News story

Final chance to halt export of unique ship

Last surviving wooden three-masted topsail schooner could leave UK.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Kathleen and May, a unique three-masted topsail schooner. This provides a last chance to raise the money to keep the schooner in the United Kingdom. 

Vaizey’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, who ruled that export should be deferred because the schooner is so closely connected with our history and national life that her departure would be a misfortune.

A unique survivor

As the last Welsh-built merchant sailing vessel, Kathleen and May was found to be of outstanding significance for the study of British maritime history and naval architecture.

It is an impressive and unique example of an early 20th century schooner, still in full sailing condition. Commissioned by Chester ship-owner Captain John Coppack, the ship was built in 1900 by Ferguson & Baird at Connah’s Quay near Chester.

A working ship

Her working life was spent in the home trade carrying a variety of cargo, sailing between Scotland, London and the Channel Islands. In her first 8 years, Kathleen & May sailed nearly 40,000 miles. She later plied between Cardiff, Ireland, Liverpool and the West Country, and was sold out of trade in 1961. Since then, she has been purchased by the Maritime Trust, and opened to the public in Sutton Harbour, Plymouth. She was then towed to St. Katherine Dock London to form part of the Historic Ship Collection. When this collection was dispersed in 1985, the schooner was sold on and fell into disrepair, before being restored to full working order.

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