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ORIGINAL GLASS PLATE NEGATIVE BROADSIDE VIEW OF THE PORTUGESE BARQUENTINE FERREIRA, EX BRITISH FAMOUS CLIPPER CUTTY SARK PHOTO TAKEN AT A LONDON DOCK POSSILBLY ROTHERHITHE OR IN FALMOUTH 1922? She is one of the most famous ships in the world. On Monday, 22nd November 1869, a beautiful little clipper ship of 963 tons gross was launched at Dumbarton on the River Leven. On that day, she was given a name that was to become renowned throughout the seafaring world. Cutty Sark was built for John Jock Willis, a seasoned sailing ship master who had taken over his father’s firm of ship owners in the port of London. Here he became better known as White Hat Willis because he always wore a white top hat. His ambition was for Cutty Sark to be the fastest ship in the annual race to bring home the first of the new seasons tea from China. The Cutty Sark is 280ft (85.4m) long overall and her beam measures 35ft (11m). Her moulded depth is 22.5ft (6.7m) and she weighs 963 tons (978.5 tonnes) gross. The height of the main mast from the main deck to the top is 152ft. This is the first of 8 voyages the ship successfully made to China in pursuit of tea. However, the Cutty Sark never became the fastest ship on the tea trade. Dogged by bad winds and misfortune, she never lived up to the high expectations of her owner during these years. The closest the ship came to winning the tea race was in 1872, when she had the opportunity to race the Thermopylae head-to-head for the first time. In July 1883, the Cutty Sark left Gravesend bound for Newcastle N.S.W, arriving in October. After loading 4289 bales of wool and 12 casks of tallow, she departed in December 1883 and arrived back in London in March 1884. Her return passage of 83 days was the best of the year, beating every ship sailing at about the same time by 25 days to over a month. This was a remarkable feat, considering that the Cutty Sark was now 14 years old, almost halfway through her expected working life of 30 years. As steam-ships moved further into the wool trade in the 1890s, the Cutty Sark began to make less money for her owner. After the ship returned to the UK from Brisbane in 1895, Jock Willis sold her to a Portuguese firm, J. Ferreira & Co. for £2,100. Woodget transferred to the Coldinghame, and the Cutty Sark left British ownership. After being sold to J. Ferreira & Co. Cutty Sark was renamed the Ferreira. Reminiscent of her days in the late 1870s and early 1880s, Ferreira tramped various cargoes mainly between Portugal and her empire, and was a regular visitor to Rio, New Orleans, Mozambique, Angola and the UK. In the twentieth century she traded regularly between Oporto, Rio, New Orleans and Lisbon, and her crew claimed she was still capable of doing sixteen knots. By January 1922 Ferreira ran into a Channel gale, and the captain put into Falmouth harbour to repair the damage. Wilfred Dowman, a retired windjammer skipper and owner of the training ship Lady of Avenel, saw the ship and set out to buy her. However, she returned to Lisbon without further mishap and was sold to a new Portuguese owner who changed her name to Maria do Amparo. But Dowman still wanted the ship, and at a price of £3,750 (more than what she was worth even in 1895) it was brought back to Falmouth. In 1923 her old name and nationality was restored; the Cutty Sark had returned to British ownership. After saving the Cutty Sark for the nation, Wilfred Dowman restored the ship to a close approximation of her appearance as a tea and wool clipper. This was a considerable feat, due to the shortage of necessary materials caused by the First World War. She was also the first historic vessel since Drake’s Golden Hind in the sixteenth century to be opened to the public, and oral history interviews have revealed how boatmen used to take many visitors out to the ship.
The Cutty Sark was used as a cadet training ship, where half a dozen boys from different backgrounds would live on board and train for a career