The Doric Columns
Shipbuilding in Aberdeen
One of the 1st ships built in Aberdeen was built on neglected Kirkyard ground beside the Trinity Friary, the south wall that overlooked the upper part of the Harbour or part of the Estuary of the Dee. Authority to build a Barque was granted to Alexander Davidsoun, Timberman of St. Andrews, in February 1606 by the Magistrates, in the following terms :-
20th February, 1606. - The samyn day, anent the bill geivin in by Alexander Davidsoun, tymber man in Sanct Androis, mackand mention that he hes agreet with the honest men that hes bocht the Wod of Drum for als mekill tymber as will big ane bark, quhilk bark he intendis, God willing, to big within this Towne, and becauss the Kirkyard of the Trinitie Freris, quhilk is filthilie abusit be middingis, is the maist meit and convenient place for bigging of the said bark, he humblie desyred for sic service as he micht do to the Towne, that lie may have licence and guidwill of that rowme for bigging of the said bark, seing the tymber is redie in ane flott to cum to this Burght as at mair lenth was contenit in his said bill ; quhairanent the Provest, Baillies, and Counsall advysing, they fund the desire thairof eerie reasonable, and grantit and gaive licence to the said Alexr. Davidsoun to big his schip in the pairt foresaid, viz.: in the said Trinity Freris Kirkyaird, conform to the desyre of his said supplication, and for that effort ordanis all those qho has laid middingis in the said kirkyaird or thairabout, to remove and tak avay the same within aucht dayes next efter the dait heirof under pain of ane unlaw of fyve merkis to be uplifted of the persone failzeand, and ordanis intimation to be maid heirof to those quho has the saidis middina s at the pairt forsaid. - Council Register, vol xlii., p. 582.
The year 1818 was a memorable one in the trade, as in it was launched the Castle Forbes from the Shipbuilding yard of Robert Gibbon & Sons, the 1st vessel built expressly for the Indian trade, and the largest that had been built at the port up till that time. The Castle Forbes (Owners: Robert Gibbon, Arthur Gibbon, William. Gibbon) was a local wonder on account of her size, length 106'-7" x breadth 31' x depth 14', though she measured only 439 tons.
Robert Gibbon 1738-1821
at 11 Virginia St, Aberdeen, the business is still listed there with that
name in Aberdeen Directories 1824-25 and 1825-26,
No. 11 Virginia St was also the family home, his unmarried daughters the "Misses
Gibbon" are listed there in 1824-25 to 1839-40.
The Shipbuilding business of Alexander Hall & Company was established in 1790 by Alexander Hall. He took over the business of Cochar & Gibbon, where he had been an Apprentice and then a Partner.
About 20 ships, having a gross tonnage of 2770, were launched in 1817, and next year 22, measuring 3300 tons, were built.
Since the above time the trade has been much extended, chiefly by the enterprise of the late Mr Alexander Hall, who introduced the "Clipper" mould of vessels. Until then ships were built according to a conventional model, which would appear to have been held sacred against attempts at improvement. Bluff bows, a full stern, heavy sides, and massive rigging, were the characteristics of this ideal of the Shipbuilders. With the increase of commerce, however, swift-sailing vessels came to be demanded, and the old notions gave way to the requirements of the times. It did not need a profound knowledge of natural philosophy to discover that the speed of a vessel might be increased by making her bows more acute; but though the fact could not fail to be known, it was acted upon only to a limited extent. Mr Hall, was a most energetic man, and came to have an extensive business in the construction of vessels for the Indian and other branches of foreign trade. He paid great attention to the forms of his vessels, and having come to appreciate the value of the sharp-bowed or "Clipper" model, he in the year 1839, built the Scottish Maid, a vessel of 142 tons, and in her demonstrated the advantages of sharp lines. The vessel attracted much attention, and soon afterwards the Aberdeen Shipbuilders became famous for their "Clippers." The shipping firms engaged in the Australian Emigration Trade got a considerable number of vessels built at that port. Mr Hall was succeeded in business by his 2 Sons.
In the early 1850's the British Shipowners went to the Aberdeen Shipyards for their ships and, as a result, the yard of Alexander Hall & Sons built some of the fastest Clippers of that decade including Reindeer (1848), Stornoway (1850), Chrysolite (1851), Cairngorm (1853), Vision (1854) and Robin Hood (1856).
All these ships full-rigged carrying 4 or 5 yards on each mast, deployed studding sails on each side and had the distinctive Aberdeen Clipper Bows which were less ornate than the traditional practice. The design of the Cairngorm embodied the Builder's ideas of what a Clipper should be and was built without a firm order from an owner. A big risk for the shipbuilder but Alexander Hall & Sons were proved right as the Cairngorm was purchased by Jardine, Matheson & Co for the tea trade and she proved to be one of the fastest clippers during the 1850's. She cost £15,434 to build and was registered at 939 tons and was acknowledged as 'Cock of the Walk' as she made many fast passages. In 1858-9 she made her fastest homeward passage from Macau to Deal in 91 days.
The general substitution of iron for wood as a material for building ships of a large size has had its effect upon the trade of Aberdeen, and now the achievements of the "Clippers" built there have ceased to be spoken of in terms of wonder. The "Clipper" form is almost universal, and has reached its highest development in the China Traders built on the Clyde, the homeward voyages of which are among the most interesting nautical events of the year. The Aberdeen Builders have not, however, fallen off in prosperity, as they have complied with the requirements of the day, and taken to building ships of iron, and of a combination of wood and iron. An extensive trade is also done in repairing wooden vessels, for which there are special facilities at all the yards. The 3 principal shipbuilding firms - Messrs Alexander Hall & Sons, Messrs John Duthie & Sons, and Messrs Walter Hood & Co. have their premises at Footdee, and 1 or 2 small yards are on the Inches. The tonnage of the vessels built in 1863 was 1230; in 1865, 9701; in 1866, 9224; and in 1867, 12,112. Upwards of 1000 persons are employed in the trade. Carpenters receive 22s. a week, working 57 hours. Apprentices are taken at the age of 14 years, and their wages average 7s. a week over the term of 5 years which they require to serve. Most of the journeymen are married, and occupy houses in the neighbourhood of the yards.
Born (1794), Shipbuilder & Mechanical Engineer. The
Duffus Shipyard was officially known as John Duffus & Company. In addition to
shipbuilding, Duffus manufactured engines for steam vessels; and, trading as the
Aberdeen and London Steam Navigation Company, had his own ships plying their
trade between Aberdeen and London.
Aberdeen has been famed for Shipbuilding especially for its fast clippers. Since 1855 nearly a score of vessels have been built of above 1000 tons each. The largest vessel (a sailing one) ever built here was one in 1855, of 2400 tons. In 1872 there were built 11 iron vessels of 9450 tons, and 6 wooden of 2980 tons, consuming 5900 tons Iron and costing £252,700, including £60,700 for engines and other machinery. 1400 hands were employed in shipbuilding in that year, at the weekly wages of about £1230.
Duke of Wellington - Wooden Paddle Steamer built By John Duffus & Co 1829
The Times August 20, 1829
Nicol Reid - Shipbuilder?
Robert Matheson, Shipbuilder, Trinity Building Yard, Home 16 Carmelite
John Humphrey & Co - Shipbuilders
John Humphrey was Chief Engineer for a German, named Smith (originally Schmidt) who had a shipyard at the Inches. Smith was nicknamed Yankee Smith. Humphrey took over the business in 1866
Liverpool Mercury, 31st March 1885:
Daily News, 22nd May 1867:
Kagosima – Built 1866 Humphrey’s Yard for
Aberdeen Weekly Journal 26th Dec 1877
Richard Connon & Co., Shipbuilder
John Vernon and Sons, Shipbuilder c.1840
The Walter Hood yard, opened in 1839, was East of Halls', next to Pocra Jetty. The former Shipbuilder's John Vernon & Son came and went and Walter Hood took over their yard.
John Garrow - Built at Aberdeen by John Vernon & Sons, Aberdeen in
Registered in Liverpool.
Vernon, & Co, Engineers, Founders, Millwrights, Builders of iron ships, etc. Dee Iron Works, 27 York street A John Vernon, Shipbuilder aged 54 years, recorded death at Litherland Park Litherland, Liverpool, 17th March 1874
David Burns Shipbuilder
Commodore - 1861
The James Horn vessel was built in 1865 by David Burns Shipbuilder at Aberdeen, Scotland. A 160 (later 151) ton schooner, 91 ft. 6 in. long, built for 'Commercial Lime Co.', later 'Aberdeen Commercial Lime Co.', of Aberdeen. ON 53243. Signal letters JVKH. Intended for, I presume, the carriage of lime - intended voyages are referenced to the Baltic. Described as being '1 deck, 2 masts, brigantine rigged, eliptical stern, carvel built, male figurehead'.
Snowdrop - Schooner
built by David Burns - 1866 -
13th Feb 1869, Firth of
Forth, Inchkeith Island:
The Shipbuilding Trade of Scotland figures largely in the industrial returns of the country, the value of the vessels of all kinds built during recent years giving an average of close upon £3M per annum. Little is known of the early history of the trade, though it is beyond doubt that vessels were built at Aberdeen some time during the 15th century. In the year 1475, 3 ships were fitted out at Aberdeen for the service of the King, the cost being defrayed by the inhabitants of the town. In the same year, another ship was furnished with guns, ammunition, by the loyal Aberdonians; and the vessel was manned by 24 young men belonging to the town. The cost of this ship did not exceed the equivalent of £176.
In 1826 the number of Shipbuilders in Aberdeen fell from 10 to 8, each of whom had 2 ships on the stocks, unsold, while every year until 1835 is described as a very dull one for Shipbuilding. After this date it improved, especially on the west coast, where a number of Steamboats were being built. As many workmen were in consequence attracted to the Clyde yards, the east coast builders were obliged to raise their wages. Prices of ships at this period ranged from about £10 to £11 10s. per gross ton.
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