Scotland has for many centuries been a seafaring nation whose role and influence on the world's oceans has been out of all proportion to its size and population. This heritage is reflected in the exhibitions and collections of the Scottish Maritime Museum.
The Museum operates from two sites on the Clyde and its estuary. The Denny Ship Model Experimental Tank at Dumbarton brings to life the world of the Victorian ship designer. This page focuses on the second and largest of the sites, the Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine Harbourside.
Scattered along the south shore of the River Irvine are the various parts of the museum. It is based in the vast brick-built steel-framed Linthouse Engine Shop. This houses the museum reception and shop, together with a range of indoor exhibits: plus large numbers of the engines from which it gets its name. It comes as a shock when you read the literature and realise that this building has only stood here since 1991: having previously been dismantled and moved from the Linthouse Shipyard in Govan.
An especially poignant resident of the Engine Shop is the Watson Class lifeboat T.G.B. She was serving as the Longhope Lifeboat on 17 March 1969 when she was capsized by a huge wave, with the loss of all eight crew.
Outside the Engine Shop is the striking yellow and red ASR-10, a WWII lifesaving barge. These barges were moored in the North Sea and English Channel to assist the crews of aircraft that had to ditch in the sea.
Nearby is a recreation of a shipyard worker's tenement flat, a chance to see a "room and kitchen" tenement typical of those used by shipyard workers and thier families on the Clyde. It has been restored to its appearance before 1920.
Most of the Museum's floating vessels are moored at pontoons alongside Irvine Harbour. The cast list can vary from time to time, but usually includes the puffer Spartan, built in 1942 and typical of the puffers that kept the economy of much of Western Scotland alive until the 1960s.
Back along the harbourside towards the Engine Shop you come across the Museum Wharf. This is home to Puffer's Coffee Shop, which serves light meals, snacks and drinks throughout the year.
The Museum Wharf is also home to most of the Scottish Maritime Museum's restoration projects. When we visited these included the final stages of work on a beautiful yacht: and the very much less advanced work on a wooden RAF motor launch.
For many years the museum's wharf was also home to the hull of the world's oldest surviving clipper ship. The 176 foot long City of Adelaide was built in 1864 for the route from the UK to Adelaide in South Australia, and made 22 round trips carrying up to 270 passengers before being sold as a cargo vessel. After a spell serving as an isolation hospital she was brought by the Royal Navy in 1921 for use as a training ship based on the Clyde, and renamed HMS Carrick. From 1947 she was moored on the Clyde and used as a clubhouse for the Royal Naval Reserve, until sinking at her moorings in 1991.
After rescue by the Scottish Maritime Museum the City of Adelaide was brought to Irvine in 1992. She was shipped off to Adelaide in Australia for restoration in November 2013.