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Cutty Sark figurehead, Greenwich

Restoration of the 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, before becoming a cargo ship in the 1890s. 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 the witch in Robert Burns' poem Tam O'Shanter. 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, prior to its restoration, the figurehead was rotten and cracked throughout. This project saw a new Nannie re-carved for the ship, carefully following Linton's original drawings. The figure is finished in yellow pine and even has with a removable outstretched arm, as in the original, able to be detached should she encounter heavy seas.

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