Inglis Shipyard becomes the Riverside Museum

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Inglis Shipyard becomes the Riverside Museum

As 2010 enters its final fortnight we reflect that next year will see the opening of the new £80m Riverside Museum (of Transport and maritime heritage) on Pointhouse Quay at the confluence of the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin. The titanium and glass clad museum building occupies the site of a famous Glasgow shipyard, the Pointhouse yard, opened in 1863 by the brothers Anthony and John Inglis, who had peviously built marine engines and other engineering products at their works in Warroch Street, off Anderston Quay. Inglis shipyard at Pointhouse was in production for almost exactly a century,during which time the firm produced about 500 ships of a range in size and type that would, undoubtedly, surprise the huge number of international tourists that will visit the Riverside Museum in the next few years. They were, of course, well known as builders of paddle steamers including Waverley and Maid of the Loch, two of the few remaining Clyde-built ships of this type. However, Inglis paddle steamers could be found much further afield than the home market – they featured in the fleets of the Bay Steamers company of Melbourne, South Australia, the earltest Yangtse-river steamers of Swire’s China Navigation Company and, prominently, in the fleets of Nicolas Mihanovich and the Entre Rios Railway companies on the River Plate between Buenos Aires and Montevideo and further into the interior of the South American continent. The Mihanovich paddlers were significantly larger than their Clyde counterparts and the Entre Rios ships were built as train ferries rather than passenger boats.

Other passenger ships produced by Inglis included around 50 small ocean going liners for the British India Steam Navigation Company, founded by Campbeltown-born Sir William MacKinnon, the largest shipping company in the world for a period prior to its merger with the Peninsula & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). Inglis first contribution to the Royal Navy was the destroyer HMS Fury in 1912 and, thereafter, they built numerous corvettes, frigates and patrol boats at Pointhouse. Arguably the most surprising of Inglis’ contribution to the total of 26,000 plus ships built on Clydeside was their two Royal Yachts, the Safa-el-Bahr for the Kedive of Egypt and HMY Alexandra for the British Admiralty during the reign of HM King Edward VII. She finished her career as the coastal steamer Prins Olav on the famous Hurtigruten service in Norway. Ingis produced two ships in 1947 (any many unnamed barges), one being the vessel that has become well known as the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer since 1971 and the other being the largest ship ever built in the Pointhouse shipyard, under subcontract from the Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Company of Greenock, the China Navigation Company’s Soochow.

The picture above depicts Inglis’ shipyard from the bridge over the River Kelvin in 1946. Nearest the camera is the Clyde paddle steamer Jeanie Deans (originally built at Fairfields on the opposite bank of the Clyde in Govan in 1931) undergoing a significant rebuild after over six years service in the Royal Navy as HMS Jeanie Deans during WW2. The vessel immediately astern of her and the vessel under construction in the yard are two of the four tankers, Empire Tedport, Empire Tedship, Empire Tedmuir and Empire Tedrita, built by Inglis in 1946-47. Finally, still in her austere wartime livery is the paddler HMS Aristocrat, then recently arrived after demob from the Royal Navy and ready to be converted back into her civilian role as the Clyde-based paddler Talisman. She was an Inglis product in 1935 when she broke new ground as the Clyde’s first and, as it turned out, only diesel electric paddle vessel.

The high cranes in the background are those at the Govan shipyard of the huge Harland & Wolff shipbuilding group, of which the Inglis company had been a subsidiary since 1917. Although best known for their base at Queens Island in Belfast, from the 1920s to the 1960s Harland & Wolff’s presence on the Clyde was almost as large as that on the Lagan. It Included 6 shipyards, the Finnieston (Steam) Engine Works at Anderston Quay, the Scotstoun (Diesel) Engine Works and the huge Clyde Foundry, one of the largest in Europe, in Helen Street Govan, which produced massive castings such as engine cylinder blocks, stern posts and rudder horns, etc.

Stuart Cameron