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DLR Cutty Sark

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David Ward’s photographic project for Cutty Sark station utilises the large-scale poster display sites opposite the platforms, normally reserved for advertising, to create an artwork that links two important sites near the station, the Cutty Sark ship and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.


With a simple reference to astronomy the left-hand photograph is an image of Comet West, a comet visible from Earth in 1975.  Ward draws our attention to the fact that the word ‘comet’ comes from the ancient Greek for a ‘long-haired’ star.


The right-hand image is a photograph of a horse’s tail mirroring the trail of debris from the comet.  This tail, however, relates directly to the history of the Cutty Sark ship, the figurehead of which holds a horse’s tail.


Cutty Sark is the name of a beautiful witch in the poem Tam O’Shanter written by Robert Burns in 1790.  The ship’s figurehead portrays the moment when the witch attempts to catch hold of Tam as he flees away on horseback, as described in the poem:


Ae spring brought off her master hale,

But left behind her ain grey tail:

The carlin claught her by the rump,

And left poor Maggie scarce a stump


The work offers a glimpse of what visitors can discover at this World Heritage site and acts as an iconic image marking the arrival and departure of the many visitors who travel to Maritime Greenwich on the DLR.  The artwork also encourages visitors to consider the historical associations between the Cutty Sark and the nearby Royal Observatory.


The project won an award for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.


Cutty Sark: A Tale is part of DLR Art, the Public Art Programme for the Docklands Light Railway, curated and managed by Modus Operandi.



David Ward

Title of work

Cutty Sark: A Tale


Docklands Light Railway





Image credit

© Jon Osborne

Courtesy of the DLR