Wayfarer Column- Centre of the world’s greatest shipbuilding yard

Still keeping to the fame of Scottish engineering we consider the small village The Barns Of Clyde situated on the Clyde and surrounded by acres of Scottish farmland which within thirty years had become the centre of the world’s greatest shipbuilding yard and home to Singer the largest sewing machine factory in the world.

It all started in 1871 when J.& G. Thompson moved their shipyard from Govan to a new site at the mouth of the River Cart to be followed by Singer in 1882 who opened their factory at Kilbowie. In 1899 John Brown & Co. moved from Sheffield to take over Thompson’s yard and create the most famous shipyard the world has ever known. Why this quiet corner of the world attracted so much engineering I do not know. It was Brown’s yard that launched the fastest ship of its time, the ill fated ‘Lusitania’ to be followed in1920 with the launching of the biggest warship in the world ‘HMS Hood.

The ‘Lusitania’ was sunk by a German submarine in 1915 with the loss of 1.198 lives which created a storm as a lot of Americans lives were lost including Alfred Vanderbilt the American railroad millionaire, and that was in the days when millionaires were few and far between. In 1934 the first British ship over 1,000 feet in length and the first of the famous Cunard Queens was launched from John Brown’s shipyard. A nice wee story concerning this ship was when the directors of Cunard approached King George V to tell him that they were going to name this magnificent ship after the greatest Queen in our nation’s history, the delighted the King responded ‘Thank you gentlemen Queen Mary will be most pleased’. None of the directors had the heart to tell him that it was Queen Victoria that they had in mind. Queen Mary launched the ship herself which was the first occasion that such an event had been reported on BBC radio.

So there you are the Queen Victoria became the Queen Mary to be followed in 1938 by the Queen Elizabeth at that time the biggest passenger liner ever built. Despite coming through the Nazi blitz in 1941, in 1967 the same year as the QE2 was launched by Queen Elizabeth herself the yard was incorporated into the government sponsored Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and in 1972 it ceased to build ships after 101 glorious years. It is sad to learn of the demise of these great companies. who did so much to boost Scottish pride.