A & J Inglis - Pointhouse on the Kelvin/Clyde

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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A & J Inglis - Pointhouse on the Kelvin/Clyde

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Sun Nov 13, 2011 1:36 pm


In 1837, Anthony Inglis, (1813-1884) a young journeyman blacksmith, set himself up in business, offering smithwork, amongst others, to shipbuilders, from premises in the Anderston area of Glasgow. In 1847 he was joined in this enterprise by his younger brother, John Inglis, (1819-1888) who had learned the craft of marine engineering and whose practicable skills added another dimension to the Firm, and the Firm of A. & J. Inglis was thus founded from that year.

In time the Firm moved to larger premises (Warroch Street, Anderston) where they continued to accept any work that came their way, yet aspired to focus their attentions on marine work. From 1850, when they obtained their first significant marine contract, to supply the machinery for the tug ‘Clyde’, the Firm grew in strength and rapidly earned a reputation for ability and at least equality to much larger and longer established Firms. In 1855, the Inglis brothers won the contract for the machinery of the large pioneer screw steamer ‘Tasmanian’, one of the largest and fastest vessels built up until that date. Such was the success of the ‘Tasmanian’ it caught the attention of (Sir) William Mac Kinnon and the name Inglis became synonymous from that moment forward with fine design and engineering. Success followed success and before long the Warroch Street premises had to be extended to cope with the increased scope of work and award of contracts.

In 1862, the Inglis brothers took a momentous decision to add shipbuilding to their engineering repertoire and for this purpose acquired an area of land at the confluence of the River Kelvin with the River Clyde, on which was laid out the Pointhouse Yard. By definition, it was never going to be a ‘big’ shipyard, but it nevertheless became an extremely important and credible shipyard run by the Inglis family to exceptionally high standards, and from this Yard there came many classic designs and creations of maritime beauty, along with the normal workmanlike dredgers, tugs, coasters, barges and suchlike.

The first vessel to come out of this new Shipyard was the iron-construction steamer ‘Blanche’ in 1862. This was followed by ‘Cheduba’ and ‘Euphrates’ of 1863 for William Mac Kinnon, being the first of 45 steamers to be built for what was to become a highly valued Client – the British India Line. These were followed such vessels as :

1869 : Oberon – composite construction sailing ship
1872 : Java – 1,477 tons
1873 : Ichang – iron paddle steamer
1873 : Shanghai – iron paddle steamer
1873 : Pekin – iron paddle steamer, 3,076 tons
1874 : Hankow – iron paddle steamer
1877 : Loch Etive – iron barque for Loch Line
1878 : Purulia – 1,554 tons
1880 : Camorta – steel steamer
1881 : Compta – steel steamer
1882 : Rewa – 3,900 tons
1883 : Sirsa – 2,610 tons
1888 : Purnia – 3,306 tons

One of the earliest creations from the new Pointhouse Yard was the first ship to steam all the way from London to Shanghai, namely ‘Erl King’. This event triggered a rush of orders for the Clyde from China, for river boats that previously had been ordered from American shipbuilders. The Shanghai Steam Navigation Company placed first one order then another on Inglis, and this in turn resulted in others placing new orders with the small productive yard, e.g. Mensagerias Fluviales (River Plate) entrusting the design and building of their passenger steamers to the Pointhouse Yard.

In 1867, the Pointhouse Patent Slip Dock was opened and the important addition of ship repairing was added to the capability of the Yard. A river wharfage of some 1,200 feet in length with a depth of 19 feet was used for fitting out of new ships as well as the repair of ships coming up the river. Down at Warroch Street, the former premises of the Firm remained in the business (Whitehall Foundry) where machine shop works and assembly/erection sheds were staffed by around 300 skilled and semi-skilled artisans in the later part of the century, whilst at the Pointhouse Yard around that time some 2,000 men were employed in a Yard that amounted to not much more than 18 acres of ground.

Although not the largest of Yards, its output was impressive. In 1897, the Transatlantic Company of Paris ordered ten fast mail steamers for their African service, all built to one specification, with stringent construction conditions and a very restricted building programme. Four of the orders went to the world-famous Fairfield Yard, two went to Messrs Inglis, and two each from other Builders. To the surprise of many, Inglis was first to deliver, two weeks ahead of the first from Fairfield of Govan. Considering that these ships were over 2,000 tons / 15.5 knot full passenger accommodation vessels, and built in only 5.5 months from date of ordering, it was a very incredible and notable performance indeed. In fact, the ‘Times’ described it at the time as “a feat unparalleled in the history of shipbuilding”. The French owners were equally impressed and checked carefully that the fast-track build programme had not resulted in an inferior quality, but found no evidence of this, on the contrary they were delighted with the high standard of construction achieved.

The son of the founder Anthony Inglis, John Inglis, (1842-1919) was born in Glasgow within sight of the Clyde and was destined from birth to succeed in that industry that took the name of his family Firm to every corner of the world. He left school at fourteen years of age and, passing the stiff preliminary examinations, entered Glasgow University where, although the objective was engineering science, he studied the Arts. Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and engineering science under Professors Blackburn, Thomson and Rankin resulted in him gaining high distinctions in all subjects. On completion of his academic studies he then was apprenticed as an engineer, just like any other candidate for an engineering profession, and in this he was very contented and could have remained. However, the exigencies of inherited position determined that he must adopt a wider perspective. Passing from department to department, he moved from machine shop to drawing office, from moulding loft to building yard, and gained experience in all aspects of the business.

A born engineer, John Inglis applied science to the given. If something was a success, he delved into the reasons why this should be so. He was as inquisitive and keen to learn in this direction as others traditionally looked into the reason for defects and failures. In 1867, at the age of 25 years, John Inglis married Agnes Denny, a daughter of the famous Dumbarton shipbuilding family. (This inter-marriage between shipbuilding and engineering concerns was quite a regular occurrence)

John Inglis took over the management of the family firm on the death of his father in 1884.

An area that John Inglis, or Dr, John Inglis as he was to become, made his very own was the graceful and superb skill of yacht design. He was himself a skilled and very keen yachtsman, and this provided him perhaps with an insight to the desirable features of yacht design. It is a matter of record that yachts designed and built by A & J Inglis of Pointhouse left little to be desired. Indeed, the Egyptian Khedive’s yacht, ‘Safa-el-Bahr’ was admired the world over and typical of the standard this small Yard could produce. Perhaps this was the reason the Khedive of Egypt conferred on him the award of Commander of the Order of Osmanieh.

Dr. John Inglis’s abilities were recognised in many other quarters too. Glasgow University, much to his own surprise, bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, and the Institution of Shipbuilders and Engineers in Scotland elected him as their President in 1893. In 1900 the Institute of Marine Engineers conferred upon him the same honour. He was also selected of Lord Goschen’s Naval Boilers Committee and was a Director of the North British Railway Company along with several other appointments of note.

In 1905, the Firm, without change of name, was made into a limited liability company and was busy around this time building steam paddle ships for the North British Railway Company and also for David MacBrayne.

The contract for the Royal Yacht ‘Alexandra’ of 1907 was the first to be awarded to a private yard. She was a triple-screw turbine-powered vessel finished to the highest standard of internal luxury.

The first contract to be placed by the Admiralty with Inglis was the destroyer HMS ‘Fury’ of 1911.

In 1919, the Pointhouse Yard was sold to Harland & Wolff of Belfast by Dr. Inglis.

During the Depression years the yard was hard hit. In the six years from 1930 onwards the yard built only two lightships, one tug, one trawler and the Clyde paddle ship ‘Talisman’, the first direct-acting diesel-electric paddler in the world.

As happened before during the Great War, the Pointhouse Yard again produced naval vessels during WWII – 11 Corvettes and 9 Trawlers for the Admiralty. During WWII the Directors of the Firm were :

James D. Inglis, BSc
George A. Inglis, BSc
Sir Fred N. Henderson, K.B.E.
John Craig, C.B.E.
James D. Inglis M.D.

The Pointhouse Shipyard finally closed down in 1963 having built in its time over five hundred ships.

Possibly the most famous being the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world, the ‘Waverely’, still going strong after more than 60 years service, albeit lovingly restored and cared for by an enthusiastic and industrious team of aficionados and ship maintenance experts who give willingly of their time and skills to preserve this iconic vessel of another era on the Clyde.

Also still in existence is the 1953-built paddler, ‘Maid of the Loch’, built at Pointhouse then broken down and re-built at Balloch, from where she cruised Loch Lomond for almost 30 years before being laid up. Like the ‘Waverely’, she too is the subject of some dedicated care and attention by another team of enthusiasts who give unsparingly of their time to ensure these iconic vessels are preserved for as long as can be made possible.
Angus Mac Kinnon

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Re: A & J Inglis - Pointhouse on the Kelvin/Clyde

Post by E28 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:54 pm

Messrs Inglis establishment has been for a considerable time the only shipyard within the boundaries of the City.

Can someone confirm this statement. It is dated 1911.
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Thats all folks. Sean. E28

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Re: A & J Inglis - Pointhouse on the Kelvin/Clyde

Post by alasdairmac » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:23 am

I think that is probably quite correct as the two burghs immediately downriver, Govan and Partick, were not absorbed into the City of Glasgow until 1912.

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