Posted on Saturday, August 24, 2013 by Martin Cox
The world’s oldest clipper and the only surviving purpose-built sailing ship to bring migrants from Europe to Australia is being readied in Scotland for her voyage back to Adelaide. The 1864-built CITY OF ADELAIDE has been saved from destruction.
When I last wrote about this ship in MaritimeMatters it was August 2010, the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust had been announced as the preferred bidder by Scotland’s Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop beating out a rival bid from Sunderland where she was built.
A news release today spells out a dramatic plan to move the ship from her slipway at Irvine, Scotland where she has been since 1992 to a new home in Australia.
The CITY OF ADELAIDE‘s journey will begin with her delicate transfer on to a barge, she will then be towed to her original homeport of London for a major celebration and formal farewell as soon as October. Moored on the Thames at Greenwich, CITY OF ADELAIDE will “visit” her young sister – the world famous CUTTY SARK.
The voyage will continue via “a quarantine and preparation stop in Europe” and then continue on her 22,000 km (13,670 mile) journey from Scotland to Adelaide, arriving in Port Adelaide between February and April 2014.
The voyage will end an extraordinary 14-year campaign by engineers, maritime historians, ship enthusiasts, descendants of the ship’s migrants and supporters.
Engineering firms from across South Australia worked together to create a prefabricated steel cradle that would allow the ship to be rolled across a temporary bridge over river mudflats and onto a low-draft barge. Weighing 100 tonnes and worth more than AU$1.2million, the cradle was shipped to Scotland in five shipping containers, before being assembled and tested, and then disassembled again for installation beneath the 450 tonne clipper piece by piece.
“We have had great support from the Australian and Scottish governments and local councils, but nearly a third of the money required to get her back has come from public donations and a similar amount from South Australian industry”, said Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Ltd. (CSCOAL) director and spokesperson Peter Christopher.
“Once she is safely in South Australia we will be establishing her as the flagship of a non-profit Seaport Village in Port Adelaide.
Some background: The world’s oldest clipper ship came very close to destruction. The CITY OF ADELAIDE was built by William Pile, Hay and Co. in Sunderland, England, and was launched on the 7th May 1864. From 1864 – 1886, CITY OF ADELAIDE made 23 voyages to South Australia carrying passengers south and cargo north. Approximately a quarter of a million Australians are descended from the passengers who sailed on the CITY OF ADELAIDE.
In 1887, she was laid up, then returned to service as a collier between Tyne and Dover in England. She then was sold to T. Dixon and Son of Belfast, Ireland who re-rigged her as a barque for the North Atlantic timber trade. In 1893, the Southampton Corporation purchased her for £1,750 and converted her into a hospital isolation ship on the River Test, moored off Millbrook in Southampton. In 1923, CITY OF ADELAIDE was sold to the British Admiralty for £2,500, re-named HMS CARRICK, moored in the Firth of Clyde and converted into a training ship for the Clyde division of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. By 1949, she was moved to Greenock for use as a Navy Drill Ship. Finally, she was deemed past her usefulness and the British Admiralty presented her to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Club who used the ship as a meeting room and club house until 1990 when she was sold to the Clyde Ship Trust for £1 while still moored at the Glasgow Customs House Quay.
In 1992, she was identified as part of the National (UK) Historic Ships Core Collection and was given an ‘A’ class heritage listing. At that time, she was claimed to be the only 19th century sailing ship in Britain still able to float. CITY OF ADELAIDE became the property of the Scottish National Maritime Museum, after the Clyde Ship Trust was dissolved. Partially restored to her clipper ship design, she was moved to her present location, a slipway at Irvine, Scotland. Lack of funds to maintain the restoration program and the on-going cost of slipway rental forced the Scottish Maritime Museum into a difficult position to appeal for funds. In 2000, the Museum offered the clipper ship for sale to maritime and preservation organizations and museums but no bids were tendered. The slip owner eventually needed the land cleared and the Trustees of the Scottish Maritime Museum applied to have her ‘A’ class heritage listing removed to allow them to demolish her.
CITY OF ADELAIDE remained on the verge of demolition until 2010.
Special thanks to the Clipper Ship City of Adelaide Limited, and my grand mother Adelaide Minnie Hall for first telling me about this ship.