On the 26th of July, 1864, under a strong gale from the northeast, a magnificent yacht was steaming at full speed through the waves of the North Channel. The flag of England fluttered at her yard-arm, while at the top of the mainmast floated a blue pennon, bearing the initials E. G., worked in gold and surmounted by a ducal coronet. The yacht was called the Duncan, and belonged to Lord Glenarvan, one of the sixteen Scottish peers sitting in the House of Lords, and also a most distinguished member of the "Royal Thames Yacht Club," so celebrated throughout the United Kingdom.
Lord Edward Glenarvan was on board with his young wife, Lady Helena, and one of his cousins, Major MacNabb. The Duncan, newly constructed, had just been making a trial voyage several miles beyond the Frith of Clyde, and was now on her return to Glasgow. Already Arran Island was appearing on the horizon, when the look-out signaled an enormous fish that was sporting in the wake of the yacht. The captain, John Mangles, at once informed Lord Glenarvan of the fact, who mounted on deck with Major MacNabb, and asked the captain what he thought of the animal.