Donald McNarry master miniature ship builder

Published 8th March 2017

Donald McNarry FRSA (1921-2010) is widely acknowledged among model ship builders as the master craftsman of extreme miniature model building. 

 a waterline model of the 20 -gun sixth-rate frigate hms tartar (1734) modelled by donald mcnarry frsa

 A waterline model of the 20 -gun Sixth-rate frigate HMS Tartar (1734) modelled by Donald McNarry FRSA 

Born in Walthamstow, February 21st, 1921 he took up model building as a boy and began entering competitions at the age of nine, winning several prizes at the annual Model Engineer Exhibition. In an early letter to the judges he expressed his dismay that his models were to be categorised as 'junior' rather than be judged against the 'proper' ship models.    

 an exceptional 16' 1" scale admiralty navy board style model of the 17th century eight gun royal yacht hmy charles (1675) modelled by donald mcnarry frsa:

An exceptional 16' 1" scale Admiralty Navy board style model of the 17th century eight gun Royal Yacht HMY Charles (1675) modelled by Donald McNarry FRSA: 

After serving with the Gordon Highlanders during the Second World War he continued to make models in his spare time, describing many of the models made between 1946 and 1953 in his first published book 'Shipbuilding in Miniature ' in 1955. It was also at this time he changed from 'amateur' model builder to freelance professional model maker, creating over 350 models of historic ships from 700BC to the late 1960s.   Working in either 100ft to one inch or 16ft to one inch, the models though small, contained as much detail as others executed on larger scales. Donald's wife Iris often helped with early models producing the sails and Donald even used strands of his own hair for rigging on these models before thinner wires and filaments became available. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  

 an exceptional 16' 1" scale model of the us brig 'lexington' (1775) modelled by donald mcnarry frsa

An exceptional 16' 1" scale model of the US brig 'Lexington' (1775) modelled by Donald McNarry FRSA 

Examples of his work can be found in the Royal Collection, but he was particularly sought after by American Collectors and modellers. Some of his models can be seen at The Peabody Essex Museum, The Smithsonian and the Mariner's Museum. The quality and detail of his work is perhaps best acknowledged by his overall attitude as described in his own words in the introduction of his first book;


'I believe one of the most important things is to try and build miniature ships instead of ship models'


These three models of the US Lexington, HMY Chares and HMS Tartar are included in Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood’s next Specialist Maritime Auction of the 14th June 2017. For further information please contact Brian Goodison-Blanks

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