Blog Archives

Cutty Sark, Greenwich

The Ship’s Prow

The Cutty Sark is 100 hundred years older than me, being built in 1869 in Dumbarton, Scotland. She is a tea clipper, the fastest of her type in her day. Partly destroyed by fire in 2007, she has been restored to her former glory and looks fantastic.

I didn’t realise this until I was fiddling with this post, but she is named after her figurehead – a Scottish Witch nicknamed Cutty Sark from the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns. She is holding the tail of the horse which she caught hold of in a vain attempt to capture the poem’s eponymous hero, Tam, as he and his steed crossed the river to make their escape.

The full story of the figurehead here and a link to the original poem (with translation) here. It’s a fine ballad, describing the witch, Cutty Sark, as ‘vauntie’.

Here’s one of my favourites parts from the poem, where Burns reminds us that we cannot make time stand still and that everything is temporal…

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white–then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.–
Nae man can tether time or tide