THE historic Clyde-built tall ship that was threatened with destruction is finally coming home to Scotland and the river where she was built.

The National broke the story in 2016 of how the Falls of Clyde seemed doomed to be sunk as an artificial reef for divers off the coast of Hawaii where she had been berthed for decades. We reported on the long struggle by campaigners to save her and repatriate her to the River Clyde.

Yesterday, Glasgow based group ‘Falls of Clyde-International’ announced that they have finally secured a contract for the safe return of the ship to Scotland.

A deal has been agreed with a Dutch Heavy Lift operators – Sevenstar Yacht Transfer, part of Spliethoff Group – to collect the ship from Honolulu, Hawaii in February 2019, and returned her to the River Clyde by April next year.

Built by Russells of Port Glasgow and one of eight sister ships named after the waterfalls of Scotland, the Falls of Clyde is the world’s last surviving iron-hulled, four-masted full-rigged ship and the only remaining sail-driven oil tanker. She sailed the Pacific for decades before becoming a museum ship in Honolulu harbour.

There she gradually fell into disrepair and her owners announced plans to scuttle the ship in 2008 before agreeing to hand her over to a local charity group, the Friends of the Falls of Clyde.

They managed to save the vessel’s hull but she continued to deteriorate and the Honolulu port authorities ordered that she be removed from their harbour.

The scuttling plan was resurrected which would have seen her sunk to the ocean floor in shallow water where only divers could reach her.

Two years ago, after The National highlighted her plight, a Scottish-based campaign was launched to bring the ship back home after 140 years – she was launched on December 12, 1878.

David O’Neill, of Save the Falls of Clyde International hailed the ship as “a true Clyde Built survivor.”

In a statement, Falls of Clyde International said the ship is currently moored in Honolulu harbour.

They added: “The group have plans to rebuild her and put her back to sea as a carbon-free, education at sea, fairtrade cargo carrier, cadet training and sail adventure vessel. She will also become a plastic waste collection and recycling platform.

“It is hoped that a Clyde mooring can be secured in Greenock near to where she was built and the group are currently in discussions with Peel Ports to find a suitable site.

“As a community-focused organisation, once restored she will offer communities across the UK the opportunity to sail on her and gain the experience of a lifetime.

“During her three to four-year rebuild it is estimated that she could attract in the region of 250, 000 visitors per year and create new jobs.

“There will be a series of opportunities for audiences around the world to watch this spectacle on television through local events from the departure in Hawaii to Costa Rica, Panama and the U.S mainland and Europe, as she makes her way home.

“A massive record-breaking flotilla escort of small boat owners is expected on the River Clyde to welcome her when she arrives home.”

The good news was repeated on the website of the Hawaii-based Friends of Falls of Clyde. They stated: “We are happy to announce that David O’Neill of Save Falls of Clyde International has concluded the agreement with the company that will pick up Falls of Clyde in Honolulu and transport her to Scotland.

“The date to leave Hawaii is set at February 3, 2019. Let’s be sure to communicate this far and wide to gain support for the ship’s repatriation to Scotland.”

A fundraising exercise is already under way and sponsors are being sought to support the repatriation and rebuilding of the ship. Lottery funding may also be available once she is home on the Clyde.