When I used to come to Greenwich in the Eighties, I used to think it odd that you could look out of the window of a third storey council flat and see the masts of the Cutty Sark jutting into the sky.Also, the former ocean going clipper was in “dry dock”, so you could walk around it as you would a museum piece or a playground attraction. As a child you could have your very own larger than life boat to play with. I guess that is London for you: historic monuments dotted in amongst a mix of social housing.
What’s in a Name?
I had been to Greenwich previously and seen for the first time that which I had only previously heard about. And the phrase “Cutty Sark”, sounding like a foreign dialect, is a name that sticks… What was that, “Cutty’s Ark”? Cutty Shark? And that strange phrase floated there for a while rather like a bottle, bobbing up and down on the sea, waiting to be grounded on some foreign shore.
When I saw the vessel for the first time, “phrase” and “ship” finally became one, rather like sticking the label on a bare bottle of Cutty Sark whisky.
The name “Cutty Sark” refers to a witch, in the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns, who ran like the wind to catch Tam’s horse, which may partly explain the name for the clipper since she was built for speed.
She is also represented by the figurehead, at the bow of the ship. Here she wears a “short undergarment” which is the original meaning of the phrase “Cutty Sark”.
Who or What Really Caused the Fire?
The outbreak of fire which caused so much damage in 2007 was thought to be caused by an electrical fault in a vacuum cleaner. Machines seem to get more than their fair share of blame.
As far as I know nobody has pointed the finger at the witch, Nannie Dee for the fire of May 2007.The figurehead which represents her is, as far as I am aware undamaged, and she has history, as pointed out by Robert Burns: “For many a beast to dead she shot, And perished many a boat”. Perhaps she resented the intrusion in the same way she objected to Tam O’Shanter all those years ago. Boozed-up Tam (whilst his long suffering wife waits for him) gets carried away by the sight of “a winsome jolly wench”, dancing with the other witches and calls out: “Weel done, Cutty-sark!” And this serves as the basis for a moral tale of the time. Is there a moral tale for the present?
Importance of Tea
The Clipper Cutty Sark was involved in the glorious tea races of the 19th Century to be the first back to England from china with the season’s crop. The winner received prestige and extra money whilst the tea drinkers’ wait time was down to 3 months. The modern tea drinker, has to have a tea bag because he can’t be bothered to wait for loose leaves to brew.
Greenwich wedding photography and the Cutty Sark
I don’t know if this shot is possible at the moment with the renovations going on but it is a shot that I did whilst covering a wedding at the Trafalgar Tavern.
The Cutty Sark is located near the centre of Greenwich in south-east London close to the National Maritime Museum, the Greenwich University and is on the route of the London Marathon. Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway is about a minutes walk away.
Greenwich Pier is close to the ship and there is a ferry service from many of London piers.