“Naughty Boys’ Ship” Exhibition Opens – Updated

In North Wales, an unusual exhibition has just opened depicting the harsh life on board a wooden vessel used as a training ship for orphaned and delinquent boys.

Reform Ship CLIO in 1881. Photo sent by reader Annette Hastings.

The Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery in North Wales opened an exhibition on what was known locally as “The Naughty Boys’ Ship”  last week illuminating life on board the former HMS CLIO, a former naval gunship moored off Bangor pier in Gwynedd for over 40 years from 1877.

Photo courtesy Gwynedd Museum and Gallery, Bangor, Wales

Project Manager, Alun Thomas, requested public help in mounting the exhibit,  calling for memorabilia from the CLIO.  The public responded with a number of items from its training ship era, a life ring with the ship’s name, a carving by the ships carpenter and three beams from a demolished farm building near Bangor that reputedly came from the CLIO as she was scrapped. Mr. Thomas added, in an email to MaritimeMatters; “Another point which might interest your readers is that within a mere three days of the exhibition opening I received an email from an expert of ships’ figureheads enclosing a photograph of a local mariner (from the UK publication ‘Sea Breezes’ dated April, 1924) standing next to the head portion of the Clio figurehead in the grounds of a Bangor hotel (an artefact we assumed had been lost in the Menai Straits). Now the search is on to see if she still ‘resides’ in this area.”

Photo courtesy Gwynedd Museum and Gallery, Bangor, Wales

Thomas described how some of the boys lived on board for four or five years, learning how to make their own clothes and shoes, how they received a general education and were prepared for a life at sea. Known as the “naughty boys’ ship” because its function was to rehabilitate hundreds of teenage delinquents by training them for a life in the royal or merchant navy, the exhibition examines life on board through photographs and artifacts. The exhibition includes the story of David Livingstone Evans, aged 11, who was sent to the CLIO in 1908 after stealing “three dolls, a football and a ‘fancy basket’ from Bangor Market”. Livingstone remained on the ship until he was 16.

Photo courtesy Gwynedd Museum and Gallery, Bangor, Wales

The HMS CLIO was a wooden 22-gun Pearl-class corvette built at Sheerness Dockyard and launched on August 28, 1858. Her first commission was on the Pacific Station (a geographical division where the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities). Bad weather forced her return to England where she was placed in the reserve fleet. Later, HMS CLIO became the flagship of the Australia Station in 1870.  However, in 1871, she struck an uncharted rock in Bligh Sound, South Island of New Zealand and was beached to prevent sinking. After temporary repairs, she reached Wellington, where she was further repaired before to sailing on to Sydney for dry-docking. In 1873, her flagship pennant was handed on and she return to the UK. In 1877, was stationed on the Menai Strait at Bangor, Wales and opened as a training ship for some 260 “pupils”.  After becoming a training ship, her original engine and boiler rooms were removed to make more space for the boys.  The ship was permanently moored off Bangor’s pier head until she was scrapped in 1920.

The exhibition will run from March until September 17, 2011 at The Gwynedd Museum and Gallery, Bangor, Wales

Special thanks to The Gwynedd Museum and Gallery, Bangor, Wales, Alun Thomas and Annette Hastings


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