World’s oldest Clipper leaves Irvine shipyard

The City of Adelaide leaves Irvine. Picture: HeMedia
The City of Adelaide leaves Irvine. Picture: HeMedia
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THE world’s oldest surviving clipper has been handed over to its new owners ahead of its final journey from Scotland to Australia.

The City of Adelaide, built in 1864 to take migrants from Europe to Australia, is being readied to voyage south for the first time in more than 125 years.

The City of Adelaide. Picture: HeMedia

The City of Adelaide. Picture: HeMedia

It has been kept on a slipway at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, North Ayrshire, since it was salvaged in 1992 after sinking in the Clyde the previous year.

The museum could not afford to refurbish the ship, which, alongside the Cutty Sark, is one of only two of its kind remaining in the world, and had applied to demolish it in order to save some parts of the vessel.

Its new owner, Clipper Ship City of Adelaide, launched a successful campaign to save and relocate the vessel, which will now become part of a new maritime heritage park in south Australia. The group beat a rival bid from campaigners in Sunderland, where the ship was built.

Jim Tildesley, a project consultant and former director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, said: “The City of Adelaide has played an important role in maritime history and it is sad to see her leave, but she will have a good home in Australia.

“She spent the last years of her working life in Scotland, but I’m more excited to see the Australian group make her a centre-piece for public display - which is what we were hoping would happen here.”

He added: “I think anybody of a certain age in Scotland will remember her from the time she was sitting at Broomielaw in the city centre of Glasgow.”

The clipper, which between 1864 and 1887 made 23 annual return voyages transporting passengers and goods from London and Plymouth to Adelaide, was formally handed over at a ceremony at the museum’s Linthouse building yesterday before beginning the first leg of its 13,670-mile journey. On its return voyages, the ship carried passengers, wool and copper from Adelaide and Port Augusta to London.

The City of Adelaide is now due to leave Irvine within days, depending on weather conditions.

“I can almost picture the spectacle as the clipper is transported up the River Thames to Greenwich, bringing together the two last original 19th century clipper ships,” said Clipper Ship City of Adelaide director Peter Christopher.

“This has been a team project from the start, and the level of commitment and passion has been quite extraordinary.”

The vessel will be taken by barge to Greenwich in south east London, where it will be moored beside its sister ship, the Cutty Sark, before being lifted into the hold of a cargo ship to make the journey to Australia.

The craft, which in later years was used as a hospital ship, a training boat and a clubhouse, is expected to arrive in Adelaide by next spring.

Rescue plans for the ship attracted widespread political and personal support. In July 2010, The Duke of Edinburgh gave a rare radio interview reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the rescue of the SS Great Britain, when he indicated his fears ocer the future of the City of Adelaide.

The ship had been regarded as unrecoverable due to the silted river and protected wetland areas around its berth in Irvine, but engineers in Australia created a steel cradle to allow the ship to be rolled across a temporary bridge over the river surface and on to a low-draft barge.

Mr Christopher added: “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.”