Cutty Sark figurehead, Greenwich

Recarving a new figurehead

Cutty Sark was built 150 years ago, in 1869 for the China tea trade by Scots shipbuilders Scott & Dumbarton. Her uniquely streamlined copper lined hull made her very fast. From 1883 she was a wool clipper trading to Australia and in the 1890s a cargo ship. From the 1920s until her opening as a visitor attraction in 1957, she was used as a training ship.

The timber figurehead is called 'Nannie' named after a witch in Tam O'Shanter by Robert Burns. In the poem, a farmer named Tam is chased by a witch named Nannie who is wearing only a 'cutty sark' (night-dress).

The original 19th century 'Nannie', designed by Hercules Linton, the ship's designer, was made by Frederick Hellyer (d. 1906). During the 1940s, she lost her head and arm and she was replaced by a replica in the 1950s. However, the current figurehead is now rotten and cracked throughout. The project will involve recarving a new Nannie for the ship, carefully following Linton's original drawings - with a removable outstretched arm, as in the original, should she encounter heavy seas - and using yellow pine.

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