Aberdeen International is becoming a habit this year. This time, I set forth taking advantage of the relatively new Aberdeen to London City Airport route. What a bonus to have Aberdeen connected by a BA Embraer jet to the Thames! London City Airport has a lot in common with Aberdeen. Perhaps a little smaller and quieter, its compact offering is friendly and well thought out. It is just great that we have this link!
Arriving at Cutty Sark by the Thames
The mission to London was to take a close-up view of the Clyde-built Cutty Sark, which was recently imaginatively restored as part of Royal Museums Greenwich. The ship was designed by a native of northeast Scotland, Hercules Linton, who was born in Inverbervie. Cutty Sark is the last surviving tea clipper and is billed as the fastest and greatest of her time – though as everybody in the Northeast knows, the Aberdeen-built Thermopylae beat her fair and square on a return voyage from Shanghai in 1872.
Cutty Sark’s figurehead Nannie, Burns’ witch from Tam O’ Shanter
She is holding the tail of Tam’s Horse!
It is thought the ship’s name was suggested by Linton and comes from Robert Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter. In the poem, Tam is chased by a witch, Nannie, and as he flees, rides his horse over a bridge. As a witch, Nannie cannot cross flowing water, but she gets close enough to grab and pull off the tail of Tam’s horse. The boat’s figurehead is modelled on a sketch of Nannie by Linton.
If the name Cutty Sark sounds familiar, perhaps you recognise it from the Scotch whisky named after the ship. In 1923, London wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd were lunching with Aberdonian artist James McBey when their conversation turned to the former’s plans to create a new light blended whisky for America. Cutty Sark was proposed as a memorable name as the ship had been much in news since her return to Britain in 1922. McBey immediately sketched the ship in full sail as the basis for the whisky label and an iconic brand was born!
Imaginative Restoration has left the ship ‘floating’ in dry dock
Since the ship’s return to Britain in 1922, she has undergone several restorations. Since 1952 she has been in the care of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society, formed to bring the ship to Greenwich and preserve Cutty Sark as a memorial to the Merchant Navy.
The last major restoration commenced in 2006 but was hampered just a year later by a fire that horrified marine devotees. The story of the restoration from that point is as fascinating as the history of the ship itself. Thankfully, all ended happily, and Cutty Sark reopened as a major visitor attraction again in April 2012 . The love, imagination and dedication which has been expended restoring access to this gem is only a small part of Greenwich’s attractions; the old borough is reachable in just 20 minutes from London City Airport.