The renowned Scotts yard at Greenock had a very long history and became famous as builders of warships, as well as Chinese river steamers and cargo liners for John Swire with 98 ships delivered, and 84 cargo-liners for the Far East service of Alfred Holt and his Blue Funnel Line. John Scott had founded a yard at Greenock as long ago as 1711 for the building of small fishing craft, and his son, Charles Cunningham Scott first began building ships at the Cartsdyke Dockyard in 1850 under the style of Scott & Company. His sons, John Scott and Robert Sinclair Scott, completely restructured the Cartsdyke yard, and then acquired the nearby iron shipbuilding yard and graving dock of Robert Steele & Sons in 1883, on which they established the Cartsburn Dockyard, which was laid out for naval construction.
Interest in steam propulsion of ships and furthering Watts invention of the steam engine resulted in various experimental steamships on the Clyde and in 1819 this yard then built the first steamer to trade between the Clyde and Liverpool. The Scott family purchased an engine works at Greenock in 1825 and then began to build steamers for the long trade routes out to the Middle and Far East.
At the turn of the century Scotts became technical advisers to John Swire, with Swire already having shares in the Scott yard and Henry Scott being a senior partner in the Swire Co. Scott’s were entrusted with the work of advising and preparing plans for the construction of a large graving dock, slipways, building berths and engine works at Hong Kong. This became the Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Co ltd owned by Swires with Scotts remaining as advisers to the Swire Group of companies until the 1980s. The Scott family had around a quarter holding in Swire companies, with Scotts sending drawings of all Swire ships from Greenock to the Taikoo Dockyard for construction there.
In 1899 Scott & Co was incorporated as a limited liability company, Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, and absorbed the family engine works at Greenock in 1904. In 1905 they completed their last four masted barque – Archibald Russell.
Scotts also acquired a good reputation for building large steam yachts with elegant bowsprits and raked funnels for private owners. Some twenty four luxurious yachts were built in the yards between 1876 and 1908. Scotts also built many tramps at this time.
Scotts completed their first Dreadnought battleship for the Royal Navy in 1909 as Colossus and followed her with Ajax in 1912. The yard had a longer history of naval work than any other Clyde yard, stretching back to the sail-powered Prince of Wales in 1803. The first iron frigate was completed in 1849 and then a large amount of development work was done at the Scotts engine works on high-pressure water-tube boilers.
Development work was begun on Italian designed submarines in 1909 when a licence was taken out on the Laurenti design, and the first submarine to be built in Scotland completed her diving trials in 1914 as S1. The Scotts improvements in submarine design and equipment kept their name in the forefront of naval thinking at the Admiralty, and two more subs to this design S2 and S3 were then built during the Great War as well as the motor driven subs E31, E51- fitted with minelaying capability.
Scotts were helped during the Depression years by warship orders, however while work was still slack in 1934 the opportunity was taken to exchange the company’s East Cartsdyke yard with the mid Cartsdyke yard owned by the Greenock Dockyard Co. This unique deal included all of the machinery in each yard, and placed Scotts in a much more favourable position with a continuous river frontage and an enlarged Cartsburn Dockyard, as the slipway of the Cartsdyke West yard of Ross & Marshall had been purchased in 1925.
The Cartsburn Dockyard was given over entirely to naval construction during WWII, building three cruisers, twenty destroyers and twelve subs. In May 1941 the Head Office was destroyed by bombing, losing all the valuable ship and engineering records. The engine and boiler works suffered a direct hit and were out of action for six months.
The shipyard was switched back to merchant construction at the end of the war largely for the Blue Funnel Line, Elder, Dempster and Swire.
The yard was modernised for prefabrication between 1959 and 1961 to allow construction of tankers and bulk carriers up to 40,000 dwt. A crane pier was laid down the middle of the yard and two 60ton cranes installed, and on the west of this pier a reinforced concreted berth was laid, which could either build one ship of 40,000dwt or two ships of around 19,000. On the east side of the crane pier, ships of up to 24000 dwt could be built, with a smaller berth for warships to the east of the main berths.
Submarines were built between 1959 and 1975 – the last being the Otama.
The family owned yard now had as chairman Michael Sinclair Scott, grandson of Robert Sinclair Scott who had reconstructed the Cartsdyke East Yard a century earlier and son of Cedric C Sinclair Scott. He had been appointed in 1957, and other directors included John Swire Scott. It was thus very fitting that the chairman should announce the merger of Scotts Cartsburn Dockyard with the Cartsdyke shipyard of the Greenock Dockyard Co ltd on 21st December 1965. In June of that year he had also announced that Scott & Sons(Bowling) was to be taken over. The merger of the Cartsburn and Cartsdyke yards took effect from 1st April 1966. The Cartsdyke yard had been the same yard that Scotts had exchanged with the Greenock Dockyard Co Ltd in 1934, and now the dream of a continuous shipyard was fulfilled.
The Geddes Report recommended mergers, and on the Lower Clyde the giants of Scotts and Lithgow’s agreed to merge in 1968 by setting up a holding company Scott-Lithgow Ltd, and two separate operating companies Scotts Shipbuilding Co(1969) ltd and Lithgow’s(1969) Ltd to run the yards.
The Cartsburn and Cartsdyke yards were nationalised on 1st July 1977 but unfortunately soon began to run out of orders, with Mentor the last ship launched from Cartsdyke on 8th August 1979, and Myrmidon the last merchant ship launched from Cartsburn on 19th February 1980. However Cartsburn had one more ship left to build – the deep diving seabed operations ship Challenger – launched on 19th May 1981 and accepted into naval service at Greenock in July 1984.
Scotts Car Club Badge
The Cartsburn and Cartsdyke yards were sold along with the Lithgow’s yards to the Trafalgar House consortium on 28th March 1984 and then lay forlornly for nearly four years until demolished to make way for redevelopment.