Episode 4 - Scottish Maritime Museum
Listen to Episode 4 - Scottish Maritime Museum
Interviewer: Grant Stott (GS)
Interviewee: Stuart Rich (SR)
GS: Hello and welcome back to Tour Guide Tales brought to you by VisitScotland. I'm Grant Stott, and each week I'll speak to a different tour guide to hear the eclectic, and often incredibly rich history of Scotland through their knowledge stories and experiences. Today, I'm going to be speaking to Stuart Rich of the Scottish Maritime Museum. With two sites at Irvine and Dumbarton, the Scottish Maritime Museum tells the important story of Scotland's maritime and shipbuilding history. In this podcast, we'll hear what life was like for families working in the shipyards, the significance of the industry to 20th century Scotland, and the amazing stories behind some of the boats in the museum's care. So, time to hear some more incredible tour guide tales from the Scottish Maritime Museum.
GS: Well, Stuart. Welcome to the latest Tour Guide Tales podcast for VisitScotland. Thanks for joining us. Well, first of all, let's introduce you to the listeners, so give us a little introduction to who you are, what you do, and what your background is.
SR: Yeah, well, hello everyone. I'm Stuart Rich and I'm the Visitor Services Manager at the Scottish Maritime Museum. I work at the Irvine site, and we welcome and make sure the visitors have a very enjoyable visit around the site, and the tours and groups and school groups that we get. I got bitten by the bug when I was probably about eight, ten. My dad used to take us and some friends out sailing a lot. My dad has always had an interest in sailing and maritime through his job, so I suppose I got the bug from that. And it's just carried on. We always had holidays near or by the coast, and we've always lived by the coast, so that's kind of added to it as well.
GS: So, this turned out to be the perfect job for you really?
SR: Yeah, yeah, it ticks a lot of my interests, and even when I sometimes go on holiday, if it's somewhere near the coast, if there's a maritime museum I'll probably end up in there as well. So…
GS: Taking notes…
SR: Yes, sadly, yes.
GS: Well, let's talk about the museum itself. When did it first open?
SR: The museum first opened in 1983, and it was called the West of Scotland Boat Museum,
and it was very small.
GS: So, tell us about the structure that is there now, because this has got a bit of history
itself directly linked to shipyards, hasn't it?
SR: Yes. In 1988, we came across the Linthouse building that used to be situated in Govan
and that was part of the Alexander Stephen Shipyard on the Clyde, and the Linthouse was the engine shed for the shipyard. So if you can imagine all the ships being built outside on the slipways, the engine shed was where the ship's engines were being machined and tooled and put together. So, the building, we found it in 1988, and it was due to be demolished that year, and we realised that it was one of the last of its kind, and a lot of historical significance to it. So, we managed to get a grant, and we took the original section of the building and dismantled it, moved it from Govan down to Irvine over a period of time, and it's now the main part of the museum, it holds the collection.
GS: So, to dismantle that and then rebuild it on the site of the maritime museum, that's quite a size of a project!
SR: Yeah, yeah, I mean, we've took all the original iron cast columns, a lot of the, well,
all the original roof beams and support wooden beams, and we dismantled it, trucked it all down to Irvine, and, let's say, rebuilt it. So, the building itself when you see it, it's an artefact, it's an object in its own, and because it's so big, it's 230 feet long and has a roof height of 60 feet, it's a huge piece of engineering. As they used to say, it was Clyde built and it was built to last, so it's quite important.
GS: Quite important and quite an impressive way to house the museum, I would imagine as well, and it's just brilliant that that itself is an artefact of the museum.
SR: Yeah, yeah, when we had the roof redone, we had all the supporting columns repainted and even some of the iron work in the roof, so that the building stands out more as an object, as a very impressive piece of engineering that it is, so you get the wow factor when you arrive and then you really get the wow factor when you walk in and you just see the kind of scale of it.
GS: And what kind of age would this building have been, or is?
SR: It was originally built in 1872, so it's a fair age. Every so often as Stephen's Shipyard got bigger and busier, they added extensions to the front of the building where the main doors are, and the last extension was in the early 60s. But obviously we didn't have the land to take a 600 ft long building down, so I think 230 ft long is enough for us at the moment.
GS: Quite enough of an undertaking, yeah, I would well imagine. So, this building that you're now housed in has clearly seen a lot of action itself over the years, and you also reflect this when you come into the museum. I want to just sort of talk about it a little bit, what people can expect to see when they come along, and, obviously, we need to talk about the shipyards and the significance of that industry to Glasgow and Clyde Valley, which kind of really, you know, was huge throughout the sort of 1800s. Give us an overview of just how big an industry this was, and, in particular, how important it was to Glasgow and the people of Scotland.
SR: Well, yeah, I mean, the west coast has always been the kind of industrial side of the country, and more so for shipbuilding and, obviously, the docks and the quays. The Clyde didn't really come online as a major shipbuilding force until the early 1800s. At that point the river was very narrow and shallow, and it was only small boat yards. Part of it was, they didn't at the time see the potential to make the Clyde into what it became, and they didn't have the money to do it. But then as the kind of resources built and grew, they started to widen the shipyard, sorry, the Clyde and dredge it to make it deeper. And then, when, once companies saw that this was going to happen and the evolution, then you started to get major names appearing. So you had Yarrows that came up from London and they're still there today at Scotstoun. Probably from the mid-1800s onwards, that's when you really saw the Clyde stamping its authority all over the world. If you wanted a ship built, any kind of ship anywhere in the world, where your office was, you would come to the Clyde to get it built, because they got the reputation to become the number one shipbuilders. The quality was number one, the speed they could build it at, and at the time they had some of the biggest yards certainly in the country, and it really did have a huge knock-on effect for the west coast and central Scotland, because as well as all the shipyards you had all the smaller businesses that, like a domino effect, that grew up from that, so rope makers, the iron forge, the iron makers, then the steel, even down to companies that made the crockery, the linen, the woodwork for the interior of like the cruise liners.
GS: So, this is a massive organisation that we've got here, lots of organisations working in this one area of Glasgow. Can you give, I mean, do you have any idea that of the numbers of people that would have been working on the Clyde in some way, shape or form during this time?
SR: Yeah, I mean, one of the biggest yards was John Brown's, at Clydebank, obviously famous for building not only well-known warships for the navy, they built the three queens for Cunard, the cruise liners; they had over 30,000 workers in the one yard. Stephen's, they had probably, well, they had over 20,000 - 25,000 workers, even down to some of the smaller yards, you're talking either late hundreds or, you know, early thousands, one, two thousand kind of numbers. So, it used to be the running joke that if you were walking down, say, past John Brown's or Yarrow's on Scotstoun Street, and if you heard the whistle go for the end of day, then literally the whole street came to a complete halt. If you were in a tram, or a bus, or a car you couldn't move for about 20 minutes because of the sea of people coming out the shipyard gate, it was just a huge amount of a workforce leaving the yard at the same time. A lot of them then headed straight to the pubs that were nearby…
GS: …and get home eventually…
SR: …and then home, so…
GS: But this is interesting as well, but the museum, not only do you reflect the history of shipbuilding along the Clyde all these years ago, but you also reflect what it was like for those who worked there and the circumstances that they found themselves, and, you know, how difficult it was, even down to the living accommodation that they had. Give us an overview of what you do and how you tell people about what it was like to work and live as a shipyard worker.
SR: Yeah, well, in the museum on one of the beams going along one of the support beams, we have some models of shipyard workers, and they're working on the side of a hull, on plates of the hull. Some of them are riveting, some are painting, and there's no sense of health and safety when you look at this, there's no hard hats, there's no gloves, safety goggles, there's no safety nets. The scaffolding, if you imagine today scaffolding, all the metal and the safety coverings that go around it, back then in the yards it was effectively like telegraph poles for your support, and then planks of wood going across for your working level, your floor. And you would be up there 50-60 ft high working on the side of a ship in all weathers, all year round. So, if it was blowing a gale you were still expected to go up and do your job, if it was raining hail you still had to go up. As for social living, in the houses, we're fortunate enough that in the Irvine site we have a shipyard workers tenant flat. The flats here in Irvine were built in 1907 by the owner of the Irvine wood yard at the time, but he opened them up to shipyard workers as well, so we've got our flats set in the 1920s, and it's effectively a room in kitchen…
GS: …and it's kitted out just as it would have been at that time?
SR: Yeah, you've got the hole in the wall beds, so there's two of them, in the kitchen room you've got your coal-fired range, your iron range, you've got your mango , for drying the clothes, you've got your pulley up above you for drying the clothes once they've come out the tin bath you've washed, so that one room is effectively a whole modern house in one go. So, the bedrooms, for example, the two holes in the wall, you might have mum and dad in one bed, and five, six, seven children head to toe in the other bed.
GS: Oh, that's fascinating, just getting that idea of how they lived and, indeed, how they worked. And you talked about the conditions, you know, climbing up a telegraph pole in all weathers, and, I would imagine as you also mentioned, you know, the health and safety aspect was minimal, to say the least. Give us an idea what people wore and what was their uniform, if you like, for their working day.
SR: Yeah, well, you're probably, your average shipyard worker he would wear a pair of hobnail boots, so an old pair of leather boots that effectively had like a horseshoe underneath, a big wooden sole, like a clog, and then some of them, if they were fortunate enough, they could get a bit of iron or steel bent, put it inside the shoe so you effectively had that kind of the first safety shoe…
GS: You're not selling it as a particularly comfortable wear, haha, I have to say.
SR: Well, I have been told that clogs are very comfortable once you get used to them, but I don't know about these.
SR: The rest of the uniform, as you call it, would be a pair of suit trousers, an old pair, an old shirt, some, a lot of them wore a waistcoat, and then your kind of suit jacket and a flat cap, and that was you.
GS: Off to work you go.
SR: Yup. You would have your little lunch box, and you would have your lunch and your tin of tea in that, and, so for your lunch break and your tea breaks, but that was you off to work and that was your day.
GS: We spoke before we did this recording, and you mentioned an interesting story about how the foreman would perhaps have a slightly different look because they always wore the bowler hat, but it had to be, let's just say, adapted for the circumstances sometimes.
SR: Yeah, the foreman, obviously, they wore smart suits, and the bowler hat, and you could always differentiate them from the workforce because of the bowler hat, and the foremen were very, very strict on timekeeping and the standard of work that was being done, and sometimes, obviously, being that strict, they were some of the most unliked people in the shipyard. And some workers, especially the riveters, and obviously they're working with large, effectively, large screws or nails, you know, heavy rivets, and if they saw the foreman walking underneath them maybe, 20, 30 plus feet below, they would accidentally knock a rivet off where they were, and sometimes it missed the foreman as a warning, sometimes, unfortunately, it might have hit them, so the foreman developed, they got plated sheets of iron or steel put inside their bowler hat, so you had the kind of, the first safety hard hat.
GS: Just to protect the foremen from the workers and the rivets. And, I mean, I would imagine it's, you know, rivets aside, whether you were a foreman or when you were actually working on the ships, it would be a very dangerous place to work. So, give us an idea of the risks that were involved and what the support was from the companies if you did got injured or, indeed, killed.
SR: Well, a lot of people have been quoted, you know, over the years that the shipyards, certainly in the late 1800s into the early, even up until the 1950s, a very dangerous places to work. Like I say, you had no real health and safety as we can think of it today, you were working in all conditions, a lot of injuries happened from obviously cuts and grazes to broken bones, losing a limb or a finger or multiple fingers. If you were off work through an injury at work, if you were off for, say, a month, you didn't get paid, there was no sick pay like we have today, if you were off ill through an illness like the flu, again, there's no sick pay, so a lot of workers if their injuries weren't too bad, so, I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you'd lost maybe two fingers on a hand you would try and get back to work as soon as possible because you had no money coming into the family. I mean, the shipyards would have had small basic first aid sheds or huts, and they would have sent you off to hospital, but really that was it, and they would check up on you every so often, right, are you fit to come back to work, how's that hand where you've only got two fingers left on it?
GS: I mean, treacherous times, I mean there was not just the, I suppose, the fear of getting injured is one thing, and being off your work, but if the fear of losing your job was big as well, I would imagine, because the repercussions of that meant you were left, you lost your house.
SR: Yeah, most families if they worked in a shipyard, they were rented a flat nearby a tenement flat, so effectively the flat came with your job. If you lost your job through ill health, an injury, or, sadly, a death, then your family and you were expected to leave the flat.
GS: So, if you got killed on the job tragically whilst working, whilst building one of these ships, what, you know, how tough was it for the family in that house? Were they just literally given notice to go?
SR: Yeah, yeah. They were, I don't think, if it was a death, I don't think it was right, you've got to be out the house in two days, but, yeah, effectively, they were said, right, we need that flat for there's a new worker, he has a family, so, yeah, we'll move them in. If you lost your job, if you were sacked, maybe you were a bad worker or a bad penny, as they called them, then you were sacked, and again, you were told to vacate the tenement flat, and if you've got a family of, say, a dozen in that flat, then within a couple of days you have to try and find a new job, a new flat, and if you didn't find a flat big enough or a flat in time then your family was broken up, if you like, and sent to other family members, hopefully nearby, or maybe, yeah, an hour away down the coast. So, your family could be split up for quite a while until you find a new house and a job. This is what I find fascinating about the Maritime Museum is, not only does it give you a very thorough overview of the history and of the boats and the ship building, but you also get a real insight to the social history, you know, that goes along alongside it as well.
SR: Yeah, I mean, we take guided tours every day to the tenement flat, so we explain how it was associated with the shipyard, but we also show you obviously the social history, the social side of it, how the family lived, what the housewife, the mother had to do. She would get up about an hour before everybody else in the morning, maybe half five, six o'clock, she would start to get the range built up, the heat in the range to start making breakfast for everybody, because obviously dad had to leave for a certain time for work, then the kids off to school, and then she would start her day of housework.
GS: I interviewed Billy Connolly recently, and he was talking about his latest display of art that was out at an art gallery, and he created this piece which was a drawing, originally it had been made into a piece of sculpture, and it was called 'On Monday God created the earth', and he portrayed God as a shipyard worker. And I spoke to him about his time on the shipyards, and it's interesting, you know, anytime you sort of speak about, you know, the shipyards on the Clyde or at Govan, you would now automatically perhaps think of Billy Connolly, because it was such a big part of his life, and he talks about those days with great affection. Well, what's your thoughts on Billy and his time there, and has there been a connection between the Scottish Maritime Museum and Billy?
SR: Yeah, we have a unique link with Billy. He started, or he did his apprenticeship at Alexander Stephen's shipyard where obviously the Linthouse came from. Yeah, I mean, you'll find anybody that's worked in the shipyards, they'll say it's, even if they were only there for a short period, it had a huge impact on their life, because there was so many, as Billy's probably said in interviews, there was so many characters in the yard that you could feed off, he obviously remembers a lot of them, and it's had a huge impact on his life.
GS: I wonder if it's similar to Edinburgh, we've got Sean Connery through in Edinburgh, and he was obviously a milkman through here, and there's so many people said 'ah, Sean Connery delivered my milk', so I wonder if there's stories through in the west where people say 'I worked beside Billy on the shipyard'.
SR: There probably is, yeah, I know he started, was it his banjo playing, I think, he started that there and there was lots of people like that in the yard, when you had a break for your lunch or your tea break, and because it was such a hard life, things like playing a banjo or an accordion, or cracking jokes, or making fun of each other, it helps you get through the day and it built up that bond, and if you worked in a little team, you had a close bond with everybody.
GS: It's fascinating. And this is yet only just a small part of what you do on the Maritime Museum and this building, as we talked about, which was moved to the site from, you know, the side of the Clyde and, indeed, Billy probably walked through those doors at some point when he was working in the shipyard himself. So, give us an idea of what visitors can expect to see when they set foot into this magnificent structure.
SR: Yeah, well, when you walk into the, through the main entrance we have an exhibit wall, and then you walk through the exhibit wall and that really opens up into the main part of the museum and where you get the kind of wow factor of the size and the height of the building. You can see, again, more different vessels of sizes, we've got a lifeboat, we have a beautiful Fife racing yacht, powerful, she's on full display, even down to small rowing boats, or a fishing boat, and then we've also obviously got the heavy engineering. So we have some large triple expansion engines on display, some pumps from a well-known Glasgow company, Weir Pumps and then we also we have some machinery that would make the hull plates for the ships, so you can see the size of these machinery, you know, that shipyards had for 80, 90 years in the shed.
GS: Let's talk about some of the artefacts that are there, you mentioned you have some boats on site, there's a couple that I have on my notes here in front of me. Tell us about the dodo.
SR: Yeah, the dodo, that's one of the vessels you can see when you first come in. She's a lovely, blue-painted little racing yacht, and we've got her fully masted and rigged. She's got a very, very unique history that she was built in a Glasgow town house by two brothers inside the house…
GS: …built in a house by two brothers?
SR: Yes, in their bedroom on the first floor in the town house. I'm not quite sure how they managed to persuade the parents to allow them to do it, but they built this wooden boat in the bedroom and then when it was too large, they had to take the whole window out or all the windows to get the boat out, lower it on to the ground, and then finish it off, and have it as a, as a sailing yacht. And the family had it for, I think, at least 40 odd years, and we recently had, last year, one of the descendants of the brothers came in, this gentleman must have been in his eighties, and he was having a look around with his grandson, and he, they went to see the dodo and he thought he recognised it. And then he read the information panel and he said "yes, that's it, that's the boat I used to sail as a child" with his family, and he said it was, he said it was a beautiful little boat to sail, perfectly weighted and sized, and he said he had many happy memories with that.
GS: You also have, you mentioned, there's a lifeboat there, as well, obviously an important vessel. Tell us about the one that you have on display.
SR: Yeah, we have the lifeboat TGB, it was built in 1962 and it was stationed at Longhope in Hoy in Orkney, and that was their new lifeboat. The initials, TGB, we think, we believe are the initials of the sponsor who helped pay for the building of the boat. So, she was, yeah, did as lifeboats do, but unfortunately in 1962 in the winter time and during a very, very violent storm, she was called out to help rescue the crew of a Liberian tanker called Irene who had suffered engine failure in the storm, and was obviously drifting dangerously at sea. So, the crew all launched, crew of eight, and they went out to try and find her but during the storm there was one of these, as they call them, a once-in-a-generation freak wave that hit the boat and swamped it and capsized it, they reckoned the wave was the height of about 100 ft, so that's taller than the linthouse building. Unfortunately, let's say, the boat capsized, and the crew were lost at sea. So, it's quite a big object, we're very proud to have it on display, and, but again, we've got to, sadly, tell the history behind it.
GS: Well, this is often the case with, I'm sure, with a lot of these boats, they all have their own unique story, they all have their own unique history, like the TGB that you mentioned there. But there's also a story that you, about a tugboat, that you acquired, and this was on the back of a little incident that happened on board. Flesh that one out for us, what happened with the tugboat.
SR: Yes, one of the other vessels we have in the water on the harbour side is the old Irvine harbour tub called 'The Garnock' . She was, nothing famous about her, or, you know, extraordinary, she's your average harbour tug built in 1956 and as well as helping out with the harbour duties in Irvine, if you know of the Harvard at all, there's an area across the river called Ardeer, and that used to be Alfred Nobel, and later ICI explosive, works where they made explosives, detonators, cordites, and exported all over the world. So, obviously they had their own harbour wharf, and the Garnock would help bring ships in and out, and one of her jobs was to dump out of date detonators or cordites at sea, so they would create these up, and put them on the boat, and she would go out to see off the Isle of Arran where there's a very, very deep trench, and they can safely dump the crates of explosives or cordite in there, so they would drill holes in the crates, dump them over the side. So, in 1984 in February of '84, the crew were doing this, they dumped a load of boxes overboard and then started up the engine to move to the next dumping point, but unbeknown is to them, there was some of the crates hadn't fully sunk and were bobbing underneath the water at the stern of the boat, started up the propeller and it was a very loud unexpected explosion.
GS: This could have been disastrous!
SR: Yeah, I mean, it could have blown a, or could have sunk the boat, but fortunately the damage wasn't too bad, it wrecked the propeller, the rudder punched a small hole in the bottom of the hull, which obviously wasn't too bad. She managed to get towed back in, they dry docked her, inspected all the damage and decided that it was too expensive to repair to get her back sailing again, so they patched her up and somebody contacted us and said "Do you want the tub?" and we said "Yeah, yeah, we'll take that..."
GS: …and she now sits in the dock outside the museum?
SR: Yeah, she sits in the water, literally, well, across the river from where she used to work, so obviously she's still a good local boat, and we're doing work on her at the moment to hopefully have her open again to the visitors, so either at some point later this year or possibly into next year, we'll have it open again and visitors can look around and see what life was like on a working tug.
GS: Are you not also working with RSPB to turn one of your dog boats into a birdwatching spot for migrating birds, because of the location of where you are?
SR: Yeah, yeah. Again, that's the Garnock, where…
GS: …so it's the same tugboat, yes?
SR: Yeah, the same boat. We've gone into a kind of partnership with the RSPB, and we are, the work we're doing on the Garnock, we're trying to make her into like a floating birdwatching platform. So the deck at the rear will hopefully have some binoculars, the wheelhouse will have binoculars and a telescope, and literally 20, 30 feet across the river is, what's called, the Irvine Mud Floods. Throughout the year you get all sorts of migrating birds stopping there and it's a very good hub for wildlife, so hopefully that will come online in the next few months.
GS: Well, so much to look at, so much to take in, and, I would imagine, you know, from your point of view, someone who, you know, has grown up loving everything maritime, you must have a particular favourite. Is there an artefact? Is there a boat there that always makes you smile when you walk past it?
SR: Yeah, there's a couple, one of them is the MV Kyles which we take tours on, and another one is the, we've got a small fishing boat called Katie. Again, there's nothing extraordinary or famous about her, we used to have her in the water as a kind of workboat, and I have been lucky enough to take her out under her own power a few times and she's a very, very nice little boat to sail. I maybe wouldn't go across to Arran on her, but certainly in the river she's, should be nice to sail, and she's an east coast fishing boat from one of the fishing ports, like Anstruther on the east coast, where you would find dozens of these boats in the harbour, and a lot of them were family-owned, because that's how the family made their living, you know, the whole family would be involved in the fishing industry.
GS: It's fascinating to know how, you know, the story of these boats, and also the story of how you come to be in possession of some of them. There's also one boat in particular that was gifted to the museum, and this is a very special boat, by a Canadian family.
SR: Yes, she's called Powerful, and she's a Fifes of Fairlie yacht built in 1900. Fifes were a very world-famous small boat yard for making racing yachts, and the owners, or buyers came from all over the world, if you could afford to have it built, and they are some of the most sought after racing yachts now. If you have enough money and if one comes up for sale, you're talking sometimes tens of millions of pounds or dollars. But the one we have, Powerful, say, she was built in 1900. There was a family called the Mortons, and they raced her when they lived here over in the UK, and they had her as the family yacht. The family then emigrated to Canada to set up a business and to live. They came across Powerful again years later, so the father, he bought it, shipped it across to Canada, did a complete restoration of it, and the family sailed on their lake in Canada for another 40 odd plus years, and they kept it in the family. When he retired, when the father, it went to his son, Tim Morton, and he again sailed it for many years with his family, and then recently he decided to retire, and they decided to move the yacht on. So, they searched for people or museums that wanted it and they came across us, they interviewed the museum, if you like, to see if we ticked all the boxes. Fortunately we did and about a year and a half ago he shipped the yacht across to here, and then came across to help us re-rig it and unveil it to the public, and it was a huge moment for us to have this yacht on display.
GS: It must be fantastic for the museum to be, you know, to receive such an accolade that you're trusted to look after such a precious vessel for, and especially given the history it has with the family.
SR: Yeah, I mean, he, like I say, he went round and saw the museum, we have a boat building school as well, so obviously he realized that if the boat down the line needed any repairs then we could do it in-house. But he also liked that it was going to be put on display for the visitors, we could if we were able to, and we hopefully will be in the future, we can because she's in such a great condition, we could take her off display and put her back in the water and have a sail in. So, for us to get something like that, and with the history of it and being a Fife boat, it's huge for us, it shows that we're doing the right things and that people like that trust us with something like that. I mean, he could have sold it for, let's say, tens of millions of dollars, but he wanted it obviously to go to somewhere like us.
GS: And you're interested to take very good care of her.
SR: I mean, one of the perks of your job, I would imagine, Stuart, is the people that you meet. Now, I often find this, and certainly found this in the series of podcasts when we talk to different tour guides, a big part of the job, a big plus of the job is the different people that you get to encounter and from all walks of life. And, you know, you touched on that gentleman who recognised the dodo from his early sailing days. Do you have any particular examples of the people that you've met, a little special moments where people come in and see the history or see things that they recognise?
SR: Over the, you know, the year, the working year you get to meet all sorts of different visitors from all over the world, not just the UK. You get people coming who have no connection at all to shipbuilding or the sea, they come in not quite knowing what to expect from the museum, but when they leave you can tell that the wow factor has hit them and they've really enjoyed it and took everything on. Because it's not just us telling you 'oh, that's an engine' or 'yes, that's a boat', you've got the social side of it, you've got the tours. We get a lot of people who worked in the shipyards, and quite a few people who work in Stephen's, and they'll come in and they'll be amazed at the buildings still surviving, and they'll tell you that they did their apprenticeship in the linthouse and then spent the next 20 odd years working there before they maybe moved to another shipyard. And it's good to get these stories because it helps us learn more about the building, the yards, working in a shipyard, and then we can tell other visitors about that and the unique kind of stories that come with that.
GS: And also what's special about the Maritime Museum is it's on, it's over two sites as well as the lint house, one that we talk about, you have another one.
SR: Yeah, we've got obviously the one in Irvine, but we have another museum, the very experimental testing tank, and that's situated in Dumbarton. If you were a shipyard builder and you were building a new, say, design of hull and ship, you would take it to Denny's, to the tank, they would make a wax model, sometimes 15, 20 ft long, of the hull and they would attach it to the cradle and the carriage that runs up and down the length of the tank, and at one end you had effectively like a wave generator and you would test the tank, the, sorry, the ship hull up and down in different sea conditions. So you could see if it went through the water nicely or if it was too top heavy with the superstructure and what need changed. So, it's a lot of different history there as well.
GS: So, that's, and again, we talked about this before but it's not a quick hit and a miss visit, you do have to take a bit of time to get the most out of these two sites.
SR: For the one in Irvine, you could literally spend half a day going round, you know, to see everything there and longer if you wanted; the one in Dumbarton being a smaller site, but again, you could spend a good few hours, sometimes, again, half a day, going around that.
GS: So how would, I mean, I would also imagine that it's the sort of situation where they could adapt to circumstance and you could change and you could create special exhibitions, for example, at certain times and, I mean, I'm thinking the Year of Coasts and Waters is going to be perfect for the Maritime Museum.
SR: Yeah, yeah. We have in the Linthouse building, we have a dedicated exhibition gallery building called the Loch Lomond Gallery and during the year we have two or three different exhibitions in there. Our current one is called 'Woven waves' and that's all about the Jutland and the battleships that were sunk at Jutland, and it was an artist called Katie Russell, and she's done tapestries through her visit to Jutland and finding out about the history of the craft, that, yeah, the ships that are sunk there, and we currently have that on display.
GS: Well, it's been fascinating talking to you, Stuart, and certainly I will be taking time out to come and have a look around, and check out this part of history that I've not really explored much, you know, I'm not just, I don't know, it's because I'm, maybe because I'm based through in Edinburgh in the east coast, and it's obviously a very rich history through the west. But, and what I think, we should stress as well just as we're signing off, is this isn't just something that reflects in the maritime history of the this particular part of Scotland. You reflect, you know, all the way around because there's such a, you know, as we talked about on the east coast with the fishing, all the way around the coast, and you cover that in the museum as well, don't you?
SR: Yeah, it's as you say, it's not, we don't want to concentrate just on the River Clyde or the west coast kind of where we are, we want to cover all of Scotland's maritime history. So be that west coast, you know, we've got the TGB from Orkney or the Katie from the west coast, yeah, we try and cover everything, so yeah, it's either site, Irvine or Dumbarton, they're very good trips to make too, and you'll come away with, having had a very enjoyable visit.
GS: And just your final word, Stuart. What do you love most about working at the museum?
SR: Probably over the years that I've worked with the museum, it's great to see how we've grown over the years, over the last 20 odd years. It's grown into this huge thing, you know, that you come in and you can spend a full day in, and also you're meeting the different people that come in from, let's say, all over the world, and hearing their stories, especially if they're connected with a life at sea, or, you know, a life in a shipyard, yeah.
GS: Well, it's a rich history and a fascinating place to come visit, definitely on my list of things to do. Stuart, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us, thanks for being our tour guide for today and thanks for sharing your tales.
SR: No problem. Thank you.
GS: So, there we have it, some more amazing tales from Stuart Rich at the Scottish Maritime Museum. If you like the show, please join us next week and subscribe and leave a review wherever you're listening. I'm Grant Stott, you've been listening to another Tour Guide Tales brought to you by VisitScotland. Thank you.