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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Industry and Technology


By Michael Moss

With its deeply indented coastline and numerous lochs, boats have been an important means of transport and of catching fish in the west of Scotland for centuries. In the late 15th century there was an important Royal dockyard on the spit of land opposite Dumbarton castle at the mouth of the River Leven. Here Andrew Wood (1455-1515), James IV's naval commander, built galleys for his campaigns in the Western Isles. The death of James IV at Flodden in 1513 brought to an end Scotland’s pretensions to naval power. The legacy was a community of shipwrights in Dumbarton, notably members of the Denny, Lang, Latta and MacLachlan families. As far as can be judged they were itinerants, moving from place to place around the Firth of Clyde building vessels on the shore from local timber. These would have mostly been heavily-built sailing gabbarts (or barges) designed to withstand the fierce squalls common on the west coast, ferry boats, and rafts for transporting cattle.

The first permanent shipyard was Scotts of Greenock, which was established in 1711 and built fishing boats, fishing busses to carry fish to market, coastal craft and shallow draught scows for carrying goods up the Clyde to Glasgow. Repairs were also carried out on ocean going vessels employed by the Glasgow merchants in their Atlantic trades and mostly built in north America. The growth of the Greenland whaling industry in the 1740s led to orders for larger vessels and their first square rigged vessel, the Greenock, was built in 1760. Their first order from outside Scotland was placed by Hull merchants in 1765.

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