At 145 years old, the City of Adelaide is the oldest surviving clipper. As a fast sailing ship, between 1864 and 1887 the City of Adelaide made 23 annual return voyages transporting passengers and goods from London and Plymouth to Adelaide, South Australia.
Large numbers of British and German migrants arrived in the fledgling colony of South Australia on board the City of Adelaide. It is calculated that today approximately a quarter of a million South Australians, or one in five, can trace an ancestor that migrated, or was a passenger, on the City of Adelaide. Passenger lists of each voyage this clipper ship made can be found on the City of Adelaide Preservation site.
As this vessel is truly is a piece of South Australia’s history, the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust together with others have been campaigning to bring the City of Adelaide back to Adelaide.
Former Curiosity Show host and science communicator Dr Rob Morrison said the ship was unique in many ways, being the only surviving sailing ship that gave regular service between Europe and Australia. It also carried cargo for many of the state’s early industries, including the forerunner of The Advertiser and many well-known firms such as Michell’s, Elders, Faulding’s and Bickford’s.
Between 1923 and 1989, the ship was an iconic landmark on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland . After a series of events stemming from a flooding mishap in 1989, the ship’s ownership passed to the Scottish Maritime Museum and in 1992/1993 was moved to a private slipway adjacent to the Scottish Maritime Museum’s site in Irvine, Scotland.
A restoration commenced but was halted in 1999 after funding difficulties when Scotland regained its own parliament. After being served with an eviction notice by the owners of the slipway, the museum applied for permission from North Ayrshire Council to demolish the listed structure.
The Scottish government has now approved a bid by South Australian campaigners to have the migrant ship brought to Port Adelaide, where it will be preserved and put on display. But the group must still raise funds to hire a vessel to bring the clipper over, hopefully in time for the 175th anniversary of South Australian settlement next year. Peter Christopher, director of the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust, said the timeline was achievable if the money could be found in the next six months.
If you would like to see this piece of South Australia’s history returned and restored, please make a donation on the City of Adelaide Preservation Trust website.