5: Unusual Ships
The Clyde is rightly well known as the birthplace of liners and steamers,
and most people will know they built various other types of ships.
But from time to time the Clyde has produced some very odd looking things
indeed, or they have built ships that have remarkable stories, quite out
of the ordinary, and sadly, despite their unusual looks or circumstances,
they are not remembered, though at the time they would have elicited great
wonder, surprise and not a few giggles.
start off, lets look at some odd looking vessels that actually have a
purpose that makes them look odd, although to most people over
the age of say, 40, the following won't seem that odd.
But to younger eyes, or those who have never seen them, the bucket dredgers
were decidedly ungainly looking to say the least. But the Clyde was famous
for them, notably from two yards Wm Simons and Lobnitz. These two yards
in Renfrew sent all types of harbour craft around the globe. Indeed, there
are probably quite a few left, either churning away at the harbour bed,
or lying rusting in some lagoon quite forgotten. Above, a photo from The
Joe McMillan Collection shows the WHAKARIRE of 1902, constructed
by Lobnitz & Company in 1903. She went to the other side of the world
to New Zealand and worked in Napier Harbour. She was no beauty, but she
must have performed very well, being scrapped as much as 71 years later!
She was typical of many of the vessels from the two Renfrew yards, ordered
from every part of the British Empire, there was hardly a major port anywhere
did not have at one time or another, dredgers and dredging equipment from
So ungainly looking, but very fit for the purpose.
about ships that had unusual beginnings? Well, there is one, still
today where she was destined for, and her method of construction was not
only unusual, but must have been the cause of many a manager and foreman's
She was also not built in a shipyard!
The ss CHAUNCY MAPLES was built by a Glasgow firm, Alley & McLean,
who specialised in constructing vessels that were then made into 'kit'
form for re-assembling at their destination, as in the case of this vessel,
very often because they were destined for inland waterways. Or because
they were too small to go self propelled. Or, well, because this shipbuilder
was located at Polmadie and you'd need a heck of a long slipway to reach
In 1899 work began on her, destined for Lake Nyasa (Now Lake Malawi) and
she was deconstructed into 3481 parts, to be shipped out and re-assembled
at Lake Nyasa. That task was not an easy one. Using the most basic and
un-mechanical of means (usually humans!) each part had to be taken inland
on an arduous journey. It took two years to do this!
Finally on June 6th 1901, she was launched into the lake and plied it
for the next ninety-four years or so. She was then laid up and plans for
her restoration have been on-going of late, though, sad to say, the website
about her reconstruction no longer appears to exist. The above photo was
sent to me in 2003 by Chris Marrow of Malawi Lake Services. Two other
Clydebuilt vessels are in their fleet on Lake Malawi - the Yarrow's-built
NKHWAZI of 1956 and the ILALA II of 1951.
unusual beginning.. what about a most unusual ending?
To the right is a picture of a submarine half sunk in a park. Well, actually,
that is only a half truth. They wanted the whole vessel, but couldn't
get it all, so negotiations took place, and they took the upper shell
and plonked it here in Holbrook, Australia.
She was - you can't really speak in the present tense any more - HMS OTWAY,
an Oberon class submarine built by Scotts' in Greenock in 1968.
Scotts' built a great many submarines, and quite a few of them - at least
four others of the Oberon Class, OTUS, ONSLOW, OVENS and OTAMA have been
preserved - but none in such a singular way!
people remember these ships except the people who saw them - and I
would say, once encountered, never forgotten. In my opinion these were
the most odd looking of Royal Navy vessels. The were called Monitors and
their primary role was for battering fortifications.
This is one of them, the 1916 HMS TERROR - aptly named don't you think?
Picture this thing suddenly looming out of a gloomy fog and pointing that
massive gun in your direction!
She was built by Harland and Wolff in Govan in 1916, and survived until
1941 when she was bombed and damaged by German aircraft at Benghazi harbour
22nd February 1941. As she was being towed to Alexandria, she sank.
come to the last of this selection of unusual ships, and this one eclipses
Built for Czar Alexander II of Russia, this remarkable vessel, the LIVADIA
was ordered on the basis that a design had to be found that would prevent
the Czar's wife from getting sea-sick - an ailment she suffered from terribly,
or so one of our subscribers, Frank Parson's understands..
Robin Copland, one of Clydesite's 'longest-serving' subscribers replied
to my questions about her after I had posted this photo of a model of
her in the Glasgow Transport Museum:
"The Czar of Russia, Alexander the second, commissioned the new
Royal Yacht, which was the brainchild of Vice Admiral Popoff, Russia's
"He chose the yard of John Elder and company in Govan to build the
yacht and the interior planning was left to the Glasgow architect William
"Popoff was aiming for stability with his design. Contract speed
was 14 knots and there was some doubt amongst the locals as to whether
the ship would ever achieve it! In fact, the ship attained a speed of
15 3/4 knots on trial. She was 7262 Gross Tons, 235 feet long and her
amazing beam was 153 feet!
"Her launch on 7 June 1880 was attended by Popoff and by the Grand
Duke Alexis who represented the Czar. Unfortunately for Czar Alexander,
he never saw his new yacht, having been assassinated in the meantime by
the Nihilists. The yacht lay unwanted and untended in the Black Sea. Her
engines were scavenged for other craft and she was finally broken up in
1926, having never fulfilled the task for which she was originally designed
As a footnote, Frank Parson's tells us she ended her days as a coal
But, if all of this does not make her rightful contender for the title
of the Most Unusual Ship In Most Unusual Circumstances, additional ammunition
can be found to back up the claim. Stuart Cameron, in the thread where
this information all came from informed us that yet another LIVADIA had
been constructed, a large scale copy of the real one, and this was trialled
on Loch Lomond to test its stability.
Well, you can't get more unusual than that!