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Up in flames


The Cutty Sark.

Which is not my charming way of telling you I’ve killed a bottle of cheap hootch this morning. The great ship Cutty Sark caught fire today. She was in the process of major renovations so much of the planking was off-site, but most of it was there and is very severely damaged.

The Cutty Sark was the most famous tea clipper ever built and the only one still afloat. Well, afloat in a special dry dock built for the convenience of 13 million tourists and one weasel. We went to see the Cutty Sark on my very first trip to London in 1997. I’ll never forget it, because…well. London! Greenwich! Cutty Sark!

She was launched in 1870 and traded tea with China. Then wine, spirits and beer. She plied the wool trade to and from Australia from 1885 to 1895, setting speed records from Sydney to London every year. She began losing money and was sold to the Portuguese, where she ran between Rio and Lisbon. She was in London for a sprucing up in 1922 when an Englishman saw her and bought her back. She finally retired after WWII and was towed Greenwich, where the dry dock was built.

The name Cutty Sark comes from Burns’ poem, Tam O’ Shanter. There’s a beatiful witch in it wearing a short (or cut) shirt — “cutty sark” (the Portuguese crews called her “Pequina Camisola”). That’s the witch, up there on the figurehead, though why she’s clutching a horse’s tail or a hunk of hair or whatever, I do not know.

I haven’t heard whether she survived the fire.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 21, 2007, 7:03 am

When we were there this time, they were just beginning work on Tony Blair’s albatross, the Millenium Dome, that great white boil on the bum of Greenwich. At that point, it wasn’t much more than a plywood construction shack and a sign-in guest book. Somebody before us wrote in the book, “You can take your American ideas and shove them up your arse.” Hurt my feelings.

I loved playing on the meridian in Greenwich. Get me! I’m East! I’m West! I’m East and West. Pain in the ass to use GPS co-ords around here, though. You always have to check whether that Longitude number is plus or minus.

Comment from Gnus
Time: May 21, 2007, 8:22 am

Gotta say, that’s a manly looking witch there as the figurehead. Drinking Cutty Sark turns ya into a tranny?

Pip pip and cheerio.

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: May 21, 2007, 10:05 am

Bummer. I hope the damage isn’t too extensive. She a well known ship to those of us who love the sea: Beautiful, and legs! both long and fast!

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: May 21, 2007, 10:35 am

Had not heard much about the Millenium Dome before. Its ugly. Bad idea. Looks like an infectious microbe or sumpin. I bet it’s the kind that itch mercilessly or cause violent irregularity.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: May 21, 2007, 1:46 pm

So, what’s the link between the brand of scotch and ship?

Comment from Lokki
Time: May 21, 2007, 2:15 pm

Apparently the relationship between the ship and the whiskey stems from the old practice of capitalizing on name recognition. Also, apparently, that ‘thing’ in the figurehead’s hand is a horse’s tail.

From a tomb came a witch who was both very young and very beautiful and she too danced to the bagpipes. She was dressed in a very short shirt (cutty sark) and danced very provocatively, coming closer to the horseman. He got carried away with the frenzy of the dancing girl and shouted at her “good girl Cutty Sark”. At that moment there was a flash of lightning followed by total darkness. Frightened out of his wits the horseman raced off in terror only to see the witches chasing after him with Cutty Sark in the lead.He remembered that witches cannot cross water so he headed for the bridge. Ashe was about to cross the bridge Cutty Sark caught up with him and grabbed the horses tail. Fortunately, the tail gave way from the horse leaving Cutty Sark on the far side of the bridge. Looking back the horseman saw Cutty Sark with arms outstretched clutching the horses tail.
The ship owner liked the story so he called his ship “Cutty Sark” and ordered a model of the witch to be placed in the bow of the ship. These large ships were built for speed, the first to arrive back in the UK from Australia with wool captured the valuable market that awaited them. In fact the record set by the Cutty Sark i.e. 69 days – Australia to England, remains unbroken to the present day. When Cutty Sark broke a speed record the apprentices on board fashioned a horses tail from rope and placed it in the hand of Cutty Sark in the bow of the ship.

Comment from Lokki
Time: May 21, 2007, 2:16 pm

Oh, I thought I’d posted the web site that I learned all this from…

Cutty Sark and Why

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: May 21, 2007, 2:26 pm

Gnus…Hence the hairy thing in her hand and the bitched-out look on her face. She do look pissed.

Comment from nbpundit
Time: May 21, 2007, 2:42 pm

The report is, Cutty Sark will be restored. The main worry
is the metal work of the hull being compromised.
The Witch was in storage at the time of the fire.
It would be nice to see her sail the oceans again.

Comment from Lokki
Time: May 21, 2007, 3:19 pm

Here’s an interesting page on the fastest Clipper ships.

I’ve always found the Clippers to be the most beautiful and intriguing of the sailing ships.

The fastest of the Clipper Ships

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: May 21, 2007, 4:09 pm

Of course the best Clippers were American make. The Clippers are the most beatiful and the fastest ships on their size in the world to this day. Someone really needs to write a Hornblower/Aubrey type series on the clipper ships, it’s just a huge opportunity waiting.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 21, 2007, 4:30 pm

The news has just been on here. The fire was fierce (it was filmed on a cellphone by a passing neighbor) and afterward the ship looks like a smoking charcoal briquet, but 50% of it (including the figurehead and the rigging) were in a pavilion beside the ship and weren’t involved.

They panned around the figurehead. She’s well (but appeared minus her horse tail). Her name is Nanny.

Comment from Leeuwenhoek
Time: May 21, 2007, 5:15 pm

Wow, the topic prompted me to walk down an internet path marked Robert Burns. I did not get out of the woods for hours.
An na I cannaw stop tawkin wi’ a bonie brogue.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 21, 2007, 5:35 pm

Somebody needs to come up with a word for that thing where you follow an idea that leads to a link that leads to a webring that leads to a Wikipedia article that dumps you out, blinking in the sunshine, several hours and many disparate topics later.

Somehow, all my internet journeys end up here.

It’s the damnedest thing.

Comment from EW1(SG)
Time: May 21, 2007, 6:54 pm

Somebody needs to come up with a word …


/”So there I was, gestaltentrücken through the Internet, man, and then it HIT ME! It’s all RELATED, dude!”

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: May 21, 2007, 8:35 pm

“…Somehow, all my internet journeys end up here. ..”

(James Earl Jones voice): “I find this discussion of ‘iron in his thighs’ disturbing.”

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: May 22, 2007, 3:23 pm

Yeah, well when ships burn they don’t fool around. Build something out of really old dry wood, tar, and ropes and see how well it goes up. Fire was terrifying to sailors.

I trust they can rebuild the ship properly, even though nobody really knows how to build these any more.

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