A CAMPAIGNER who occupied the world’s oldest surviving clipper ship in protest at plans to move it to Australia today vowed: “I’ll stay as long as it takes”.
Peter Maddison, from Ashbrooke, has boarded the City of Adelaide, which is in Scotland, in a bid to have it brought back to Sunderland where it was built.
The former councillor launched a similar demonstration in 2009 when the historic boat was threatened with being scrapped and is continuing his efforts to bring it back to the city’s port.
He believes it could be used to create a heritage attraction.
The vessel, which was built in 1864, has lain on a slipway in Ayrshire for more than a decade, but is due to be moved to Adelaide, Australia.
Mr Maddison, chairman of the Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Fund (Scarf), sneaked on to the ship with a documentary crew on Sunday night.
Speaking from the vessel, Mr Maddison said he had enough provisions for a “sustained occupation”.
“I’ll stay as long as it takes and I have enough supplies to see it through,” he said. “Whether that is days, weeks or months.”
The campaigner, who named his daughter after the boat and has led the fight for 12 years, said he has concerns over the financial security of plans to take vessel Down Under.
“I think that the very, very best place, and the only location where the ship can be sustainable into the long-term future, is back in Sunderland where she was built,” he said.
“I absolutely believe that the vast majority of people in Sunderland, including the entire city council, would very much welcome the ship returning to Sunderland.
“We need the work and we need the jobs far, far more than the Australians need another tourist attraction.”
The Adelaide, five years older than the Cutty Sark, sailed between London and the Australian city Adelaide carrying passengers and wool.
Its working days ended in 1893, and it was bought by Southampton Corporation for use as a sanatorium and isolation hospital.
Two years ago, the Scottish government announced a group from Australia as the preferred group to move and restore it.
But Mr Maddison said Britain offered the best conditions for maintaining a vessel such as the Adelaide.
“If this ship is transported, if she survives the massive journey through the southern ocean to Australia without breaking up, once she is down there she will bake under that hot dry sun,” said Mr Maddison. “The wooden planks will warp, shrivel and dry out.
“They will break the iron frames and there will not be anything left of our beautiful Adelaide within two years of being in Australia.”
Jim Tildesley, project director with the Scottish Maritime Museum, said: “This man has done this before. It will not hinder our plans or change our minds about the ship’s future.
“We have no plans to forcibly remove Mr Maddison. In fact we have no plans to talk to him at all.”
Peter Christopher, director of the City of Adelaide project in Australia, said: “The Adelaide-based campaign has raised the funds, and has proven it has the technical expertise to save the ship.
“We may be volunteers, but we are not amateurs, having both financial and technical capacity to ensure the long-term survival of the ship.
“Others may protest but we get the job done.”