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Maritime Media Volunteer, Don Knibb captured the TrueLove flag being removed from the wall in the whaling gallery after being on display for decades.

The 15 January 2021, saw the flag of the Truelove lowered in Hull, but this is only the start of the next chapter in the ship's colourful history.

The Truelove flag on display

Built in Philadelphia in 1764, the Truelove was a three masted merchant ship which operated as an American privateer (a privately owned and supplied ship) during the American War of Independence.

She was captured by the English and came into the ownership of John Voase, a Hull wine merchant and shipowner who at first used her in connection with his business. Soon though, she was refitted as a whaling ship based in Hull, making over 80 successful voyages as a whaler, although Voase also used her for other work including shipping wine from Portugal.

She survived many dangers during this period, not least getting trapped in pack ice in Melville Bay, Greenland in 1835. Twenty other ships were crushed by ice in this incident, but the Truelove emerged largely unscathed.

For 16 years she was captained continuously by John Parker, who was born in Grimsby but lived in Hull. Described as a stern disciplinarian, Parker was also a man of some considerable humanity.

He was shocked by the living conditions of the Inuit on Baffin Island and in 1847 he brought two young Inuit – Memiadluk and his 15 year old wife Uckaluk - back to Hull to show them to the public, to draw attention to their predicament and to raise money to support and strengthen their community.

Sadly, his efforts ended in tragedy. Both Memiadluk and Uckaluk died of measles on board their ship on the way home. To this day a small bust commemorates them close to the tidal surge barrier, and the museum holds a bust of Memiadluk created by Hull sculptor William Day Keyworth Junior and dated to 1847.

In 1873 the Truelove returned to Philadelphia, where she was presented with the flag which found its way to the Maritime Museum after she finished her seagoing career on the Thames before being broken up. She had seen an extraordinary 130 years of service. The date of the presentation is defined fairly closely by the flag itself.

You can count 37 stars in the top left hand corner – one for each American state admitted to the Union at the time. The 37th such state was Nebraska (admitted 1 March 1867) and when Colorado was admitted on 1 August 1876 the flag would require a 38th star.

37 Stars of the Truelove flag

The flag has already been restored once when the lettering was over-painted because the original was in such poor condition. The only original part of the lettering left is the small red square underneath the final superscript A of 'Philada.'

The only original part of the lettering left is the small red square underneath the final superscript A of 'Philada.'

Here we can see the flag on display in the museum's whaling gallery before it was gently and painstakingly lowered and carried off to the entrance foyer and upstairs to the Court Room where it was laid out on a table, prior to restoration work taking place.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it was affixed to the wall in the whaling gallery by means of Velcro!

Conservation Officer, Stathis inspects the flag before it is removed from the wall and lowered

***We endeavour to make sure all the research and facts we present by staff and volunteers is accurate and checked with rigor. However, we are only human so please let us know if you spot any errors and always cross-reference your research.***