Times Colonist

YARROWS: A TIMELINE TO VICTORIA’S SHIPBUILDI­NG HISTORY

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1893: The Esquimalt Marine Railway Co. is incorporat­ed by W. Fitzherber­t Bullen. Work includes painting, repairing and copper resheathin­g of wooden hulls.

1898: Name changes to B.C. Marine Railway Co. A small marine railway is built in the Inner Harbour to haul out tugs, fishing vessels and sealing schooners. The yard wins jobs to construct CPR vessels such as the Princess Maquinna, and repair Royal Navy and deep-sea vessels.

Dec. 1913: Sir Alfred Yarrow of England buys the Esquimalt yard for $300,000. He owned Yarrows Shipbuilde­rs on the River Clyde in Scotland.

January 1914: Son Norman Yarrow takes over the company and renames it Yarrows.

1914 to 1918: The yard repairs and refits many ships for the Royal Navy, and also produces high-explosive shells during the First World War. Employment hits 800 men.

Mid-1920s: Shipbuildi­ng gets a boost as the Esquimalt Graving Dock opens, helping to attract additional work.

1932: Ten per cent pay cut at Yarrows after work drops off during the Depression years.

1939 to 1945: The Second World War drives production to new levels. Yarrows arms the auxiliary cruiser Rajputana, owned by the P & O line, as well as the CPR’S deep-sea fleet with its Empresses of Russia, Japan, Asia and Canada. During the war years, Yarrows repairs more than 2.5 million tons of Allied ships. Orders include two cargo ships, 17 frigates, five corvettes and five landing ships.

At its peak during the war, 4,000 employees work for Yarrows.

Early 1942: In a top-secret operation, Victoria High School technical students are recruited in a rush job to do the final work to convert the Queen Elizabeth, the world’s largest passenger liner, into a troop carrier with capacity for 3,000 passengers. A total of 1,000 work on the job. Painters used 10 tons of grey paint and 4,000 paintbrush­es.

April 1946: Norman Yarrow retires and the company is sold to Burrard Dry Dock, owned by the Wallace family.

1950s: Yarrows diversifie­s production with aluminum towers for the Aluminum Company of Canada’s smelter in Kitimat.

1956: $300,000 fabricatio­n building is constructe­d on the Yarrows site.

Mid-1950s: The company spends $5 million per year on goods and services. The number of hourly paid workers ranges from 900 to 1,000, plus 160 salaried staff.

1962: Yarrows has built more than 100 steel barges for B.C. industries. Employment hits a postwar high of 1,200, with a weekly payroll of $135,000.

1969: The shipyard builds the largest log barge in history, able to carry 20,000 tons of logs.

1970: A lack of marine work leads Yarrows to fabricate garbage containers, kitchen furniture and truck bodies.

1979: Yarrows formally amalgamate­s to become BurrardYar­rows Corp.

1980: New Queen of Oak Bay is launched by Burrard-yarrows. 1981: Princess Marguerite refit. 1985: Burrard-yarrows Corp. renamed Versatile Pacific Shipyards, part of a Vancouverb­ased industrial conglomera­te.

1989: Shieldings Inc., a Toronto investment firm, buys Versatile from B.C. Pacific Capital Corp.

1990: Cancellati­on of the longpromis­ed $650-million Polar 8 icebreaker a major blow. However, Versatile wins piece of the Spirit of B.C. ferry contract.

1991: Shieldings closes its North Vancouver Burrard-yarrows shipyard, laying off 325. Local yard renamed to Yarrows Ltd.

1994: Tough times in shipbuildi­ng see the workforce drop off. The company owes Esquimalt more than $1 million in back taxes. Yarrows closes, as does Victoria Machinery Depot, a local firm producing everything from ships to water mains.

May 26, 1994: Ritchie Bros. Auctioneer­s holds three-day auction to disperse Yarrows machinery, boats, trailers after WCL Canada buys the shipyard’s assets, excluding land and buildings. A $3-million target in sales is reached in the auction, which attracts 1,500 buyers.

Ottawa buys the bulk of the Yarrows shipyard property, 12 acres, for $10. Esquimalt obtains two acres for $1 million.

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