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The Shipbuilders of Aberdeen
By Stanley Bruce


Shipbuilding in Aberdeen Scotland

On this page, I intend to publish my research into the Shipbuilders of Aberdeen. There is much available on the internet, but unfortunately, what’s currently available online is scattered and doesn’t readily give the full picture.  Shipbuilding in Aberdeen is mentioned as early as 1475 when 3 armed ships were fitted out at Aberdeen for the service of the king, the cost being defrayed by the inhabitants of the town.  In 1540, there are records regarding a further ship being built, and in 1587 six barques were built to pursue English pirates.  However, it was the latter part of the 18th century before Aberdeen became Scotland’s leading shipbuilding port.  It was here that the world-famous Aberdeen Bow first adorned the ‘Scottish Maid’ a schooner in 1839.  Over 3,000 ships were built in Aberdeen, from world famous yards such as Alexander Hall, Hall Russell, the Duthie’s, the Stephen’s, John Lewis, John Humphrey, Walter Hood, and many more smaller concerns.

Aberdeen shipbuilders in the mid-1800’s played a significant role in the establishment of other shipyards in the UK and around the World.  On the Clyde, Glasgow (Stephen), on the Tyne, Newcastle (Leslie, Coutts, and Mitchell), and on the Mersey, Liverpool (Rennie).  And, Worldwide; St. Petersburg, Russia (Mitchell), Canada (Rennie), Nagasaki, Japan (Hall Russell).  They also played their part in the development of foreign navies, Japan (A. Hall), Argentina, Chile, Italy and Russia (Mitchell).  Many of the patrol craft built by Hall Russell in the 1970’s and 1980’s when decommissioned were bought by foreign navies.

Andrew Leslie, Charles Mitchell, and John Coutts were so respected on the Tyne that they were referred to as the ‘Three Wise Men’ from Aberdeen. 

Aberdeen shipbuilder Alexander Stephen in 1850 opened a shipyard at Kelvinhaugh on the Clyde specifically to build iron ships.  The Kelvinhaugh company (although later relocated to Linthouse) continued in business affectionately known as ‘Stephens’ and built 697 ships, and continued in business on the Clyde until 1968.  (Comedian and folk singer Billy Connolly served his apprenticeship as a welder at Stephens).

Andrew Leslie was another Aberdeen shipbuilder who had success elsewhere.  He relocated to the Tyne, and in 1853 established his own shipyard ‘A. Leslie & Co.’ on an 8-acre site at Hebburn Quay, Newcastle.  William Rennie had a shipyard at Footdee, Aberdeen, c1825 to c1839.  He also worked as a freelance Naval Architect and is known to have designed ships for shipyards in Aberdeen, Canada, Glasgow, and Liverpool.

Stanley Bruce, BSc., I.Mar.Eng., MIMarEST.

St.Helena - a remote island in the Atlantic
[The Ship was built by Hall Russell Ltd as ship No 1000, and was the last fully fitted-out ship we built.]
Every third week, a British Royal Mail ship begins its journey from Cape Town to Saint Helena, the remote island in the Atlantic where Napoleon was once in exile. It’s like the end of the world in the middle of the Atlantic. Five days, with a northwesterly course, and only then do the sheer black cliffs appear in front of RMS St. Helena. The island’s 45000 residents are often waiting impatiently for the ship’s arrival and panic if the schedule changes. Director Thomas Denzel and his team went on the journey to Saint Helena and met the people living on the island. Many of the residents are descendants of people who were sent into exile there by the British crown - the most famous among them, the French Emperor Napoleon. This is a report about life at the end of the world, loneliness, unique vegetation, and a very special journey.

Books
[Click on the book cover to open the book]


Aberdeen Concrete Shipbuilding Co.

Aberdeen Concrete Shipbuilding Co.
Aberdeen Concrete Shipbuilding Co.
Pictures


Walter Hood & Co. (Part 1)


Walter Hood & Co. (Part 2)


Hall Russell Remembered

Leslie: Ship-owners, Shipmasters & Shipbuilders of Aberdeen
Leslie: Ship-owners, Shipmasters & Shipbuilders of Aberdeen

John Smith & Co
John Smith & Co

SS Intaba
SS Intaba


Rifleman
 Includes information on the Great Coram Street Murder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56tNB5LSmoE


William Stephen & Co.
William Stephen & Sons and Alexander Stephen & Sons

   


David Burns & Co

 

Review of this page by Future of the Ocean

150-year Anniversary of the launch of the clipper ship ‘Thermopylae’

A stainless-steel water-jet cut image of the clipper ship ‘Thermopylae’ was erected at the south end of York Street, Footdee, Aberdeen (Directly across the street to where the ship was built) to commemorate the 150-year anniversary of her launch.

‘Thermopylae’ was built in 1868 by Walter Hood & Co., Aberdeen for prominent Aberdeen ship-owner George Thompson Junior, owner of the Aberdeen Line.

She was a composite ship, meaning her frames were made of iron and her planks of wood. This wood was the finest East Indian Teak, which at the time gave her the highest classification offered by Lloyds Register of Shipping.

She is said to have been the fastest clipper ship ever built, and she had the honor of racing home against the ‘Cutty Sark’, and getting home first. This was due to the great seamanship of her master and crew and also to the quality of her build.

The image was cut by Gavin Gatt of Precision Waterjet Cut, Methlick, Aberdeenshire www.precisionwaterjetcut.co.uk at the request of Stanley Bruce (Author).

For more information on the ship please read here free online the book “Walter Hood & Co., Shipbuilders, York Street, Footdee, Aberdeen 1839 to 1881”. See book above.


Gavin Gatt (left) and Stanley Bruce (right) with the stainless-steel image of the ‘Thermopylae’. (Photo by Ricky Somerville).


Stan and and Mark Stephen the Radio Scotland presenter
Listen to an interview with him in .wav format 6:30 duration.

The Clipper Ship Era
An Epitiome of Famous American and British Clipper Ships, Their Owners,, Builders, Commanders, and Crews 1843-1869 by Arthur H. Clark (1911) (pdf)

1850 McKay and the Clipper Age (pdf)

Poems
By Stanley Bruce

Concrete Ships Biggit in Aberdein!
The Launch
An Eerie Silence
Ships Fer A’ O’er ‘e World
I’m Prood!

Brought To Life
The First Cut
The Outfitting Quay


Transactions of Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders of Scotland

A GREAT amount of valuable scientific work, of a special character, is done by the various engineering institutions of the country; and much of the progress latterly made in the practical applications of science to mechanical operations, and also in the advancement of those sciences which bear most directly upon engineering work, is largely due to the growth of these institutions. The principal one — that of the Institution of Civil Engineers — may be regarded as the parent institution, not only by reason of its age, but also because of its high standing and the quality of its work. The Institution of Civil Engineers has contributed, in a very important degree, towards transforming engineering from the position of a “base mechanical” calling into one which ranks high among learned and scientific professions.

The great success and usefulness of the Institution of Civil Engineers has gradually led to its work becoming more and more differentiated, and to certain special branches of it being taken up by other institutions that have been formed for the purpose. We thus find the Institutions of Mechanical Engineers, Telegraph Engineers, Naval Architects (in which marine engineers are included), the Iron and Steel Institute, and others. All of these institutions are in a prosperous condition, and enrol a large number of new members every year. They have been most successful, without exception, both professionally and scientifically. While, on the one hand, they have benefited their members by collecting papers and providing opportunities of discussion upon points of vital interest to them in the pursuit of their various callings, they have also, on the other hand, carried scientific investigation forward in directions which would otherwise have been much neglected. The field of science—and particularly the inductive side of it—has been greatly extended by the able and thorough—though often unobtrusive—work which has been done by the engineering institutions.

It is not in the metropolis alone, however, that such institutions are now to be found. They supply too universal a want to admit of being centred in any one part of the country. Wr have just received from Glasgow the twenty-seventh annual volume of the Transactions of a well-known and excellent institution which exists in that city, viz. that of the Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. This Institution is not restricted to the marine or any other special branch of engineering, but includes among its members civil and mechanical engineers of all classes, metallurgists, marine engineers, and shipbuilders. Its published volumes of Transactions usually contain papers of a varied and instructive character, and very valuable communications from some of the most eminent Clyde engineers are to be found in them. The importance of this Institution may be judged of by the fact that the number of its members, associates, and graduates amounts to 581.

The volume of Transactions just issued contains papers and discussions upon the properties of the compound engine, the stability of ships, screw piles, the testing of turbines, cable tramways, and other subjects. There is also a Presidential Address, delivered by the President, Mr. James Reid, of the Springburn Locomotive Works. Mr. Reid reviews briefly many of the latest engineering achievements that have been recorded, or that are being attempted. He refers to railway operations in this country and abroad, tramways, steam-shipping, docks, harbours, canals, bridges, hydraulic and electrical machinery, gas, and smoke combustion. Where the range of subjects is so varied and extensive, the briefest references are usually of course all that are possible.

Mr. Reid points out, with regard to railway traffic, the beneficial results of lower fares and other increased facilities in not only wonderfully augmenting the volume of third-class traffic, but also in adding, upon the whole, to the receipts of the railway companies. “ As the downward movement of classes is still continuing, the outcome will most likely be a general reduction of the number of classes to two—nominally first and third, but practically first and second.” The railway companies in this country yet have a most useful work to do in circulating food-supplies. The Fish League have had refrigerator cars constructed, which are working between the Scotch ports and London; and this small commencement is capable of a very large and urgently-needed development. A new departure in locomotive practice has been taken by M. Anatole Mallet in France, and by Mr. F. W. Webb in England, by compounding the engines. The results thus obtained are stated to be very satisfactory, although the maximum economy that is practically possible can of course only be obtained by steam-jacketing the cylinder, or by the use of superheated steam.

The advances that have recently been made in steamshipping are referred to. The fastest voyage made by any steamer prior to October 23, 1883, was that of the Alaska, in which she ran 2784 miles, between Queenstown and New York, in 6 days, 21 hours, and 40 minutes. Mr. Reid says that this is equivalent to a mean speed of 17 miles per hour ; but he speaks of miles in connection with these figures as though he were dealing with ordinary statute miles. The figures given really relate, however, to knots, or nautical miles, so that the speed of the Alaska upon the voyage in question was at the rate of over 19j miles per hour. Mr. Reid also says that at an average speed of 19J miles per hour the Atlantic might be traversed in six days. The average speed requisite for crossing the Atlantic in six days is about 19J knots, or 22-j miles, per hour, a speed which nearly amounts to that of many ordinary railway trains.

The performance of the Alaska, which Mr. Reid refers to, has been much exceeded during the present year by two Atlantic liners, the Oregon and the America. The Oregon has crossed the Atlantic in less than 6 days, 10 hours, thus beating the Alaska by nearly half a day. The Umbria and Etruria, the new vessels of the Cunard Company, are expected to beat the Oregon by about as much as the latter beat the Alaska. The Umbria is said to have attained, upon the measured mile, a mean speed of 20J knots, or nearly 24 miles per hour. It is possible that she may succeed in crossing the Atlantic in six days.

Passing from the wonderful strides thus making in steam-shipping, the President calls attention to the chief of the large canal schemes which are now before the world, such as the Panama Canal—which the indomitable energy of M. de Lesseps appears likely to bring to successful completion—an independent canal across the Isthmus of Suez, and the Manchester Ship Canal. It is surprising, however, that, while referring to these various means for facilitating transit across the ocean, and also to the Channel Tunnel, Mr. Reid omits to notice the shiprailway scheme of the American engineer, Capt. J. B. Eads, C.E., which has now been for some time before the engineering world, and has received the approval of some of the most eminent authorities.

The principal papers contained in the volume of Transactions under notice are those upon the compound engine viewed in its economical aspect, by Mr. R. L. Weighton ; upon the stability of ships at launching, by Mr. J. H. Biles; and on approximation to curves of stability from data for known ships, by Messrs. F. P. Purvis and B. Kindermann. Mr. Weighton’s paper gives a clear and able explanation of some of those properties of the compound engine which affect its economical working ; and while there is nothing novel or recondite in it, and it is somewhat amateurish in style, it is of value in keeping before the minds of engineers points of fundamental importance which it is well for them to think precisely and frequently about; and it did good service in causing one of the longest and most interesting discussions which took place during last year’s meetings. We dissent entirely from an opinion expressed by one of the speakers, that “ papers brought before an Institution of this kind should either expound some new theory, contain some novelty, or bring before them some important addition to the mechanical details of any machine.” An exclusive striving after mere originality is not an unmixed good ; besides which, one of the greatest advantages of such institutions as that of the Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland is that the members become familiarised by papers and discussions which are even of a commonplace type with what is already known and thought by the most capable men upon subjects that all engineers require to thoroughly master. It is not novel points nor original conceptions only which are of value to the rank and file of members ; a still more potent cause of good is to be found in the educating and informing influence which is exerted by well-established scientific ideas and recorded experience'being frequently discussed, and by the constant and ready reference to fundamental and accepted principles which this involves.

The paper on the stability of ships at launching is accompanied by curves for various types of steamer at launching-draught, and advocates constructing such curves, as a rule, before launching ships. It is well worth reading, as it, and the discussion upon it, show how diverse and inconsistent though, on the whole, vague are the views held by many shipbuilders, both upon the necessity for ascertaining the precise degree of stability possessed by a ship, and also as to the sufficiency of a given amount of stability for purposes of safety. The author is somewhat ambiguous and inaccurate in his definitions of such terms as “stability,” “stiffness,” &c., and inconsistent and loose in his use of them : but this appears to be a common fault with technical writers upon naval architecture, as was pointed out by Prof. Osborne Reynolds at the British Association meetings of last year. For instance it is stated in the paper under consideration that “the kind of stability which is required at launching is stiffness,” and “the question of stability at launching appears therefore to reduce itself to one of stiffness,”—stiffness being represented by the metacentric height, which measures the force required to incline a given vessel through small angles from a position of rest in still water. Yet the author goes on to say that “our only safe guide is the complete investigation of the stability of a ship at angles considerably beyond those to which the metacentric height is a fair measure of the stiffness.” He also speaks of the “ stability of a ship up to 60 of inclination.” This is a strange although common misuse of the term “stability.” Stability only exists at a position of stable equilibrium, and what is really meant by the above-quoted sentence is not stability at large angles of inclination, but righting force.

The other paper upon stability, which describes a method of approximation to curves of stability from data for known ships, is interesting in showing how some of the elements of stability vary in a ship with the ratios of draught of water to depth, and depth to breadth; but we cannot regard it as likely to be of much value in practice. The approximations obtained by applying the method are only reliable when the form of the vessel for which the curve of stability is required, and that of the one which is being used for estimating it from, are so related to each other that any section of the one may be obtained by projection from the corresponding one of the other. Differences in form are excessively numerous— almost universal indeed—among ships ; and small discrepancies of such a kind often affect stability to an important degree. When vessels are found to belong to what is defined in the paper as a “type-form,” the method is applicable, but where no true type-form can be discovered for a particular ship—and this is what usually happens in practice—the only reliable and also the readiest mode of approximation to a curve of stability is to compute by means of Amsler’s integrator the true length of a small number of ordinates of the curve.

There are other papers of interest in this volume which are amply deserving of perusal, though we have not space for referring in detail to them. We may note, however, as an indication of the active and enlightened interest taken by Scotch engineers in scientific teaching, that the President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland—in referring at one of the meetings to the endowment of the John Elder Chair of Naval Architecture in Glasgow University, which is filled by Prof. F. Elgar—said that “the Council had agreed, and were morally bound, to support the institution of a lectureship in anticipation of a Chair of Naval Architecture in the University.” Mr. Reid further stated that “the Council had agreed to continue the lectureship in connection with the Chair,” and he wished it to be known that the original intention was still to be carried out. This is a strong practical proof of the earnestness and wise liberality of Scottish engineers in the matter of scientific and technical education, and it is a policy which cannot fail to largely benefit the district in time to come. It is also one indication, out of many, of the advantages which may confidently be looked for by engineers and scientific men as the natural outcome of such institutions as those we have referred to.

IESIS web site

Volume 10 (1866-67)
Volume 16 (1872-73)
Volume 19 (1875-76)
Volume 23 (1879-80)
Volume 28 (1884-85)
Volume 29 1885-86)
Volume 31 (1887-88)
Volume 33 (1889-90)
Volume 35 (1891-92)
Volume 37 (1893-94)
Volume 39 (1895-96)
Volume 41 (1897-98)
Volume 42 (1898-99)
Volume 43 (1899-1900)
Volume 44 (1900-1901)
Volume 45 (1901-1902)
Volume 46 (1902-1903)
Volume 47 (1903-1904)
Volume 48 (1904-1905)
Volume 49 (1905-1906)
Volume 50 (1906-1907)
Volume 51 (1907-1908)
Centenary Index
Including Alphabetical Index of Authors and Ships Mentioned

David B. Thomson

A Fisherman’s Reflections on a beautiful but troubled world
https://electricscotland.com/thomson/reflections.htm

Our Fishing Heritage
https://electricscotland.com/thomson/fishing.htm


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