GEO. BROWN & Co.

 

The firm of George Brown & Co., Garvel Shipyard, was started in 1901 by Mr George Brown as a shipbuilding and repairing establishment. The work done embraces all kinds of vessels, cargo and passenger steamers, river craft, dredgers, etc., mostly of special type to suit particular trades. From time to time the yard has been extended and improved, and vessels of 5000 tons deadweight can easily be built. The adjoining docks facilitate the handling of repair work and completion of new vessels.

MY GRANDFATHER

George Brown (1860 – 1933), Founder,

George Brown & Co, Shipbuilders, Greenock

My grandfather, George Brown, founded the shipbuilding company of George Brown & Co in Greenock in 1900.

He must have been a very busy man indeed for he built many ships – he built no fewer than sixty three in the first ten years of owning the yard!  Some were small, many were not so small…

Let me tell you a little about my grandfather George.  His parents were both born in Largs, Scotland – father (also named George) in 1822 and mother Elisabeth in 1823.  He himself was born in 1860 in Birkenhead in England, where his father was a shipbuilding inspector in the UK working on behalf of the Hamburg based shipowners, Holman & Co. 

His father’s job took him to many different shipyards, depending on where his employers required him to inspect the building of any new ships they had building in the UK. 

The young George’s early days were spent in Birkenhead and Hull, and when he was 12 years old, the family moved to Govan, where Messrs Holman and Co were having several ships built by Messrs Alexander Stephen and Sons. 

Two years later his father unfortunately caught a chill and died suddenly, aged just 52.  This left a 14 year old George to be looked after by his widowed mother Elisabeth, who also had to bring up his three younger brothers. 

How she managed to do this I just don’t know, but George left school in 1874, aged 14, and obtained a job as an office boy in the shipyard of Alexander Stephens.  Young George did so well that he was allowed to start an apprenticeship as a Ship Draughtsman in the Drawing Office at Stephens. 

There was no training scheme in Glasgow for draughtsmen at that time so he was enrolled for a correspondence course with the London Technical School (the Thames was, at that time, the centre of UK shipbuilding. It was only much later that the phrase “Clyde Built” became synonymous with excellent quality of design and construction.). 

George excelled in the correspondence course and was awarded a silver medal by the London Technical School for the best Lines Plan of a ship which he had drawn, with considerable skill, on his mother’s kitchen table!  This would be, I would guess, when he was about 17 or 18 years old!

The next news of his promise as an up and coming shipbuilder was, in 1879, when he passed, with a 1st Class Certificate, the  stringent Naval Architecture examination held by no less than Queen Victoria’s Most Honourable Privy Council.  His certificate has only recently come to light and shows that only 18 candidates out of 158 gained a 1st Class Certificate.

Shortly afterwards, in 1881 or so, the 21 year old George had the honour of being invited to become the first (and only) lecturer in evening classes in Naval Architecture in Scotland.  These classes were conducted at Anderson’s College in George Street, Glasgow which, many years later, has become world famous as the University of Strathclyde and whose Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering Department has an excellent reputation.

His evening classes were attended by draughtsmen from many of the growing number of Clyde Shipyards, not only in Glasgow but also in Dumbarton, Renfrew, Port Glasgow, Greenock, Ardrossan and Ayr.  His students were able to travel to his classes by train using services from these places which had only recently become available.  I presume that in wintertime  the classrooms were lit by gas as no electric lamps were then available. 

It was about this time that he moved from Stephen’s Yard to Denny’s Shipyard in Dumbarton where he played a part in that firm’s rise to fame as builder of choice for fast, reliable cross channel mail steamers.

He rose quickly in that yard to become Chief Draughtsman then Shipyard General Manager, a status reflected in his Chairmanship on the 22nd December 1894 of the prestigious Gala Day celebrations to mark Denny’s 50 years in business as a very successful firm.

George Brown, at the age of 40, was still a man of ambition and when in 1900 Garvel  Park Shipyard in Greenock became available he bought the business.  The yard had been laid out in 1896 at Garvel  Point in the orchard of Garvel  House by a partnership of Taylor and Mitchell, but had failed after only 3 years, with only 4 ships completed.  Garvel  House later became the rather grand residence of the harbourmaster for the James Watt Dock and was demolished in 2004.  .

He very quickly obtained his first order to build a small passenger and cargo steamer.  This was numbered Ship No 5 and was named Princess Beara when launched on the 24th June 1901.  She was built for the Bantry Bay Steamship Company’s service from Castletownbere to Bantry.  

In the early days of his time in Greenock he remarked that he would like to build ships for some of the better owners.  He certainly achieved that aim, and also had many overseas customers in Australia, Canada, Austria, France, Siam, Malaya, Chile, Colombia and numerous other countries. 

He was President of the Clyde Shipbuilders Association, a Justice of the Peace for Renfrewshire, a member of the Clyde Lighthouses Trust and a Member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland where he rose to be its Vice President from 1922 to 1925.  Many years later I had the honour to serve on the Council of that Institution.

I never met my Grandfather George Brown as he died in 1933 and I was born in 1938.  I do recall, as a four year old, being presented to my Grandmother, Sarah Brown, who was then aged 77.  I found her to be a rather frightening figure (to me) but this was helped by her giving me a Saturday penny on each of the few occasions when we met!   She died in 1943 and was survived by all of her 11 children (7 boys and 4 girls).  Both my sets of grandparents left many grandchildren – as a result I had 22 cousins, most of them older than me.

                                                                                         Douglas Brown, January 2021

                                                                                        

  Footnotes:

1) In 1887 my grandfather married Sarah Steven (1865 -1943).  Their marriage lasted for 46 years, during which they had 11 children. 

She was the eldest daughter of John Steven (1835 - 1926), a leading brassfounder and successful businessman (Steven and Struthers, Kelvinhaugh, Glasgow).  He was a very able man who built up an extensive business, manufacturing large castings, e.g. bronze ship’s propellers, propeller shafts, church bells, lighthouse fog horns, ships’ whistles, etc, at a time when there was a huge demand for these worldwide.

Sarah had six siblings. The well off Steven family resided at  Fernlea, West Kilbride, where the domestic staff included a coachman (with coach and stables). He later was replaced by a chauffeur when motor cars became available.

Naturally, Steven and Struthers were the automatic suppliers of propellers and tailshafts to Garvel Shipyard from Ship No5, Princess Beara, in 1900, right up until Ship No 277, Vasabha in 1962! 

 

2) Letter from George Brown, aged 9, to his father dated 13th March 1900. The letter is addressed from “Kirklea”, Dumbarton to George Brown, Esq, Garvel Park Shipyard, Greenock and is postmarked 9.45pm, Mar 13th 1900.

My dear daddy,

                          I hope you like your new home. We are thinking about you tonight and Jack is just finishing his lessons. Mother is at the sewing machine.

We heard in school this afternoon that Blomfontein  was taken and Mafakeing was relieved. So when we came home we put up our flags. We are glad the Bores are getting beat now.

There was quiet a scene in school this afternoon. Stanley Robertson disobeyed Miss Forbes & Miss Campbell and Mister Watson was sent for. He came down to the classroom and gave him a scolding for being rood and then four of the cane and on the fourth whak the cane split in two, one half jumping across the room. Mr Watson said he was very glad he had broken the cane over his hand. We all sat very quiet but Stanley said it was not sore.

After tea Jack and I had a run along the road with our hoops. It was a lovely night and we enjoyed it.

We hope you have got the yard into some order and engaged some new workmen and that you will soon have some work to do

With love from us all, your loving son Georgie

 

3) My Great Grandfather John Steven (1835 – 1926).

For an excellent and detailed tribute to John Steven, Google search “John Steven – Graces Guide”.

 

4) For those wishing to obtain information on the George Brown & Co built ships:

Google www.clydemaritime.co.uk 

On that site under REFERENCE go to “Clyde Built Ships Database”

Choose “Builder” then, in the drop down menu

SELECT Brown & Co, George, Greenock, for ships built before 1936

OR

 Brown & Co (Marine) Ltd, George, Greenock,  for all later ships.

[ The reason for this is that the firm became a limited company in 1936 and the computer requires a precise name! ]

Press SEARCH.

You will now be offered a series of windows with vessels’ names.

In the column headed Vessels Names SELECT any name to reveal full details of the ship, her career and in most cases several photos.  These enlarge by hovering over the small image with your cursor.  Good Luck! 

 

5) For more information, in 2002 an interesting 60 page illustrated booklet was prepared by me titled “SOME NOTABLE SHIPS” (built by GB & Co).  Reference copies are held by the Librarian at the Watt Institution, Greenock; the Librarian at the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine, and the Archivist at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

Additionally, on prior request, the Duty Archivist at the Mitchell Library will allow free access to further details of every ship built at the yard.  Ask for File TD865.

 

6) Ship No 5 Princess Beara was, as mentioned above, the first ship built by George Brown. She sailed for many years with passengers and cargo on the often exposed waters of Bantry Bay until her owners sold her, in 1948, to Spanish buyers for further service!  Her owners had, at the time, sent an enquiry to George Brown & Co (Marine) Ltd, asking for a price for a replacement vessel. The cost, unfortunately was too high for the struggling Bantry Bay Steamship Co who then ceased business as a result of bus and road transport competition.

Interestingly enough, a Garvel Shipyard built vessel  now operates in Bantry Bay carrying  cars and passengers from Castletownbere to Bear Island. She is Ship No 285 (the second last ship built), and was built in Greenock in 1982 as EiIean Bhearnaraigh for the ferry run to Bernera in the Outer Hebrides.

 

A resident of Castletownbere, Mr Hans Roberti, has recently constructed two excellent models – one of Ship No 5, Princess Beara, and one of Ship No 31,Lady Elsie; both vessels gave excellent service for many years for passengers and cargo  in Bantry Bay!!

 

7) Just before George Brown left Denny’s in 1900 it is worthwhile noting that drawings were being prepared in that yard for the Sir Walter Scott (1899), still in existence on Loch Katrine, and the pioneer turbine steamer King Edward (1901).

King Edward’s design incorporated special strengthening of her sides amidships in order that sponsons could easily be added to convert her to paddle propulsion if the turbines were not a success.  Her lines were similar to those of the successful PS Duchess of Hamilton built by Denny’s in 1890. 

I think it is likely that George Brown had a hand in those three designs. 

NAME

 

Powerful

Princess Beara

Eisa

un-named

Yarmouth

Grace

Eagle

Lion

Tiger

un-named

Maretanza III

Hawthorn

Carriden

Gael

Juno

Levant

Protector

un-named

Tighnamara

Nathaniel Dunlop

Wellpark

Glenpark

Lampits

Maretanza V

Starling

Kintail

Sea Nymph

Lady Elsie

Misrif Sabah

Sanidad

Yelcho

un-named

un-named

Bull

Zayda

un-named

Mayflower

Tynet

Roosevelt

Maritana

Clyde

Karatta

No 1 Lloyd Uruguayo

Lady Sybil

Presidente

Ludivico

Ardnagrena

Mercedes III

Lintie

Alyn

Ostara

Duncannon

Cassiopea

Moy

Aungdipa

Aungmala

Aungmingala

Owenaminane

Glenelg

un-named

un-named

un-named

George Watts

un-named

Dusit

Lampo

Lady Bacon

Lord Bacon

Artigas

Kopoola

Scutari

Zelia

Aurelie G

un-named

un-named

un-named

No 80

Sir Walter Bacon

Campista

Ardgarth

Ardglass

Ardgour

Kingfisher

A 43

Ustaritz

Espelette

Bissau

Amaral

Porto Grande

X 179

X 180

Alsace

HS 62

Epsom

X 205

X 206

PT 1

PT 1

PT 2

Calcium

S 51

S 52

James Chapman

John Campbell

Joseph Connell

James Cepell

Michael Ging

Joseph Gordon

George Greenfield

Joseph Giddice

William Griffiths

John Gregory

George Greaves

Samuel Green

Kilberry

Kilbeggan

Kilbirnie

Kilbrachan

Kilglass

Peter Carey

Daniel Clowden

John Chatway

Joseph Crowell

John Creighton

William Cable

Collin Craig

William Coran

John Coombe

James Coile

Alexander Colville

Jomaas

Ada

Walter Cane

Albionic

Garryowen II

Magheramorne

Terneuzen

Americano

Gillespie

Raswa

Evifa

Agility

Rengam

Dr D Gondim

Rompin

Kooraka

Ampang

Gemas

Ceraco

Audacity

W F Vint

Paraguassu

Enid

Alice

Prowess

Katoora

Hauturu

Swan

un-named

Sita

Jane

Authority

A M P 23

Craigavad

un-named

Ferry No 4

British Youth

Charlie Clark

un-named

un-named

Asperity

Penhir

Traverse

Sealight

Assiduity

Zweena

Taraqqui

Safiyea

Salimeh

Cia Swift De La Plata No 9

Gebel Ataqa

Activity

Acclivity

Actuosity

Apricity

Acrity

Shelbrit

Angularity

Grit

Aseity

Accruity

Giroflee

Arduity

Curlew

Anonity

Sagacity

Sedulity

Sincerity

Suavity

Cumbrae

un-named

Serenity

Signality

Rinansey

Edenwood

Sinjar

Sulaf

Africa Shell

El Nawras

Aptity

Summity

Supremity

Barbosa

Serenity

Asphodel

Aubrietia

Auricula

Empire Ruby

un-named

Alyssum

Bellwort

Borage

Empire Dweller

Chelmer (i)

Damsay

Chelmer (ii)

Empire Audrey

Cam

Arabis    (ii)

Arbutus   (ii)

Alnwick Castle

Barnard Castle

Caldecot Castle

Bere Castle

Empire Balham

Empire Bromley

Norwich Castle

Empire Lewisham

Empire Kingsway

Empire Lola

Shell Coven 3

Shell Coven 4

Soeai

Soeai Bana (Soebanajam)

Teddy

Herdubreid

Skjaldubreid

Jacob Kjode

Kong Dag

Beauly Firth

Mount Blair

Lena

Atonality

Sandringham Queen

Lenahan

Chandler

Portland

Secil Novo

Ballyhaft

Netherlands Coast

Ballyhill

Bayad

Sunny

Fife Coast

Ulster Pioneer

Brentfield

North Light

North Rock

Lemana

Garnock

Parera

Otra

Kingennie

Cantick Head

Siddons

Yorkshire Coast

Brigadier

Kakuluwa

N A Comeau

Kinnaird Head

Vasabha

Star of Hope

Coronella

Amaranthos

un-named

un-named

Aires DSM

Leo DSM

Eilean Bhearnaraigh

Wilton

YARD #

 

-

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

63

64

66

67

68

69

70

70

72

73

74

75

76

77

78

79

80

81

82

83

84

85

86

87

88

89

90

91

92

93

94

95

96

97

98

99

100

100

101

102

103

104

105

106

107

108

109

110

111

112

113

114

115

116

117

118

119

120

121(i)

121(ii)

122

123

124

125

126

127

128

129

130

131(i)

131(ii)

132 (ii)

132 (i)

133

134

135

136

137

138

139

140

141

142

143

144

145

146

147

148

149

150

151

152

153

154

155

156

157

158

159

160

161

162

163

164

165

166

167

168

168

170

171

172

173

174

175

176

177

178

179

180

181

182

183

184

185

186

187

188

189

190

191

192

193

194

195

196

197

198

199

200

201

202

203

204

205

206

207

208

209

210

211

212

213

214

215

216

217

217A

218

219

220

221

222

223

224

225

226

227

228

229

230

231

232 (i)

232 (ii)

233 (ii)

233 (i)

234

235

236

237

238

239

240

241

242

243

244

245

246

247

248

249

250

251

252

253

254

255

256

257

258

259

260

261

262

263

264

265

266

267

268

269

270

271

272

273

274

275

276

277

278

279

280

281

282

283

284

285

286

LAUNCH DATE

 

00.00.1902

24.06.1901

09.11.1901

00.00.1902

08.05.1902

19.06.1902

21.08.1902

00.10.1902

17.11.1902

00.00.1902/1903

08.12.1903

13.06.1903

30.06.1903

30.05.1903

27.10.1903

23.11.1903

05.02.1904

00.04.1904

05.05.1904

11.08.1904

09.11.1904

08.12.1904

00.00.1904

07.03.1905

26.06.1905

20.09.1905

08.12.1905

05.04.1906

28.04.1906

27.03.1906

23.06.1906

00.00.1906

00.00.1906

20.12.1906

26.02.1907

00.00.1907

14.05.1907

06.05.1907

16.05.1907

22.05.1907

30.05.1907

25.07.1907

21.08.1907

00.00.1908

04.12.1907

00.4.1908

12.08.1908

26.10.1908

04.02.1909

01.05.1909

00.00.1909

25.06.1909

04.11.1909

30.10.1909

00.00.1909

00.00.1910

00.00.1910

00.00.1910

00.00.1910

00.00.1910

00.00.1910

00.00.1910

02.03.1911

00.00.1911

29.03.1911

01.05.1911

25.07.1911

09.09.1911

25.11.1911

13.04.1912

00.00.1912

15.06.1912

01.08.1912

00.00.1912

00.00.1912

00.00.1913

00.10.1912

22.02.1913

05.06.1913

22.08.1913

27.11.1913

12.02.1914

24.09.1913

00.00.1913

28.07.1914

19.11.1914

00.00.1914

27.02.1915

21.10.1915

00.00.1915

00.00.1915

00.00.1916

00.00.1916

04.05.1916

00.00.1916

00.00.1916

00.00.1916

00.00.1917

00.00.1916

00.00.1916

00.00.1917

00.00.1917

08.09.1917

01.11.1917

20.12.1917

29.03.1918

11.05.1918

29.06.1918

11.09.1918

24.10.1918

19.11.1918

14.02.1919

21.02.1919

30.04.1919

2.07.1918

23.09.1918

16.05.1919

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

25.06.1919

13.11.1919

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

cancelled 1918

00.05. 1920

29.09.1920

cancelled 1918

24.01.1924

19?21?.07.1920

29?19?.10.1921

31.01.1922

22?23?.03.1921

00.00.1923

00.00.1923

completed 05.1924

00.3.1924

00.00.1923

24.04.1924

00.00.1924

07.03.1925

00.00.1925

00.00.1925

11.06.1925

06.10.1925

26? 27?.08.1925

03?21?.12.1925

05.01.1926

02.06.1926

10.07.1926

00.00.1927

07.04.1927

00.00.1927

00.00.1927

00.00.1927

29.02.1928

24.04.1928

14.06.1928

00.06.1928

00.09.1928

00.00.1928

27.12.1928

27.05.1929

00.00.1929

00.00.1929

20.08.1929

19.03.1930

12.05.1930

04.06.1930

27.10.1930

30.08.1930

15.09.1930

00.00.1930

00.00.1930

22.12.1930

28.07.1931

17.09.1931

29.10.1931

29.12.1932

09.08.1933

30.12.1933

06.12.1933

12.05.1934

11.08.1934

04.02.1935

18.09.1935

19.06.1935

04.07.1935

14.11.1935

29.01.1936

11.04.1936

11.06.1936

02.09.1936

29.12.1936

15.10.1936

cancelled 18.08.1936

14.06.1937

21.08.1937

30.06.1938

20.12.1937

02.04.1938

02.04.1938

10.11.1938

28.02.1939

19.12.1938

06.04.1939

27.09.1939

30.05.1939

08.08.1940

25.05.1940

05.09.1940

14.11.1940

26.06.1941

re-ordered

03.03.1941

11.08.1941

22.11.1941

19.02.1942

30.05.1942

27.06.1942

27.03.1943

23.02.1943

31.07.1943

28.10.1943

26.01.1944

23.05.1944

05.10.1944

cancelled 08.12 1943

cancelled 08.12 1943

18.12.1944

26.05.1945

cancelled 08.12 1943

27.11.1945

27.07.1946

05.03.1946

00.00.1946

00.00.1946

07.11.1946

25.11.1946

12.12.1946

02.06.1947

27.10.1947

30.12.1947

02? 08?.09.1948

02.12.1948

02.03.1949

10.06.1948

11.08.1949

22.12.1949

29.04.1950

15.05.1950

14.12.1950

19.07.1951

10.09.1952

04.03.1953

19.12.1953

3.06.1954

24.11.1953

10.09.1954

24.02.1955

21.06.1955

07.10.1955

29.12.1955

26.04.1956

04.10.1956

14.02.1957

31.07.1957

10.03.1958

22.07.1958

29.12.1958

18.06.1959

05.12.1960

12.12.1961? 16.09.1961?

07.02.1962

15.10.1962

12.03.1963

28.02.1975

23.09.1975

24.06.1974

cancelled 19.02.1975

cancelled 19.02.1975

02.03.1982

21.06.1982

30.09.1982

17.12.1982