St Helen’s Women’s Institute

ON April 28, we had a very interesting talk about the old clipper, the Cutty Sark, by Roger McKenna.

In the past he had been a tour guide on the ship. We were told that the first working trip to China set off in 1868 with various cargo on board. It returned in 1870 with a full cargo of tea and because the structure of the ship was new and different to previous clippers, and probably partly due to favourable weather conditions it arrived back in England a month earlier than expected.

The ‘City’ financiers were so pleased by the speed and, thereby by the profits made, a special silver pennant was presented to the ship. The pennant was mounted on the top of the tallest mast. Because it shone brightly the ship was easily sighted from a long distance.

The ‘tea run’ continued for about three journeys, but by then the Suez Canal had opened and the new steam ships were able to reduce the journey time and the sail clippers took too long and thererfore were not cost efficient.

By 1874 the Cutty Sark was carrying a varied cargo, no longer was it tea. It was sold to a Portuguese company who worked it for many years. It was bought by a wealthy man in the early 1900s and eventually towed to London to be restored.

We were shown photos of the ship before a complete refit was started followed by more pictures of the fire that happened in 2007. Since then a large sum of money has been used to completely restore it, and improve the visitor access. It is now hoped that many visitors will see the wonderful result of all this care.

We were all caught up in Mr McKenna’s interest in such an historic ship, we were surprised how fast the time had passed.

After tea and biscuits we continued with our meeting reminding members to give consideration to the next meeting to discuss the ‘resolution’ to be voted on for the AGM at Leeds in June by our delegate.

Other matters were sorted and our monthly Friday Lunch was May 2 at the Seagull Restaurant on the seafront.

Our next meeting is at St Barnabas Church, Hoads Wood Road, on Monday, May 19, at 7.30pm. We meet every third Monday of the month. If you would like to meet us, please do come, or if you would like more information please email or phone 01424 713937.