The Cutty Sark
In 1875 ‘Long John Silver’ (Sydney Cumbers) started collecting figureheads. In 1953 he donated these to the Cutty Sark at Greenwich.
I visited the newly refurbished and displayed Cutty Sark – beautifully and thoughtfully put together - you are now able to walk under the boat with its ‘Muntz’ copper and zinc sheathing. Sailing across the world with shipments of tea and Merino wool, the crew viewed figureheads with the deepest respect. Representing current personalities – characters from fiction and ship owners’ family, these carvings decorated the bows of ships and merchant vessels.
One of the characters ‘Nannie’ allows us to understand the name ‘Cutty Sark’. Nannie was a character in Robert Burns’ narrative ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ – Tam, a bit ‘worse for wear’ rides his horse Maggie past a church and sees desecration and warlocks and witches dancing with the Devil – but one witch is beautiful and called Nannie – she dances in a revealing shift named a cutty sark!
Figureheads were revered, cleaned and looked after as it was believed they would steer the ship to safe pastures and home.
I think it is an amazing and inspiring collection of characters.