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Figurehead of the Primos
F0075A Figureheads - Primos - FHD0007
basic info
Figurehead type
Figurehead of the Primos
Vessel name
Type (Naval/Merchant)
Copyright owner
© National Maritime Museum
Copyright notes
Photo: © National Maritime Museum
Current location
Location date
physical info
A fine three-quarter length, white-painted female figurehead, with gilded decoration. The dress is essentially 19th-century but classicized and the figure wears a small gold crown or tiara. The right arm is across the breast and the left by the figure's side holds a fold of the gown.
Date made
Place made
H213.4 x D66 cms
Object history
Accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1979 from Robert Arthur Dorien-Smith. The collection was begun by Augustus Smith (1806-72) who leased the islands from the Duchy of Cornwall. The figureheads in the Valhalla Collection came from vessels wrecked on Scilly.
Vessel history
From Spanish iron barque 'Primos', lost on the Seven Stones in 1871. In heavy weather and about dawn, 'Primos' hit these notorious rocks between the Isles of Scilly and Land’s End, where almost a hundred years later the super-tanker ‘Torrey Canyon’ was to be wrecked. One of her boats drifted away and another capsized with the master and four crew before the ‘Primos’ foundered, barely 12 minutes after striking. All eleven crew were drowned except for Vincenzo Defilice who had a remarkable escape. After swimming for some hours he found a floating hen-coop, onto which he climbed and kept afloat for a further hour. He then saw the ship’s figurehead, to which he was able to cling for several hours before one of the ‘Primos’s’ own boats drifted by; in this he rowed himself to English Island Neck where he was rescued by Scilly pilots. By these strange methods he had travelled a distance of at least 8 ½ miles in the open sea. According to tradition, Defilice knew he would be saved because of the serene expression on the face of the figurehead, which washed ashore on St. Martin’s.

‘Primos’ details at time of wreck. Iron barque of 466 tons, registered in Bilbao. Built by Oswald of Sunderland, 1869. Dimensions (in feet and tenths): 155.6 x 27.2 x 16.0. Owner: De Anduza. Registered voyage: Havana to Falmouth and Greenock. Cargo: sugar. Master at loss: Anduza. Wrecked: 24 June 1871.
'Valhalla - The Tresco Ships' Figureheads Collection [NMM, 1984]
Ownership info
Owner type
Public Institution
Owner name
National Maritime Museum
Contact details
Royal Museums Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Ownership can be cited online
Accessible to public
Data verified by owner
Date verified