I spent several months last year doing research for the BBC into various members of her crew. I was then asked to take part in the programme to present some of my findings. This involved being interviewed by the series presenter - the distinguished Scottish actor David Hayman - in the splendid surroundings of the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
I discussed with David the new information which I had uncovered about Sidney William Smith, First Mate on Cutty Sark's notorious "hellship voyage", who jumped ship at Anjer after killing a crew member in a fight. I hoped the new evidence would lead to a more balanced view of Smith than the one given by Basil Lubbock in his book The Log of the Cutty Sark. Sadly, the BBC could only devote a couple of minutes to this section of the programme, in which they concentrated on the main details of the story, and so had to cut most of the new material I shared.
I plan to present the new evidence myself in this blog and in my book. In the meantime you may like to view the short video clip above, which shows my contribution to the programme. The full programme is available on iPlayer until 6 June. It includes an interview with two of Sidney Smith's grandchildren, Merle Irene Carmichael (née Smith) and John Sidney Smith. I was thrilled to be able to use my skills in tracing living people to find these two descendants of Sidney Smith for the BBC.
Merle and John gave David new information about their grandfather, which supports my view that Lubbock's "bucko mate" is a caricature. They also had a photograph of Sidney which they graciously made public in the programme. You can imagine my excitement when the BBC rang to tell me about that discovery! John told David that he would like to clear his grandfather's name. Whilst that may not be possible after 134 years, I am hoping to pool information with John and Merle to present what I described in the programme as a more nuanced view of Sidney William Smith.