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H7219 Table fiddle, wood, maker unknown, place of production unknown, from the sailing ship 'Cimba', c. 1890. Click to enlarge.

Table fiddle from the sailing ship 'Cimba'

Possibly made
  • c 1890
This table fiddle belonged to Captain James William Holmes (1855-1932), a British Master of clipper ships in the 1890s and early 1900s. Table fiddles are used on meal tables aboard ship to prevent articles falling to the floor during rough seas. It was used on board his most notable command, the wool clipper 'Cimba' from 1895 to 1906, on which he acquired a reputation for fast voyages due to his knowledge of the weather and pioneering use of perforated sails.

Captain Holmes' fastest voyage …


Object No.


Object Statement

Table fiddle, wood, maker unknown, place of production unknown, from the sailing ship 'Cimba', c. 1890

Physical Description

Table fiddle from the sailing ship 'Cimba'. An adjustable wooden ledge for the meal table to prevent articles from sliding on to the floor during rough seas, c. 1890. in 3 compartments (SB).



50 mm


330 mm


Possibly made

  • c 1890



Captain James William Holmes' sailing career spanned more than 50 years. Born in England in 1855 at Deal, Kent, to a seafaring family, Holmes went to sea in 1869 at the age of 14 and eventually became a well-known master of sailing ships trading between Britain and Australia in the 1890s and early 1900s. He made his first voyage to Sydney as an able seaman in 1874 on the 'Kosciusko'. Having progressed on various ships to First Mate he applied at Trinity House in 1887 to become a pilot, but the number of pilots had recently been restricted so he decided to settle in Sydney. He lived here for five years, working for the Australasian Steam Navigation Company on voyages in the Pacific, before returning to the UK.

Holmes got his first command in 1890 on the barque 'Leucadia' owned by Alexander Nicol and Company of Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1895 he was given command of the wool clipper 'Cimba' which he captained until the ship was sold in 1906. His next commands were the 'Inverurie' and 'Invergarry' until 1914. On a voyage carrying coal from Newcastle to San Francisco he learnt from an American tanker that war with Germany had been declared and after an adventurous voyage escaping German submarines he eventually made his way back to the English port of Grimsby. Holmes hoped in vain for employment by the Admiralty during the war and made his last voyage in 1920-21 on the schooner 'Gardner Williams' between Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Mauritius. He died in England in 1932 at his Shooter's Hill home, Greenwich.


Credit Line

Gift of Minnie N Coughlan, 1963

Acquisition Date

24 March 1963

Cite this Object


Table fiddle from the sailing ship 'Cimba' 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 1 December 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Table fiddle from the sailing ship 'Cimba' |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=1 December 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}