The recent fire that has devastated the worlds most famous surviving clipper the Cutty Sark serves as a timely reminder of the impending fate of another famous old clipper the S.V. Carrick, or as it is more correctly known the City of Adelaide. While the Cutty Sark lies charred, smouldering and a focus of worldwide concern the S V Carrick continues to sit on a slipway in Irvine, Ayrshire, slowly decaying and falling to pieces.
The Scottish Maritime Museum, owners of the City of Adelaide, have been plagued by on-off public funding for the Museum and its projects. Funding for the restoration of the ship ran out in 1999 and the Trustees of the Museum were forced to apply, in May 2000, to North Ayrshire Council for listed building consent to demolish the A listed vessel.
There was a storm of objections to the application. Objections came not only from individuals but also universities and heritage bodies in Europe, America and Australia. Concern was such that even the Federal Government of Australia objected through its Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The S.V. Carrick is so important because she is the only surviving wooden sailing passenger ship from the 19th Century in Great Britain. Not only that but she is the oldest of only three composite vessels surviving worldwide and she is also the earliest surviving clipper ship.
The National Historic Ships Committee included the City of Adelaide in its Core Collection list of 54 nationally significant vessels for the U.K. Indeed within the UK category of historic ships she is placed in the top ten, sharing the list with vessels like HMS Victory, SS Great Britain and the Cutty Sark. She is without a doubt the most important historic vessel in Scotland.
The s v Carrick or City of Adelaide was launched in 1864 from the Sunderland yard of W. Pile, Hay & Co. Designed to carry cargo and passengers she had the highest quality of first class accommodation. She also had provision for second class passengers and basic emigrant class accommodation.
The City of Adelaide gave annual service to South Australian ports over the second half of the nineteenth century and was of fundamental importance to the development of the Australian colony. Interestingly australian researchers calculate that over 60% of the current population of the State of South Australia can trace their families arrival in Australia to the City of Adelaide.
She was sold in 1887 and like similar ships ended up as a bulk cargo transport, first, as a collier working between the Tyne and Dover then on the North Atlantic timber trade.
Her sailing days days ended in 1893 when she was bought by Southampton Corporation and over the next 100 years she was converted for several different purposes.
She spent thirty years as a floating isolation hospital in Southampton. She was then renamed HMS Carrickand had twenty three years with the Admiralty as an RNVR drill ship and wartime training ship at Greenock on the Clyde. She then spent forty four years as the Carrick owned by RNVR (Scotland) Club, moored in Glasgow.
There had been an initial attempt to preserve the S.V. Carrick by a Glasgow based Trust but this failed and and she sank in Princes Dock, Govan. By 1991 she was at risk of total loss but was salvaged and moved to Irvine by the Scottish Maritime Museum for preservation and future restoration.
In 1992 a fully funded 1 million first phase of work began but restroation funds were not sufficient to complete the work.
North Ayrshire Councils Planning Committee considered and refused the Scottish Maritime Museums application to demolish City of Adelaideon 26th February 2001.
By the summer of 2001 the Trustees of the Scottish Maritime Museum were expressing concern that ongoing rental costs for the slipway and lack of funds to restore the hull to allow removal from the slipway would result in the Museum going into liquidation. The President of the Maritime Trust, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, called a conference of interested parties in September 2001.
Conference attendees included representatives from the National Historic Ships Committee, The Maritime Trust, Australian High Commission, State of South Australia, City of Sunderland, Historic Scotland, Scottish Executive and DCMS. The Sunderland Maritime Trust and Save the City of Adelaide 1864 Group.
Sunderland and Adelaide representatives both presented proposals for the vessel to be restored and displayed in their cities. The Conference agreed that both Sunderland and Adelaide should look to securing funding support for their proposals but to date no adequate funds have been identified to resolve the problem.
In January 2007 this blog noted that permission had been granted for the breakup of The City of Adelaide when North Ayrshire Council finally conclude that there was no hope of saving the ship.
This is a real tragedy for Scotland, for Sunderland, for Australia and for Maritime history. The fire on the Cutty Sark reminds us of the importance of our maritime history and how fragile it is. It is sad that the S.V.Carick, or the City of Adelaide as she was first known, will not now be saved from the brink of extinction. There will in all likelyhood be a major response to pleas to help save and restore the Cutty Sark and this is to be welcomed. It is unfortunate that such a response has not been forthcoming for the aide of the City of Adelaide.