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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Memories of loved Cutty Sark
A fire that has severely damaged the Cutty Sark has caused sadness among many readers of the BBC News website who told of their memories and historic links to the 19th Century ship.

CUTTY SARK WEDDING

The Cutty Sark holds special memories for Marion and Rupert Bond because it was their wedding reception venue in September 2004.

The couple, who now live in Christchurch, New Zealand, were saddened to hear the news about the fire.

Marion and Rupert Bond. Photo courtesy of Steve Williamson
Marion and Rupert Bond enjoyed a "James Bond" moment

Mr Bond, a conductor who studied at London's Goldsmiths College, lived in Greenwich for many years before relocating to New Zealand.

"My wife Marion also knew the Cutty Sark from school days when she went on trips there," he said.

"One evening we were strolling along the Thames Path past the Royal Naval College and Cutty Sark, and thought wouldn't it be lovely to have our wedding reception there."

Mrs Bond, a nurse who plays the violin as a hobby, met her future husband the year before when he conducted her in a concert.

They had seen another wedding on board the 19th Century ship and were given the go-ahead for their own day on the Cutty Sark.

Mr Bond said: "We had musicians playing jazz in the bowels of the ship, one of the areas which has now been damaged."

The couple have fond memories of a beautiful sunny wedding day, which include handing champagne to arriving guests while trying to ward off confused tourists trying to board.

"At the end of the day my wife and I did a James Bond and got a boat to rush us away from the pier with all the guests on board waving us off."

Mr Bond said their boat had whisked them up the Thames and under Tower Bridge, which had opened at that moment.

He hoped the Cutty Sark could be saved and restored, he added.

"We feel really sad, it is very much part of Greenwich life and was a part of our own lives," he said.

BOYHOOD DREAM

As a young boy, Larry Croxford, now aged 70, used to watch ships pass from the promenade at Gravesend, Kent, and decided a life at sea was what he wanted.

In 1951, at the age of 15, he began a year on HMS Worcester at Greenhithe where he trained for the catering department of the merchant navy.

The teenager became fascinated with the Cutty Sark, which was afloat parallel to the Worcester.

"I had the task of rowing across to her every night and morning to set and recover the large oil lamps fore and aft, which showed her position to river traffic," he said.

"I have spent many an hour exploring her right down to the bilges. She was such a well-built ship it is such a shame that she should end her days like this. Let us all hope she can be saved."

Mr Croxford, who spent 12 years in the merchant navy, said the Cutty Sark had "looked like a knife in the water".

After delivering the lamps, he often used to explore the old vessel.

"It was a boy's dream," he said.

"I was fascinated by the low height of the accommodation and the captain's quarters, which were quite low."

"The masts seemed to go on forever and as a 5ft 1in lad I used to just stare up at them."

He added: "I always felt she was the most beautiful of sailing ships and should have been preserved afloat as a sail training ship and be able to compete in tall ships races."

CAPTAIN'S MEMORIES

Captain David Barnes, from Westport, New Zealand, was among several "Old Worcesters" who contacted the BBC News website.

Cutty Sark pictured during World War II. Picture courtesy of Captain David Barnes.
The Cutty Sark has fascinated people for generations

"My pre-sea training ship, HMS Worcester, owned the Cutty Sark from 1938 until the early 1950s when she was presented to the Cutty Sark Preservation Society," he wrote.

"We have a world-wide group of Old Worsts who correspond daily and have collected a lot of priceless, to us, photos."

He said that paintings by one, Roger Morris, a renowned marine painter, depicted the Cutty Sark alongside the Worcester at Greenhithe.

'HELL' SHIP LINK

John Allen, 39, was also saddened by the fire onboard the historic ship, where his great-great grandfather had served as first mate.

"It feels as if part of my ancestry has been destroyed. I hope that it is repairable," he said.

Mr Allen, of south-east London, has known of the ancestral link since he was a boy, but his aunt had recently provided more details of her research.

He discovered the relative was called William Henry Rutland, the grandfather of his own grandfather, William Dukes.

However, Mr Allen said was shocked to discover his relative had been first mate during the so-called "hell ship" voyage in the early 1880s, which went from Calcutta to Australia and on to America.

The misfortunes of the disastrous wool trade trip were understood to include a mutiny by the crew and the suicide of the captain.

"He [Rutland] hated Australians, and some of the Australian crew suffered as a result of his treatment - including one made to go right on top of the mast who fell off," he said.

Mr Allen said his great-great-grandfather had been arrested on his arrival in New York.

"I am sorry he wasn't involved in the ship's proudest days," he added.

Mr Allen, who recently took his six-month-old son on board the Cutty Sark, would like to see money spent on its restoration.




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