IT is a vessel brimming with history but one which can no longer bear the weight of the past. After staying afloat against many small deaths, the world's oldest surviving clipper has been been dealt a final, dark fate.

After 143 years, the SV Carrick is to be broken up.

An international group of nautical enthusiasts, politicians and genealogists, who have battled for the beleaguered clipper's restoration, saw the last embers of their generation-long battle extinguished this week. North Ayrshire Council planning committee granted consent to allow the A-listed vessel to be dismantled.

The Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine had intended to restore the Carrick as a passenger ship and tourist attraction but any overhaul, a feasibility study concluded, would have created little more than a £10m reproduction.

At the low-key council meeting, pleas for a reprieve were heard from as far away as the southern hemisphere. Alongside representations from Scotland, letters were read out from Canadian marine engineers and members of the Australian parliament. There were also pleas from Adelaideans who had traced the journey made by their forebears aboard the Carrick.

Ultimately, all present resigned themselves to the fact the vessel was too far gone for repair to be financially viable.

"It's a very, very sad end for the Carrick," said Graham Kennison, a trustee of the museum, which submitted the application for the break-up. "No-one wanted this."

Now, Mr Kennison and his fellow trustees will pursue one of two methods of deconstruction. Originally known as City of Adelaide, she has lain on an Irvine slipway since sinking in Glasgow 15 years ago. Though no costs have been prepared, it is hoped a measured process can yield archeological information about the vessel's 1864 construction in Sunderland.

"Although we're going to lose the ship, we're not going to smash it into pieces. We intend to preserve as much as we can," Mr Kennison said. "No-one has ever scientifi-cally deconstructed one of these ships before. We stand to learn a great deal."

The trustees are keen to see segments of the vessel put into museums. Martyn Heighton, head of National Historic Ships, a London-based body which seeks to preserve important vessels, said: "She has come to the end of her time. It's deeply, deeply sad news. The Carrick is an incredibly important ship for Scotland and the museum has done everything within its means to find a future for her.

"Her hull has deteriorated significantly in recent years and she's now a sorry sight. Ships were not built to last but what we must ensure now is preservation by record. We can continue to keep the Carrick's history alive even if the ship is no more."

A £15m proposal to convert what is left of the ship into a hotel or restaurant failed to materialise.

Irene Oldfather MSP, who has lobbied the Scottish Executive to step in, said: "This is sad news. (But) . . . the deconstruction will record her place in social history and ensure shipbuilding heritage is not lost completely."

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said the option to deconstruct the Carrick was "very unfortunate" but recognised "every effort has been made to seek an alternative".

The 176ft vessel survived 28 voyages carrying emigrants from Falmouth to Australia over two decades. Australian researchers estimate more than 60% of the population of the nation's southern states can trace their families' arrival in Australia to the ship.