Both my grandfathers have links to shipbuilding on the Clyde; my maternal grandfather worked on the QE2, and many other ships; his speciality was working on propellar shafts. My paternal grandfather was a clerk in the yard at Greenock. Both would have been very familiar with the Titan cranes that make up such an iconic part of the shipbuilding heritage of the river.
42 were built originally around the world, of which 40 were designed by Willaim Arrol Ltd. 27 of those were in the UK, of which (in 1988) 15 still existed, of which 7 were in Scotland.
Until quite recently, there were five Titan cranes left on the Clyde; there were also two at Rosyth on the east coast.
Today (2011) there are only four left in Scotland…
The most famous Titan; this can be seen in the background of most BBC Scotland news studio reports.
There are some absolutely stunning images of the city taken from the crane at night here, by the Cycleologist.
Just next to a junkyard, and itself next to a listed building of the former Diesel works, this crane is visible from the M8 as you approach Glasgow from the west.
This is the only crane that’s currently publiclly accessible; see their website here:
Orignally part of John Brown’s yard in Clydebank, this crane now has a lift and staircase erected next to it, allowing the visitor to see the town from a unique angle. The view from the top is stunning, to say the least…
The Greenock crane is the one my grandfather climbed back when he worked in the yard.
Here he is revisiting old haunts….
[he's currently 99 years old, and we took him up the Clydebank Titan a couple of years ago, which was a fantastic experience for all involved!]
The fifth crane, at Govan, despite also being Category A listed, was demolished in 2007. Sadly, the justification was that the yard needed the space to remain economically viable, and the only option was to demolish the crane. Despite the fact a scale model of it was made, I still feel its a shame that it couldn’t have been moved or otherwise retained for display elsewhere.
Pictures from its last days during demolishiion can be found here.
The Rosyth cranes appear to have been demolished around 1990; a great photo of one of these cranes can be seen on the RCAHMS website here.
There’s something about these Titan cranes – their elegance as objects designed to do a job, but in the best possible way – that reminds me of the Forth Bridge; in some ways, they are all practical, but at the same time, they become beautiful, and well worth fighting to make sure some remain.