fbpx skip to Main Content


Scott & Linton and the Building of the Cutty Sark
The True Story

Researched and written by Alan Platt and Robert T. Sexton
Published by the Scottish Maritime Museum

 A new book published by the Scottish Maritime Museum sets out to reveal the truth about the completion and funding of the world’s most famous surviving merchant sailing ship.

The Birth of an Icon, Scott & Linton and the Building of the Cutty Sark – The True Story by Alan Platt and Robert T. Sexton charts the fascinating story of the shipbuilding firm Scott & Linton, which designed and began construction of the Cutty Sark.

Platt and Sexton follow the story up to Scott & Linton’s bankruptcy, exposing important misconceptions and contributing new knowledge.

They also seek to put to bed questions over the design of the Cutty Sark – Was it Linton’s genius or simply an evolution of clippers gone by?

David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, which has published Birth of an Icon, explains:

We originally approached Platt and Sexton with a project to research a portrait of William Denny I, founder of the famous Dumbarton shipbuilding family, and ship models of the Invereshie and Inveresk.

“The project quickly grew as the friends followed the fated story of Scott & Linton the firm which built the Invereshie and became intrigued by the bigger story of the Cutty Sark.

“Their resulting book shines a light on fascinating new information around the construction of this world-famous vessel and is a great read for those with an interest in the Cutty Sark.”

Platt and Sexton begin with a look at the early life of William Scott and Hercules Linton revealing that Linton served under John Jordan, who patented composite shipbuilding design in 1849.

Linton would go on to design and embark on building the world’s most famous composite ship, the Cutty Sark.

They follow the story as Scott & Linton establish their eponymous shipbuilding company on 31 May 1868 at the Woodyard at Sandpoint, just across the River Leven from Dumbarton. They begin with ‘no liabilities’ and a small working capital of £600 loaned by Linton’s father and employ rising star John Rennie as Chief Draughtsman.

At the start of 1869, as the second clipper ship boom comes to a close, the London firm of John Willis & Son contracts Scott & Linton to build the Cutty Sark, the largest of all nine vessels the partners begin at Sandpoint.

Known at the Woodyard by her contract number, No 5, the Cutty Sark was to be a 950 tonne clipper of composite build.

Client Captain John Willis, a well-known City of London character known as ‘White Hat Willis’, was keen for the Cutty Sark to bring home the first cargo of tea during the 1869 – 1870 season. A delivery date of 30 July that year was set, a challenging build time of 25 weeks and 5 days.

The price was £17 per register tonne with a fixed total of £16,150, irrespective of the final tonnage, and a £5 per day late penalty.

By the end of July though, work on the Cutty Sark was well behind schedule and further delays came as Lloyd’s Register called into question the longitudinal strength of the hull.

On 10 September, less than 16 months after it was established, the firm of Scott & Linton was bankrupt and the assets, business and personal, seized by creditors.

Platt and Sexton’s new research explores how completion of the Cutty Sark was then funded and managed by the creditors.

The Cutty Sark finally launched in Dumbarton on 22 November 1869. The first of that class of ships built on the River Leven, she left Greenock on 13 January bound for London then China.

Copies of The Birth of an Icon (£19.99) can be purchased from the Scottish Maritime Museum. 

 Email visitorservices@scotmaritime.org.uk 

Back To Top
Skip to content