Help keep the site going

Friday, 25 July 2014


HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH was floated out from her building dock last week and pleased to say she floats.

While the dock was flooded she was carefully monitored by the guy’s from the “Dim Squad” (Dimensional Control) although just what this fine body of men were going to do if she began to heel over is left to the imagination, I just cannot see them being able to run around placing side shores to prop her up.

Not quite as spectacular as a traditional slipway launch but an important event in the life of the ship all the same, she will now be berthed at the quayside in the large basin at Rosyth Dockyard and all her outfitting will continue for another two or three years before she begins commissioning trials so more work for the men for some time to come, which is all good news as far as the workers are concerned.

The second ship of the class HMS PRINCE OF WALES is due to begin assembly in the same dry dock in a couple of months.

The new Aircraft Carrier HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH floats out from her assembly dock at Rosyth
It would be interesting to know how level in the water she sits just to know if her ballast calculations were correct as she was floated out, this was always a very nervous time for a shipyard and the Naval Architects responsible for the ships calculations at the time of launch, more importantly if she was being launched down a slipway than a simple float out a real squeaky bum time to put things mildly.
Queen Victoria Cruise Liner (The Loftsmans collection)

Just for a size comparison the new Aircraft Carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH is slightly longer than the Cunard Cruise ship QUEEN VICTORIA shown above during a visit to the Firth of Forth


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

As Time Goes by: the Changing Face of Leith’s Shoreline

We feature another article from our guest feature writer Jenni Buxton and while we agree with a lot of what she writes we don't necessarily endorse or agree with all of it.
All things must pass after all be it for the better or the worse, change has to happen.

Old Leith from the website

As Time Goes by: the Changing Face of Leith’s Shoreline
Although the shipbuilding traditions of Leith Docks generally resides in the shadow of the traditions of the Clyde, the East Coast shipyard has just as proud a history that is as much a backdrop to north Edinburgh’s present as it ever has been in the past. Initially a hub of the British Empire’s wine trade, secondly a world power in steamship construction and now, as Leith rises out of the more home-grown shadow cast by the so-called ‘trainspotting generation’ of the 90s, the shipyard’s image is once again being reimagined as an important, iconic reminder of Leith’s history and a symbol of Scottish growth and prosperity.
Leith Shipyard’s Proudest Moment
Perhaps the proudest moment in the history of the shipyard's of Leith at the old Menzies yard on the Water of Leith was the construction of the legendary steam boat, Sirius. Built at Leith in 1837, the Sirius was intended to run the London to Cork route for the Saint George Steam Packet Company. However, proving itself early on to be a masterpiece of craftsmanship, the Sirius was chartered to cross the Atlantic by the British and American Steam Navigation Company. By arriving in New York a day ahead of the Great Western, a ship designed by none other than the great industrialist Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Sirius became the first steamship to make the Atlantic crossing. Legend has it that in the last two days of the 18 day crossing, the Sirius ran out of coal and had to be powered by timber and resin. [1]
Nearly 200 years on, the achievements of the Leithers that built the Sirius are still talked about in the pubs on the Walk and the stands of Easter Road to this day, highlighting the reverberation of spirit and community that the shipyard inspires.

At Easter Road they Play At Easter Road they Play
Since 1875 Hibernian Football Club has been an integral part of sporting life in the City of Edinburgh and Port of Leith; its early history up to 1946 has been brilliantly documented in The Making of Hibernian trilogy by Alan Lugton. John Campbell's At Easter Road they Play is the first part of a new trilogy that brings the history up to date, picking up the story from 1946 and covering what was the most successful part of the club's history when Hibernian won three Championship titles and became the first British club to play in the European Cup, reaching the semi-final. Packed with anecdotal tales of the times, it gives a fascinating insight into life at the club when the Famous Five were in their heyday right through to the mid-sixties when a young lad by the name of Joe Baker burst onto the scene. A game-bygame, goal-by-goal account of the many highs and numerous lows, At Easter Road they Play takes the reader on a fantastic journey back to the days when massive crowds flocked to Easter Road to see Hibernian play. For any Hibs fan that lived through those heady days this book will bring back to life a host of happy memories whilst at the same time allowing those fans who were perhaps too young or not even born at the time to see just how different football was back then when compared to the modern day game.

Leith Docks and the Wine Trade
Long before paddle steamers, the port at Leith was one of the UK’s great trading ports, and though many of the later problems that were associated with the ‘trainspotting generation’ came from alcohol, the alcohol trade was a key factor for the areas early growth. As early as the twelfth century, all the wine for the Stuart kings that resided at Holyrood palace was brought in through Leith Docks and in the days of Mary Queen of Scots, the famous French wines that she became fond of during her time there were imported through Leith. This trade increased over the next 200 years and Sherry from Spain and Port from Portugal were added to the haul.
Leith became one of the biggest importers of the finest qualities of wine in the whole of the United Kingdom. The mass storage of wine in Leith was even noted by Sir Walter Scott who talks of coopering (the art of barrelling alcohol for storage) at Leith’s docks:
“Peter Puncheon that was cooper to the queen’s stores at the Timmer Burse (or Timber Bush) at Leith.”
By the Time of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the early 17th century, the list of wines coming into Leith included claret, burgundy, champagne, sherry, port and even some wines from as far afield as Australia. [2] With the export of whisky and the import of wine you could well say that Leith’s was built on alcohol, and though that might have been a proud thing to say a couple of hundred years ago, it could well be a source of shame given the recent stereotype of the area that came out of the 90s.

Ecstasy Ecstasy
Lloyd from Leith has a transfiguring passion for the unhappily married Heather. Together they explore the true nature of house music and chemical romance. Will their ardour fizzle and die or will it ignite and blaze like a thousand suns? Ecstasy follows them and others through the backstreets of Edinburgh, stifling suburban sitting rooms and the bright lights of London. Exhilarating and dazzling, this is Welsh at his very best.

The More Recent History of the Leith Shipyard
The shipyards recent image was summed up in the Proclaimer’s music video for ‘Letter from America’ in 1987, lamenting the closure of industry across Scotland and the migration of once proud industrial workers to America and Canada in search of work. In the video, Henry Robb’s Shipyard, once a bustling hive of activity, looms over Leith, rendered desolate by mass unemployment and the destruction of industry. Though still a symbol of community pride, that pride was slipping as alcoholism and drug abuse began to tarnish the reputation of the region leading to the stain of the character of the ‘trainspotting generation’ of the 90s. The young heroin addicts that Irvine Welsh’s bestselling novel is based on were the sons and daughters of proud shipbuilders at the Henry Robb yards, the unemployment of the closure of industry, coupled with Leith’s history of importing opiates led to this near epidemic. Aida Edemariam and Kirsty Scott recently pointed out that this generation, though now in their forties, are still dying younger than their peers from other parts of the UK. [3]
Released in 1993, the harrowing story of Trainspotting drew attention to the drug and alcohol problems that were rampant in Edinburgh [4], and in particular Leith at this time and the derelict Shipyards became a depressing symbol of this social degredation.
Back on track
Though this generation changed the image of the shipyard throughout the 90s to one of decay, in the last decade it has managed to brush its self off and rise like a phoenix from the flames again. With world class drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and community groups [5] helping more and more people with problems of addiction back to their feet the problem is beginning to show signs of decline. [6] Alcohol abuse, though still a problem across all Scotland, is under some degree of control and the Leith shoreline is home to modern gastro-pubs, restaurants and wine bars that are using alcohol to restore a pride to the shipyards more reminiscent of the booming times of the alcohol trade in the 17th century.

The Rise and Fall of British Shipbuilding The Rise and Fall of British Shipbuilding
This is the story of how, from modest beginnings, Britain rose throughout the 19th century to become the greatest shipbuilding nation in the world. It begins with the age of sail, then moves on to the days of iron-hulled steamers. It shows how conflicts arose between the traditional shipwrights and the new men who came from the metal industries, leading to the infamous demarcation disputes. It is also the story of men like Brunel and Armstrong, geniuses who were always looking for change and development. It is also the story of decline in the 20th century, when yards were no longer as innovative as their foreign competitors and the British merchant fleet shrank from being the biggest in the world at the start of the century to ranking number 38 at the end of it. It is a story of great achievements and tragic collapse.

Looking to the future of Leith Docks
With new industries in computer software design and a solid reputation as an area for the burgeoning industry of game design, employment is beginning to creep back into the area. As well as the government building at Victoria Quay, [7] Leith Docks are also managing to keep the proud maritime traditions going by earning a strong reputation as a supporting dock for offshore development and acting as an important destination for the northern European cruise industry. [8] After a difficult few decades, the shipyards at Leith are once again becoming a modern icon of regeneration and pride.
  1. "Sirius." Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed on 20/07/2014,
  2. "The Story of Leith," Electric Scotland, accessed on 20/07/2014,
  3. Aida Edemariam and Kirsty Scott, "What Happened to the Trainspotting Generation?" The Guardian online, August 15 2009, accessed 20/07/2014,
  4. "Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse," Helpguide Scotland, Accessed on 20/07/2014,
  5. "Turning Point Leith," Turning Point, accessed on 20/07/2014,
  6. "Treatment Programs for Alcohol Abuse," Treatment4Addiction, accessed on 20/07/2014,
  7. "Victoria Quay," The Scottish Government, accessed on 20/07/2014,
  8. "Port of Leith," Forth Ports, accessed on 20/07/2014,

This more modern photograph is from 2011 and not so much has changed really as far as the architectural look of the Shore anyway.

Find all the books you will ever need at the E-Library Ships and the Sea

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Council buys Custom House for Leith "Maritime" Museum

Well at last as someone who is amongst the first to slag off the Edinburgh Council, credit where it's due as they have at last done something positive and purchased the old Custom House in Leith and although they do not mention "Maritime Museum" with any luck and some vision the majority of the building will be set aside to celebrate the rich and very long maritime history of the Port of Leith.

The old Custom House in Leith, Scotland shown her in this Edinburgh Evening News Photograph

This classic old building just lends itself to being the home of a Maritime Museum

Perhaps now a lot of the hidden from public sight memorabilia and material will at last be shown along with much of the material hidden away in private collections.

Book with confidence thanks to the Best Price Guarantee from I do not for a minute understand why some people with the knowledge and information they have gathered over time would not wish to show material in such a magnificent setting, with the proviso that the "Edgits" are kept well away from the running and setting up such a worthwhile project.
While the council are to be congratulated with this one they do not have a very good track record of success now do they?

The following is From the Edinburgh Evening News

THE bid to establish a dedicated Leith Museum has taken a giant leap forward after the city sealed a deal to buy the Custom House from the National Museums Scotland.

Culture chiefs agreed to pay £650,000 for the building after a six-year campaign by residents to save the landmark. to read more


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

HMS DIANTHUS Flower Class Corvette


Flower Class Corvettes Flower Class Corvettes
The ‘ShipCraft’ series provides in-depth information about building and modifying model kits of famous warship types. Lavishly illustrated, each book takes the modeller through a brief history of the subject class, highlighting differences between sister-ships and changes in their appearance over their careers. This includes paint schemes and camouflage, featuring colour profiles and highly-detailed line drawings and scale plans. The modelling section reviews the strengths and weaknesses of available kits, lists commercial accessory sets for super-detailing of the ships, and provides hints on modifying and improving the basic kit. This is followed by an extensive photographic gallery of selected high-quality models in a variety of scales, and the book concludes with a section on research references - books, monographs, large-scale plans and relevant websites.This volume includes all the features of the regular series but the extent has been doubled to include far more detailed drawings of a class of ship that was built in huge numbers and in many variations. Mainstay of the Atlantic battle against the U-boats, Flower class corvettes were used by the British, Canadian, French and US Navies.

Tax Disc style ships crest

HMS DIANTHUS Car Window Sticker

For anyone interested they would make a nice present to be shown on your car and help keep the name and memory of this famous old Flower class Corvette built at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd in Scotland and launched in 1940


For more info contact the website and we shall put you in touch with the supplier.

Please note that the supply or make of these stickers has nothing to do with the website we just happen to think they may be of interest so showing them here on the Blog.


 Battle of the Atlantic

Saturday, 5 July 2014

"Letter From America" - Leith Shipyards and The Proclaimers

This contribution is from our featured writer Jenny Buxton as there is just not enough time to keep contributing to the Blog on a daily basis and this we feel will help to keep the Blog relevant and interesting.

The views expressed are the writers alone and are not necessarily the views of Leith Built Ships (although we do agree with some of them?)

"Letter From America" - Leith Docks and The Proclaimers
In 1987, Leith Docks were treated to an experience quite unlike anything else it had undergone in its long career – and that’s saying quite something, as all manner of curios passed through the Robbs yard during its lifetime. With a musical accompaniment and a blisteringly poignant set of lyrics, images of the shipyard were broadcast into the living rooms of hundreds. Thanks to Scottish twin duo ‘The Proclaimers’ [1]Henry Robb's shipyard, right at the end of its life, had a brush with pop-stardom.
Ecomonic Depression
It was used in the video to ‘Letter From America’, a song which speaks of economic migration from Scotland due to unemployment, depression, and even enforced eviction – all experiences with which Scotland has had a long experience. Leith Docks featured heavily in the video as an example of the kind of traditional Scottish industry which was, in the eighties, being lost – necessitating the emigration of former employees. At the time, the shipyard had been closed for four years and was falling derelict. As such, it stood as a painful and marked reminder of all that Scotland had lost and was in the process of losing. This was the era in which “Trainspotting” [2]  - that seminal novel of disaffected Scottish youth – is set. The era of Thatcherism, of job-losses, of clashes between all-powerful money-worshipping capitalists and the working man, of anger, of riots, of growing consumerism and shrinking opportunities. The Herald describe the eighties as an era in which “Scotland’s industrial heartlands were ripped out and thrown on the scrapheap” [3], and a lot of anger remains today at what is still seen as an irrevocable loss to Scotland.
Family Connection
Henry Robb’s yard was used in the video to the track partly because the father of Charlie and Craig Reid who make up the Proclaimers had worked in the yard. Indeed, the pair were born in Leith, and thus had a strong association with the yard. The working class, working man’s culture into which they were born, and which was being steadily eroded by the economic policies of the time as they grew up, would strongly influence their music. Much of their tracks are politically motivated, with a strong Scottish-cultural influence, and the depression of the eighties certainly left its mark on the brothers. Craig told the Scotsman in a recent interview, “We know what it’s like to have no money and to be at the mercy of other people….I remember spending the whole day with Charlie at the DSS, queuing for housing benefit, crowded in like cattle, and you had no say, no economic power” [4]. The family moved around in search of work as places like Robb’s closed and evicted their employees, leaving the twins well-placed to pen a track like ‘Letter From America’, which harkens to economically enforced Scots migration.
A Deep Scar
The eighties were a period which have left a deep scar upon not only the Scots national consciousness, but also the economic viability of Scotland as a whole. Arguably, the destruction of the shipyards and other manufacturing and industrial enterprises began a process of wholesale denigration which would be furthered twenty years later, with the 2008 recession from which we are only now emerging. Deprived of steady income at dockyards and the like, a whole swathe of society learned instead to rely upon high-interest loans and state handouts for survival. When the credit industry collapsed in 2008, it took with it not only a whole host of jobs and industries which relied upon it for survival, it also pulled the (already threadbare) rug out from beneath the feet of struggling Scots. Austerity measures like benefit cuts rendered the situation yet more desperate. Unable to turn to places like Henry Robb’s shipyard to get work, these people slipped between the cracks, often ending up desperate and homeless. The Scottish Government state that, as of 2014, “recovery in the Scottish economy is progressing and consolidating” [5], and the credit industries are beginning to reach out to people once again, with sites like CompareNI offering “many secured and unsecured loans” [6] to those in need of a cash injection, but for many this comes too little too late. It’s a recovery, furthermore, led almost entirely by consumer activity rather than industrial activity. Instead of pulling itself up through its own industrial infrastructure, Scotland is being wonkily hauled back into the black through patchy and irregular consumer spending patterns. It is not an ideal situation.
120x60 Last Minute New York Deals!
Sorely Missed
In its heyday, Robb’s shipbuilding company employed thousands, and left all of those employees with a viable trade which they could ply anywhere in the world, should they so wish. These skilled people were a great boon to whatever country they lived in. Unfortunately, as the Scottish shipyards steadily fell to Thatcher’s onslaught, that country was Scotland less and less. Although many Scots emigrants sent money home - banks lie HSBC [7] which provided international transfer services did particularly well during the eighties - the dearth of opportunities for people to use their skills naturally lead to an evacuation of those skills from Scotland. They have never returned. Places like Robb’s yard at Leith Docks are sorely missed.

Australian Migrant Ships Australian Migrant Ships
In 1945 Arthur Calwell announced a new immigration policy for Australia requiring an influx of 70,000 migrants a year, and it was hoped that all of them would come from Britain. When insufficient Britons applied the Australian government looked to Italy and Greece and then to refugee camps across Europe. This book looks at the ships that brought these migrants to Australia - some that were never designed to carry passengers or to travel great distances - and their place in maritime and Australian history.

[2] Irvine Welsh, "Trainspotting", Random House
[3] Ian MacWhirter, "Can Scotland escape the killer zombies?", Herald Scotland, Feb 2013
[4] Janet Christie, "Interview: The Proclaimers still have miles to walk", The Scotsman, July 2013
[6] Compare, "Compare Loans"

Friday, 4 July 2014


The sum of the parts makes for a pretty impressive weapons platform built around the British Isles in the few remaining shipyards and put together in Fife, Scotland

Lets forget about the politics and the build problems encountered while building the Royal Navy's largest ever ship, to hell with the cost of the vessel as well, as the cost would only have been wasted by the useless politicians on something else anyway, at least this project kept alive some skills and shipbuilding know how in a country that used to build ships.
So the day has finally arrived when the  new Aircraft Carrier is named, not launched mind you as she will have a what they call now "A Float Off" as she was assembled in dry dock.
It is a strange feeling for shipbuilders at the launch or in this case naming ceremony as they can already see there jobs on the line, the harder the Shipwrights, Platers and Welders work then the faster they face un-employment, just all part of the job of a shipbuilder.
Despite all the politics involved in this particular build it is still a great occasion when you see a ship completed although this one will still have 3 or 4 years outfitting work ahead of her before she is ready to accept aircraft (if they ever complete the aircraft due to fly from her)
This is also a time for the politicians and there assembled flunky's and upper management of the concerned shipyards to do a lot of back slapping and hand wringing again having had little to do with the building of a ship, politics and shipbuilding you just cant separate.
Its the guys who built and assembled this mighty ship who deserve the pat on the back, and yes there were many problems during her construction and some which I am very qualified to speak on as I was involved for a couple of years in her construction, You see I am a shipbuilder, so it would be hoped that they now have the experience behind them and the second carrier will be assembled much better and will in fact prove to be the better built of the two aircraft carriers, strange then that there is still talk of this better second one being mothballed or even sold off at a cut down price........see politics and shipbuilding they go hand and hand.
For a lot more on this story of the naming of the ship at the Rosyth Dockyard in Scotland (Note - It is not a shipyard) see the story in the Scotsman newspaper.

I could not direct you to the BBC and there stories on the ship as they still don't seem to know the difference between a Ship and a Boat.(perhaps a sign of the times)
The ignorance today in the U.K. about shipbuilding or should I say about the lack of shipbuilding knowledge is a bit scary for an Island Nation but again that's politics and this blog is about Shipbuilding.