FOR decades, Glasgow was home to an unusual floating landmark.

Docked in a prime city centre location was HMS Carrick, the world’s oldest surviving clipper ship. Even older than the famous Cutty Sark, the Carrick lived many lives.

Glasgow Times: The Carrick, 1990 Pic: Newsquest

Built in Sunderland in 1864 and named the City of Adelaide, she sailed the route between the UK and South Australia. Between 1864 and 1887 she made 23 return voyages from London and Plymouth to Adelaide, transporting goods such as wood and copper but also, more importantly, people.

The ship played a vital role in the settlement of Australia and it is estimated that a quarter of a million Australians can trace their roots back to her passengers. During this period she was captained by the colourful David Bruce who, according to one account, “stumped around on a timber leg”.


MAY, 1949 Pic: Newsquest

The City Archives holds a copy of a diary written by a passenger who sailed on the ship’s maiden voyage. The account of Miss Bray (described as “an accomplished young lady” who had undertaken a Grand Tour of Europe in the manner of wealthy people of the day) gives a flavour of life on the ship, including evening dances, the sighting of whales and dolphins and, unfortunately, lots of sea sickness.

Later, the City of Adelaide worked as a cargo ship in the North American timber trade and in 1893, was bought by the Southampton Corporation and used as a floating hospital to control infectious diseases at the southern port.

Such a demotion would spell the end for many ships, but the City of Adelaide enjoyed a new lease of life after the First World War when she was taken over by the Admiralty and converted into a naval training ship. Renamed HMS Carrick (to avoid confusion with a new naval cruiser named Adelaide) she moved to Greenock.

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The ship looked doomed once again at the end of the Second World War when she was scheduled to be broken up. However, the new Clyde Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve stepped in and transformed the octogenarian clipper into its floating clubhouse. The Carrick arrived in Glasgow in 1948 and stayed for more than 40 years, first at Custom House Quay, then at Victoria Bridge, from when many Glaswegians will remember her fondly.

After sustaining damage in a flood and then sinking, the cost of the required repairs caused a dispute between various interested parties that lasted for years. Eventually, she was rescued by an Australian volunteer group, given her original name back and sailed across the globe one last time to Port Adelaide. She is now a visitor attraction in the South Australian city – a fitting final act for this notable. honorary Glaswegian.