A bid to keep the world’s oldest passenger clipper ship in Britain was rejected in favour of proposals to send it to Australia.

The 145-year-old City of Adelaide, currently resting on a slipway on the west coast of Scotland, faced being broken up for display in a museum.

Campaigners from Sunderland, where the ship was built, were told by the Scottish Government that their bid lacked practical detail, but they vowed to fight on.

The ship, which predates the Cutty Sark, took people and wool between Australia and Britain on more than 20 round trips.

Later known as the Carrick, it has been left to the elements at Irvine, North Ayrshire, where it faced deconstruction.

Campaigners competed to re-float the vessel and take it to Australia or back to Sunderland.

Scottish Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop, who was in Irvine yesterday, said: “We can now have a link between Scotland and Australia which allows both nations to share the vessel’s historical, cultural and social significance through tourism, interpretation and education.”

She added: “I was impressed and inspired by the enormous commitment shown by the Australian and Sunderland groups for the vessel.

“I am aware that everyone who worked on the unsuccessful bid will be disappointed. However, because of the need for the vessel to be removed from its current location, a viable alternative to deconstruction had to be identified in order to save the ship.”

City of Adelaide Preservation Trust chairman Creagh O’Connor said he was “thrilled and delighted” after a decade-long campaign.

The trust aims to preserve the vessel on a land-based maritime precinct at Port Adelaide in time for the 175th anniversary of settlement next year.

Sunderland campaigner Peter Maddison – who briefly “occupied” the clipper last year - was told his group’s bid “did not contain sufficient detail in practical terms”.

Following the decision, Mr Maddison, a former merchant seaman and Sunderland councillor, said: “There will be a lot of broken hearts in Sunderland today.

“But after all, the ship lies there still. It will be months before anything can happen and the Australians have now got to demonstrate they can do this.

“I wish them well and congratulate them on their success but we will fight on.”

He said Sunderland City Council had not demonstrated the “political will” and said a neighbouring authority is being approached to mount a new campaign.

Historic Scotland said the ship is considered by naval experts to be one of the most significant historic vessels to survive to the present day, for its age, rarity and historic connections.

The agency said it has a “close cultural association” with South Australia, many of whose present-day residents can trace their ancestors’ outward voyage from the UK on the vessel.

A firm, DTZ, was commissioned in March to review the category A-listed ship.

Sir Neil Cossons, the former director of the Maritime Museum in Greenwich and a former chairman of English Heritage, was appointed to provide technical expertise for the project.

The four options under consideration by DTZ were removal to Sunderland or Adelaide, retention in a different location in Scotland and managed deconstruction.

Cunninghame South MSP Irene Oldfather, whose constituency takes in Irvine, said: “While it will be a sadly-missed feature of the Irvine harbour area, personally I believe that preserving the vessel for future generations is the single most important factor that had to be taken into account.”

Sam Galbraith, chairman of trustees at the Maritime Museum, said: “This is a great step forward. We were delighted with the quality of the Australian bid as they clearly thought through the way they would deal with the challenging task of moving the boat.”

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