The Ship is Back


The legendary ship, Cutty Sark, after restoration and repairs in February 2012
The legendary ship, Cutty Sark, after restoration and repairs in February 2012

There was no ship like the legendary Cutty Sark and there will be no one like it — ever 


[dropcap]I[/dropcap] may be doing a stopover in London soon and I hope the old ship has been put back again: It was ten years or so ago, I called Philip, tears in my eyes. He was an Admiral now, “She’s gone!” I said, “The Cutty Sark’s burning!”

“I know,” he said quietly, “I got the news this morning!”

It was nearly twenty years ago in England I had visited the place where the Cutty Sark had been dry birthed. Philip was a naval officer under training at the Greenwich Naval Academy and I was staying with him to visit London. Very often to go back home we took the ferry down the Thames and passed the Cutty Sark, standing in regal splendor.

The clipper fascinated me. To me there was no ship like the Cutty Sark, she was the last beautiful remaining product of the golden age of sailing ships when Britain had the world’s greatest navy and had perfected the art of making some of the most elegant cargo ships in history.

I used to stop and breathlessly look at its sides, finely polished so it could clip through the waters and be the first ship to bring tea from China. The first lot of tea got the best price and the clipper sped through the waves and made the journey in 72 days, not through the Suez, oh no, but all round the tempestuous Cape of Good Hope.

I imagined it entering the English harbor all flushed with victory after a good race leaving all its competitors behind, its crew grinning from the deck as they proudly pulled down the sails from mast standing 152 feet tall!

Ah! The Cutty Sark was my hero.

I believe that once sailing through Java’s Sunda Strait, it lost its rudder but still made it back home with an improvised one, just a little behind schedule. On another occasion her captain, found he had no cargo to take home as steam ships were now using the Suez and merchants preferred these ships, The captain was so distraught he died of grief and a little later the first mate James Wallace who took over as captain threw himself overboard!

But the ship fought back and made a new record carrying wool from Australia to England.

I smiled with admiration as I looked at the spunky ship.

I believe there’s two ways to look at the loss of this piece of history, one as Robert Burn’s says in ‘Tam o’ Shanter,’ from which poem the ship got it’s name:

Pleasures are like poppies spread:

You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow fall on the river,

A moment white — then melts forever,

Do I accept the Cutty Sark has gone forever? Or would I like to believe what Eric Kentley, Curator of the Cutty Sark Trust said even as the ship was burning a few days back, “Whatever the cost, and however long it takes, we will put her back together!”

Bravo Mr Kentley, I know on my next trip to Greenwich I’ll find her back in her dry dock, telling the world she’s invincible. Some spirits never die..!

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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