Gaun yersel!

Recent developments in the cry wolf, tug of love, not in my back yard – then, in mine please! – no, mine thanks! saga of the high-and-dry 1864 Sunderland built clipper ship, City of Adelaide, rather passed me by of late.

But now there is action in Irvine, Ayrshire, and its silted-up River Garnock; in fact things are happening relatively quickly.

Dutch specialists have recently been assembling under her a steel cradle that was fabricated in Australia and shipped to the Clyde (ah well, coal has been sent to Newcastle…), which will allow this rather amazing monument to the strength of “composite” construction to be lifted aboard a specialist ship for transportation to her new home. And to even more challenges – the age-old “restoration” dilemmas – at the South Australian port she was originally named after.

Whatever the ins and outs of whether she should simply have been recorded in great detail, then broken up (demolition was the much more traumatic sounding, landlubberly term employed a few years ago), City of Adelaide is a fascinating reminder of the huge pull these ships had in their day on the minds of young men with a passion for the design of these legendary hell for leather passage-makers. Young men like G.L. Watson, who was 13 in 1864 and soon to begin his training at two of the River Clyde’s most innovative shipyards: Napier of Govan and Inglis of Pointhouse.

I keep my pleasant early 1980s memories of a superb Glasgow city centre lunch venue with water feature, from when she was last alive and afloat as the Carrick. It would be nice to do the same someday, down under…

As they say around the Clyde, gaun yersel!


Update September 23, 2013: Good images of Carrick/City of Adelaide’s eventual final movements, and sailing from Irvine on September 20 (sailing on a Friday? Surely not! Ed) from Dougie Coull and at the Scottish Maritime Museum’s Flickr page.

Update November 27, 2013: Sailed from Rotterdam yesterday aboard heavy lift ship, MV Palanpur. Destination: Port Adelaide.


G.L. Watson’s early life and the metropolitan, cosmopolitan and industrial influences of the rise of Glasgow that shaped his remarkable career are covered in great depth and beautifully illustrated in Martin Black’s biography, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design.

About Peggy Bawn Press

496pg biography of Scottish yacht designer, George Lennox Watson (1851-1904). Significant book on the history of yacht design & the development of modern yachting. Beautifully illustrated. Many photographs previously unpublished.
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5 Responses to Gaun yersel!

  1. Ewan Kennedy says:

    Some day I’ll get round to writing about what happened to the City of Adelaide, her strange listing as a grade A building (the only non-building ever listed) the odd politickings, her strange sinking and then her awful treatment at the hands of those supposed to care for her. May even do an FOI and find out how much she’s cost the taxpayer while other museums and projects got starved.

    She’d still have been sitting happily at Carrick Quay but for …….

    • Tim Beckett says:

      The City of Adelaide may be the only ship to have had the Scottish Grade A building listing but the Cutty Sark Is Grade 1 listed which is the English equivalent. Building listing was not designed for moveable objects such as ships and it isn’t really appropriate for them.

      The City of Adelaide’s tale is indeed a sorry one but preserving historic ships is expensive and arguably we have more historic ships than the public has the appetite to pay to visit. Like old buildings old ships need to adapt to new uses if they are to survive in the long term. Keep them sailing or use them as static museums are two options but for the City of Adelaide where only the bare hull survives either option would be expensive. In an attempt to initiate ideas for other ways of preserving our maritime heritage I suggested turning City of Adelaide’s hull into a building, a proposal which can be seen at

      The idea of turning her upside down proved too radical for many people and the Australian proposal for taking her to Adelaide may well be a better solution – although I am not sure that they have a clear plan of what to do with her once she is there and how to fund it. As the Cutty Sark experience shows it is possible to spend very much more money on conserving an old ship than building a new one (the recent Cutty Sark works cost over £50m – more than three times the cost of a replica).

  2. See September 23 update above. She “sailed” from Irvine September 20.


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