Page 1 of 1

Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:01 pm
by Angus Mac Kinnon
Some time ago I started doing some research into shipbuilding at Troon in the very early years. Due to other pressures this work has had to be 'put on the back burner' until time is more available. However, it is research I intend to continue with and here is a taster of what it will be like :

A short chronology of early shipbuilding at Troon


Advert published to Ship-Builders for the Let of Graving Docks and Shipbuilding yards, at Troon Point, in the County of Air (sic) between Air and Irvine, on the Firth of Clyde, for such term of years as may be agreed. One of the docks will be completed in Autumn and a second dock will be completed a year later. Mr John Clapham will show prospective tenants around and explain the manner in which it is intended to complete the Docks and Shipbuilding Yards, and the terms on which it is it is proposed to admit ships into the Docks. Proposals will be received by Mr George Douglas of Roadinghead, near Kilmarnock, James Walker - Principal Clerk of Session, Edinburgh, and John Bailey of Chillingham, near Belford, Northumberland. (The John Clapham referred to here was killed in a shooting accident on 11-01-1814)

Drydock at Troon nearing completion. Last week the Prince of Wales revenue cutter (Captain Wallace) entered the dock and was careened by the yard carpenters and rendered fit for sea again in a very short space of time. (‘Careening’ was the listing of a hull first to one side and then to the other for undertaking repair and maintenance of the hull)

Notice To Ship-Builders : A Graving Dock at Troon is now finished. The gates are 24 feet wide, the length of the Dock is 220 feet, and the depth of water at ordinary tides is 8 feet. A building slip has been laid out near it.

A second Graving Dock, on a much larger scale, is in a good state of progress. Any person desirous of applying for a Lease of the above may forward proposals in writing to Mr George Douglas, of Roadinghead by Kilmarnock, who will inform of any further particulars.

(‘Roadinghead’ is about half way between the Ayrshire townships of Kilmarnock and Mauchline. In the present times it is known as Rodinghead. (Currently the private home of Viscount Weir)

A fine new Cutter, built by Messrs Charles Connell & Coy for His Grace, The Duke of Portland, was launched here (Ayr) today in the presence of a large number of spectators Suggesting that at this date there was no ship-building yet taking place in Troon. (The vessel may have been the ‘Harriet’)

Launched at Troon on Thursday 5th October 1815, from the Shipyard of His Grace, The Duke of Portland, under the direction of Mr. John Connell, Builder, a very fine Brig of 200 tons burthen, named the ‘Cessnock’, belonging to His Grace, and Messrs James Telfer & Coy.

Launching took place in the presence of His Grace and a number of respected Merchants, etc, from Ayr and neighbouring towns. A party of the Owners and their friends partook of an excellent dinner, at McGregor’s, and the evening was spent in the happiest manner (J. Telfer & Coy were Shipowners and Timber-Importers, of Ayr)

The ‘Cessnock’, under the command of Captain Stewart, sailed from Troon in the week 26th-30th October 1815 with a cargo of coals for Dublin.

The Circuit Court of Judiciary was opened (at Ayr), on Thursday last, by the Rt. Hon. The Lord Justice Clerk, and the first case taken up was that of William Evans, lately an Overseer at Troon, accusing him of forging five different Bills. As two of the Witnesses were absent, the accusation was restricted to three of the Bills – etc, etc. The fifth Witness, John Connell, Shipbuilder in Troon, had known Evans for three years back, but never had any transactions with him in Bills, neither in the character of Acceptor, Drawer, or Endorser, nor had he put his name upon any Bill to which the name Evans was adhibited ….. etc.

Note : The sentence “ …John Connell, Shipbuilder in Troon, had known Evans for three years back …” would indicate that John Connell came to the Troon Shipyard in the year 1814.

As a morbid footnote, William Evans was found guilty by the Court and later was hanged.

On Tuesday 13th of August 1815, there was launched, from His Grace the Duke of Portland’s Ship-Building Yard at Troon, a fine Brig, named the ‘Good Intent’, of 145 tons Register. The vessel went off in grand style in the presence of His Grace and a number of spectators.

Launched at Troon, on Friday 15th August 1817, from the shipbuilding yard of His Grace the Duke of Portland, under the direction of Mr. John Connell, Builder, a very fine Brig, of 177 tons register, named ‘Barassie’, to be commanded by Captain Robert Barr. She glided into her element in majestic style, in the presence of His Grace and a number of spectators.

(In June 1818, the crew of ‘Barassie’, with Captain Barr and a passenger, E. Toner, got involved in a fracas with the crew of the ship ‘Lord Gardner’ of Ayr, while they were lying close to each other in the harbour of St John’s, New Brunswick. In the conflict, Mr. Douglas, Mate of ‘Lord Gardner’ was shot and died later. Captain Barr and passenger E. Toner were charged with murder. They were found not guilty, there being insufficient evidence to convict)

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:23 pm
by Angus Mac Kinnon
Continuing on from where I left off some four months ago (I had to stop to do the ironing!) :

The New Graving Dock at Troon, belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, is now completely finished, the ship ALEXANDER of Air (sic) having entered it on Friday last, 24th October. We understand that this Dock is the most complete in the KIngdom in point of workmanship and convenience. There are 13 feet of water on the sill at Spring tides, the gates are 36 feet 9 inches clear, and the length of keel blocks exceeds 250 feet. This Dock must be of great service to the trade of the Clyde and the neighbouring ports, as vessels of any ordinary draught of water can enter at any tide. The dockage is very low and no harbour dues are charged on vessels going there to repair.

On Thursday 4th instant, there was launched from the ship building yard at Troon, belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, a handsome Brigantine called BETTOCK, 171 tons register. (Note : the first Account Book for the BETTOCK - from June 1818 through August 1826 - was still in existence in 1985 and in the possession of a Troon gentleman)

Yesterday, 2nd September, was launched from the ship building yard of His Grace the Duke of Portland, under the direction of Mr. John Connell, Builder, a very fine Smack of about 50 tons burthen, named FULLARTON of Troon. This vessel is intended as a Packet betwixt Liverpool, TRoon and Air (sic), and is intended to make her trip to and from Liverpool in about 14 days.

Married, at Newton, on Monday last, 24th May, Mr. John Connell, Shipbuilder at Troon, to Miss Mary Cuthbert, daughter of the late Captain William Cuthbert of Newton. (Note : Captain Cuthbert died 02-02-1812, aged 58 years and his wife, Ann Wilsonn died 05-04-1823, aged 67 years)

On Thursday last, the 10th instant, there was launched from the ship building yard at Troon, belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, a handsome Schooner called the BLAIR, 95 tons register.

Brigantine For Sale at Troon : By Public Roup, within the Portland Arms Inn there, upon Saturday 31st July, at 12 o' clock Noon - the Brigantine CESSNOCK of Troon, burthen per register 135 38/94 tons, built at Troon in 1815 of British Oak, under particular inspection of the present Owners.(see previous entry against the date 12-10-1815) For further particulars, apply to Mr Wilson at Troon, or James Telfer, Merchant of Air (sic)

Birth : At Troon, on Sunday 11th instant, Mrs John Connell, of a son. (Note : The son was christened William. William dies on 01-02--1890 in Glasgow)

Troon sailings in the week 7th - 12th July included : KILMARNOCK, Captain Boyd, to Dublin with coals

Troon sailings in the week 7th - 15th August included : Smack SKELDON, Captain McFadzean, to Air (sic) with lathwood.

There was launched from the ship building yard of His Grace the Duke of Portland, on 22nd of January, a fine new Brig, 197 tons register, named TARBOLTON

Born at Troon, Charles Connell, lawful son of Mr & Mrs Connell (i.e. John Connell, Shipbuilder and Mary Cuthbert). (The latter Charles Connell died at Partick, Glasgow, on 14-02-1884 at 62 years of age) His obituary in the Glasgow Herald :

Mr. Charles Connell, Head of the shipbuilding Firm of Charles Connell and Company, Scotstoun, died yesterday morning. He worked his way up from being an apprentice shipwright with the late Firm of Messrs Robert Steele & Company of Greenock until in 1856 he attained the position of Manager in Messrs Alexander Stephen & Sons yard. In 1861 he commenced business for himself, first at Kelvinhaugh, and afterwards at Scotstoun.

A further obituary appears in the publication 'Engineering', Volume XXXVII, dated 29-02-1884, Page 187.

An entry in the 1861 census shows in residence at No. 20 Kelvinhaugh Street :

+ Charles Connell - Head - Widower - Aged 39 - Shipbuilder employing 15 men + 3 boys. Born Troon, Ayrshire
+ Charles B. Connell - Son - Aged 7 years - Scholar. Born in Glasgow
+ Mrs John Connell - Mother - Aged 66 years - Widow. Born in Ayr, Ayrshire

For sale by Private bargain, the Brigantine KILMARNOCK of Troon, 111 tons register. Apply to Mr. John Wilson, Troon

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:43 am
by Angus Mac Kinnon
.... and in continuation ......

On 22nd instant, there was launched from the ship building yard at Troon, a handsone Cutter, of 101 tons register, for His Grace the Duke of Portland's own use.

Marriage : At Irvine, by Reverend Mr. Campbell, Mr. THomson, Shipbuilder, to Miss Isabella Dunlop, at the Kirkgate of Irvine. (Note : This was possibly the same Robert Thomson who was later the Duke of Portland's Shipbuilder at Troon, and who died on 13th january 1854)

To Shipbuilders and Others : To Let, for such term of years as may be agreed upon : That Large and Commodious and Well-Established SHIPBUILDING YARD at TROON Harbour, belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland. For particulars, application may be made to John Wilson at Troon.

Born at Troon, 5th February 1824, Ann, lawful daughter of John Connell and Mary Cuthbert.

To Shipbuilders and Others : To Let, for such a term of years as may be agreed upon, the SHIPBUILDING YARD AT THE TROON. (Comparative figures of the tonnages using Troon, and the adjacent Ayrshire harbours at Ayr, Irvine, Saltcoats and Ardrossan during the last 12 months :

Troon = 53,753 tons
Irvine = 45,877 tons
Ayr = 44,513 tons
Ardrossan = 18,629 tons
Saltcoats = 15,265 tons

The Yard at Troon is large and commodious, containing in excess of two and a half acres of ground, enclosed by a stone wall, having two building slips, with boat and work shed, Smithy, Sawmill with machinery driven by a steam engine of eight horsepower, Sawpit, Joiner's Shed, Drafting Loft, Counting House, etc, with every convenience necessary for an extensive shipbuilding concern.

Immediately adjoining are two excellent graving docks. The dimensions of these are :

The Small Graving Dock
Width of Gates at Entrance : 24 feet
Length of Floor at bottom and Keel Blocks : 210 feet
Breadth of Floor at bottom and Keel Blocks : 25 feet
Length on top of Dock : 230 feet
Depth of water at Sill of Gates : from 8' 6" to 11' 6"

The Large Graving Dock
Width of Gates at Entrance : 36 feet 9 inches
Length of Floor at bottom and Keel Blocks : 270 feet
Breadth of Floor at bottom and Keel Blocks : 40 feet
Length on top of Dock : 290 feet
Breadth of top of Dock : 75 feet
Depth of water at Sill of Gates : from 9' 0" to 13' 0"

A steam engine is conveniently situated in the Building Yard for pumping both Graving Docks, and in every respect they are well adapted for all kinds of repairs.

As no other port in the neighbourhood of Troon possesses at present the same facilities for the repairs of Ships (the fine Graving Dock at Ardrossan being not yet accessible, and the Harbour at Irvine, in which there is a Patent Slip, not admitting vesselsof great draught) it is presumed that a Ship Carpeneter established at Troon may promise himself much of the repairing business of the above-mentioned Ports, and not without chance of attracting vessels of the largest size from the Clyde, on which there is no Dock but one - at Greenock - with Gates of equal dimensions to those of the large Dock at the Troon. This Harbour can be entered at all times of Tide by vessels not drawing above 11 feet of water.

For further particulars, apply to Mr. John Wilson at the Troon, if by letter, post-paid.

Letter to the Editor :
Sir, This Harbour, belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, is of first importance to shipowners in the West Coast, seeing that vessels of ordinary tonnage can get into it at Dead Low Water. The large and commodious Drydock in the Harbour is also of much advantage to vessels in want of repair. At present there are, in the Dock, three vessels - the EGLINTON, the HERCULES and the AVON, whose joint burthen amounts to 1,200 tons. The length of keel blocks as originally laid was 233 feet 7 inches, but for the accommodation of the Parties in the present case, the Shipbuilder at Troon laid an addition of 36 feet 3 inches of new keel blocks - so giving a total keel blocks length 269 feet 10 inches. The Shipbuilder took the responsibility of takibng the whole three vessels in at once, and by this means prevented a serious dispute, over priority of entry to the Dock, which would otherwise have taken plave between the Owners and the Dockmaster.

TROON SHIPBUILDING YARD still being advertised For Let

There was launched, on the 14th instant, from His Grace the Duke of Portland's Shipbuilding Yard at Troon, a handsome Brigantine of 190 tons register, named the DUNDONALD

The shipbuilding concern carried on in Ayr by John Taylor and Sons, and Charles Connell, under the Firm "Charles Connell and Company", is now dissolved ..... etc ...... dated 22nd November 1824 at Newton-upon-Ayr.

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:27 pm
by Angus Mac Kinnon
[ A Continuation ]

1825 : 1826 : 1827
1825 - There are records showing that Mr. Robert Thomson was a Shipbuilder at Troon in this year
1826 - There are subsequent records that say the Brig DUCHESS OF PORTLAND, 173 tons, was built at Troon in this year
1827 - There are records that state the Duke of Portland's Ketch CLOWN was built at Troon in this year

Birth - at Newton Green, on 1st instant, to Mrs John Connel, of a son

Shipbuilding Yard To Let - on North side of the Air (sic) Harbour lately occupied by Mr. John Connel

Yacht For Sale : To be Sold by Private Contract - the Ketch CLOWN, as she now lies in tghe Harbour of Troon. This vessel was built at Troon in 1827, on the plan of HMS Columbine, of the very best of materials, is 156 tons register, draught 11 feet of water. She is copper-fastened and copper-sheathed, fitted up with every convenience, is easily managed, and sails remarkably fast. It is not pretended that she will sail with the fastest sailing cutters, but if she should not be sold in the course of the winter, her Owner will be ready to match her next summer against any square-rigged vessel, except Lord Vernon's HARLEQUIN, for any sum of money not exceeding £300. She has made one voyage up the Mediterranean, is in the best order, except her main-mast which is defective, is well found in sails, cordage, and other materials, and only to be parted with because the Owner of her is going to build a larger vessel. For particulars inquire, if by letter post-paid, or Mr. Wilson of Troon, either of whom will give the fullest information respecting her.

As also For Sale, by Private Contract, four new very fast-sailing cutter-rigged Boats, from 9 - 11 tons register, built of the best materials and copper-fastened. Troon - 23rd September 1829

Record of a Mr. Thomson, Shipbuilder, Troon in a report covering the loss of Spars, Sails and Rigging of the Sloop WILLIAM of Belfast

On Friday last, 10th of June 1831, a fine vessel named PANTALOON, belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, was launched from the Building Yard at Troon, in the presence of Hiis Grace and a number of specators. She is of the most beautiful mould, and must be a first-rate sailer. We understand that she is intended for pleasuring, and will carry 14 guns. Early next morning, His Grace left Fullarton House for London.

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 2:24 pm
by Angus Mac Kinnon
- A Continuation -

Taken from the proceedings Sir E. Codrington's Squadron of July last, given somewhat in the style of a log :

July 21st - between Falmouth and Land's End :

Windy strong Westerly breezes with very heavy squalls under Foresail, three Topsails, one Reef out. The Duke of Portland's yacht PANTALOON joined and at about three o' clock the signal was made for the CURUCOA, BARHAM, STAG and CHARYBDIS to try their rate of sailing with her. It ended as follows :
They started with courses, Jib and Spanker, Topsails, two Reefs out; a short time later they set the Main Top-Gallant-Sail, but CHARYBDIS took hers in in a very short time; BARHAM made the signal that she was going 9 knots, the rate of the ships sailing were consequently as follows :
PANTALOON - 11 and a half knots
CURACOA - 9 and a half knots
BARHAM - 9 knots
STAG - 8 and a half knots
CHARYBDIS - 8 knots
Perhaps it is impossible for any person to imagine the sailing of the Yacht. In fact, she was hull down to windward in 3 hours. Her sailing is such that it is impossible to judge of it without being present. They has as much wind as they could carry nthe above sail plan with. The PANTALOON is a fine Brig of 350 tons with 4' 6" more beam than the common 10-gun brig. In the experiments, however, that have been tried with this vessel, compared with ships of the squadron, it is doubtful if any just conclusions can be drawn as to the best form, as yachts and ships-of-war are, in general, under different circumstances. The increased beam of this Yacht gives her great power under canvas, and from her having to carry less cumbrous weight, her projector is enabled to give her a much finer bottom. This would give her the weathier qualities and must necessarily add to her speed. (Extract from the Hampshire Telegraph)

Note : The original of a painting by J. C. Schetky of the PANTALOON beating to windward with HM Brig CHARYBDIS and the Frigates of Sir E. Codrington's Squadron, off the Dodman, on 21st July 1831, was still in the possession of Lady Anne Bentinck, of Welbeck Woodhouse in 1985.

In a reference to the chartering of the Brig CLYDE, there is a mention of 'Robert Thomson of Troon'.

Launch at Troon : Monday last, 13th January, a Schooner of 151 tons register, was launched at Troon. She was named PORTLAND and is intended for the Glasgow and Liverpool trade.

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:05 pm
by Magoonigal
Very interesting Angus.

But sorry I have to ask..... :? :?

John Connell and Mary Cuthbert were married on the 27th May 1819.
Just over a year later William was born to Mrs John Connell.

However Charles Connell and Ann Connell born in 1822 and 1824 are specifically shown as the 'Lawful' Son and Daughter of John Connell and Mary Cuthbert.

Why was poor William not shown in the same way, they had been Married for over a year so he must have been 'Lawful' as well............ and as the first son would get the lions share of the estate, eventually.....

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:40 pm
by Angus Mac Kinnon
Ask away, Paul, just so long as you weren't expecting an actual-factual-sensible answer :D

I would simply put it down to the vagaries of reporting styles on the part of different reporters (The Ayrshire Advertiser) as all was above board and in the best possible taste, the subjects been Troonites and Shipbuilders of note .... not that I am in any way biased. :roll:

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:01 pm
by Robert
Angus, I found today in the Ayrshire Archives, a reference to the BLAIR. This was from the Irvine registers of 1838, at which time His Grace had 52/64 and the remainder owned by Robert Hamilton, shipmaster of Troon and John Wilson, formerly manager. I imagine that was Portland's manager. Incidendally His Grace at that time, resided at Welbeck, Nottingham. No doubt you will know of these snippets. In 1840 the vessel was sold to Sarah Ann Goulden of Liverpool.

When I returned home I found a BLAIR, fitting the dimensions and registered at Belfast in 1854. That would have become the ON.8030 and wondered if this was the same BLAIR?

Re: Troon - shipbuilding in the early days

Posted: Tue Dec 20, 2011 7:13 pm
by macualraig
Hello Angus

All very interesting thanks. I've just done a post about the Connells on my blog, here:- ... local.html

It's a bit tangential I know but all the wee snippets add up. I hadn't known the Connells were established at Troon before moving upriver.

Best wishes