Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling

Cutty Sark

Onwards to Cutty Sark, that notable landmark of the London Marathon. It is disappointing to find that it is enclosed by boards and unable to be seen. This is because of the renovation project that commenced in 2006 and was originally planned to finish in 2009. A fire on 21st May 2007 put back the work, and it is now expected to open to the public again in spring 2010.

Cutty Sark is an interesting name for a ship. In the Scottish dialect a cutty sark is a short chemise, and was the nickname given to Nannie in Robbie Burns’s poem “Tam O’Shanter” who wore such a garment. To further connect the ship with the poem the figurehead on Cutty Sark was named Nannie.

The ship was designed for the tea trade. Premium prices were obtainable for the first tea brought from China each year, and speed of transport was essential. Cutty Sark could achieve a speed of up to 17 knots, which was quite exceptional for the time. Eventually the tea clippers lost out to steamships, that were not only more reliable, but they could considerably shorten the journey by using the Suez Canal.

Cutty Sark was built for Captain John by Scott and Linton at Dumbarton, and was launched on November 22nd 1869. The displacement was 2,100 tonnes, with a hull of 212 ft in length and a beam of 36 ft. Fully laden the vessel had a draught of 21ft.

Willis sold the ship in 1895 to the Portuguese Company “Ferreira”, who changed the name of the craft to their company name and sailed it under the flag of Portugal. . In 1916 Ferreira was dismasted off the Cape of Good Hope, and after rerigging was relaunched under the name “Maria do Amparo”. In 1922 the ship was purchased by Captain William Dowman, who restored the original design and reverted to the original name. He used it for training purposes, and the ship was moored at Falmouth and Greenhithe before arriving at its final destination at Greenwich.

When the ship is unveiled to the public again in 2010 it will have been restored to its full former glory, and once again be the major feature along this part of the pathway.

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