Polly Woodside was built in Belfast, Ireland with her maiden voyage around the infamous Cape Horn taking place on 7 December. She was named Polly Woodside after the owner William Woodside’s wife Marian Polly Woodside.
Polly Woodside sails around Cape Horn 16 times trading coal and nitrate in South America.
As the coal/nitrate trade began to diminish and returned little or no profit, the ship was sent on two round-the-world voyages picking up and discharging cargoes wherever they could be found. This is called tramping.
Polly Woodside is sold to a New Zealand owner who officially change the ship’s name to Rona.
Rona has various different owners during her time in New Zealand, and undertakes voyages to Australia and the USA.
Rona is sold to the Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd. for conversion to a coal hulk. A coal hulk is a barge used to transport coal to steamships.
Rona came to Melbourne where she refueled steam ships in the Port of Melbourne until 1964. For almost 40 years Rona was one of the 20 or so hulks that were in regular use in Hobson’s Bay and the Yarra River as coal lighters re-fuelling ships in the Port of Melbourne.
Due to the 1930’s depression and the increased use of fuel oil, their numbers steadily declined until Rona was the only one still afloat (in 1943-1946 the ship was also requisitioned by the Australian Navy for war service, refueling navy ships in Papua New Guinea).
As the years went on Rona became dirtier, rustier and less in demand until it was finally laid up at South Wharf while plans were drawn for its preservation.
The ship was handed over to the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and sold for just one cent.
She was given back her original name of Polly Woodside and extensive restoration of the ship was undertaken to restore it as closely as possible to its 1885 configuration.
Polly Woodside is moved into Duke’s Dock and opened by the then Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Winneke, as an onshore museum to the public
The Polly Woodside and the Melbourne Maritime Museums operate as a major Victorian tourist attraction.
The ship is closed to the public as the redevelopment of the Melbourne Convention Centre begins.
The Polly Woodside reopens as a new museum and ship at Southbank.