Hercules Linton lived from 1 January 1836 to 15 May 1900. He was a Scottish shipbuilder, best remembered as the designer of the tea-clipper the Cutty Sark and as a partner in the shipyard that built her. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Hercules Linton was born in Inverbervie on the North Sea coast of Angus. At the age of 19 in 1855, Hercules became an apprentice at Alexander Hall and Sons, at the time the leading shipbuilders in Aberdeen. After completing his apprenticeship he became a Lloyd's Register Surveyor based at the Lloyds offices in Liverpool. He later also worked at the Liverpool Underwriters Registry.
In May 1868, Hercules Linton entered into a partnership with William Dundas Scott. The result was the establishment of Scott & Linton shipbuilders, operating from premises at Dumbarton, on the River Leven near its confluence with the River Clyde and in the shadow of Dumbarton Castle. Hercules Linton managed the design and shipbuilding and William Scott managed the accounts and engineering.
On 1 February 1869, Scott & Linton won the contract to build the Cutty Sark with a contracted delivery date six months later on 30 July 1869. The price agreed was £17 per ton up to a maximum of 950 tons, and there was a penalty charge of £5 per day if the build period was exceeded. It is not clear why the customer, John "Jock" Willis chose an inexperienced company like Scott & Linton to build his new ship, though it is possible that Hercules Linton's background at Alexander Hall and Sons, who had a strong track record of clipper building, helped. The name for the new ship came from a scanty item of clothing referred to in Robert Burns' famous poem Tam o' Shanter.
Difficulties during the build and the one-sided nature of the contract led to the bankruptcy of Scott & Linton. The Cutty Sark was eventually launched on 22 November 1869, nearly five months late, then fitted out in Greenock. Linton's wife had given birth the month before, and his house had been seized to help cover his debts.
Linton subsequently found employment with a series of Scottish shipbuilding yards. He also became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in November 1876. 1880 found him working in Montrose, where his tenth child was born. His wife died in 1885, and Hercules later moved back to Inverbervie, where he was elected to the Town Council in 1895. He died in 1900 and there is a memorial to him in Inverbervie.