A Guide to 50 Years On The Clyde
Where were they? - Part OneBeardmore's/Dalmuir shipbreakers
The Clyde has changed considerably since the nineteen-fifties, and to many
people the names and places recorded in the records in the database and
elsewhere may not be familiar nowaday.
So, to put that right, and to give you an understanding of the Clyde then and
now, I have put together this two-part guide, starting at the centre of Glasgow,
and making our way to Greenock. Although, this first installment will centre on
the upper river.
Glasgow Customhouse Quay
This quay stretches along the north riverbank between the Victoria and Glasgow (Jamaica) bridges. It was in use for the landing of minerals by small coastal vessels up to the early 1970s. The RNVR clubship Carrick (ex-City od Adelaide) was accommodated at the eastern extremity of this quay.
The Broomielaw still exists of course, but nothing like how it used to be! At
one time this was the prime quayside for catching a Clyde or Irish steamer and
it was lined with shipping sheds. Through the fifties and sixties such traffic
declined and the sheds were flattened and a walkway put in it's place. At one
time (up until recently) there was a working flour mill, Washington Mills, but
this splendid building was torn down to accomodate the 'new Broomielaw' - styled
now as Glasgow's financial district. Nothing now remains of the old Broomielaw,
save for Clydeport's magnificent offices, which are being dominate by shiny
glass and steel structures.
Bridge Wharf And The Broomielaw Opposite - How it was. Photo:John Newth
The stretch of quay on the southside of the river opposite the Broomielaw was known as Clyde Place Quay. The eastern part of Clyde Place Quay was reformed (in the 1920s) to become ‘Bridge Wharf (South Side)’ to give it its full title for use by the river steamers of Williamson Buchanan. The remainder continued as Clyde Place Quay.
Latterly the Caledonian Steam Packet Company's vessels would leave taking people on
trips 'doon the watter'. Sadly this ended in 1969 and the wharf and sheds fell
into disrepair. The shed itself went on fire caused by 'persons unknown' a
couple of years ago
Stretches from West Street to the entrance to the former Kingston Dock (where the south supporting pier of the Kingston Bridge now stands). The quay was used by UK coastal vessels until the 1960s – thereafter developed for housing and base of Euroyachts and has a distinctive crane on the quayside.
Sadly it seems this will be lost too as Glasgow builds a rather peculiar
(expensive) meandering bridge to link the southside with the Broomielaw.
Entrance was where the Kingston Bridge supports now stand – the dock stretched east as far as West Street
Streched west from entrance of Kingston Dock to point now occupied by Brewers Fayre Springfield Quay restaurant. Quay occupied the large Riverside Flour Mills until early 1980s. Quay laterly used as base for David MacBrayne’s West Highland cargo boat services following the closure of Kingston Dock.
General Terminus Quay
Totally obliterated, it is the next quay after Springfield.
Once dominated by three huge ore crains, taking iron ore from ships and
sending it by rail to the steelworks in Lanarkshire. This trade switched to
Hunterston by the end of the seventies and the area was flattened. Strangely,
the Post Office built new depots there, but by about a decade later, these too
were removed and the area is now host to a cinema, restaurant and bingo hall.
How times really do change!
Anderston Quay/Lancefield Quay
Opposite General Terminus. At one time general cargo came in here, but the two
quays were more associated with the paddle steamer WAVERLEY until last year.
With building of (yet another!) bridge, she now has to berth at the Science
Centre (or the totally inapproprately named 'Pacific Quay' - more on that later.
Anderston Quay is the first one past the Kingston, with Lancefield running next.
Lancefield Quay retains its sheds, now converted into 'upmarket' housing.
Finnieston Quay/Stobcross Quay
Again, running on down (in that order) after Anderston and Lancefield. Area dominated
now, as then, by the huge Stobcross Crane. This crane, Stuart Cameron on
Clydeshipping informed us recently, is erroneously referred to as the Finnieston
Crane! The Stobscross section of quay is at the bottom of Finnieston St and was associated with heavy lift work – machinery export and lifting engines from the nearby Rowan and Harland & Wolff engine works. Finnieston Quay is/was west from the Harbour tunnel North Rotunda to entrance of Queens Dock – in use until late 1960s – built on the site of Barclay Curle’s original Clyde shipyard.
Glasgow's Prince's and Queen's Docks - How it was. Photo:Stuart Cameron
This was where the SECC and Moat House Hotel now sit. It had two channels and
was a hive of activity until the sixties when trade practically vanished with
the coming of containerisation.
Mavisbank Quay/Plantation Quay
Back across the river again from where we are now, these quays have not only
been oblitered in form - but also in name! Renamed Pacific Quay for absolutely
no reason at all it is where the Science Centre and the (non) revolving tower
Mavisbank Quay from Finnieson Ferry terminal to the ‘Four Winds’ Hydraulic Pumping Station. Used for general cargo operation until the 1970s and vessel lay up in 1980s. Plantation Quay extended from Mavisbank Quay to entrance of Princes Dock – use similar to Mavisbank Quay latterly. – site of the original J & G Thomson ‘Clyde Bank’ shipyard.
A three pronged dock that sat behind where the Science Centre is. Only the
canting basin part of it exists now. Originally named Cessnock Dock - in use until early 1970s – latterly the Glasgow tug base was at the eastern end of the southernmost basin
These are next in sequence going down river on the south,ne dock (No 3) was accessed from within Princes Dock – Docks No 1 & 2 were accessed from the river alongside No 85 Plantation Quay – this berth was in use until 1987. Docks originally operated by Clyde Navigation Trustees then Alexander Stephens Shiprepairers (ca1967 to 1976) and finally Clyde Dock Engineering Ltd (1977-87). Sadly, being filled in as we read for more housing and a hotel.
Yorkhill Quay and Basin
Opposite from we are again on the north bank at one time this was home to the
famous Anchor Line (not the basin, it came much later). Used by Anchor until the 1960s – thereafter for lay up. Built on site of the former Kelvinhaugh Slip Dock (previously Alexander Stephen’s original Clyde yard) it is home to the GLENLEE at the moment. The sheds which lined it have all been demolished, especially since a devastating
fire in them this year.
A & J Inglis
Our first shipyard. This yard sat in between Yorkhill and the River Kelvin and was where
WAVERLEY was built in 1947. The yard closed in 1963, just over 100 years since
it began. The area is rather derelict now, but is being cleared as the site of
Glasgow's new transport museum.
Harland & Wolff
Directly opposite Yorkhill, it too closed around the time of A & J Inglis and
the land was relatively quickly reclaimed for local authority housing.
It occupied the site which was formerly R Napier’s shipyard.
BAE SYSTEMS Govan Shipyard - How it is now. Photo:Barry Watson
Fairfield's/UCS/Govan Shipbuilders/Kvaerner/BAE SYSTEMS
At last, we can talk about something that is still very much with is. This yard
was more famously known as Fairfields Shipbuilding and Engineering Company until
nationalisation of the shipyards when it became part of Upper Clyde
Shipbuilders, then became Govan Shipbuilders, and after that Kvaerner, and now,
BAE SYSTEMS. To all intents and purposes it has now moved entirely to naval
construction, where recently two large mother ships for troops and landing craft
have been launched. The yard is busily engaged in the construction of modules
for the Type 45 programme. More on that later.
D & W Henderson
This yard is on the north bank, opposite where Harland and Wolf was and was on
the western side of the Kelvin. This yard closed in the 1930's as a result of
the Depression and was used by Motherwell Bridge to build landing craft during
WW2. The land became largely used by storage, hauliers and as a car dealers car
park through the years. Again, extensive renovation is going on now as part of
the Glasgow Harbour Project, with new roads, housing etc going into it.
Meadowside Quay/Meadowside Granaries
The Granaries were situated on Meadowside Quay which comes next as we go along
the north bank and dominated Glasgow's syline until recently, as they have been
demolished and all along the quay new, luxury flats with astonishing price tags
are going up. (Just wait till the residents get a whiff of Shieldhall Sewage
Works on a bad day with the wind in the wrong direction! Directly opposite is
the Govan shipyard as detailed above.
This was next in line past the granaries and the sheds of this quay (or rather,
the Lairage where cattle were kept until loading/unloading onto cattle boats)
were in existence until a few years ago. Latterly Clydeport used the quays to
import salt and gravel and other such bulk goods, but here too extensive
landscaping will be done to accommodate the Harbour project.
Opposite Merklands Quay on the south bank, this yard existed up until 1969 -
another fine yard vanishing forever. Land is mostly derelict now.
Barclay Curle/North British Engine Works
This vast area once housed one of the most modern shipyards on the upper river
to close. It is almost impossible to believe the company invested millions in
re-equipping their yard substantially in the 1960's, only to see it close as a
shipyard in the seventies, and grimly hang on as an engine works (under
nationalisation) until the eighties. The engine works shed and giant hammerhead
crane still exist, but sadly, no craftsman build there anymore. The crane and
shed are listed structures and sit on a quay called Diesel Wharf, where
mountains of scrap sit for export to Spain.
Shieldhall Riverside Quay/King George V Dock
Directly opposite Diesel Wharf is this complex, built in the 1930's and
Glasgow's last surviving commercial dock (The other upper river dock is Rothesay
Dock, but this is just outside the city boundary). The dock is not as thriving
as it once was, but you will see ships come to take away project cargoes, and
the dock also has a cement terminal where ships laden with the stuff unload. Now
and then visiting warships will fill the dock, as has happened many times in
recent years. The riverside quay is well used by bulkers carrying animal feeds
and other bulk goods. Scrap is also taken away from here.
Incidentally, it is just upriver from here that the Sewage works sit.
Back across the river and next door to Barclay Curle was the Charles Connell
shipyard. It ended it's days UCS Scotsoun, then Scotstoun Marine. It produced
its last ship in 1980, one the famous "Polish Order" batch of ships and closed
for good. The area is a mix of warehouse and light industry, but mainly
dominated by recycling plant and a new bus depot.
One of the Clyde's most famous shipyards is next. Acquired by BAE SYSTEMS when
they purchased GEC, the yard builds for UK and overseas navies. Currently well
on with the Type 45 programme, the first vessel, HMS DARING due to launch early
next year (2006) is the biggest combative warship built in the UK since WW2. It
should prove to be an interesting launch, as it is the longest ship built at the
yard and at one of the narrowest parts of the river, should also prove a
nail-biting experience for all involved. As of today (23rd Novemeber) the two
logistics ships launched at Govan are fitting out here, sharing berths space
with three 'mini frigates' - the OPV's for Brunei. Long completed they are at
the centre of a dispute between the Brunei navy and BAE, they say the ships
aren't up to the specs they wanted. Rumours around the Clyde talk of the Brunei
navy not having the skilled personel needed to man them.
Braehead Shopping Centre
Right opposite the shipyard. On this site there used to a repair yard for
Blythswood Shipbuilding Co. This yard existed up until the sixties when it was
swallowed up by Yarrows. Also in the existing Yarrows/BAE complex, the dry docks
were actually owned at one time by Barclay Curle. These docks, Elderslie Dry
Docks, were to the west of Yarrows, with Blythswood to the east. The reason the
repair yard moved onto the opposite bank was because a bomb landed in Blythswood
during the war.
Yarrows GPR production hall
Okay, back across the river and just a little apart from the rest of the
Scotstoun yard is a very large building. This was built (at some cost!) so that
Yarrow's could develop 'plastic' minesweepers. Unfortunately, the investment
never paid off and they only built two, HMS COTTESMORE and HMS MIDDLETON in 1982
and 1984 respectively. The hall has been silent since then.
Renfrew Slip. Boatyard and the Puzdeoch
Opposite the production hall and down a bit lies this conglomeration of maritime
businesses - or rather, did. In the process of being cleared out for houses and
a marina, there was a lot of history on that site. Principally it is where the
McLean shipyard was, where smaller vessels and yachts were built, and contained
one of the last 'Patent Slips' on the Clyde. Up until recently it was occupied
by Garvel Clyde where they carried out repairs on smaller ships. Sadly all this
is being wiped out.
The Pudzeoch is the name given to the basin at Renfrew and of late was filled
with all manner of small craft owned by Offshore Workboats Ltd. What a lot of people don't know (I didn't! My thanks to Stuart Cameron for this snippet) it this is actually the remains of an aborted canal to run to Ayrshire and that it used to run significantly further inland than it does now.
The next point of interest we come to is of course the Renfrew-Yoker ferry.
These days operated by two vessels built by McCrindle of Ardrossan in the
eighties, the YOKER SWAN and RENFREW ROSE, At one time a large vehiclar ferry
did the crossing.
Staying on the Renfrew side next we have the site of what used to be the Simons-Lobnitz
yard. This yard (made up of the co-joining yards of Simons and Lobnitz merging
in the late fifties) was renowned the world over for building dredgers and other
harbour craft. It is now a scrap yard and you can often find vessels in the
yard's basin loading with scrap. Sadly the benefits of these two merging did not
live up to expectations and the company folded in the mid sixties.
RothesayDock, Clydebank with the hammerhead crane of John Brown's old yard behind. Photo: Greig Wright
Across the river again from here is the Rothesay Dock. This commercial dock sees
tankers come in with aviation fuel, emptying it into the storage tanks there.
Also on the west wall of the dock, ships come in with gravel, sand and road
salt, New this year is the addition of a boatyard with a shiplift. This is to
replace the facilities being demolished at Renfrew.
John Brown shipyard
Now utterly levelled save for its massive hammerhead crane, this is the next
point of interest on the northbank next to Rothesay Dock. Probably one of the
most famous shipyards in the world (certainly when it was working), it of course
produced famous vessels such as the Cunard QUEENS and HMS HOOD, but it produced
many more fine vessels: liners,tankers,cargo vessels over the years until its
eventual transformation into a rig building yard. Near the end it was used to
convert a huge oil tanker into a floating oil platform - sadly, this was the
last one it did and the new work failed to materialise.
The area where the yard was built is of especial importance as it is opposite the mouth of the River Cart, enabling the Thomsons to build buch longer ships than other yards, as they could be launched into its dredge mouth. The River Cart had its own Navigation Authority and there were a number of shipyards on the river. The last of which was Fleming & Ferguson, who built harbour and specialist craft just like Simons Lobnitz did. Like them they closed in the sixties too. The river was in use up until the eighties as far as Porterfield.
Incidentally, of interest here is that the John Brown yard is, to use a phrase often
quoted, "being redeveloped to give the people of Clydebank back their river".
The truth is there very few people around the area before the yard was built. It
was originally a brand new shipyard of J & G Thomson in 1872, who moved down
from Glasgow when their yard was needed for dock development. They gave it the
name The Clyde Bank Shipyard and when the tenements and town were built for its
workers, the new town adopted the name.
Beside John Brown is a site many will know as the home of shipbreaking firm
Arnott's. This operated until relatively recent times but was originally a
gigantic shipyard built by Wm Beardmore, who at one time controlled huge
interests in all manner of heavy industries. His empire collapsed however, and
little remains at all. A private hospital was built on part of the site in the
Whilst we are in Clydebank it is worth noting that another loss in the past
fifty years was the marine engineers Aitchison, Blair Ltd. Similarly, the famous
engineering division that split off from John Brown is no more, latterly owned
As we go down river we won't see many changes worth noting for the purposes here
until we get to Bowling. Once a winter haven for the Clyde steamers, with the
decline of the canal as a means of moving goods, it deterioated through the
sixties and seventies. Not helped by the closure of its shipyard, Scotts of
Bowling. The tattered remnants of this once fine wee yard are a haunting
reminder of the many things on the Clyde that simply rotted away. New life is
being breathed into Bowling with the re-opening of the Forth & Clyde, but sadly
the harbour itself is, to put it mildy, an eyesore filled with sunken wrecks.
Next major change is again a bit further downriver on the north bank and that is
that the Esso Oil Terminal is no more. Once a bustling place, all of its tanks are
swept away and its jetty in ruins. Operating until the eighties, it was slowly
A mile or so down from there is the Dumbarton Rock, and behind this was the
venerable shipbuilding firm of Wm Denny. The yard closed in 1963 sending shock
waves through the town and the industry too. The basin was filled in recently
and now houses Dumbarton Football Club's new stadium.
That concludes our upper river guide. I hope to do the rest of our historical
tour in another article.
(With grateful thanks to Stuart Cameron who provided a lot information for this article and to Alistair Black, Paul Strathdee, Bruce Allan and James Christie who helped with errors and omissions.)
Dumbarton Rock and looking down to Greenock and the Tail O' The Bank. Photo: John Crae