Cutty Sark Fire

January 2007:

May 21 2007:

Ok I have a little more news.

I felt physically sick as I quietly tagged on behind the media scrum that’s down there at the moment, and saw what’s left of the Cutty Sark. Even walking towards it, the lingering odour of wet smoke – a gut-churning smell that hangs around long after the fire is gone – and the delicate white ash scattered amongst the cobblestones by the market was enough to bring a tear to my eye.

You’re right, M32, that 50% of the ship isn’t here at the moment – it’s in various places around the country, including Chatham, being restored – the wheel, masts, figurehead and top decking are all safe.

But of the other half there is a huge amount of damage – a largely wooden ship that’s been 50 years in dry dock is obviously like tinder – and frankly there’s virtually none of it left. At one point there was over 90% of her ablaze. All that remains is the iron frame, its ribs sitting sadly like a discarded turkey carcass at Christmas. It’s too early to tell just how devastating the damage is, but even the iron frame has been warped in the heat.

The fire brigade were first alerted about 5.45am and CCTV footage shows that there were people around there at the time, including a silver car which was disappearing, but it’s far too early to tell whether these were arsonists or just commuters making their innocent way to the foot tunnel. The police are treating it as suspicious, but they’re being so cagey about giving out info that it’s difficult to tell whether it’s really possible that some sicko’s set fire to it or whether it’s just something they always do as a matter of course. They’re desperate to speak to anyone who was there – so if, by any amazing coincidence, you were walking to work at that time of day, get in touch with Plumstead Police Station.

By far the most tragic figure there today was Chris Livitt from the Cutty Sark Trust – he looked truly sick. He likened the disaster to that of the fire at Windsor – and I think I agree. He’s announced that they will now redouble their efforts to rebuild her but it’s going to be an uphill journey now. She was insured, but you can’t remake a 138-year old masterpiece without turning it into something else.

The only thing to be grateful for is that the ship was a shell – and there is still something to build upon.

Do visit and support the Cutty Sark Trust

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