What do you need to know about the world famous tea clipper Cutty Sark?
1. Cutty Sark takes her name from a poem by Robert Burns called Tam O’Shanter. It refers to a short nightie worn by one of the main characters in the poem, a young, attractive witch called Nannie.
2. Cutty Sark is the world’s only surviving extreme clipper. Most of the hull fabric you see on her today dates back to her original construction. She has survived heavy seas, war, neglect, obsolescence, fire and old age to be here in Greenwich.
3. Cutty Sark stands as a memorial to the Merchant Navy, particularly those who lost their lives in the two world wars.
4. Construction on Cutty Sark began in Scotland in 1869 and she embarked on her maiden voyage from London to Shanghai on 16 February 1870. On her first voyage, Cutty Sark carried ‘large amounts of wine, spirits and beer’, and came back from Shanghai loaded with 1.3 million pounds of tea.
5. The opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of the steamer age made Cutty Sark’s role as a tea clipper obsolete, so she started to carry different cargoes including coal, jute, castor oil and even Australian post from Calcutta to Melbourne.
6. Aged 14 years, Cutty Sark started recording remarkably fast passage times, under her Master Richard Woodget, and became the dominant ship in bringing wool from Australia to England.
7. With steam ships starting to take over the wool trade, Cutty Sark became less profitable for her owners and she was sold to a Portuguese firm in 1895 for £2,100, and renamed Ferreira.
8. On a voyage in early 1922, Cutty Sark (still sailing as Ferreira) put into Falmouth harbour after being damaged in a gale. Wilfred Dowman, a retired skipper, recognised the old tea clipper and eventually managed to buy her and, along with Catharine Dowman, begin the task of saving her.
9. Cutty Sark is home to the world’s biggest collection of figureheads – the carved wooden figures that adorn ships’ prows – thanks to a bequest by an eccentric maritime history lover.
10. Queen Elizabeth II has opened Cutty Sark to the public twice: the first time was in 1957, when she was first restored as an historic monument; the second time was in 2012, after another major conservation project. Her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is a long-time supporter of Cutty Sark.