Sunday, January 02, 2011
Clyde built: tough ships, tough people.
As we approached Port Glasgow, we passed row after row of black stakes sticking up out of the mud flats. You can just see them along the snowy beach behind Phil. These were the "timber ponds", which stored green timber until it was seasoned for the ship building trade. They were constructed in the early 18th century as timber began to be imported from Europe and North America. The ponds reached their peak, importing 28,000 tons per year in the 1830's but began to decline with the import of pre-seasoned timber and increasing use of steel in shipbuilding. Use of the ponds finally ceased by the outbreak of WW1 in 1914.
Greenock's James Watt dock. It was built by Sir William Arrol in 1917. The dock is named after a Greenock man, James Watt 1736-1819, who made the steam engine practical and economic by inventing a separate condenser. This meant that the cylinder did not need to be wastefully heated and cooled with each piston stroke.
Either an eddy or an early flood tide was sweeping through the pillars of Lamont's pier at Newark. Jim went through first but crossbeams were just under the surface and he was caught fast, rocking on his Sea King's V bottom. Much bracing and reversing saw him extricated from the pier.
huge yard, Lamont's, to the east. When I first visited Newark Castle in 1972, we had to walk down a long, narrow close between two high ship yard sheds. The joke at the time was "only in Port Glasgow could they build a castle in such a well hidden spot"! Lamont's built several CalMac ferries, including the MV Jupiter in 1973. She plies the nearby Gourock/Dunoon route to this day. Lamont's built their final ship in 1978. The yard was then cleared in the 1980's and east half of the castle reemerged into a post industrial dawn.
Ferguson's shipyard, which is the last surviving yard on the lower Clyde. Most of the current CalMac fleet (even the larger ships such as MV Isle of Lewis 101m, 1995 and MV Hebrides 99m, 2000) were built at Ferguson's). The "tower block" to the right of the castle is actually Ferguson's most recent construction, a huge barge, the ASV Pioneer, which is an accommodation and service vessel for the oil industry.
The steel hulled sailing vessel Glenlee, which we saw higher up the Clyde, was also built in Port Glasgow, in 1896 at the the Anderson Rodger and Co Yard.
In 1812 Henry Bell chose to have his paddle steamer Comet built in Port Glagow, at the yard of John Wood in Shore Street (a little to the west of Ferguson's Yard). Comet was a wooden steam paddle passenger steamer. She served on the Clyde and on the Glasgow/Fort William runs. In 1820 she was shipwrecked after being caaught in the Dorus Mor tiderace and dashed onto the rocks of Craignish Point. Wood's yard later became Lithgow's East yard, which closed in 1972. In 1962 the apprentices at Lithgow's built a full sized replica of the Comet, which is on permanent display in the centre of Port Glasgow. The site of Wood's/Lithgow's yard is now a Tesco supermarket, which says a great deal about the British economy.
The last few photos were taken handheld long after sunset and in freezing conditions, they are included just to portray the atmosphere of a cold night on the Clyde, they are a bit shakey!