Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Good Ship

The City of Adelaide in Irvine

Listen to this piece, The Good Ship, here.

A couple of months ago, I made a trip down to Irvine on the Ayrshire coast to visit Peter Maddison, from Sunderland, who at the time was camped out in protest on the 150-year-old clipper ship the City of Adelaide.

The Adelaide was built in Sunderland and used to sail between Britain and Australia, carrying immigrants to the other side of the world and back. Peter spent a total of one month on board, and I spoke to him about his experiences staying on the ship and why he was doing it.

The ship has been lying by the side of the river there for over a decade, slowly rotting away because there was neither the money nor the political will to save it. Then, earlier this year, a group from Australia succeeded in a bid to the Scottish Government to have it towed over the seas to Adelaide in South Australia, where it will be restored and become a tourist attraction. Peter passionately believes the City of Adelaide's rightful home is in Sunderland, the place of its birth, and that its return there would mean a lot for the town, both symbolically and in terms of jobs and economic benefits.

Peter in the bowels of the ship

Thanks to Peter for speaking to me, and also to the Australian campaign for allowing me to use excerpts from diaries of passengers on the Adelaide. You can visit both campaigns' websites here: the Sunderland City of Adelaide Recovery Foundation, and the Australian site, the Clipper Ship "City of Adelaide". Both have a wealth of information and pictures.

Thanks to Roddy Wallace, Suzie Wyllie, Mhari Baxter and Roger Young for reading the diary excerpts used in the piece, and to the trusty David McCallum for help with sound recording, and to Hebrides for use of the wonderful pictures you see in this post.

The piece is just under 16 minutes long, so make yourself a cup of tea, grab yourself a ship's biscuit, pop your headphones in and let yourself drift out on the tide... Enjoy!

"I thought I heard the creaking of an ancient ship: ropes and timbers straining to hold it all together. An awful chorus of discordant screeching and scraping, it was, before some final coming-apart. But the sound came not from beyond the windows, nor even the bed where I failed to sleep. I was sickened to discover that the sound came from me, and that I was that creaking ship."

Mick Jackson, from The Underground Man

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