in 1880, artist Harold Wyllie was born. A renowned marine artist, he painted in oil and water colour as well as etching and sculpture, with work exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Marine Artists. His images of HMS Unicorn are available in the shop as postcards.The cabin doors found on the gun deck were donated by Wyllie for the HMS Unicorn museum.Wyllie was the eldest of 9 children born to artist William Lionel Wyllie (known as W.L Wyllie, 1851 –1931) and Ma...
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Training Ship Mars

Launched in Chatham Dockyard on the 1st July 1848, HMS Mars was an 80-gun, four deck man-of-war. In the 1850s she was a supplier in the Crimean War (1855 – 1856), and later became a screw steamer commanded by Captain James Newburgh Strange R.N in 1859. On the 17th August 1869 HMS Mars was lent for use as a training ship and was moored in the River Tay at Woodhaven harbour, Fife.1. Training Ship Mars (c) Dundee Central LibraryThe idea of HMS Mars as a training ship grew from the Ragged S...
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Volunteers Week at HMS Unicorn

This week (1st – 7th June) has been Volunteers’ Week: a chance to celebrate the contribution made by volunteers across the country. Here at HMS Unicorn there are over 30 volunteers on board in a range of roles; from maintenance to photography (to even writing these blog posts!) All play an important role in keeping HMS Unicorn open. Here are only a few of the amazing people on the ship.1. Model of HMS Unicorn (c) Rhys BoyleRhys Boyle does photography on board.  'What I enjoy about the U...
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Design Blog: Gun Manufacturing

Cast cannon (Fig. 1) such as those which would have formed the main broadside battery for Unicorn  were manufactured is a series of stages as follows (see: www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/heritage/bersham_ironworks/jw_wales_wider_world.htm & www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/heritage/bersham_ironworks/boring_for_britain.htmFigure 1. CannonA sand mould would be created from a wooden pattern and lowered into the casting pit alongside the furnace.Once all the moulds were in place, the furnace...
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The People VS Jack The Ripper

William Henry Bury, the last man hanged in Dundee, was on trial again as part of the talk ‘People Vs Jack the Ripper’, hosted by ex-investigative reporter Michael Mulford as part of Crime and Dundee upon HMS Unicorn.Bury, a sawdust merchant, was hanged for the murder of his wife Ellen Elliot on the 5th February 1889. The Times, published on 29th March that same year, wrote about the trial: ‘(Bury) was often drunk; and was always demanding money from the deceased. He ill-treated her (…) Other wi...
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Accessioning HMS Unicorn’s Collections

Documentation is an inalienable part of museum work, and is crucial in the management of at-risk items, collection-based research, collaboration between museums and the fulfilment of the Museum Accreditation criteria. No collection can be researched if the information accompanying its objects cannot be accessed, nor can a temporary exhibition be planned if no documentation is available to identify the contents. According to Carl Guthe, author of ‘The Management of Small History Museums’ (1994),...
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Evolution of the Naval Gun

The late 15th century that saw the introduction of shipboard ordnance, but it was the early 16th century that was witness to the proliferation of larger ship killing guns (at sea the term is guns, never cannon).The ‘port peece’ – so called as it protruded through the recently developed gun port - had a barrel made up of welded wrought iron staves forming a tube, further held in place by iron hoops sweated on round the outside, the joins between being sealed with lead, resulting in a barrel ...
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HMS Unicorn Marketing Intern: Alex

My name is Alex Murdoch and I am a second year Economics with German student at the University of Dundee. As part of my second-year module choices I was offered to do an internship; an offer I immediately jumped upon. The University had sourced multiple placements with local employers and regional organisations. By doing an internship I hoped to learn and develop my skills and also discover more about the organisations with have built and shaped Dundee.Over the last couple of months, I hav...
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HMS Unicorn Marketing Intern: Brooke

My name is Brooke Johnson and I am a 2nd year Business student at the University of Dundee. As part of one of my modules I got the chance to embark on a 30-hour internship and I was lucky enough to gain a place in marketing at HMS Unicorn. I have thoroughly enjoyed my marketing internship at the HMS unicorn, this was the first internship experience I have completed and Billy and the rest of the team made me feel extremely welcome. It was a pleasure to be able to work for them. Before beginning ...
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Women’s History Month: Wrens & Unicorn

Women’s History Month: WRENS & Unicorn1. WRNS outside HMS Unicorn © HMS UnicornDuring the Second World War, HMS Unicorn was a headquarters for a branch of the Woman’s Royal Naval Service (WRENS), with over 1,500 recruits on board the ship (in 1942 there were 739 personnel stationed here alone).When signing up, women were interviewed by a First Officer in the WRENS, who asked questions about their health and qualifications amongst other things. Most signed up just before their e...
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We Matter Networking Event

We Matter panel speaking to secondary school pupils about their experiences in STEMTo celebrate Women in Science Day (this year held on 11th February), Unicorn was delighted to host a networking event on Saturday 9th February. The panel of speakers were all women working in STEM; highlighting the variety of jobs within these fields to a group of secondary school pupils. Learning and Engagement Officer Andrea Campomanes, who organised the event, said; ‘The history of HMS Unicorn as a trainin...
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Design Blog: The Bilge Pump

The Bilge PumpAll wooden ships leak to some degree, generally associated with the working of the ship in a seaway and the resultant loosening of the seams between the hull planking. This water accumulates in the bilges and must be pumped out.                Figure 1. Chain Pump Schematic The basic form of bilge pump that was used form the 15th century is the chain pump shown in the diagram in Figure 1. This uses a continuous chain of discs, with leather washer around the rim to act as...
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WW1: Able Seaman Victor Ferrar

Able Seaman Victor Ferrar Victor Ferrar was born at 95 Victoria Road, Dundee, on 22 June 1897, the only son of William and Mary Ferrar. The Ferrars ran a jewellery business in the High Street in Dundee, premises occupied today by Timpsons. They were also active social reformers, William serving for two years on Dundee School Board before dying of heart failure aged 45 at the family home, 61½ Perth Road, in 1911.A pupil at Dundee’s Harris Academy, Victor was also a highly talented musician...
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Design Blog: HMS Unicorn – An Evolutionary Ship

Design Blog: HMS Unicorn - An Evolutionary Ship As we celebrate one month since the opening of V&A Dundee, we thought it timely to explore Unicorn’s fascinating design and incredible 194 year history.Interestingly, V&A Dundee is actually built on the location of Unicorn’s original home in Earl Grey Dock when she arrived in the city in 1873. There she stayed until 1962 before moving to her current home at Victoria Dock. An important part of Dundee history, she easily predates most of...
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