Scotland’s CITY OF ADELAIDE To Australia

CITY OF ADELAIDE as she was in 2005 on the slipway at Irvine, near Glasgow, Scotland. Photo Chris Allen, creative commons.

Scotland’s Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop announced that the preferred bidder for the 1864-built clipper ship CITY OF ADELAIDE would be the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust, thereby returning the ship to the Australian city after which she was named. Ms Hyslop said: “The ‘City of Adelaide’ has an illustrious past shared by two nations, Scotland and Australia. This bid gives us the opportunity to save the ship, build on that link, and open up the potential for both countries to recognise partnerships and shared heritage on an international scale. We can now have a link between Scotland and Australia which allows both nations to share the vessel’s historical, cultural and social significance through tourism, interpretation and education. If the vessel moves within the timescales suggested, the ship will arrive in Adelaide in time for the celebration of South Australia’s Jubilee Year in 2011 celebrating the 175th anniversary of the State.”

This news awarded the ship to the Australian bidders over a rival party from Sunderland, who vow to press on with a plan to return the vessel to where she was built.

Some background: The world’s oldest clipper ship has been very close to destruction in the last few years. 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.

“A support group was set up in Adelaide with a view to obtaining the ship and returning it to South Australia for restoration. This group includes the great-granddaughter of the first master, the great-grandson of an 1874 passenger, and others who ardently believe that this part of our heritage should be preserved at all cost.” from “Clipper Ship ‘City of Adelaide'”.

CITY OF ADELAIDE remained on the verge of demolition until this year. A plan to save the ship has been developed and  is outlined on (Rival bid from Sunderland have a webite at

Today’s news is a huge boost to the ship’s future and to quote the aforementioned website “To preserve CITY OF ADELAIDE on a land-based maritime precinct at Port Adelaide, and provide for the co-location of other historic vessels at the same site. The South Australian Government has agreed to provide land for the maritime precinct. The objective is for the ship to be moved in time to celebrate South Australia’s 175th anniversary in 2011.”

Special thanks to the BBC, Chris Allen, the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust, Peter Knego and my grand mother Adelaide Minnie Hall for first telling me about this ship.


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