Burntisland Shipyard

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Burntisland ShipyardPictured right - an aerial view of Burntisland Shipyard in 1958. There are two ships on the stocks at different stages of construction, and one at the fitting out berth on the right.

The Burntisland Shipbuilding Co Ltd was founded in 1918 by Amos and Wilfrid Ayre. In its lifetime of just over 50 years, the company built 310 ships. Please see below for links to lists of the ships built and other documents and photos on this website.

The main collection of Burntisland Shipyard records is held by the National Records of Scotland. We have been told by researchers that the collection includes photos of the ships. If you are looking for a photo, this is probably your best starting point. Kirkcaldy Central Library has three bound volumes of the Burntisland Shipyard Journal for the period 1920 to 1966 (incomplete). For general and specific research on ships, the Lloyd's Register Historical Research Service provides access to rich sources of information.

Burntisland Shipyard closed in 1969, after a long and chequered history. The 1960s were difficult times for Scotland's long established shipyards, but the yard at Burntisland was, on the face of it, doing reasonably well. However, problems over one contract were to come to a head in 1968, and were to prove insurmountable.

The ship in question was the 'Ohrmazd', a fast cargo liner for the East & West Steamship Company of Karachi, Pakistan. This ship was effectively being paid for by the British Government, as part of its foreign aid to Pakistan. But its construction was plagued by wrangles over the specifications and contract terms between the shipyard and the shipowners. These led to serious delays in completing the ship. The delays in turn led to the incurring of punitive financial penalties by the shipyard, which it was simply unable to cope with.

The ship was completed in November 1968, but the damage had been done. Burntisland Shipyard went into liquidation the following month.

The 'Ohrmazd' was not in fact the last ship to be completed at the yard. The 'Christiane Bolten' was completed in April 1969, and the 'Helen Miller' in July of that year.

The late Alex Mackinnon, former shipyard worker like his father before him, recalled an interesting episode about the launch of the 'Helen Miller': "The ship refused to budge when the chocks were removed and despite lighting fires to warm the tallow on the slipways it still would not go and the launch was postponed. It transpired that the actual slipways were not parallel so we had to re-prop the ship, taking the weight off the slipway, realign the runners and then lower the ship down into position again. The launch then went without a hitch." Alex also remembered that, despite the fact that the workforce were working themselves onto the dole queue, they completed the 'Helen Miller' ahead of schedule and received a £20 bonus per man for a job well done.

The shipyard site is still in use for the fabrication of major structures, under the ownership of Burntisland Fabrications Ltd.

Wikipedia has an article on the Burntisland Shipbuilding Company.

Photos and documents:

Full list of ships built (1)

Full list of ships built (2)
Detailed information, compiled by James B Anderson (636Kb, opens in a new tab or window).

Burntisland Shipyard Journal
The history of the Journal, told by Liane Cumming (opens in a new tab or window).

Two Burntisland Shipbuilding Company advertisements: from 1923 and 1953
The 1923 one includes photos of the yard and some of the ships built.

The 'Ohrmazd' (three photos) (also see above)

Photos of some of the last ships built
'Ohrmazd', 'Paul Schröder', 'Christiane Bolten', 'Helen Miller'.

The 'Helen Miller' on the stocks (also see above)

The shipyard riveters (1934) and a group of workers (1960s)

Memorabilia of the late Alex Mackinnon (photos and documents)

Some family snapshots of shipyard employees

Tony McMahon's collection of Burntisland Shipyard photos
The electricians, the 'Halifax City' and the 'Montreal City'.

George Coull's collection of 48 shipyard snapshots

The Burntisland Shipyard boardroom

'Steel Goes to Sea' (1941)
A Second World War documentary, filmed at Burntisland Shipyard and showing the
construction of ship 242 (the 'Ger-y-Bryn'). On YouTube. Opens in a new window.
Running time - 16 minutes.

The launch of the 'Egret' in February 1937

The launch of the 'Kittiwake' in December 1945

The launch of the 'Merganser' in June 1946

The 'Lancastrian Prince', completed in 1960

The 'Avance' (formerly the 'Arthur Albright'), completed in 1960

The 'Halifax City', completed in 1964

Photos of a model of HMS 'Loch Killin'; the ship was completed in 1943

The 'Tenbury', completed in 1965

The loss of the 'Derrycunihy' (a Second World War tragedy)

The 'Derrynane' (by Isabelle Procter née Robb)

Our thanks to Johnston Wood, Iain Mackinnon, Sarah Petrie, Jimmy Stuart, Milton Bell, James B Anderson, Keddie Law, Chris Claydon, Paul Strathdee, Tom Cunningham, George Coull and Tony McMahon for providing us with material on the shipyard.

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