Ship­build­ing Gems

Scot­land’s rich mar­itime her­itage is sal­vaged and brought to life

The Scots Magazine - - Focus On… Cumbrae And The Ayrshire Coast -

THE rich her­itage of ships and ship­build­ing in the west of Scot­land isn’t lim­ited to the Clyde and its es­tu­ary. Go “doon the wat­ter” to the Firth of Clyde, to the town of Irvine in par­tic­u­lar, and mar­itime his­tory, cul­ture and her­itage is there for all to see – par­tic­u­larly if you visit the Scot­tish Mar­itime Mu­seum.

The mu­seum col­lects, pre­serves and presents ves­sels, en­gi­neer­ing and mar­itime arte­facts rep­re­sent­ing ship­build­ing and sea­far­ing, both in Irvine and along the length of Scot­land’s coast­line.

It’s quite ob­vi­ous why it’s a top Ayr­shire at­trac­tion. The MV Kyles, launched in 1872 and the old­est Clyde-built ves­sel still afloat, is berthed in the har­bour as is the Spar­tan, the only sur­viv­ing Scot­tish-built puffer.

The puffer was a sin­gle-mast steam cargo ves­sel that plied the west coast of Scot­land.

The mu­seum has also es­tab­lished a na­tional art col­lec­tion that brings the mar­itime her­itage to life. Its “home” is an at­trac­tion in it­self – a former Vic­to­rian en­gine shop which lay derelict in a Go­van ship­yard, be­fore be­ing sal­vaged and re­built in Irvine.

The re­sult of this am­bi­tious project is The Lint­house, a stun­ning red-brick and iron Vic­to­rian ed­i­fice com­pris­ing 3700 sq m (40,000 sq ft) and with 2100 panes of glass. If any­thing can shed light on Ayr­shire’s mar­itime his­tory, this build­ing can.

After ab­sorb­ing all The Lint­house has to of­fer, you can en­joy a tour along the har­bour­side where you can clam­ber aboard the MV Kyles and dis­cover what life would have been like on this, one of the UK’S most his­toric ves­sels.

A short walk will take you to another jewel in the mu­seum’s crown. Pre­sented to the mu­seum by the Irvine His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and North Ayr­shire Coun­cil, the Ship­yard Worker’s Ten­e­ment Flat it is an au­then­tic two-room dwelling, lov­ingly re­stored to its orig­i­nal 1920s con­di­tion.

You’ve just ex­pe­ri­enced what life was like on the ocean wave thanks to the Kyles. Now you get a real feel for what life was like for the thou­sands of ship­builders who worked in Irvine har­bour.

The at­trac­tion be­gan life in the early 1980s when a group of en­thu­si­asts, the West of Scot­land Boat Mu­seum As­so­ci­a­tion, were de­ter­mined to es­tab­lish a mar­itime col­lec­tion and open it in Irvine, such was its rich ship­build­ing tra­di­tion. It opened in 1983, with the Lint­house in place by 1991.

The mu­seum’s di­rec­tor is David Mann. “Be­yond tourism, the mu­seum plays a ma­jor role within the lo­cal com­mu­nity,” he says. “As well as be­ing an em­ployer through staffing and through the Boat Build­ing School trainee scheme, it is com­mit­ted to

“We want to fire the imag­i­na­tions of our vis­i­tors” youngest

A lifeboat has pride of place

A mo­ment of awe!

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