I’m not suggesting that HMS Warrior is of the same class as a clipper, but I did think it was appropriate to have a picture of a ship from the era of the clipper ships, and having been built in 1859, she is definitely of that time.
I am now about halfway through the book, which I admit I didn’t expect to finish, but every so often a little gem pops up that keeps me going. Today, I am going to be jumping around a bit.
To go back to an earlier chapter, the book talks about “Crimping”. It turns out that Press ganging was not just an activity of the Navy. Crimping was the equivalent for the clipper ships. Mostly though by the sounds of it, it wasn’t a gang of navy men bopping you on the head, it would be somebody like Maria Lee leading you astray in a drinking den, and you’d wake up on board, out at sea. Maria had a habit of dressing all in black, and whilst I don’t think the term is used today, this is where the expressions Black Maria came from – the old police wagons would come along to take the criminal away. The term “Shanghaid” came From a similar source. You were as likely to wake up on a ship heading for that exotic city, as you were anywhere else.
In last weeks piece on Clippers I implied that there weren’t many accidents involving clipper ships. How wrong I was. A lot were damaged and lost both on the high seas and on the reefs and rocks close to land. When the iron hulled ships were introduced, there were losses because it wasn’t always recognised that the iron in hull was affecting the compass. Hence the need to swing the compass arose to make sure it was set correctly.
I’m going to end this week’s piece with the Cutty Sark. She and her competing ship the Thermopylae were involved in many great races. They were big competitors. The story of their time as sea going ships is a story in it’s own right. Changes of owners and changes of names, and of fortunes. The Cutty Sark ends up gloriously portrayed in a Dry dock in Greenwich giving memories of a time past to future generations. The Thermopylae? She was sunk after being used for target practice by the Portugese Navy, A sad end to a magnificent machine. The story continues.