SUNDERLAND’S most historic ship is due to set sail for Australia in the autumn.
Campaigners have fought for years to bring the Wear-built City of Adelaide clipper ship back to Sunderland as a monument to the city’s shipbuilding history.
But a rival team from Adelaide, in Australia, are all set to transport the remains of the vessel – a pre-runner to the Cutty Sark – to her namesake city Down Under in October.
The vessel was acquired by the Scottish Maritime Museum in the 90s, but trustees were unable to raise funds to restore her – and could no longer afford to keep her.
The museum’s acting director David Mann said he had mixed feelings about seeing the ship leave Irvine.
“I won’t miss the workload that comes with her,” Mr Mann said.
“But she’s been one of our major attractions. She’s been on our slip for a long time, and while, technically, once she hits the water that’s the end of my involvement, I somehow don’t think that will be the case.”
The battle to save the ship from being demolished made national headlines, not least when Sunderland councillor Peter Maddison boarded the vessel in a one-man protest.
The Scottish Government launched a review into possible outcomes for the ship, including returning her to Sunderland, dismantling her or transporting her to Australia.
The Australian proposals were subsequently selected as the best outcome for the future of the ship.
The Adelaide was built to carry emigrants to South Australia in the 19th Century, and is regarded as being as influential Down Under as the Mayflower is in America.
The ship has been fumigated and is waiting on a Dutch barge in Irvine, Ayrshire, which will take her to Rotterdam.
She will them be put onto a container ship and transported back to Port Adelaide – a port she made 23 trips to between 1864 and 1886, bringing hundreds of migrants.
Mr Mann said while City of Adelaide was arguably of more significance than the more famous Cutty Sark, she has not had the recognition in Britain that she will enjoy in Australia.
“She’s bigger, older and was almost as fast,” he said.
“If this ship had been on the Thames instead of here, who knows how she would have turned out.
“She’s been a victim of circumstance.”
The museum director said while there were many people in support of the Sunderland bid, there was not enough financial backing – despite the attention brought by Mr Maddison’s protest.
“There was no support financially from that area for it,” Mr Mann says.
“In the end we sat down with (Mr Maddison) and explained how much support there was, on all levels, from Adelaide, and I think we convinced him.
“Well we must have, we haven’t seen him since.”