Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Captain Woodget and his Collie Dogs on the Cutty Sark

Today we have another blog post from one of our volunteer guides, Jill Grevatt. Jill helped develop and then played an integral part in our Trim Toddler Tale Time series (to be released very soon!). We hope you like her take on the very interesting Captain Woodget of the Cutty Sark.

From 1885 to 1995 Captain Woodget was ‘the best known and most successful commander’¹ of the famous ship Cutty Sark, fastest tea and wool clipper of its time.

He was a fine captain; calm even in the roughest weather. In fact he loved wild weather! The crew liked him and trusted him completely; they jumped as soon as he gave an order. He sailed the ship fast and safe. There were very rough seas at times, and in his ship’s log on June 28, 1891 he wrote that he and the helmsman had to be lashed to the wheel to save from being washed overboard in a storm.

The Cutty Sark sailed between London and Sydney in about 70 days bringing tea from China to Australia. The they waited for the last wool of the season to come from Australian farms to take it back to England. This meant that the midships deck was empty for a while. As a result, Captain Woodget and the apprentice sailors would try out the new sports of rollerskating and bicycling around the deck.

Captain Woodget was also a keen photographer; he took pictures of sailors, visitors, other ships, ports, and Cutty Sark herself. He followed the fastest and windiest route to Australia, sometimes going as far as 60° South, not far from Antarctica! He photographed icebergs, and recorded seeing as many as 69 of them on one voyage.

Iceberg off Cape Horn, photographed by Captain Woodget, 1888
© Cutty Sark Trust

He also had a great love of animals. He bred colllie dogs which were prize winning, and took photos of them too. There was always at least one favourite collie dog on board the ship.

Captain Woodget’s collies on the poop of the Cutty Sark, photographed by Captain Woodget
© Cutty Sark Trust

After his time at sea, Captain Woodget retired and bought a farm with plenty of farm animals, and a small boat for fishing. His own three sons were commanders of steam ships, because the days of clipper ships were coming to and end.


¹ The Log of the Cutty Sark, Basil Lubbock, 1924

The Cutty Sark, Allan Villers

Cutty Sark – Last of the Racing Clippers, Cyril Hume

Cutty Sark; The Last of the Tea Clippers, Eric Kentley (Royal Museum Greenwich 150 year anniversary publication), 2019.

Header Image (cropped): Taken by Captain Woodget, © Cutty Sark Trust