The Cutty Sark, the City of Adelaide and Living with Invisibility

In London, the Cutty Sark goes up in flames, and it headlines the national news. There is weeping and wailing, gnashing of teeth and much wringing of official hands. It is part of our heritage, it is a much loved vessel, it will be rescued come what may and cost what may.
Meanwhile, in Irvine, Ayrshire, the even older clipper, City of Adelaide (later renamed the Carrick) lies, as it has done for years, a mouldering wreck in the hugely underfunded maritime museum, another casualty of the curse of Ayrshire as well as the curse of our complete disregard for our maritime history, explored recently in the Scotsman
Expert Jim Tildesley comes on TV to say that the ship will almost certainly be 'deconstructed' - for which read dismantled under archaeological supervision, with large parts of it burnt to a crisp or sold on as souvenirs.
There was a time, a few years ago, when the harbourside at Irvine was a vibrant place, with a real buzz about it. There was the Magnum pool, ice rink and theatre, there was the Maritime Museum and there was the Big Idea science attraction. Now the Big Idea is a large white elephant, closed for many years, with the council determined to develop the land for housing. They want to move the Magnum so that they can build there too, so presumably all that will be left is an increasingly underfunded Maritime Museum full of mouldering vessels, surrounded by houses and flats.
Ayr is a particularly hideous example - read The Price of a Fish Supper below, to find out what can really happen to a harbour when the developers get their mitts on it - and now Irvine will follow suit. It would be OK if these developments included shops, restaurants and shoreside cafes. But they don't. They just include flats, and private walkways. The councils in Ayrshire have this strange skewed view of things. They want visitors to come and spend money in the area. They simply don't want to have to provide any kind of attractions for them when they get here. Well, only Golf. Meanwhile Prestwick Airport flies in screeds of tourists, who head north to the Highlands, without so much as a backward glance.
And why not?
There are times when living in this part of the world feels like living in Brigadoon, a place that is magical but invisible most of the time. Even the first BBC's 'Coast' programme completely ignored a vast chunk of picturesque south west Scotland, and only revisited it when they got a Scottish presenter. Sometimes it's as if there is a line drawn from Gretna to Glasgow, and anything to the west of it is a sort of non place which can safely be forgotten. And at one time, Ayrshire could safely be forgotten by our Labour politicians at Holyrood and Westminster, because it was such a sinecure for them. Somebody once said to me that you could have a fruit bat standing (or should that be hanging?)on a Labour ticket in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, and folk would vote for it.
There seems, thank God, to be a wind of change blowing, even in Ayrshire - but too late, perhaps, to save the Carrick /City of Adelaide from being recycled as a pitiful handful of museum exhibits and a million souvenir boxes.

Comments

Rabbie said…
Hi Catherine - I agree very much with what you say abot the local councils wanting tourists but not providing anything for them. Look at Girvan - could be a lovely place but just going to seed. Then there was a company that wanted to develop a holiday centre at Loch Doon but no.

the tourists fly in, move on, see scotland then fly out. Oh yes apart from the golfers.

I am at ayrshireblog.blogspot.com drop by sometime.
Couldn't agree more Rabbie. Sometimes get the feeling that if Girvan were anywhere else in Europe - picturesque harbour, lovely setting, sea, sand, and a great wee town, with some beautiful buildings - it would be a regular tourist attraction. What is wrong with our tourist industry? Often compare Girvan with Portpatrick, which is very similar, but attracts far more visitors. Sometimes think it's an attitude problem. All too often hear people saying 'why would anyone want to come here?' as though we didn't have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world - but any change would have to begin with councils recognising that any economic boost to Ayrshire has to come mainly from tourism - and showing a bit of enthusiasm for a change!