The City of Adelaide calls in to the Thames on its way to Australia

City of Adelaide at Gillingham

My thanks to River Thames Photos for this shot of the clipper ship City of Adelaide arriving at Gillingham on her historic voyage to Australia.

For many years the 1864 clipper has stood rusting on a slipway at Irvine in Scotland – a neglect that seems incredible, but after years of wrangling she’s now to be looked after on the other side of the world. I hope they make a wonderful job of it!

The Australians’ interest in the City of Adelaide is that she carried so many emigrants from the British Isles to a new life in the country in a series of 29 regular voyages. Huge numbers of Australians are said to be descended from her passengers.

National Historic Ships UK and the weblog The Liquid Highway both have more information on the ship.

Buckingham Palace has announced that before the City of Adelaide leaves, she will take part in a celebration ceremony on the 18th October at Greenwich with the Duke of Edinburgh, close by that other clipper ship, the Cutty Sark. Details of the event, which is also a renaming ceremony (from Carrick back to City of Adelaide) are here.

The Duke has long had an interest in such things – we don’t have to be great fans of royalty to think it is worth remembering that in 1951 the Cutty Sark Preservation Trust was formed by the Duke and the then-director of the National Maritime Museum, Frank Carr. Here’s a clip of him visiting the Cutty Sark in 1953.

While I’m delighted that she is to be cared for by the Australians who have so much reason to venerate her, I think we should have very mixed feelings about the whole issue. It’s obviously sad to see her leave the country that built her but I can’t help reflecting on all those years of shameful neglect here in the UK. No doubt the Duke will have a salty remark or two to make about the issue…

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Crunch time for the sad clipper ship City of Adelaide – can you help?

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The City of Adelaide again. Photo courtesy of Paula Palmer of
the National Historic Ships

Rather late in the day, I’ve just received news of the last chance to save the other’ last clipper, the City of Adelaide from the Australian group trying to preserve her.

There’s more information on the history of the ship and their campaign and appeal here, and also a gut-wrenching open letter to the people of the UK and our political leaders. It seems unthinkable to let a clipper from the middle of the 19th century go now after surviving so long.

This is the message I’ve received:

‘On the 22nd October, the Scottish Maritime Museum issued a tender for the demolition of the City of Adelaide. Tenders close on Monday 23rd November.

‘We are preparing an offer to submit by the deadline on Monday. Our offer will be based on removing the City of Adelaide whole and thus save her from being permanently lost to future generations.

‘We urgently seek your help to raise an additional A$200,000 to enable us to bid a lower price for our tender submission. This will improve our competitiveness against the cheaper chainsaw and bulldozer options.

‘We already have offers of in-kind support from industry for labour and materials that will be needed in Scotland and Australia but we need more industrial in-kind help. If you are in a heavy engineering industry and believe that you could supply labour, steel and/or equipment for use either in Australia or Scotland then we are most keen for you to contact us This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

‘At this time we would like to acknowledge the support of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (London) commemorating their 150th year 1860-2010, and Aztec Analysis (Adelaide) heavy lift engineers.

‘We do need more support. Would you please consider supporting our cause to save the City of Adelaide clipper through a financial contribution?’

In publicising the Australian claim to rescuing the dear old City of Adelaide, I’m in danger of forgetting another aspect of the story – the fact that there are people in Sunderland, where she was built, who would also dearly love to retrieve her and care for her. In fact, one of that illustrious town’s councillors recently camped on board the old ship to draw attention to her plight. See the BBC’s news story here.