William McCorkell & the McCorkell Ship Line 1778 - 1897


The following quoted essay was copied from the Google cache of a defunct Web Page. Since this essay was copied from a Google cache, the website has been restored by John McCorkell as "McCorkell Line 1778 - 1897".
The essay is interesting because the "Three McCorkell Brothers" legend is retold. I have been asked about this legend by more than a few people. Most ask me if I know the names of the two unnamed brothers. The answer is no. My experience has taught me that most legends contain at least a grain of truth, but it is very hard for me to understand why the names of William's brothers are not known. I would guess that they didn't live long and their names were soon forgotten. At any rate, the McCorkles were in America some thirty years before the three brothers escaped Scotland. What's more, there were documented McCorkles in Ireland in the 1630s, so I would surmise that the brothers were not the first McCorkles to leave Scotland for Ireland and that the two unknown brothers were not among the first American immigrants. However, they could have immigrated to America at a latter time, as did James McCorkle of Montgomery County, Virginia (See the "James & William McCorkle of Ireland and Montgomery Co., Virginia, c. 1770" link on the Home page). Or the two brothers could have gone to Australia or elsewhere.

The original web site also contained many images of beautiful McCorkell Line sailing ships.  Unfortunately, I was not able to recover these images, but I have found some of them at other sites.    

"Wm. McCorkell Ltd. operated the McCorkell Line from 1778, principally carrying passengers from Ireland, Scotland and England to the Americas.

Many thousands of people were carried on some of the most famous sailing ships in the Western Ocean.
From the unique collection of oil paintings held by the McCorkell  family, the opportunity exists to purchase articles of great heritage and memorabilia depicting the ships which carried many of your ancestors to a new life.

The McCorkell family arrived in Ireland after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie following the rebellion in 1745. Three brothers named McCorquodale, who were supporters of the Prince had to escape and rowed in a open boat from the west coast of Scotland and landed on the Antrim coast. Wishing to cover their tracks on arriving in Ireland they assumed the name McCorkell. One of the brothers William, who was born in 1728, was the founder of the shipping line in 1778.

The McCorkell Line was operated and owned by William McCorkell & Co. Ltd. from Londonderry with the principal purpose of carrying passengers to the Americas. The port was one of the main points for emigration to Canada and America with passengers travelling from Scotland, England and Ireland. From 1778, the company operated as Agents for ships sailing to and from Londonderry. In 1800 William and Archibald, sons of the founder started to expand with American owned ships, they traded from Canada in the North to the West Indies in the South. The " MARCUS HILL" was the first vessel bought in 1815 at the conclusion of the American War and she continued to cross the Atlantic until 1827. In 1824 the "PRESIDENT" was added although ships were chartered from other owners to meet the growing demand for passage to America. With the purchase of the "CAROLINE" in 1834 and the "ERIN" in 1836, the commencement of the McCorkell Line art collection began. Many other vessels were under the flag but not all were painted so records are not complete. In 1851 the "MOHONGO", built in Canada, commenced her long service to the Atlantic trade. In her twenty years under the McCorkell flag, she completed more than 100 crossings with emigrants without any serious mishap.
From that date McCorkell ships were familiar in all ports carrying passengers to Quebec, St Johns, Philadelphia, New York and New Orleans. By 1860, speed was becoming more important, so Bartholomew (Barry) McCorkell commissioned a new ship to be built in Canada. The "MINNEHAHA" cost $72,000 and was able to cross the Atlantic in all weathers and during the winter months with passengers. Until this time all emigrants were carried in spring and summer when conditions allowed. She was the most famous ship owned by the McCorkell's and was known as the "Green Yacht from Derry". The "MINNEHAHA" had been named after the William Longfellow poem "The Song of Hiawatha". Six more ships were to named from the same poem over the next thirty years. The "MINNEHAHA" was one of the few ships to trade in New York to the Federal side during the American Civil War. She carried many emigrants during the war as well as much needed supplies. After the war, Philadelphia became a regular port of call along with New York. Records in Philadelphia show, that 5,164 passengers were carried whose passage had been paid by relations in America to Robert Taylor & Co., the McCorkell agent at the port. Original tickets for these crossings still exist today as part of the family archive. From 1873, steam liners were overtaking the famous sailing ships and although the McCorkell Line continued to carry passengers until 1897, the main activity now became cargo. The "MINNEHAHA" was converted to a barque in 1880 to reduce the number of crew by the removal of one set of mainsails. She served thirty-five years with the company until she was sold in 1895. Other famous ships were the "VILLAGE BELLE" with twenty-five years service, the "OWEENEE", the "OSSEO" and the "HIAWATHA". The " HIAWATHA" completed twenty-one years and was the last vessel owned when sold in 1897. She was later sunk by enemy action in 1916. This must be a credit to the wooden ships and the men who sailed them. The family have continued to serve Londonderry throughout the twentieth century, Dudley McCorkell was Mayor of the City from 1930 to 1933 and attended the Ottawa Conference on Trade in 1933. Dudley, along with his nephew Michael who succeeded him, served as Harbour Board Commissioners and as Chairmen of Wm. McCorkell. Michael's son John was the driving force for the relocation of the port of Derry from the City to Lisahally in 1990."

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Revised Dec 9, 2009