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.
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.
Looking along the jib of the Barclay Curle crane (author's file -
photo taken by John Sommerville in 2000)
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