Posts Tagged ‘Clyde’

Helensburgh: the early years: intro.

May 14, 2008

Helensburgh, on the north bank of the River Clyde, is today a prosperous residential town, a popular home for Glasgow commuters and famed for Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s The Hill House, built in 1904 for the publisher Walter Blackie, just one such Glasgow commuter. It is also now home to large numbers of naval personnel from HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane on the Gareloch. 

 

A comfortable, settled sort of place which you might think had been there for ever.  However a glance at an 18th century map shows nothing like Helensburgh – just a settlement, too small to be termed a village, called variously Malligs, Millrigs or Milligs, forming part of the parish of Rhu (or Row as it was then spelled.)  Where Helensburgh’s tree-lined streets and desirable houses now sit was then just scrubby grazing with a few simple cottages for farm workers and fisher-folk.

 

The area had traditionally been part of the estate of the Macaulays of Ardencaple, but the Chiefs of Macaulay fell on hard times and the Milligs lands were sold to Sir John Shaw of Greenock in 1700.  Shaw did little with the land and his heirs sold Milligs to Sir James Colquhoun of Luss in 1757.  At this time Colquhoun was actively buying land in Rhu to add to his extensive landholdings on Loch Lomondside.

 

The mid-eighteenth century was a great period of improvement in Scotland and landowners were taking more care to ensure that their land was properly cultivated.  Attention was being given to crop rotations and fertility, to enclosure and to the beginnings of scientific agriculture.

 

There was also, all across the nation, from the Pentland Firth to the Solway, a positive spate of new towns and villages being built by local landowners. These proprietors saw prospects of better income from feu-duties on houses, factories, shops and commercial premises than they did from rents of agricultural land.  The new towns would also help agriculture by providing local consumers for farm produce and could also perhaps absorb the rural workers displaced by the new, more scientific and less labour intensive patterns of agriculture.

 

 

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Conrad and the Clyde: intro.

May 4, 2008

The Clyde is not the first river one thinks of in connection with Joseph Conrad – the Congo perhaps, or one of the fever-ridden mangrove-swamp streams of the East Indies – but not the Clyde.  Not even the most prejudiced Edinburgh imagination surely can see Glasgow’s river as the “Heart of Darkness”.

But Glasgow and the Clyde had their part in Conrad’s life and work and this connection with the Clyde, its ships and its people, is less well known than it might be.

As a writer of the sea Conrad could hardly fail to depict the Scots who built and manned so many of the world’s ships.  As a mariner trained in sail Conrad had no particular love for the steam engine; as his friend the Glasgow-born artist Muirhead Bone wrote in an obituary appreciation:

 

He had none of a Kiplingesque enthusiasm for material powers – with him it was Man and the Elements, with the apparatus always a bit inadequate.

 

So perhaps, despite the splendidly named Captain MacWhirr in Typhoon (1903), we need not look to closely to Conrad for the archetypal Clyde-trained Scots engineer – otherwise a staple of imaginative writing from Kipling’s McAndrew to StarTrek’s Scotty.

 

 

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The Ingenious Mr Bell

April 13, 2008

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Henry Bell was the man who first made a success of steam navigation in Europe – sadly his work did not bring him financial success but his claim to fame as the man behind the paddle steamer Comet [pictured below] is secure.

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When my biography of Bell was first published in 1995 it was the first life of Bell since the 1840s and critics made kind comments on it like “scholarly and readable” (Ships Monthly) and “not only an authoritative biography…but a major contribution to the early history of steam navigation” (Lloyd’s List). This paperback edition appeared in 2001 priced at £9.99 – however readers of this blog can buy copies direct from me at only £5.00 post free – email me for details  –brian@bdosborne.fsnet.co.uk

Click here to read my article on Bell’s Highland steamship venture

From the Clyde to Rotterdam: intro.

April 8, 2008
On 10th March 1868 the Buffel, a new warship for the Royal Netherlands Navy, slipped into the waters of the Clyde from the shipyard of Robert Napier and Sons.

Robert Napier

 
Nothing too remarkable about that perhaps: Robert Napier, often described as the “father of Clyde shipbuilding,” had built warships for Denmark, Turkey, and the Royal Navy, as well as passenger and cargo vessels for most of the leading shipping companies of the age including Cunard, the Royal Mail line and P & O.  Napier’s fame was great and a reputation for high quality work had won orders from all round the world for his Govan shipyard.
 
What makes the Buffel memorable is the fact that she survives as the centre-piece of Rotterdam’s Maritime Museum.  That Buffel still is afloat after a career of 140 years is a tribute to the skills of her Govan shipbuilders, the careful restoration she received and the loving care with which she is maintained today.
 
In 1864 the Dutch Government set up a commission to consider the country’s needs for coastal defence.  As the Dutch shipbuilding industry at this time did not have the technical capacity or experience to build the type of ships the commission considered necessary the orders for the new ships went to British and French builders; two of them, for the monitor Tijger and the ram turret ship Buffel (the name is Dutch for buffalo) coming to Robert Napier’s yard.

 

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The Clyde at War

March 26, 2008

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The River Clyde, its shipyards, anchorages, harbours and defence installations was critical to the British war effort in two world wars. In this splendidly illustrated book Ronnie Armstrong and I tell something of the story of the Clyde and war from the dawn of recorded history – Dumbarton Castle [pictured above]  is the oldest documented fortified place in Scotland- to the modern age of nuclear submarines.

Click the image below and you will be taken to the Amazon.co.uk website where you can buy this book in either the hardback version or the paperback version. Both are the same format and have identical text and pictures.