Clyde Season 2009 Steaming Along – Doon the Watter on Waverley
The location of the new Museum is of particular relevance to the Waverley as it covers the site occupied by the Pointhouse shipyard of A&J Inglis, the builders of Waverley in the years 1945-47. The Inglis firm built over 500 vessels in the period of a century from 1862 to 1963. These included many paddle steamers for Waverley’s original owners, large paddler’s for the River Plate fleet of Mihanovich, many small ocean liners for the British India Steam Navigation Company and the British Royal Yacht Alexandra in 1907. As a mark of Inglis’ prowess it is noted that they were the first company company to be licenced by the Parsons company to manufacture its pioneering marine steam turbines. The view below, looking east and astern of Waverley shows the frontage of the new Riverside Museum on Pointhouse Quay – it was from the now green bank of the River Kelvin to the left of the new building that the new paddle steamer Waverley was launched into her natural element on the 2nd of October, 1946. Few then could have predicted that the ship would still be sailing past that site 63 years later.
After another couple of minutes Waverley passes a working shipyard with a 140 year old history.
The view from Waverley of the future HMS Defender under construction at the historic Fairfield shipyard – she is the 756th ship built there.
It is one of 3 remaining shipbuilding yards on the river (in the period from the early 18th Century to date over 400 shipbuilding firms in approximately 60 locations on the Clyde have engaged in building over 25,000 vessels of all types and sizes – details of many of these ships can be found at the Clydebuilt Ship Database). It is now operated by BVT Surface Fleet (a subsidiary of BAE Systems), which also owns yards at Scotstoun in Glasgow and Portsmouth. This Govan shipyard (at one time there was 5 yards in Govan, which existed as a seperate burgh outside the City of Glasgow until 1915) was originally planned and laid out by a renowned engineer and shipbuilder, Mr John Elder, inventor of the compound expansion steam engine amongst other important engineering equipment. After an apprenticeship with the legendary Robert Napier (the Father of Clyde Shipbuilding), Elder became the junior partner in the firm of Randolph & Elder, which produced marine steam engines in workshops in the Tradeston District of the city. After their entry into shipbuilding and corresponding with Mr Charles Randolph’s retirement from the business, John Elder acquired the Fairfield Farm, to the west of Govan, and set out a state-of-the-art shipbuilding yard in the mid 1860s. Elder was from an influential marine family – his father, David Elder, was Robert Napier’s long term, trusted foreman and right hand man and one of his brothers was a co-founder of the once famous Liverpool based shipping company, Elder Dempster. Elder was at the pinnacle of his career in the 1860s and, although only in his 40s, his fame had spread throughout the UK and much further afield. In the early part of 1869, with his new shipyard at Govan complete, John Elder accepted the post of President of the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland (an august body whose members can still be found in lands far beyond the bounds of Scotland). One of the founders of the IESS was the world renowned Professor W J MacQuorn Rankine, professor of engineering at Glasgow University and co-founder of the science of thermodynamics, which was so vital to the development the steam engine. Sadly, when John Elder was at the start of a new chapter of his career, which would no doubt have brought about may new developments in marine engineering, he died suddenly during a business trip to London. His untimely demise came before his much anticipated Presidential Address to the IESS. To fill such an enormous gap the IESS requested that Professor MacQuorn Rankine serve in an unprecedented second term as President. For the next few years the ‘Fairfield Shipyard’ was run by Elder’s capable and inspiring wife Isabella. She renamed the company ‘John Elder & Co’ and, in his memory, made a significant financial contribution to Glasgow University to establish there the first academic chair of naval architecture in the world. The Elder Chair of Naval Architecture at Glasgow remains active to this day as the world’s oldest in the discipline. The Company owning the Fairfield shipyard was renamed The Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company in 1886 and under that title became world renowned as the builders of everything from esturial paddle steamers (e.g. Jeanie Deans and Cardiff Queen) to ocean liners (e.g. Campania, Empress of Russia and the first and third Empress of Britain – the latter ship only being consigned to the scrapyards of Alang earlier this year), aircraft carriers and battleships (e.g. HMS Implacable and HMS Howe). At one point the Fairfield company was part of the Port Glasgow-based Lithgow shipbuilding group, then the world’s largest privately owned shipbuilding conglomerate. Since the 1960s the Fairfield yard has been operated succesively by Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd, Govan Shipbuilders, Kvaerner Govan Ltd, BAE Systems and BVT. It is presently the main site for the assembly of the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 Destroyers. During Waverley’s 2009 summer season the fifth of the class, HMS Defender, and the bow section of the final ship (HMS Duncan) can be seen from the paddler’s deck. Also during the second week of Waverley’s Clyde season the first of the 80,000 tonnes of steel for the two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales was cut at Govan by a laser cutting machine initiated by HRH the Princess Royal. The first two pictures show the view from Waverley’s deck of the future HMS Defender which will be launched into the Clyde in October 2009. HMS Defender, the fifth Type 45 Destroyer to be built for the Royal Navy – when commisioned in 2011 she will be affiliated with the City of Glasgow
The third picture (below) shows Defender and the bow section of the future HMS Duncan which will move onto the building berth after Defender’s launch. The other sections of Duncan are being assembled in the Ship Module Hall in the background. Duncan is the 87th destroyer to be built at the Fairfield shipyard, the first being HMS Edgar in 1890.
The decks of Waverley offer one of the best platforms to view these world class warships under construction on the Clyde.
Not long after leaving the Govan yard astern Waverley passes Shieldhall Quay, one of very few regular working quays left in the old port of Glasgow. Despite reduction of dredging on the river Shieldhall is still capable of handling ships of over 200 metres length although generally only partly laden. Regular shipments from Shieldhall Quay include significant quatities of scrap steel to feed the funaces of the busy steel producing mills of our EU partners – sadly Scotland, where significant pioneers in the steel making industry (e.g. J B Neilson) made there mark on the world, no longer possesses a steel making industry that can utilise this resource. Imports to Shieldhall include animal feed materials and road salt. The adjacent King George V dock, the last of the Clyde Navigation Trusts’s 6 off river docks to be built, is now used very sparingly – at least in comparison with the 1960s when we could see the entire length of the dock’s two long side quays lined with ships. The berth nearest the river on the west side of the dock is used occasionally for the export, or nowadays more likely the import, of large engineering items. Most recently this berth was used for the import of the 140 plus wind turbines that constitute Scottish Power’s Whitehill wind power generating site near Eaglesham. The picture below is of a rather unusual visitor to Shieldhall, the RRS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery which is owned by the British National Oceanography Centre and undertakes ground breaking research in the deep oceans of the world. Beyond the Discovery can be one of the few, capital investments made in the upper docks of the Clyde in recent years – two 100 tonnes capacity mobile cranes can be used at any of the Shieldhall Quay / KGV Dock berths.
Berthed astern of Discovery was the short sea cargo vessel Loodeep (below) , more representative of the type of ship that uses Shieldhall Quay these days. She was unloading animal feedstock . At Scotstoun on the north side of the River Clyde the third and fourth of the Type 45 destroyer fleet, HMS Diamond and HMS Dragon were occupying the No 3 and No 2 drydocks respectively of the former Elderslie Dockyard. The Elderslie Dockyard was built by the Clyde Shipbuilder and repairer John Shearer & Co in 1907. The Company had previously been in business at the Kelvinhaugh Slipdock at the east end of an area that was subsequently redeveloped as Yorkhill Quay (where the ‘Tall Ship’ Glenlee is now berthed). In 1907 the No 1 Drydock at Elderslie Dockyard became the 5th drydock on the upper Clyde, joining the Kelvin Drydock at D & W Henderson’s Meadowside shipyard on the west bank of the river Kelvin opposite the Inglis shipyard and the Clyde Navigation Trust’s three graving docks at Govan (all dating from the late 19th Century). Shearer’s Elderslie Dockyard was later taken over by the Clyde shipbuilding firm of Barclay Curle & Co., which operated a large shipyard at Whiteinch, the adjacent North British (Diesel) Engine Works and a steam engine works adjacent to the North Rotunda of the old Harbour Tunnel in Finnieston. The No 2 and No 3 Drydocks at Elderslie were added in the 1930s and 1960s. Barclay Curle withdrew from shipbuilding in the mid 1960s but continued a major ship repair business at the Elderslie Dockyard until 1973. After Barclay Curle’s demise the the Elderslie Dockyard was taken over by the shipbuilders Yarrow & Co, whose shipyard occupied an adjacent site just upriver. Yarrow had relocated to the Clyde from Poplar on the Thames on 1906. By the 1970s the firm was concentrating on warship construction. In the 1980s Yarrow’s enclosed the No 1 drydock with a large building but its use has been limited in recent years. During the Type 45 destroyer building programme the No 2 drydock has been used conventionally for work on the undersides of each of the ships following their launch. In the following picture the future HMS Dragon can be seen in No 2 dock. Recently the No3 Drydock has been converted for use as a non-tidal wet dock for initial quayside engine trials of the fleet. At Scotstoun the destroyers are fitted out with their highly sophisticated weapon systems>
HMS Dragon fitting out in Elderslie Drydock No 2
Although the Clyde Navigation is much less busy than its peak years before World War 1, when there was around 16,000 recorded ship movements a year on the river, occasionally Waverley does pass other vessels in the river from time to time – in the view below the paddler is passing the small cargo vessel Apollo Falcon on the river just upriver of Erskine Bridge.
It is less common for the paddler to encounter vessels travelling in the same direction. From early days of the Clyde steamers they had some dispensation to travel faster on the river thanother vessels in order to hold tight timetables. On the occasion depicted in the following pictures the paddler is seen catching up and passing the suction dredger W D Medway II just to the east of Dumbarton Rock. The dredger had obligingly moved over to the north side of the designated channel to let Waverley pass.
Waverley catching up on the dredger W D Medway II as he approached Dumbarton
Since the disposal of the Clyde Navigation Trust’s large fleet of dredgers and attendant hopper barges, the much reduced frequency of dredging has been undertaken by contract suction dredgers. The Westminster Dredging Company’s dredger W D Medway II has become a regular visitor to the river. In its natural state the River Clyde was much shallower than it is now and it was impossible for anythng but the smallest vessels to go upriver to Glasgow. Through many schemes the man-made canal, known locally as the Clyde Navigation, was created. One such scheme resulted in a large stone barrier, known as the Lang Dyke, being constructed along the south side of the dredged channel from Dunglass nearly to Cardross. it retained the considerable sandbanks in front o West Ferry and Langbank. Other deepening projects involved narrowing the channel in the Upper River. It was this work that led to an saying, once well known to Clydesiders but hardly ever heard nowadays – ‘Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow’ reflecting on how Glasgow created a Navigation on the shallow river and this development resulted in the industrial base of the city growing to globally important proportions.
Increasingly, in recent years, when Waverley has reached Greenock on her down river cruise she encounters a visiting passenger cruise ship at Greenock Ocean Terminal. On the occasion depicted below, it was the P&O cruise vessel Artemis that was berthed at the former Princes Pier.
Artemis has not been a regular visitor to the Clyde in her present guise but in her previous life, as the Royal Princess, she was a fairly regular visitor.
It was not until the late 1970s that Waverley became a regular visitor to Helensburgh pier (although her original base (from 1947 until 1971) was nearby at the now derelict Craigendoran pier). In the past 3 decades, Helensburgh has become an important regular calling place for the paddler although lack of regular dredging can make the approach to the pier difficult. In recent times the local authority has sponsored the Helensburgh & District Pipe Band to play during the paddler’s arrivals and departures.
It is fairly commonplace nowadays to see a ship of the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxillary, an alliance navy or enlisted merchant vessels at the NATO fuel oil terminal at the mouth of Loch Striven, below is a view of RFA Bayleaf at the quay in 2009.
At various times through the last century the tributary sea lochs of the Firth of Clyde have served as sheltered anchorages for redundant and laid up tonnage. The ‘tradition’ continued in the summer of 2009 when four members of the Maersk container ship fleet arrived for lay up in Loch Striven, victims of the global recession.
For some years, on one of her Saturday sailings to Tignabruaich, Waverley Excursions have made the ship available to the local pier Trust for a short cruise to enable them to raise funds for the continued preservation of the pier. The following views show the vessel departing and arriving back on the 2009 cruise.
Rarely, even in the heyday of the Clyde Steamers, could Tighnabruaich pier have been quite so busy – about 500 off and 300 on – twice in the space of an hour!