Shipbuilder’s legacy lives on at Lighthouse


Historic City News has learned that volunteers at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum have completed a ship model of the HMS Victory that was started by Jim McNally and donated to the museum by his wife, Katie, after his death.

On Thursday, April 16th, the story will write its final chapter as McNally’s last project is unveiled at a private reception in the Museum courtyard.

“It is truly an honor for the Lighthouse to be part of this project,” said Executive Director Kathy A. Fleming. “As a maritime museum, we utilize these beautiful ship models to give our visitors an up-close look at the historic vessels of our ancestors. But there is so much behind each model, and in this case the story goes beyond just that of the HMS Victory to include Jim’s passion for ships as well as the dedication of our volunteers.”

275-Jim-McNallyIt all began in 2012, with a generous donation and a public plea. What happened next tied together the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, a group of passionate volunteers, and the legacy of craftsman James G. “Jim” McNally.

After McNally’s passing in 2003, his wife Katie longed for a way to honor his legacy as a talented boatwright and artist. Through family friend Doug Anderson, a Marsh Creek resident, Katie eventually connected with the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, and donated 10 of her husband’s ship models to the Museum including a not-yet-finished model of the HMS Victory.

The ship was originally started from a kit McNally brought back from Rome, Italy. It was the second HMS Victory model he worked on, the first was lost in a 1981 fire at McNally’s business Camelot Yachts in Ontario, New York.

Hoping to complete McNally’s final work, the Museum sent out a public request for volunteer ship modelers, which yielded a talented crew of artists including Sue Callaham, Lester Cole, Eric Sponberg and Dave Parlin.

In January 2013, the foursome set up shop in the Keepers’ House gallery to pick up where McNally left off with the HMS Victory, which was about 30% complete at the time of its arrival. Over the last two years, the volunteer team has carefully pieced together the ship; laying individual deck planks, painting every intricate detail, rigging each of the ships’ cannons and hand-placing over 3,000 dime-sized copper plates on the ship’s hull.

Every detail matches that of the real HMS Victory which is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. The ship is currently in dry dock in Portsmouth, England, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse volunteers have been in touch with the ship’s caretakers about the model project.

“A lot of times I felt like Jim was right here with us, guiding us through the process,” said Callaham, who won a volunteerism award from the State of Florida in January 2015 for her participation in the HMS Victory project.

Callaham also helped the museum to expand McNally’s legacy project by creating a summer ship modeling camp for local students. With funding support from the Barbara A. Kay Foundation, the camp was launched last summer for students in grade 5 – 8 and will return this July for two week-long sessions.

“Jim’s legacy is really what led us to launch the ship modeling class,” said Callaham. “Who knows how many new generations of ship modelers will be inspired by Jim and Katie’s contribution to the Lighthouse.”

The Museum will honor the McNally legacy at an invitation-only ceremony on Thursday evening with special guests, including Katie McNally.

Visitors to the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum can see the completed HMS Victory on exhibit in the Anastasia Gallery inside the Keepers’ House any time Monday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Registration is also open for the 2015 Ship Modeling Camp. Parents who are interested in signing up can call (904) 829-0745 or register online.

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