Ship model, 1:100 scale, 'Cutty Sark' clipper, wood / metal / fabric, made by Cyril Hume, Australia, 1932
The 'Cutty Sark' is undoubtedly the most famous ship in the world. She is the only surviving extreme clipper and the only tea clipper in existence, which is today cared for by the Cutty Sark Trust in Greenwich, London. Upon her launch in 1869, she was expected to have a life span of no more than 30 years. More than 135 years on, however, she still survives with most of her original hull fabric still intact.
From 1869-1877, the 'Cutty Sark' was used for the China trade as a tea clipper. She commenced her first voyage on February 16, 1870 from London bound for Shanghai. This was the first of eight voyages the 'Cutty Sark' successfully made to China for the tea trade. Another one of these voyages, in 1872, saw the 'Cutty Sark' race the 'Thermopylae' (a 'rival' tea clipper also in the Museum's collection). Although she was not the fastest of the clippers and never won, she came close on this occasion. The 'Cutty Sark' was leading the way for a significant leg of the trip, until her rudder gave way due to heavy seas. After having her crew reconstruct the rudder twice, the 'Cutty Sark' did not arrive back in London until a good seven days after the 'Thermopylae'! With the replacement of clippers by steam ships, the 'Cutty Sark' ceased work in the tea trade and spent the next six years as a 'tramp', carrying cargo like coal, jute and castor oil.
The 'Cutty Sark' made her greatest reputation upon entering the wool trade with Australia in 1883 where she spent 12 years travelling between London and Sydney. Although the 'Cutty Sark' might not have proved herself the fastest vessel in the tea trade, she was the fastest to operate in the wool trade. She held the record for the best return passage of 83 days from London to Sydney, where she beat every other sailing ship at about the same time by 25-30 days. The fact she made this record 14 years into her expected 30 year working life is also significant.
Today, the 'Cutty Sark' is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. She is internationally renowned and appreciated for her beauty, particularly her fine lines and richly embellished exterior. Her hull is painted jet black with two lines of real gold-leaf. In her heyday, gold-leaf also adorned the letters of her name and her port of registry, with laurel wreaths on the ship's counter.
This particular model of the 'Cutty Sark' is also important as it represents the first model made by Cyril Hume. It is an example of the highly skilled technical craft and hobby of model making.
Assistant curator, 2007
Armstrong, M, Captain., "Tribute to Cyril L. Hume", Australian Sea Heritage, no.3 (August, 1984)
Lubbock, B., "The China clippers" (Glasgow, 1957)
Lubbock, B., "The log of the Cutty Sark" (Glasgow, 1974)
OCAL, "The 'Little Petticoat' That Became a Legend", Focal Point, Journal of Overseas Containers Australia Pty Ltd, vol.4, no.3 (December, 1981)
The Cutty Sark Trust, http://www.cuttysark.org.uk (Downloaded 12/6/007)
Villiers, A., "The Cutty Sark - Last of a Glorious Era" (London, 1953)
This model of the 'Cutty Sark' was made by Cyril Hume in Australia in 1932, while the construction of the full-scale version was begun by Messrs Scott and Linton in Dumbarton, Scotland for ownership by Captain John Willis in 1869. It was completed by Denny Bros, also of Dumbarton and launched on November 22 in the same year.
Cyril Hume was born in New Zealand in 1900. A toolmaker by trade, Cyril was an avid maritime enthusiast who built ship models for leisure. Before he attempted to make small-scale reproductions, Cyril researched the construction of sailing ships to ensure the authenticity of his models. He read books, newspaper articles, journals and studied pictures. In the case of the 'Cutty Sark', he even spoke to former crewmen who sailed on her in order to establish the correct riggings and deck layout.
It took Cyril two years to finish this model of the 'Cutty Sark'. On completion, he showed the model in a boat competition where he won a prize of £2. Altogether, Cyril produced eight ship models, including two of the clipper 'Thermopylae' (one of which is also in the Museum's collection).
For the production of the full-scale version, Captain Willis shared joint input into the design with John Rennie of Scott and Linton. He insisted that the design and construction of the new clipper would be capable of lowering the records in speed and endurance of the 'Thermopylae'. Thus, Willis was heavily influenced in his design plans by 'The Tweed', an unusual ship which had originally been built as a steamer with paddles, but was later converted to a sailing ship. It was a powerful vessel, which had a heavy stern and was renowned for her massiveness and solidity.
Records indicate that the contract price for the construction of the 'Cutty Sark' was £21 per tonne (approximately £20,000 altogether). Only the best materials were invested into her construction including iron for her frames, timbers for her planking and perfect teak for her decks. This excessive cost, in fact, caused the Scott and Linton firm to go out of business.
The full-scale version of the 'Cutty Sark' was originally built for the China trade as a tea clipper. In 1877, however, she left the tea trade and became a bit of a nomad - searching for cargo to be transported anywhere across the world (including coal from Newcastle, Australia), before entering the wool trade in 1883. 12 years later she was sold for £2100 to the Portuguese firm Ferreira & Co and they renamed her 'Ferreira'. After a violent storm in 1916, she was converted to a barquentine, sold and renamed 'Maria di Amparo' and in 1922 came into the hands of Captain Wilfred Dowman. He paid £3750 and restored her to her former glory as a clipper.
In 1938, the 'Cutty Sark' was presented to the Thames Nautical Training College to serve as an auxiliary ship for cadets of the merchant navy. She was restored in 1949 for the 'Festival of Britain' exhibition of 1951 (this restoration project saw the commencement of the Cutty Sark Society) and finally, on December 10, 1954 the 'Cutty Sark' was permanently berthed at Greenwich and opened to the public by the Queen on June 25, 1957.
The name 'Cutty Sark' (which literally means "short skirt" or "chemise" in Scottish dialect) derives from Robert Burn's poem "Tam O'Shanter". This poem bears reference to witches and warlocks, hence the appearance of dancing wantons on either side of the bow (these were removed before the ship went into the Australian trade) and a young and mystical figure, Nannie, who wears a 'Cutty Sark'.
This model was purchased by the Museum from Cyril Hume in 1933.