Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club
Adelaide’s, 209 Bath Street
Thursday 8th November 2012 at 7.30pm
Ms Sannachan (President)
Ms Sannachan welcomed all members and visitors to the meeting. A special welcome was extended to
Friends of Glasgow Necropolis ,who had their AGM earlier on tonight, in Adelaide’s.
Ms Sannachan explained the fire drill procedures and requested that all mobile phones be switched off.
There was an apology given by Jim Allan.
The minutes of the last ordinary meeting held on Thursday 11th October were approved, proposed by
Isobel Haddow and seconded by Petrina Cairns. There were no amendments.
Ms Sannachan spoke about the statues in George Square, which have been discussed at the last two meetings.
At the last meeting on the 11th October, a letter from the Old Glasgow Club, sent to Glasgow City
Council, expressing their concerns, was read out by Ms Sannachan. At this meeting the
reply from Glasgow City Council Lord Provost, Ms Sadie Docherty was read out. Ms Sadie Docherty thanked
the Old Glasgow Club for their letter and said that it had been passed on to the appropriate people.
Ms Sannachan told us that the planning application regarding the George Square statues had now been applied
for and was on the Glasgow City Council website. Ms Sannachan advised that there were 21 days from today
to lodge any complaints. Old Glasgow Club would be putting in a complaint on behalf of the Club and she
encouraged all the member to do the same if they didn’t approve of Glasgow City Council plans.
Mrs McNae welcomed everybody and told us about the 2nd Scottish History Festival that is running across
various venues in Edinburgh from 13th until 30th November. There are some great events on. For more
information visit www.historyfest.co.uk.
Mrs McNae reminded everybody to check the notice board and advised that the time for the Glasgow
Cathedral tour had been amended. It was now taking place at 1pm and not 2pm.
Mrs McNae asked if we had looked at the shop this month. The 2013 Calendars are in stock and around
100 had already been sold. Enamel Remembrance Day pins are also on sale.
Mrs McNae highly recommended the Pharaoh King of Egypt, which is currently on at Kelvingrove Art
Gallery and Museum. It runs until 24th February 2014. Further information can be found on
Mrs McNae also advised that Moira from Govan Stones was here tonight should anyone require any
Mrs McNae also reminded us that The Annual Charities Christmas Fayre would be taking place in the
Banqueting Hall of Glasgow City Chambers. It takes place next Wednesday, 14th November, 10am-4pm.
Ms Sannachan introduced Mr Nigel Willis, who should be a well- known face to the Old Glasgow Club.
He has spoken to us before on Glasgow Necropolis. Tonight he would be speaking to us on a subject
close to his heart, the shipbuilders, Scott’s of Greenock.
Mr Willis gave thanks to the Old Glasgow Club on behalf of the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis for allowing
them to have their AGM before our ordinary meeting tonight. He also thanked the Old Glasgow Club for
There was an exhibition in 2011 at McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock to celebrate the 300th
Anniversary of Scott’s of Greenock. It recognised that it was primarily a family business with generations
of families working for then. Grandads, sons, nephews, cousins etc.
In 1711, the reign of Queen Anne, John Scott, who had trained as a carpenter, founded the oldest shipyard in
the world at Greenock. This was just shortly after the doomed Darien scheme and the Act of Union in 1707.
Iohn Scott I, primarily built fishing boats for the Greenock Herring industry which at the first half of the 18th
Century had a fleet of approx 900 boats. For the greater part of the first 100 years, Scotts work was almost
entirely confined to fishing and coastal vessels at their original yard at the mouth of the West Burn.
John 1 sons, William and James joined him at the shipyard and jointly took over at his death.
A development in the size of ships began in 1752 with the opening of Greenland whale fisheries. William and
his brother James greatly extended the works . In 1765 a large square-rigged ship for Hull owners was built
of timber from the Duke of Hamilton’s woods. In 1776 the number of vessels built at Scotts ranging up to
77 tons, was 6. The Brunswick, 600 tons, in 1791 for the Nova Scotia trade and the the Caledonia, 650 tons,
in 1794. Each, in its year the largest ship built in Scotland. This signalised the start of a period of greater
activity especially in respect of large ocean going ships.
Some years before in 1767, the firm had feued grounds on the shore east of the West Burn and built a dry
dock, on the floor of which the inaugural dinner was held. John 2, son of William who died in 1769 followed
in his father’s footsteps, while his brother William 2 established an important shipyard at Barnstable, Devon
because of the quality of the timber available there. He died in Bristol due to his excessive drinking. It is
noteworthy that William 2 was the father of John M Scott, who about 1847 founded penny banks in Greenock,
and engaged in other important social work. On the departure of William, the firm was known as John Scott
& Sons. So successful was the management that in three successive years 1787-8-9 large plots of ground
were purchased from Lord Cathcart for extensions to the dry dock and also for property near the yard where
the workers were housed.
In 1793 at the time of the Napoleonic wars there was a five year disruption of supplies from Russia and
home grown timber was getting scarce. The Scott family reacted to this by sending Christopher (3rd generation)
to New Brunswick, Canada to their newly bought shipyards. The timber was plentiful here. Joiners, blacksmiths
and ships crammed with material not readily available in Canada were sent to Canada, along with people
from the Greenock yard to ensure the quality of the ships and the high standards were maintained.
Christopher was instructed to buy any finished ships and send them back to Scotland to be refitted and sold.
19 ships were built here in the first two years. The Scotts Canadian ships were thought to be vastly superior and
so a vast enterprise began. Black Birch for furniture making was exported from Canada and large quantities
of salt and rum were imported to Canada to use for exchange. Currency was rare in Canada.
At the beginning of the 19th century much of the overseas work was done for the East India trade. Between
1773 and 1829 their output was 16,800 tons, the vessels not often more than 600 tons but the business was
steadily developing. Early in this century the firm began the construction of yachts, with which section of the
industry it was long and honourably associated with. Successive generations of the family taking also a
prominent place in the racing and pleasure sides of the sport. John 2 was a longtime member of the Royal
Northern Club. Among the old yachting families in the West of Scotland the Scotts filled a foremost place.
John Scott 2 now joined in the shipyard by his sons John 3 and Charles 1. Charles 1 was an extremely good
naval architect who used to build models and sail them on Loch Thom above Greenock.
When the monopoly of the East India Company was annulled and ocean trade enjoyed a remarkable boost,
Scotts was amongst the first to turn to fast Indo-China clippers and at the same time were taking a leading part
in the evolution of the steamship. The last wooden ship built at Greenock, The Canadian, came out of this yard
The firm was amongst the first to build steamships and in three successive years 1819-20-21, the largest
Steamer came from their works. The first engines manufactured at the Greenock foundry were for the
Trinacria, built in 1825. This foundry had been started on a small scale in 1790, and was acquired by John 2
in 1825 for £5,000. The Naval engine work began with the Hecla and the Hecate in 1838-9, the first warships
built in HM dockyards to be sent to Scotland for machinery. Scotts also have the credit of building the first
steam frigate turned out from Clyde works for the British Navy, the H.M.S. Greenock, launched in 1849.
This was the largest iron warship of the day, the first to be fitted by Scotts with the screw propeller. The
Figurehead was a bust of John 2, in recognition for the advance of naval architecture and the development
1851, Charles 1 and John 4 build the new yard at Cartsyke and now call the company Scott & Company.
John 4 was an amazing man who took over the running of the company from his father, Charles 1. He was
involved with the company until his death in 1903.
1861, French Constructeur de Navires ordered 4 ships from Scotland and 5 from Canada. This proves to be
a huge challenge since all the ships have to be built at the same time, putting huge financial pressure on
Scotts. All 9 ships are handed to CGT. Scotts are not paid in money but in shares, and, unfortunately for
them the bottom has fallen out of the market when they come to exchange the shares.
Around 1861, John 4 became heavily involved building vessels that were to be used as blockade runners
during the American Civil War. The blockade runners were built in the Nova Scotia shipyard. In 1864, it
supplied 6 identical ships – Ivanhoe, Red Gauntlet, Elsie, Talisman, Marmion and Kennelworth. They were
also known as 6 wee ones. To get through the blockade, these ships would normally sail at night. The
blockade runners would transport much needed medical supplies, ammunition and mail to the Confederacy
in the South and the outbound ships exported cotton, tobacco and other good were taken to the likes of
Bermuda, then onwards to Europe. It was a profitable business but high risks were taken and a lot
of ships lost.
John 4 was an incredible man. He was an academic, Conservative candidate, expert on the Darien scheme
and, also Mary Queen of Scots. John 4 built up a vast library of books. Mary Queen of Scots books were left
to Edinburgh and the Naval books were left to the Navy. Sothebys sold the remaining books. They took ten
days to sell. Robert Sinclair Scott, younger brother of John 4 was technically the boss but since he was heavily
involved in other pursuits John 4 was essentially in charge.
1904, and James Henry Scott, 3rd son of Charles 1 is taken on by John Swire at the Taikoo Dockyard and
Engineering Company, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong as expert adviser from Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering
Company. Many Scotts of Greenock workers joined James in Hong Kong. Together with the UK, this and
another dock in Hong Kong would build the largest ships in the world during this time. On the death of
John Swire, James became the Senior Partner.
On the death of Robert Scott in 1905, Charles 2, son of John 4 takes over as Chairman of Scotts Shipbuilding
and Engineering Company, Limited. His brother Robert is also on the board. A non Scott now sat on the
board along with the sixth generation of Scotts. His name was James Brown, a highly successful engineer
who continued as Engineering and Managing Director at Scotts until his death in 1942. His son took over
from him at this point.
Development work was begun on Italian designed submarines in 1909 when a licence was taken out on
the Laurenti design, and the first submarine to be built in Scotland completed her diving trials in 1914 as
S1. The Scotts improvement in submarine design and equipment kept their name in the forefront of naval
thinking at the admiralty and two more submarines to this design S2 and S3 were then built during the
Great War as well as the motor driven subs E31, E51 – fitted with minelaying capacity. Scotts were the first
company to fit turbines to submarines.
Sixth generation Robin L Scott, younger brother of John 4 was more of a philanthropist than a ship builder
but he still managed to get a good price for Scotts shares. He lived at Balclutha, Greenock and collected
big game. On his death some of his collections were gifted to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
and his collection of stuffed birds to Greenock Museum.
Scotts were helped during the Depression years by warship orders. However, in 1934 while work was still
slack the opportunity was taken to exchange the company’s East Cartsdyke yard with the mid Cartsdyke
yard owned by the Greenock Dockyard Company. This unique deal included all of the machinery in each
yard, and placed Scotts in a much more favourable position, with a continuous river frontage and an
enlarged Cartsburn Dockyard as the slipway of the Cartsdyke West yard of Ross & Marshall had been
purchased in 1925.
Colin Scott, eldest son of James Henry Scott became chairman in 1939, an extremely testing time.
The Cartsburn Dockyard was given over entirely to naval construction during WWII, building three cruisers,
twenty destroyers and twelve submarines. In May 1941, the Head Office was destroyed by bombing, losing
all the valuable ship and engineering records. The engine and the boiler works suffered a direct hit and were
out of action for six months.
At the end of WWII the shipyard was switched back to merchant construction, largely for the Blue Funnel
Line, Elder Dempster and Swire.
After Colin came Douglas Phillips, husband of Charles 2 eldest daughter. He was Chairman until 1957 when
Michael Sinclair Scott (grandson of Robert Sinclair Scott) until 1978.
In Dec 1965 Scotts merged with the Greenock Dockyard Company and the Cartsburn and Cartsdyke Docks
were fully integrated in 1966. The 1960s, under Labour were Scotts most testing time.
In 1967 Scotts reluctantly amalgamated with Lithgows to form Scott Lithgow Ltd, operating as Scotts
Shipbuilding Compny (1969) Ltd.
Scott Lithgow Ltd was absorbed into the nationalised British Shipbuilders in 1977.
Cartsdyke Shipyard was closed in 1979 and Cartsburn in 1984. In 1984 the Scott Lithgow company and
Yards were sold to Trafalgar House, to become a non-trading branch of that company’s off-shore
Engineering division. Scott Lithgow ceased to trade in 1993 and the yard was offered for sale.
There were seven generations of Scotts and 1250 ships built.
Q You know how we have ships docked in places like Edinburgh and Portsmouth. Is there any sign of there
being a Scotts ship docked at Greenock?
A I visited a Scotts ship in Freemantle and it is very sad that the old Greenock dock has nothing. It would be
perfect as it is the only dry dock in the world and is listed with Historic Scotland.
Q The workers conditions must have been very difficult. It’s a shame that the workers didn’t receive dividends.
A Unfortunately it was a very feast or famine business. I know somebody doing their thesis on profits and
losses of each ship. Some ships made losses. Trading with the blockades most likely made the most money
for Christopher and Robert. At least they gifted their lifetime collections, which the entire district has
Vote of Thanks
Ms Ruth Johnson thanked Mr Nigel Willis for his fascinating talk. Seven generations of Scotts and you are
related to every one of them. Just go on a walk around the Glasgow Necropolis with Nigel to find out.
Ms Johnson also thanked the Old Glasgow Club for their hospitality and for allowing Friends of Glasgow
Necropolis to have their AGM before the talk.
Q When was the Finnieston Crane erected.
Winner – Rodger Guthrie.
A visitor tonight – Bernard Berry – has a question that he hopes we might help with.
He is looking for help regarding the 1938 Empire Exhibition and he is a collector of posters, postcard etc.
Mrs MacLean Maxwell of Greenock received the first card and card from the last day of the 1938 Empire
Exhibition and he would love to find out more about her.
Remember the change of time to 1pm for the Glasgow Cathedral walk on 24th November.
Also remember to call Adelaides should you have any concerns regarding the weather on the day of the
Ordinary Meeting. Tel no 0141-248-4970.
Play – Glasgow Girls – about girls who campaigned against the dawn raids of asylum seekers. A worthwhile
watch and on at the Citizens Theatre until Nov 17, 2012.
Next Directors Meeting – Thursday 29th November 2012
Next Ordinary Meeting - Thursday 13th December 2012
Ms Sannachan wished all a safe journey and thanked the friends of Glasgow Necropolis for joining us.
Shona Crozer 2012