• Harry Jones

The Cutty Sark's Figurehead


The centre of Greenwich holds the 19th century British Clipper ship named the Cutty Sark. The ship, today owned by the Cutty Sark Preservation Society, boasts a figurehead named ‘Nannie’. A ships figurehead is traditionally related to the ships name or role, and this can be seen with Nannie. Moreover, the Cutty Sark is named after Nannie’s short dress, called a 'Cutty Sark’[1] which ‘provides the name for the ship’[2]. The figurehead is a witch from Robert Burn’s poem Tam O’Shanter . Burns weaves a scary tale through the eyes of Tam - a farmer who stays late in the pub, and as he rides home late at night is greeted by the uncanny sight of witches dancing by candlelight in the churchyard. Nannie’s good looks and short dress spurs on Tam to passionately yell ‘weel done, Cutty Sark’[3], and this leads to the eventual chase of both Tam and Meg his horse. They narrowly escape across the river at the cost of Meg's tail. As pictured above, its clear to see that Nannie is holding the tail of Tam’s horse. Nannie’s ability in almost keeping up with Tam on horseback, and her place as the ships figurehead could relate to the speed of the Cutty Sark.


Notes

[1]‘Cutty Sark Figureheads’. [2]‘Cutty Sark Figureheads’. [3]‘“Tam o’’ Shanter" the Poem by Robert Burns”’.

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