The ship is named after the short shirt worn by the fleet-footed witch featured in the poem Tam o’ Shanter written by Robert Burns. She was designed by Hercules Linton and built in 1869 at Dumbarton in Scotland, by the firm of Scott & Linton, for Captain John Willis, and launched November 23 of that year.
The Cutty Sark is today preserved as a museum ship, and is a popular tourist attraction. She is located near the centre of Greenwich, in south-east London, near the National Maritime Museum, the former Greenwich Hospital and Greenwich Park. She is also a prominent landmark on the route of the London Marathon.
She flies signal flags on her ensign staff reading “JKWS”, which is the code representing Cutty Sark in the International Signal Code, which was introduced in 1857.