Return to Adelaide, and Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

One of Captain Bruce’s great-great-granddaughters invited me to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival which is held every two years in Hobart, Tasmania.  I was so excited to be going back to Adelaide as my first port of call, especially as I was giving two talks on board City of Adelaide, on the weekend of 3 and 4 February.  I was met at the airport by my lovely, generous hosts Ian and Jeanette, who are always very welcoming, fun and helpful, and friend Rosemary who was waving the Saltire.

I could hardly contain myself the next morning when we went to Port Adelaide to see the clipper ship.  She is still sitting on barge Bradley, however a good amount of work is going on inside the hull, such as scraping off the old paint from the iron beams in the ‘tween deck and painting them with the original colour from 1864, planning out for replica 1st class cabins.  New windows have been fitted into the stern where Captain Bruce’s cabin was, as well as a very smart new South Australia Coat of Arms.

It was such a thrill to have two fantastic musicians involved with the first talk.  I had understood City of Adelaide‘s honorary piper, and Commander of Clan Ross in Australia would not be able to come along for the evening.  As I immersed myself in the sights, smells and feel of the ship in the ‘tween deck where I was giving the talks, I heard the lilt of the pipes permeating through her planks.  I rushed out and saw Des in finest regalia, playing the pipes.  I was also hugely honoured that Adelaide-based international singer/harpist Siobhan Owen accompanied me on her clarsach (small lever harp) with my composition City of Adelaide : Farewell to Scotland whilst I read my poem City of Adelaide Bleeds before launching into my presentations to a well-attended audience.

I was lucky to meet Siobhan again in Edinburgh during the Festival Fringe in August 2017, when we repeated our performance on two evenings.



1 December 2015

29 November 2015

under construction


September 2013 – Irvine, Scotland

When I was at Callander Poetry Weekend, Finola Scott knew of my interest in clipper ship City of Adelaide/aka Carrick.  We were ensconced in poetry when she told me ‘my’ ship was leaving Irvine.  I was absolutely devastated.  I thought I would never see her again.  I thought this was her leaving for Australia.  Two weeks later I just happened to check the website the group of Australians had created about the ship.  Lo and behold I read a newsflash that ‘the ship would be leaving today’.  I dashed over to Irvine, a drive of around 2 hours, to see the ship leave.  I discovered she had previously just been removed from the slipway onto a barge.  The ship didn’t leave as the weather was deemed too unsafe for her.  I couldn’t go the next day as I had commitments.  Again, I was devastated.  I looked at the website that night.  The weather had saved me again!  The next morning I went prepared.  I packed my harp, my poem and an extract from a diary and did this …

Rita Bradd with clipper ship City of Adelaide on 20092013 when she was towed from Irvine.jpg

September 2013 – Callander Poetry Weekend

100_5746100_5766100_5739100_5748100_5768100_5772 Leather Hides Kings Bookshop 09 2012.jpg100_5763100_5736Me at Callander Poetry Weekend 2013 Sally used this photo of me and GypsyRose she took in 2013 for the 2015 CPW programme.

April 2013

Whilst Tangles was having his levers tweaked at EIHF in 2013, I amused myself with a demo model of another Teifi harp, a Telor.  The lighter tension of strings appealed, and I decided it was time for a change.   For a while I had the privilege of having 3 harps, but since July 2015 Tangles has a new home.

September 2012

Alastair invited me to play harp at the Absent Voices launch of Filmpoems at the Scottish Poetry Library on 6 December 2012.  For this I composed this music to accompany Jennifer L Williams poem, ‘Trinities’,

and also for the poem ‘Revenant’ by Rebecca Sharp.  Rebecca had composed music for her poem but was unable to be present on the night.  Alastair asked me to improvise and I used Rebecca’s composition as a base for my music.

September 2012 – Callander Poetry Weekend

I raced up from Moniaive with my new harp which I named GypsyRose, and Tangles, to meet Alastair Cook at Callander Poetry Weekend.  Sally Evans, Organiser of CPW had invited him to talk about his Filmpoem projects.

Susie Goodwin of North Light Arts had commissioned him to make a Filmpoem of my poem, The Herrin(g) Trail and he had asked me to come up and play Tangles whilst he showed the film and read the poem.  Happily I have now remedied Alastair’s comments about me not having a webpage.

This is Magi McGlynn who is a regular attender at the CPW and blesses the whole event with his presence.  He had a ‘jam’ session on bohran with Alastair’s 7-year old son, to whom I loaned a wee Indian Rosewood harp I had recently bought.  He had a natural affinity with the instrument.


September 2012 – Moniaive, Dumfries & Galloway

In September 2012, I took up the challenge to build a Bohemian harp at Moniaive, Dumfries & Galloway. Wendy Stewart and husband Alan host a course each summer

To have a harp I built and customised from a kit under the watchful eye of expert Christoph Locherbach, is enriching and fulfilling.  I designed the sound-holes to represent a square-rigged ship in full sail.  After a lot of sanding down, I chamfered the sharp edges all round the pillar (front) and saddle (top) of the harp by flicking slivers of wood out with a scalpel type tool.  I wanted to stain the harp pink, quite a consideration with the wood for the harp being grown by Christoph himself.  I used 25 parts water to 1 part stain to make sure the woodgrain would show through, then anguished for 50 minutes over whether to go for it or not.  The final challenge was to carve a horse’s head into the pillar.  The initial very pink of the harp has now darkened down to a gorgeous sherry colour.

Harp in Progress 092012Harp Lineup Moniaive 092012201_4634  Here is Chris, with Wendy’s husband Alan on mandolin.  Each day Alan was our master chef, concocting very tasty, nourishing lunches and dinners in their home.  We gathered after dinner, armed with instruments, voice and laughter to finish the day.


Harping for North Light Arts Community Events

The first time I performed in public was for North Light Arts.  This has spanned from the first event in 2011 up till 2014’s event

Susie's Summer Solstice Event


April 2011

I joined the Edinburgh Branch of the Clarsach Society which gave opportunities for harping weekends and courses with harpists in various bonnie places in Scotland.  I took part in the Edinburgh International Harp Festival’s Host of Harps on 13 April 2011.  The Clarsach Society celebrated its 80th anniversary and the Edinburgh International Harp Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.  We also produced this over the weekend of 25 and 26 June that year, recorded in Broughton High School to commemorate Isobel Meiras’s 70th  birthday, who directed us.  There are many opportunities to join in at any level to learn about harps and to play them.  Each year there is a festival held in Merchiston Castle School.

Here’s a link to some snippets from various harp events, including Harps of Gold which happens every December in The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh.

April 2009


I was lucky that Harpist/Storyteller Heather Yule lived 5 miles away from where I live.  We arranged fortnightly lessons at my home and I found skills gained on piano up to Grade V as a child/teenager were transferable to the clarsach.  Heather very generously loaned me a harp her father had built 30 years previously.  Six months later at EIHF in April 2009, I came home with this gorgeous fellah, whom I named ‘Tangles’.  He is an Eos, from the stables of Teifi  It was on Tangles I composed ‘The Herrin(g) Trail’ and ‘City of Adelaide : Farewell To Scotland’ amongst others, and played him at the Scottish Poetry Library at Alastair Cook’s Absent Voices event in December 2012 to accompany a few poets included in the programme.

October 2008

Here’s how I began learning the harp, or clarsach or small lever harp

After years of attending the Edinburgh International Harp Festival and coming home saying ‘I wish I could play the harp’, my eldest daughter Melissa presented me with this for my birthday.

Harp Card from Melissa

Happy 151st Anniversary City of Adelaide/Carrick

I am feeling very nostalgic tonight. Celebrations are taking place tonight on board Bradley Barge on which sits the wonderful, oldest surviving clipper ship in the world, City of Adelaide aka SV Carrick with whom I voyaged on board MV Palanpur. I say “whom” because she is a living, breathing entity.

On our voyage I wrote a diary in tandem with that of someone who was on the maiden voyage in 1864. Her Day One was 12 August 1864, my Day One was 26 November 2013, leaving Rotterdam en route for South Australia. This is an extract for 7 November 1864. This was her day 87, the final one in her voyage from Plymouth, England to Port Adelaide, South Australia. Our diaries are the core of my up-and-coming book which I’m bringing to a conclusion now. Keep looking back for more news. You are most welcome.


“A beautiful day.  I woke about 5am and saw land from the porthole.  We went on Deck nearly  an hour before breakfast.  The land at first looked rather low and barren.  We were busy packing in the morning.  After lunch addresses were presented to the Captain and Doctor.  We anchored about noon.  The health officer came on board immediately ……..”




Tall Ships Regatta September 2014 and Serendipity

It was essential for me to go to the tall ships regatta at Greenwich in September.  As many of you know I have been a bit of a tall ships groupie since I first discovered them in 1993 at Newcastle.  I tried from then on to see them somewhere each year as they made their way through the races and cruise-in-company legs of the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Races, subsequently

I wanted to experience sailing on the Thames on a tall ship, to capture the feeling of what it would be like in the great days of sail when City of Adelaide graced the seas, and be amongst the sails of other great vessels as we glided past the Royal Naval College at Greenwich from Woolwich, where some of the participating vessels were moored.

Moored up at Woolwich Sept 2014 Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta 20140909_163540

I had the great privilege to be drawn to sail on Oosterschelde. The day was calm and sunny and we sailed through the Thames Barrier.

On board Oosterschelde sailing towards Thames Barrier 20140909_145534

I chatted with the Captain for several minutes about the vessel and discovered she had been a cargo vessel originally.

Here we are with Stavros S Niarchos to port.

On board Ooseterschelde passing Stavros S. Niarchos to Port 20140909_131020

Here I am on Stavros S Niarchos bowsprit in 2005, whilst crewing the ship round the Greek Islands with my husband, Alan, over Hogmany 2005.

On the Stavros BowspritPicture 057

and at the top of the 145′ mast.

I visited the National Maritime Museum and discovered City of Adelaide‘s builder, William Pile was not in the listing of shipbuilders in Sunderland. This sent me on a mission to find out why.  You could have knocked me down with a feather when I met a lady called Cathy at Kings Cross on my way home. Her cousin Pam knows all about the shipyards. I have been to stay with her and spent many hours carrying out research and learning how to caulk under the experienced, watchful eye of Derek.



Radio Saltire 27 August 2014 – 6-8pm –

Thanks Angie Townsend! Looking forward to being on your show on online community radio Radio Saltire – – next Wednesday 27 August 2014 between 6 and 8pm to talk about my writing, journey from Rotterdam to Australia with clipper ship City of Adelaide. Taking my clarsach along to play a tune or two. Come and join us!

Serendipities – 12 August

Serendipities today:


1.  This afternoon I was in Edinburgh for Bizarre Guitar and Terse Verse.  Outside the Blind Poet I passed two girls.  One had pink and blue hair.  I heard her say ‘Adelaide’.  I stopped dead in my tracks and spoke to her.  She had come across especially to take in the wealth of Edinburgh Festival.

2.  I caught a wee bit of Ade At Sea ( and lo and behold, after a map appeared with Plymouth on the map, he visited the Eddystone Lighthouse.

150 years ago today City of Adelaide picked up passengers from Plymouth and set off for Adelaide, South Australia on her maiden voyage.  Diary entry for 12 August 1864:

August 12, 1864 – Friday

A beautiful day.  About 9.50 A.M. a boatman came to tell us that the City of Adelaide was in sight.  Tom and I took a walk and bought several little things.  At 1 P.M. we took a boat and sailed to the ship.  Blanche and I wrote letters to the Patersons.  Tom stayed on board for about two hours.  We sailed at 4 P.M.  We stayed on deck till after we had passed the Eddystone Lighthouse and then went down to bed but not to sleep.  We were dreadfully seasick during the night.

This is Day One.  My diary of City of Adelaide‘s final voyage as cargo on the deck of heavy lift ship MV Palanpur begins on 26 November 2013 and is written in tandem with this diary from the maiden voyage.

All images

© Rita Bradd

Lashing the City of Adelaide in her cradle to the deck of MV Palanpur
Lashing the City of Adelaide in her cradle to the deck of MV Palanpur

This image is taken in Rotterdam, City of Adelaide has been wrapped in plastic after being fumigated to conform with quarantine regulations for Australia.