Race against time to bring Falls of Clyde home

Falls of Clyde awaits her fate at her Hawaiian berth. PHOTO: Susan Yamamato, courtesy of Save Falls of Clyde International

A RACE against time has been launched to bring home the Falls of Clyde, the 1878 Clyde-built, iron-hulled, four-masted sailing ship under threat of being scuttled by the Hawaiian government after local efforts to save her failed.

Save Falls of Clyde International is now raising funds and looking for expertise and practical help to bring the historic vessel, berthed in Hawaii since 1963, back to the Clyde where she was built by Russell & Company of Port Glasgow. The ship was originally restored with help from Sir William Lithgow, chairman of Lithgows, the then-famous shipbuilders, but was declared surplus by Hawaii’s Bishop’s Museum in 2008 when ownership transferred to the Friends of Falls of Clyde.

Now the Hawaii-based group has failed to raise an estimated $30 million needed to fully repair and restore her. The state government has withdrawn her berthing certificate and wants to scuttle her offshore as a diving attraction.

Glasgow-based David O’Neill, campaign co-ordinator of Save Falls of Clyde International, said: “The race is on to save her. We are planning to bring her back to the Clyde either as a fully restored sailing ship offering traditional seafaring skills training and fair trade goods transport, or, failing that, as a static exhibit beside the Glenlee, alongside Glasgow’s Riverside Museum. But, our ultimate aim is to restore her to sailing condition.”

Support for the campaign has come from the principal of Glasgow College, home to its world-renowned nautical studies faculty, local MP Alison Thewliss, who has written to the governor of Hawaii, imploring him not to scrap the ship, and Port Glasgow-based Ferguson Marine, the shipbuilder which is successor to Russell’s, where she was built.

“We have also received encouraging offers of support from ship transport companies but we are on the lookout for expertise and funds. Any readers who can help us are welcome to get in touch as soon as possible as the race to save this fine example of British, Clyde-built naval architecture is on.” David can be contacted at savefallsofclyde@gmail.com and the campaign’s facebook page is at www.facebook.com/savefallsofclyde

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