Fifty years after Carlton President Lew Holmes last used the gavel to draw the final board meeting of 1964 to a close, the ceremonial mallet has turned up at Visy Park – and with it an extraordinary maritime history pre-dating the Carlton Football Club itself.

The precious artefact (sans sounding block) was in the possession of the  former Assistant Secretary Keith Mills, who saw fit to return the item for display in this the club’s 150th year.

“That gavel was responsible for rubber stamping anything and everything, from the buildings around here to the payments to players . . . it was swung by the President as he sat in the old chair,” Mills said.

Incredibly, the honey-coloured timber from which the gavel was fashioned is 161 years old. A small plaque fixed to the gavel reads: “Made from the wood of S.S. Edina”, which was built way back in 1853.

Like the gavel, the Carlton boardroom chair, which has remained at Visy Park since the days of Holmes, was also crafted from the timbers of the Edina – an old three-masted steamer whose story is as timeworn as it is fascinating.

Excellent notes provided by Warrnambool’s Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village reveal that the Edina was built by Barclay & Company of Glasgow.

A painting of the Edina. (Image: Supplied)

During the Crimean War (when the ship ferried the celebrated British reformer and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale across the Black Sea) and the American Civil War, the Edina served as a blockade-runner before being diverted to the Australian gold rush trade. It was 1862 and for a brief period she ferried as many as 350 diggers across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

Purchased for the west coast trade in 1860 by SG Henty at a cost of £13,500, the Edina completed her first voyage from Melbourne to Portland the year before Carlton was founded, on April Fool’s Day 1863.

In 1869, the Edina was purchased by the Western Steam Navigation company for a cost of £8500 and 100 fully paid-up shares, with a condition of the sale that the Hentys withdraw from the Warrnambool trade.

During her working life, the Edina was regrettably involved in no fewer than 14 mishaps, nine of them collisions.

In May 1875, after more than 1000 trips to and from the west coast, Howard Smith & Co. purchased Edina for the North Queensland trade. She returned to Melbourne five years later and made her first run in the Bay Trade between the city and Geelong on May 1, 1880. Captain Forbes took command of her on her first trip and remained with her for 40 years.

In July 1928, the Edina sank the hopper-barge Batman at the entrance to the Yarra River. Though the Edina escaped with minor damage the Batman sank immediately.

The Edina’s Melbourne-Geelong service lasted until the Carlton Premiership year of 1938, averaging 312 trips each year, 90 miles per trip, and carrying around 100 passengers per day. In 1938 after more than one million miles and more than two million passengers, her 84-year career ended when economic conditions forced her withdrawal from service.

That year, the Edina was stripped down and used as a hulk named Dinah, before being totally scrapped in 1958 - the year Lew Holmes assumed the Carlton Presidency.

Having been towed up the Maribyrnong River, the old girl was broken down at Footscray and its weathered timbers used for landfill on Coode Island.

But some of the Edina’s boards were refashioned for practical use in the Carlton Football Club boardroom – and there the President’s chair remains as a salient reminder of the glory days of a long-gone steamer.