The William Mitchell
was the last working square-rigged sailing ship
to fly the British flag. By all accounts, the Mitchell
was not a particularly good ship. She was painfully slow, and maritime author Alan Villiers
describes her as one of the ugliest ships he ever saw.
The Mitchell was a steel, three-masted ship of nearly 2200 tons. She was built for Irish owners in 1891, and named after an obscure Irish politician of the time. She was sold to the British firm of John Stewart and Co. in 1909, and remained with them until she was sold for scrap in 1928.
No record of William Mitchell's early misadventures remains, but after passing to the John Stewart company, she was nearly lost when her cargo shifted in a storm; was aground on a reef in the Indian Ocean for 25 days; sank a Norwegian fishing schooner in collision, killing all but one of its crew; and made many over-long passages.
The worst passage the Mitchell made was a 266-day trip from Gulfport, Louisiana to Buenos Aires. Alan Villiers, in Sea Dogs of To-Day, notes that a fast steamer could make the passage in two weeks. The ship was beset by light winds and calm, and had to put in to Barbados after nearly five months of beating around the Caribbean Ocean. After re-stocking provisions and making repairs, the ship took nearly four more months to reach Buenos Aires.
Her last voyage began in May of 1925, as follows: Rotterdam to Campbellton, New Brunswick, in ballast. Campbellton to Melbourne with wood; Melbourne to Callao with wheat; Guanape Island to Wilmington, North Carolina with guano; Wilmington to Melbourne in ballast; Melbourne to Callao with wheat, again; and finally Tocopilla to Ostend with nitrates, arriving in November of 1927. She was scrapped in Ostend in early 1928.
**The four-master Garthpool flew the British flag until she was wrecked in 1929, but the ship was actually registered in Montreal.
Source: Alan Villiers-- Sea Dogs of To-Day