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'City of Adelaide' - heading for Australia, but squabble goes on

by Lee Mylchreest/Sail-World Cruising round-up on 29 Feb 2012
City of Adelaide - Peter Maddison and fellow campaigner Allyn Walton (left) on board this week SW
A one-man sit-in protest is being staged in Scotland over the impending removal of the world’s oldest clipper ship, the City of Adelaide, to Australia - for the second time.


Back in 2009 Peter Maddison, who is chairman of the Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Foundation, occupied the vessel to protest against impending destruction of the 145-year-old ship. At the time the ship was facing demolition because the Scottish Maritime Museum, the ship's owner, could not afford to restore it. He took his camping gear and provisions and remained on the old ship for a week.

Now he's done it again, but this time he is protesting about the fact that while the ship is being rescued, it is heading for Australia. As the ship was built in Sunderland, that's where Mr Maddison thinks it should go.

A lobby of prominent business people and maritime enthusiasts in Adelaide, South Australia, the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust, has won the right to move the ship to South Australia, to where it made many of its journeys. Between 1864 and 1887, the ship made 23 trips to South Australia, carrying the ancestors of an estimated 240,000 South Australians.

In 2010 the Trust was named as the preferred option, and they are apparently succeeding in their ambitious plan to transport it to a new maritime hub in Port Adelaide, where it will become a heritage tourist attraction.

Speaking from his sit-in position on the ship, Mr Maddison, who named his daughter after the Adelaide, said this week he had enough provisions for a 'sustained occupation'.

He said: '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. '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.'

Mr Maddison, who has been involved for 12 years in the campaign to bring the ship back to Sunderland as a major heritage attraction, said, 'Britain offered the best conditions for maintaining a vessel such as the Adelaide.'

He added: 'The very best climate to maintain a ship of this age and fragility is in the northern hemisphere. 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.

'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.'

But the South Australians are unmoved by Mr Maddison's rhetoric.

This week Peter Roberts, a Director of the South Australian Trust, told Sail-World, 'Through the arrival in Scotland of the 100 tonne South Australian-built cradle, which is now commencing the move of the 450 tonne clipper ship, we are demonstrating that we have the capacity and technical expertise to save the ‘City of Adelaide’. Others may protest. We are getting the job done.'

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