1. Preface

2. The Development of Ship-Building in Scotland in the First Half Of the 20th Century
2.1. The Circumstances at the Beginning of the 20th Century until The First World War
2.2. The Consequences of the First World War for the Scottish Ship-Building Industry up to the 1940s

3. The Decline of Ship - Building in Scotland after the 1940s
3.1. The Decline of Ship-Building in Scotland After the 1940s Till the Present
3.2. What Were the Reasons for the Decline of Ship-Building in Scotland after the 1940s?

4. What Solutions Were Offered to Stop the Decline of Ship-Building?

5. Conclusion

6. Appendix

7. References

1. Preface

Few years ago, in 1995, I had the chance to attend the world famous “Cutty Sark Tall-Ship Races”. The regatta took us from Edinburgh in Scotland to Bremerhaven in Germany. We were sailing for nearly three days until we reached the finish in Bremerhaven. Although we had not so much good look with the wind conditions in the North Sea we, the crew and the trainees of the “Great Duchess Elizabeth” from Elsfleth in Germany, reached the 2nd place which was really good and everyone of us was really proud because famous sailing-ships like for example the “Alexander of Humboldt” known from “Beck’s” – advertisements on TV also attended this regatta. The fact that this was the first time I attended a sailing regatta and the really tall sailing-ship where I was on board, it was about 65 metres long, impressed me so much I will never forget this.

And now, as I was searching for a topic and material for my paper in cultural studies I found out that Scotland is famous for his ship-building industry. There was no doubt about writing this paper about ship-building in Scotland for me because of my memories of that great regatta.

What I want to do is to show the development of the ship-building industry in Scotland during the 20th century. I will direct my attention on the shipyards situated on the river Clyde, which is one of the most important rivers in Scotland. The river is situated in the west of Scotland and is very important for the industry of the town of Glasgow because it flows into the Atlantic Ocean and offers quite good conditions for yards. Therefore, it can be used for exports and imports by merchant ships. I will make clear if the ship-building industry situated there suffered under the economic decline as many other industries in Scotland did. I also would like to point out what reasons there have been that caused the decline of ship-building on the Clyde. Finally, I will give some industry solutions for solving the problems of the shipyards on the Clyde.

2. The Development of Ship - Building in Scotland in the First Half of the 20th Century

2.1. The Circumstances at the Beginning of the 20th Century until the First World War

In general one can say that at the beginning of the 20th century the population in Scotland raised. People were mainly moving to towns of the central Lowland valley like in the single conurbation on the river Clyde. The reason for that was the strong development of heavy industry in Scotland in the late 19th century. Ship-building can be seen as a prime example for that development. (Mitchison, 19990, 399)

Many great sailing clippers were produced but also Scottish marine engineering became famous in the world in the 1860s and 70s. With the beginning of steel production and because of the inventions of the steam condenser by the Scotsman James Watt and the steamship “mainly by Scots like William Symington, Patrick Miller, James Taylor and Henry Bell” (Linklater and Denniston, 1992, 232, 32-33) in the 1880s, sailing ships did not have any major use for merchant fleets in the world because steamships were much faster. That is why the sailing ships had to be rebuild so that they were powered by steam then. The Scots were very successful in rebuilding ships, too. This fact made them leading in that sector in the world.

(Mitchison, 1990, 400)

Up to the beginning of World War 1, trade in Scotland was booming. The reason for that was of cause the “shipbuilding might of the Clyde” (Linklater, Denniston, 1992, 234, 36). Scotland was able to transport every Scottish good to every place in the world because of that. The Scottish output of raw materials was very high. More than 42 million tonnes of coal and nearly 1.5 million tonnes of pig iron had been exported per year. (Linklater, Denniston, 1992, 234)

The Scottish lead in producing high-pressure engines lasted till the 1920s until the creation of diesel engines in Europe. Until the First World War in 1914, warships had to be produced and Scotland’s ship-building industry in the area around the Clyde again profited from that need because it “…had the biggest concentration in Britain of great engineering shops and shipyards…” (Mitchison, 1990, 406, 25-26)

40 per cent of the British warships commissioned from private yards from the beginning of the 20th century up to 1939 were built on the Clyde. This sounds very good but only one firm, Yarrow’s, made a consistent success of design. (Linklater, Denniston, 1992, 235)

As a conclusion, one can say that the Scottish industry profited a lot from the fact that Scotland was world-class in the sector of ship-building and exporting raw materials in times before the First World War and because of the demand for war ships by the British Government. That gave for example the Scottish steel manufactures a great boost.

2.2. The consequences of the First World War for the Scottish ship-building industry up to the 1940s

Before the First World War, the British and therefore also the Scottish ship-building industry expanded very much and was leading in the world. With the beginning of World War 1 the situation changed. Exports were severely disrupted because of the diversion of the heavy industry which had to produce war products and by the naval threat. Nevertheless, the ship-building industry in Scotland went on booming. The reason for that was the general need of new ships after the First World War because circa “ 30 per cent of the pre-war merchant fleet of the entire world was lost in the conflict…”. That need for ships caused a “…massive increase in the world mercantile tonnage in the early 1920s “(Lee, 1995, 77/78, 15-1). This of course let also other branches like heavy industries boom. 60 per cent of Scottish steel was taken by shipyards of Clydeside and Belfast between the wars. Most of the steel manufactures were producing in a way for the ship-building industry. (Lee, 1995, 79)

But from 1920, at its highest output rate of ships per year (ca. 6 million tons) onwards, the world output fell to around two million tons per year between 1924 and 1938. (Lee, 1995, 78) This fact and the economic depression in the 1930s brought the Scottish industry and therefore the Scottish ship-building industry in great trouble. The tonnage of Scottish shipping fell from 676,000 tons in 1911-13 to 293,000 tons in 1935-37. The major reason for that was the specialisation of the yards for liners and warships, which were no need for anymore after the First World War. (Slaven, 1975, 184)



ISBN (eBook)
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2 MB
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Institution / College
University of Potsdam – Institut für Anglistik
Shipbuilding Scotland



Title: Shipbuilding in Scotland