Falls of Clyde artifacts missing
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By Mary Vorsino
The group seeking to restore the Falls of Clyde is asking for the return of dozens of artifacts that were taken from the historic vessel in anticipation of it being scuttled some 15 miles off Honolulu.
Bruce McEwan, president of the Friends of the Falls of Clyde, which owns the ship and is working to preserve it, said some of the artifacts were shipped to California, Seattle and Boston while others were kept locally.
The artifacts range from skylights to portholes.
There is no count on how many items are missing.
But Friends of the Falls of Clyde member Heather McGregor, who is helping to oversee the return of the artifacts, said there are "loads" of unaccounted for items. "All kinds of things went home in the trunks of cars," she said.
McEwan said the items were given away when the Bishop Museum planned to sink the vessel because it didn't have the funds to restore it. The museum was persuaded to instead turn the ship over to the Friends group.
McEwan said he is working with Bishop Museum to track down the artifacts and get them returned.
Those who have confirmed that they have artifacts are being asked to hold on to them until the Friends can secure proper storage for the items.
Only a few artifacts have been tracked down so far.
And McEwan said he's concerned some artifacts won't be returned.
The Friends of the Falls of Clyde was aware that artifacts were missing before it took ownership of the ship, but McEwan said it's important to get the artifacts back so the vessel can be fully restored.
Meanwhile, the Friends group is working to raise funds to move the vessel in mid- to late December from Honolulu Harbor to drydock in Kalaeloa.
Moving the boat and putting it into drydock is expected to cost about $60,000, so the group is working fast to raise that money. McEwan said the group has "several thousand dollars" so far and he's confident there's enough interest in saving the ship to get the towing fees in time.
The deadline to move the ship from Honolulu Harbor is Dec. 29.
SOLD FOR A DOLLAR
Bishop Museum turned over the 130-year-old Falls of Clyde, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark, to the Friends in September for $1. The organization, which is working to get nonprofit status, hopes to preserve the Falls and open it as an educational and tourist destination.
Restoring the Falls will take millions of dollars.
McEwan has said he wanted to raise at least $2 million for initial repairs.
One assessment of the ship put a full restoration price tag at $32 million.
The Falls was constructed in 1878 in Scotland and was named after a waterfall on the River Clyde. In 1899, it was brought to Honolulu, where it served as a trans-Pacific passenger- and freight-carrying vessel.
In the early 1960s, the ship was set to be sunk after it was no longer needed as an oil tanker. But a campaign in the Islands to keep it afloat gained momentum and public support. Following a big fundraising effort, the vessel was opened to the public at Honolulu Harbor in 1968 — when Bishop Museum acquired it — and then remasted two years later.
Bob Krauss, the longtime Honolulu Advertiser columnist, was instrumental in the push to save the Falls of Clyde, campaigning in person and through numerous columns to preserve the ship, as well as donating thousands of dollars to the effort. Krauss died in 2006.
MANY SUPPORT PROJECT
McEwan said he has seen a similar groundswell of support locally and nationally to restore the vessel this time around. Dozens have already joined his organization. And many have pledged donations or in-kind support.
McEwan said it will be bittersweet when the Falls is towed out of Honolulu Harbor — where it has been for 40 years. "I think it is going to be mixed emotions, happy that we're the ones in charge of its future ... sad that it had to get to this stage and that it has to be moved," he said.
Though the Falls of Clyde is in bad shape, McEwan said repairs Bishop Museum made to the ship to prepare it for scuttling means it is strong enough to survive the tow to drydock in Kalaeloa without irreversible damage.
He added that it's unclear how long the ship will be in drydock.
The first step in restoring the ship will be to bring in surveyors to determine in what shape it's in. "We're still appalled by the amount of deterioration that was allowed to occur over the years," McEwan said, adding he has no idea how much the full restoration will cost.
Early this year, the Bishop Museum warned that needed repairs to the vessel were mounting. And during the summer, the museum said it could no longer afford to maintain the vessel and was looking to sink it.
The museum said that it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on insurance, labor costs and supplies associated with maintaining the ship, which has been closed since last year for safety reasons.
Reach Mary Vorsino at email@example.com.