Shipping & Shipbuilding News -  31 August 2007 - The Brightest Maritime Daily

The Fairfield Titan - photo Barry Watson

A giant comes down - once the world's biggest  shipyard crane
A sad end to an Arrol Titan, but signals regeneration of shipbuilding on the Clyde

When constructed in 1911 it was the biggest crane in the world. Over the years it has lifted machinery and sections of some of the world's greatest ships, but six weeks ago it performed it's last working job when lifting machinery for a Type 45 warship under construction.

Now the Fairfield Titan at BAE Systems' Govan shipyard, the biggest of five such cranes on the Clyde, is being demolished. Work on dismantling the huge structure began on Wednesday and is expected to take 3 weeks to complete, being done in a careful manner to ensure the work progressing on ships at the shipyard continues uninterrupted.

The crane is a grade A listed structure but the shipyard has the right to demolish it should it prove an impedance to the development of the yard,. With orders for some of the modules for the new aircraft carriers, recently announced, expected to come Govan's way, the crane has now stood in the path of progress too long and needs to be cleared to allow new infrastructure and space for future developments.

Designed and built by the world-famous engineer Sir William Arrol who was responsible for some of the most advanced bridges and cranes in the UK and around the world, the Fairfield crane, like the other four on the Clyde, is a powerful symbol of Scottish shipbuilding and engineering. Locally there will be much sadness at its passing, but the removal of the crane symbolises too the regeneration of shipbuilding on the river, with millions of pounds of investments being poured into the two Glasgow shipyards at Govan and Scotstoun in the shape of new plant, processes and apprenticeships.

Currently the Clyde is building six Type 45 destroyers and in our picture, supplied by Barry Watson, evidence of this new wave of industrial prosperity, HMS DIAMOND, the third in the series, sits on the slipway nearing her launch date in November.

Looking along the jib of the Barclay Curle crane (author's file - photo taken by John Sommerville in 2000)
Elsewhere in the Clydeside region another Wm Arrol structure was in the local news as the Inchinnan Bridge over the River Cart was raised for the first time in years to allow the passage of a barge loaded with locally produced steelwork. Renfrewshire Council hope this signals a return to regular navigation on the river, which meets the Clyde opposite the former John Brown shipyard at Clydebank.

And indeed another Arrol crane, the first of this type built, situated at the John Brown site, was recently given a new lease of life as a tourist attraction. Sadly the same fate will not happen with the Govan crane, as it will be recycled. Meanwhile Glasgow council have indicated they are positive about plans to turn the Stobcross Crane, near the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, into an attraction too, with a cafeteria at the top.

The other two Titans are mothballed. One at the former Barclay Curle shipyard, prominent due not just to it's size, but it's startling yellow paintwork and the other further down the Clyde at the James Watt Dock in Greenock.

With grateful thanks to Stuart Cameron for the origins of this article


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