A Tale of Two Ships

There was once not one, but two Hispaniola ships in Scarborough.

Above: An illustration from Treasure Island, showing the Hispaniola – a fictional ship in Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel that inspired the Scarborough imitation (source)

One, which has been mentioned here already, took children across Scarborough Mere on pirate-themed trips to dig for doubloons on Treasure Island.

Above: The Hispaniola on Scarborough Mere (source)

The other was moored at Scarborough Harbour for a brief period in the 1950s, having starred in films that included Moby Dick and, unsurprisingly, Treasure Island.

Above: The ‘other’ Hispaniola in Scarborough Harbour (source)

This ‘other’ Hispaniola started out as a schooner called Ryelands. It was built in the 1880s by Nicholson & Marsh at Glasson Dock in Lancaster, Lancashire, and first set sail on January 11th, 1887. A fire only one year earlier had threatened to destroy the ship, so its launch under the command of Captain William Marrow, was nothing short of a miracle.

Above: Glasson Dock today (source)

The Ryelands was bought by Captain Hugh Shaw in 1942. Having grown up in a seafaring family, Captain Shaw assigned command of the ship to his son Kenneth. For a short time it was used for trading in the Bristol channel.

Above: Captain Hugh Shaw (source)

However, fame was just around the corner for the Ryelands – after its sale in 1948 the vessel starred in the 1950 Disney film Treasure Island, which starred Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton.

Above: Treasure Island film promotional material (source)

Below: The Ryelands as the Hispaniola in the film (source)

Other credits include assuming the role of Pequod in Moby Dick – a 1956 production starring Gregory Peck.

Above: Gregory Peck on board the Ryelands – this time masquerading as Pequod (source)

Below: The ship also had a role in TV show The Buccaneers – the 1950s CBS show starring Robert Shaw (source)

Following a mooring at Scarborough, the ‘other’ Hispaniola lived the remainder of its days in Morecambe, as a floating exhibit, before finally perishing in a fire in 1972.

You can see a picture of the schooner in its retirement at Morecambe by clicking here.

Ryelands’ alter ego, the Scarborough Mere Hispaniola, still survives, although is now moored at Scarborough Harbour, taking trips along the South Bay during the tourist season.

Do you remember the ‘other’ Hispaniola? Or the one that travelled across Scarborough Mere? Please comment below with memories, corrections and information.


Through Mighty Seas: A Maritime History Page

Ryelands Information Page

Web Archive



Voyage of the Hispaniola

Scarborough’s Hispaniola is perhaps the best documented of the attractions selected for this archive.

Unlike Kinderland, Marvel’s, Atlantis and Millennium, this attraction has enjoyed a long and consistent life, with the Hispaniola making pirate-themed trips across Scarborough Mere for nearly half a century. Sadly these voyages ceased several decades ago, although the boat still carries passengers along the South Bay during high season.


Above: The Hispaniola on the Mere (from the author’s collection)

Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous Treasure Island story, the Hispaniola took visitors to a small island on Scarborough Mere to dig for treasure.

Treasure Island

Above: Stevenson’s Treasure Island inspired the Hispaniola attraction (source)

Sailing from the mainland in a replica galleon (named after Stevenson’s fictional vessel in the story), children and their families were greeted by staff dressed as pirates, and escorted to ‘Treasure Island’, where imitation gold coins had been cunningly concealed in the sandy soil. Using wooden branches and sticks, youngsters were encouraged to find the ‘treasure’. Success was rewarded with a certificate, and failure with a dreaded black stamp.

I remember frantically swiping at the soil with a tree branch, anxious to find a doubloon before my two brothers did. The ‘pirates’ were very convincing – both fearsome and funny! I don’t remember a black stamp when I visited (perhaps that was an earlier feature?) although vaguely recall the small certificate. Riding the boat was exciting – like being a real pirate. Or so I thought. At the time…

The Hispaniola first graced the waters of Scarborough Mere in 1949, and on only it’s second ever voyage, on June 18, 1949, it ran aground, becoming trapped in mud only metres from ‘Treasure Island’. Passengers included the Mayor and Mayoress, local dignitaries and 10 children. According to the Scarborough News, the Mayor saw the lighter side of the unfortunate situation:

There is no truth in the suggestion that Long John Silver’s charts were faulty.

Doubloons all bore the image of the Hispaniola. Initially made from metal, they were later replaced with plastic versions. However, in spite of small changes to the Treasure Island trips, the attraction managed to survive virtually unchanged for multiple decades, often enjoyed by several generations of the same family.


Above: The Hispaniola (source)

During the twentieth century, Scarborough Mere was a popular park with a cafe, rowing boats and canoes. Water sports still take place there today, and the shores are frequently lined with fishing enthusiasts. However, today’s Mere is an altogether quieter place without its boats, scores of excited children, and, of course, pirates.

Scarborough Mere

Above: Old postcard depicting boats on the Mere (source)

Below: The Mere today (author’s personal collection)


From 1993 the Hispaniola stopped sailing on the Mere, to the uproar of former passengers; young and old. A number of reasons were given for ending this popular council-run tradition – loss of money, unfavourable sailing conditions (due to an excess of weeds and silt on the bed of the Mere) and the boat’s engine problems. Others suggested that the closure was part of longer term proposals to redevelop the area as a country park, with a focus upon nature, fishing and quieter endeavors.

As for the Hispaniola, after spending a long period beached near the North Bay Bathing Pool, she eventually sailed again, making trips for tourists along the South Bay.


Above: The Hispaniola, moored at Scarborough Harbour (source)

As with the brief histories of the other attractions compiled here, this account is based on limited sources – mainly Scarborough News and memories posted on obscure forums.

Please comment below to share memories, corrections and any other information about the Hispaniola.