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The shipwrights

Originally on the old website

Following a recent request, I have decided that the esteemed branch of shipbuilders "The Shipwrights" should have a section of the website and over time we shall endeavor to name as many Shipwrights as possible who have worked in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd. Or Robb Caledon or any of the other older Leith Shipyards.

Shipwrights build ships

The following is from a list sent in by Jim "Gibby" Gibson Shipwright in reply to David McGarry Shipwright who had sent a comment into the old original website.

Hi David, It has been over 50 years since I left Robb,s and emigrated to Canada, but I will try my best to remember, as long as no one is offended because I forgot some of them, or in many cases only knew them by their Nicknames, as many of them will only remember me as Gibby. so here goes.

I will start with my best Mate Bertie Law, I am sure he is sorely missed by all who knew him, then we had the following shipwrights-

Willie Drummond, Billy Sproule. Joe Haggerty, Ray Meikle, Eddy Watson, Kenny

Hamilton, Pat Murphy, Jimmy Murray, Jimmy Tonner,

Dougie Elliot, George, ( Dode) .Kay, Theo Henderson, Gordon Rennie, Chik Love, Jimmy Ewing Junior, and Jimmy Ewing, Senior.

Tam Hughes, Mick Darcy, Willie Rule, Martin Borman, Dykes Morrison, Abe Locke, Tammy Fox, Andy Brown, Donald Thompson,

Tam Devlin, Joe Gracie, Danny Bowie, Bobby Aitcheson, Jimmy Fowliss, Tam Dick and of course Jimmy " SODJER " Cairns.

There are a few more I can still picture them and see their faces but their names escape me.

If I remember some more I will forward them on to you.

PS These were all Shipwrights, There was also Bobby Bell and Donald Thompson who worked in the Shipwrights Mill.

I will add to this list over time to include as many Shipwrights as possible.


From L to R in this photo sent in by Barry Booth, we have Carlo di Lorenzo, Stevie Payne, Jim Finlay, Barry Booth & Kevin Kneeshaw, after the launch of the last ship at Leith.


Shipwrights at work in Leith from way back, setting up the poppets to help the ship launch. She was the large tug Saturno, built-in 1928 as Ship no 81

Some more Shipwright names from Leith

Some more names of Shipwrights at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd

Big George Robinson, Alan Wishart, Dan Hutchinson who was the Shipwright trainer at the apprentice school.

Joe Clark worked in the Loft along with Bobby Brown who also worked in the Loft, both Shipwrights.

In the days when only shipwrights could work in the Loft.

Then Archie Harvey went up to the Loft for a while as well.

Stevie Borthwick, Ian (Woolie) Woolard, John Kemp, Chris Sandison, Rab Dignan, Dode Ramsey, Barry Booth.

Ross Lumsden and Mav (real name escapes me for now) Mav was of course Jim Leask..

More shipwright names

Wully Graham, Tony Angelosanto, flash Thomson, Kenny Brodie sadly no longer with us, Bruce Partington, John Pennington, Tam Dall, and Mav from your previous list was Jim Leask,

  • In 1968 the Dundee yard of the Caledon Shipbuilders was taken over by Henry Robb’s yard. The Leith and Dundee yards began trading as Robb Caledon Shipbuilders.


 (Shipwrights pulling the wire!! in this photograph from Shipwright B.Booth's Collection - With Bobby Klar looking the other way) - Nice white gloves but no safety gear for the men.

The launch squad had to haul in the floating debris from the launch, the smaller stuff was all collected back in by rowboat.

Some more names sent in by B. Booth Shipwright


Kevin Kneeshaw, Jim Finlay, and Alan'Moe'Morris on.

Others I remember Carlo Di Lorenzo, Mickey Widison or Woodison, Ike Payne, and his son Stevie. Sadly no longer with us Billy Adamson, Wullie Nicholson.

The Gaffers I remember the 'wee man' Bobby Aitchison, Bobby Klar, Ivan Borman, and Willie Stirton.

 Barry also sent in this old reminder of how it was if you wanted out of the shipyard for any reason you had to get a "Pass Out" used and abused by all with many laughs along the way it was even rumored that someone actually painted his leg with the now-infamous "Red Lead" paint to make it look like he had shit himself, early morning after the pubs in Leith had started opening all day.


The "Pass Oot" gave the day and the reason for your absence from the shipyard and as you can see from the above photograph of this particular old "Pass Oot" the reason for absence was a pretty common one which covered probably 99% of the workers in the yard. The other 1% were in denial.......

But by this time even the timekeepers were giving in to a sense of humour.

I am sure that there will be more to add over time, with more people seeing this page and contacting the website once again.

For sure there are a great many more images to go into these pages and with your input even more, so please send in your stories and images to


Launch of the Ferry Pioneer for CalMac she was built as Ship No 515 and launched in 1974

The following are some of the many comments that were sent into the original website, they are the ones that have been retrieved with some of them sadly now lost, so if anyone see this then please feel free to send in your reminiscences, comments, good or bad, images and we will build this page once more into a permanent reminder of the Shipwrights who worked at the Leith Shipyards.




Steven Payne 2017-03-02  

Found this site by accident, saw the trinity house ship that was build at leith The Patricia on telly. Great place to work, probably still be there if it was still open. Came through with Keith Pringle, Robert McFarland & Gary houston. Remember Kevin, Jim ,mo , billy, mike, Barry & many more. Remember big alan wishart taking me for a pint at half 6 in the morning before my Saturday shift, good job auld Ike never found out lol




Bruce Partington 2016-09-30

I still have my brass check, number 5. I have references from Bobby Aitchison Shipwright Foreman, Jimmy Finlay Plater Foreman and Mr.J Mckinnon Shipyard Manager.




 Bruce Partington 2016-09-27  

Here are some more names that I worked with at Robbs. 1962 to 1972, Frank McEwan, Peter Quinn, George Fox, Donald Wren, Jimmy Linton, Willie Coates, John Cooper, Willie Salmon, Paddy Brookes, Alec Williamson, The Dall Brothers, Clarke Paterson, Jimmy Russell (loft), John Conafrey (loft).



Bruce Partington 2016-09-24  

I have an old story to add to your page. When I was at Robbs I was a Shipwright. We used to have our official and unofficial breaks under the boat. In the winter we would have a brazier burning to keep warm. Keeping a lookout for any managers on the roam. There was one, a guy called Joe Paterson who went from Plater to Foreman to Manager. He would go around the boats looking for fires and kick them over. There was this old plater working in the Pre Fab shop called Bobby Bennett he must have been in his seventies. (In them days you did not have to retire at 65). Joe must have felt sorry for old Bobby and gave him a pair of boots because his were a bit thin. A few days later Joe said to Bobby how are the boots Bob. Bobby replied they are great Joe, except for one thing. Joe says what is the problem Bob, Bob says every time that I come to a fire my leg kicks out.




 Kevin Kneeshaw 2016-05-03  

A year or two late I have found this site. Great photos even better memories great friends and journey men that moulded you like Archie Harvey, Ike Payne, and Willie Barber not forgetting Archie Grassack as hard a man as I had met but always looked out for us. Remember him showing Barry Booth how to punch and catching him right on the chin. Served my time with Carlo-de Lorenzo my school mate Jim Finlay, Barry Booth, Billy Adamson, and Mickey Widdowson.
Also remember the big football game with the Welders Verses the Platters always a friendly game. Drinks in the boilermakers club after.-Kevin




Mike Widdowson 2015-03-30  

I remember most of these shipwrights too so many good memories worked with most of them Carlo Jim Finlay Barry booth wee Bobby and also Mo and Willie Adamson sadly both no longer with us, I was an apprentice and was on the launch of the Garrison Point with big Alan Wishart, had great times wi Archie Grassick Donald Thomson John Pennington too many to name,also the gaffers Bobby Aitchison Willie Stirton, Ivan il always be grateful to Bobby Aitchison for giving me a second chance after I left and found out the grass wasn't greener on the other side, I still miss it even after all this time Robbs wasn't just a place of work it was an institution a way of life for many guys not just from Leith but Fife, Prestonpans Gilmerton my dad also worked there and every day he would say I wish I was walking down there now, how true..

Sorry forgot to mention Keith Pringle and Stevie Payne I will try and pass on photos soon...



Mike Widdowson 2015-03-30  

Ye I too remember a lot of these shipwrights above sadly Alan,mo,Morriso n no longer with us. When I was an apprentice I was on the garrison point with big alan wishart when it was launched shipwrights legends were Archie grassick, John Pennington willie sproul Mav, to name but a few. Fond memories of the gaffer,s Bob aitchison, willie stirton, Ivan, had great times with Carlo dilorenzo jim Finlay mo Barry booth wee Bobby jake mcewan and the funniest guy in the yard and a fifer wullie adamson who grew a potato patch behind the riggers shed ha ha sadly passed away in 1984 and who's grave I still go and visit to this day,I have so many memories of robbs some funny, some not but il always be grateful to Bobby aitchison for giving me a second chance to come back after I found out the grass wasn't greener on the other side in the words of my dad who also worked there I wish I was walking down there tomorrow....... ..



 Jim Clark 2014-10-10  

Hi Came across the website it's great to see some of the names from the past.
I served my time from 1975 and was there until it closed.spent a lot of time working with Donald Thomson he used to call me 'jimmy Son'.also worked on the erection squad with Big George,Andy Brown and Tammy Hughes.
Willie Stirton was the gaffer mainly on new work .Used to go up to Hound Point in the Forth to do maintenance work sometimes.Remem ber tough guys like Archie Grassack who had hearts of gold.
Also worked with Ike Payne and Willie Barber who were great tradesmen.Start ed my time with Carlo de Lorenzo
Still got a fruit bowl from Bobby Bell somewhere.
Tough but great days sadly missed.



Rrobert Mcfarlane 2014-10-05  

i was a shipwright from 79 till it closed.the tradesmen that trained me where archie grassick willie sproule john gaffers were bobby aitchison ivor borman and willie stirton and the guys i came through the training center were steven payne,keith pringle and gary houston.




Barry Booth 2014-07-31  

The shipwrights In my year were Kevin Kneeshaw, Jim Finlay, and Alan'Moe'Morris on. Others I remember Carlo Di Lorenzo, Mickey Widison or Woodison, Ike Payne, and his son Stevie. Sadly no longer with us Billy Adamson, Wullie Nicholson. The Gaffers I remember the 'wee man' Bobby Aitchison, Bobby Klar, Ivan Borman and Willie Stirton. I'll have another think later, ma heed hurts. Cheers Ron, Barry 'Boogie' Booth.

To be continued-

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