Future of Sunderland clipper ship to be debated in Australian parliament

Protesters from Sunderland in Irvine, unhappy as the ship is taken to Australia.

Protesters from Sunderland in Irvine, unhappy as the ship is taken to Australia.

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WEARSIDE campaigners have welcomed news that the future of the Sunderland-built City of Adelaide ship will be debated in the Australian parliament.

The operation to relocate the world’s oldest clipper to the city it is named after hit a snag when it was revealed that it will not be put on display at the town’s maritime museum – but will instead be hidden 5km away.

Australian independent MP Bob Such has put a motion on notice for next week’s parliamentary sitting calling on the government to reconsider.

The news is a welcome reprieve for Peter Maddison, chairman of the Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Fund (Scarf), who has put up a well-reported fight for the ship to return to its Wearside birthplace.

He is hoping the issue will now be brought up in the British parliament, as the Adelaide was due to arrive on the River Thames where it will be moored alongside the Cutty Sark before it sets off Down Under.

“Obviously, I’m very happy that the sometimes murky story of the City of Adelaide is now being discussed openly in parliament where it will be put under scrutiny and become more transparent,” Mr Maddison told the Echo.

“I’ve waited for news for years and finally things are moving.

“It’s very, very positive and I see it as a clear understanding of the frailty of the Australian plan to recover the ship.

“It’s of huge regret that a Grade I-listed structure of such huge importance to maritime history can so readily be disposed of and exported from the country.

“We are hoping the ship will be impounded in Chatham or somewhere else on the Thames for the winter.

“Once it is here in England, we will have a great opportunity to lobby, not the Scottish parliament but the English parliament and the Arts Council.”

Aside from Scarf considering Sunderland the ship’s rightful home, Mr Maddison fears the Australian climate will take its toll on the ship.

“You can’t take a fragile and vulnerable item like the City of Adelaide out of a northern climate and subject it to the tremendous shock of the Australian climate,” he said.

“She will fall apart within two years.”

A naming ceremony will take place tomorrow, attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, and Adelaide’s new owners the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust.

“We are travelling down to Greenwich tomorrow,” Mr Maddison added.

“We haven’t been invited but we are hoping to have our own little celebration.

“A sweet old lady sent us a cheque for £20 to buy a bottle of champagne.

“It just shows there is a great many people, not just in the UK, but all over the world who are following the story.”