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Visit to the Scottish Maritime Museum - Wednesday 8 September 2010

The Scottish Region visited the Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine on Wednesday 8 September 2010, a nice sunny autumn evening. The Scottish Maritime Museum is located in the restored Linthouse Engine Shop. This Grade A listed building was originally one of the workshops of Alexander Stephen & Sons at Linthouse in Glasgow.

The building was designed by John F. Spencer and dates from 1872. Although it was altered over the years, the building retained it's original cast iron columns and Baltic pine wooden roof trusses. It was in use until the 1980's and in 1988 when threatened with demolition, the building was dismantled and transported to Irvine where it was rebuilt, being completed in 1991. This was probably the biggest project of this type in Scotland.

The display of pumps and engines at the Scottish Maritime Museum.d

The display of pumps and engines at the Scottish Maritime Museum.

© John Fender, 2010

Outside the museum building are a number of exhibits on display, including the rudder from the SV Carrick, one of the PS Waverley's old boilers, some large pieces of machinery and a selection of anchors. There is also the ASR 10, an second World War air sea rescue craft. These craft were moored at strategic points around the coast as a refuge for aircrew who ditched in the sea and provided them somewhere where they could wait in safety until picked up.

Now home to the Scottish Maritime Museum, the building houses a fascinating collection of our maritime heritage and members were given a tour of the exhibits by Ian Walker, assisted by Allan Gemmell, both of the Museum after light refreshments. Ian Walker provided detailed insights to many of the more interesting exhibits, starting with the Denny Helicopter, a model of which is on display.

This model is of the aircraft built by William Denny & Brothers, the Dumbarton Shipbuilders, that first flew in 1912 under it's own power making it the first helicopter, long before Igor Sikorsky flew his pioneering aircraft. The outbreak of the first world war put paid to further development.

Ropes played an important part in shipping and the museum has some of the rope making machinery from the Gourock Rope Works on display. Along with such machinery is a display of a number of early diesel marine engines from such companies as Kelvin and British Polar Engines, both companies still being in business today. In addition, one of the Admiralty Standard Range Diesel engines from HMS Oracle, a 1961 Oberon Class submarine is on display. This 3,000hp engine has been sectioned so that visitors can see the various parts.

Some of the machinery on display at the Scottish Maritime Museum.d

Some of the machinery on display at the Scottish Maritime Museum.

© John Fender, 2010

A contrast with the diesel engines is the original boiler from VIC 32, a Clyde Puffer. This dates from 1942 and was built by Cochranes of Annan and weighs in at about 6 tons. Steam from the boiler was piped to the engines and the museum has a number of steam engines on display. Steam was also used in steam turbines and the museum has a number of interesting exhibits.

A steam Turbine from the TS King Edward is on display. This important development heralded the start of a new era of more efficient maritime propulsion. The museum also has wooden patterns of the turbine casings for the original turbines installed in the Queen Elizabeth II on display.

Moving on, the members were shown round the machine shop area, where there are a number of preserved machines used to produce various parts for ships. These machines were belt driven and date from a time well before "Health & Safety". Among the machines on display are huge lathes and drills as well as presses and rollers, all rescued from shipyards.

Pausing to look at the three large figureheads from old wooden warships, the group proceeded to the new display on shipbuilding where many craftsmen's tools are on display. There is also a mock up of sections of wooden hulls showing how they were built. There is also a section of iron framed hull so that visitors can get an idea of the construction used in such ships, the museum's City of Adelaide probably being the best know example.

The display of pumps and engines at the Scottish Maritime Museum.d

The ill fated Longhope Lifeboat on display at the Scottish Maritime Museum.

© John Fender, 2010

The City of Adelaide, or SV Carrick when it belonged to the RNVR, has been faced with uncertainty about it's future and it has been proposed that the ship be dismantled. However, an Australian Group has been names as preferred bidder to move the ship from the slipway in Irvine where it has sat for the past few years. The idea is for the ship to be taken to Adelaide in Australia where it will be restored in time for the 175th Anniversary of South Australia.

The party then visited the new Clyde Shipping exhibit, where there is an interesting display devoted to Clyde shipping, including a number of models of ships that graced the Clyde. There is also a display devoted to the Fife yachts.

The Fife family built their vessels at Fairlie on the Clyde and William Fife III designed the racing yachts for Sir Thomas Lipton who created Lipton's tea. Sir Thomas was determined to win the Americas Cup, but although he had two yachts designed by William Fife, nether won the Cup for Sir Thomas.

The museum is also home to "TGB" a Watson Class lifeboat built by White's of Cowes in 1962. This lifeboat was based at Longhope and on 17 March 1969 was launched to go to the assistance of the Liberian Vessel "Irene". In a force 9 gale, the lifeboat balled through the Pentland Skerries, but contact with the Coastguard was lost. A search the next day found TGB capsized to the south of Tor Ness Point. All eight of the crew perished.

The group then had a chance to look at the steam engines, some of which are undergoing restoration, before it was time to leave. The Scottish Maritime Museum is an ideal place to visit for a day out and has something for everyone, including children, who can even design, build and sail their own model ships. The museum's ships are moored near Irvine Harbour, a short walk away and include the puffer Spartan. The Museum Wharf is home to the various restoration projects and at the end of the wharf can be found the City of Adelaide, one of the oldest clipper ships in the world. Further information on the museum can be found on the museum website at

The Scottish Region would like to thank Ian Walker and Allan Gemmell of the Scottish Maritime Museum for their hospitality and tour and also the Museum for enabling the visit to take place.

Report and photographs by John Fender


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