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Arbroath boatbuilders


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Arbroath in the middle ages did apparently export some fish, wool & hides. After that period the coast around the town was as familiar with boats carrying smuggled goods as legitimate trade. The new harbour of 1725 allowed an increase in trade, flax being an important import, and by 1742 the town boasted  twelve vessels.


1750s-1770s  David & John Kenny operate next to the harbour.

1779-1813  Wm. Kenny operates next to the harbour.

1799  Around 6 fishing boats are operating out of Auchmithie.

1803  Arbroath Lifeboat Station is established. Henry Greathead builds the first lifeboat.

1807-1813  Two vessels per year (average) are being built in Arbroath.

1808  Thos. Dickie, operating between Signal Tower & Harbour, builds two sloops.

1808-1816  Alex. Fernie, operating between Signal Tower & Harbour, builds at least two schooners - the 'Sir Joseph Banks' (used for the Bell Rock Lighthouse project) & the long lived 'Panmure' which will sail from Arbroath until 1885.

1814-1829  Wm. Stephen Jnr. operates next to the Harbour.

1815  Six vessels are built this year.

1817  A. Philip operates between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1819-1821  Geo. Dickie operates between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1827-1831  Wm. Blair operates between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1829 The last two ships on Wm. Stephen's books are completed.

1830-1840  Alex. Stephen & Sons, operating next to the Harbour, produce 32 vessels.

1835-1842  Arthur Smith operates between Signal Tower & Harbour.  

1839  Alex. Stephen builds the first full-rigged ship, the 'John Mitchell', 402 tons.

1840-1843  Alex. Stephen & Sons operate next to Signal Tower.

1841  Alex. Stephen adds 13'0" to the length of the barque 'Leipzig'.

1844-1848  Geo. Dickie Jnr/Thos. Reidman between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1844-1853  Dickie & Reidman operate next to the Harbour.

1844-1853  Wm. Anderson operates between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1845-1857  Wm. Stephen Jnr. operates next to Signal Tower.

1847  An arbroath boatbuilder, Johnston, builds the schooner 'Wave'. It arrives

in Melbourne, Aus. on the 7th July 1854after sailing out of Dundee and spends

the rest of it's days on the SE Australian coastal trade.

1849-1853  Wm. Reid & Thos. Reidman operate between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1851  The number of Arbroath registered vessels reaches it's peak at 118.

1851-1854  Chisholm, Simpson & Peters operate east of Harbour.

1852  The full-rigged 'Elizabeth' is built at Wm. Stephen's yard.

1853  The full-rigged 'Varoon' is built at Wm. Stephen's yard.

1853  The 'Dawstone' is built by Chisholm, Hunter & Peters.

1855-1859  D. Farquar & Co. operate east of Harbour.

1856 The largest vessel ever built in Arbroath, the full-rigged 'Neville', is launched,

800 tons, 200' long.

1856  The huge barque 'Albatross' is built at Wm. Stephen's yard.

1857-1858  Andrew Young operates next to Harbour.

1857-1863  Jas. Drummond operates between Signal Tower & Harbour.

1860  J. & J. Hall operate next to Signal Tower.

1860-1872  The Arbroath Shipbuilding Company operate east of Harbour.

1864  The Arbroath Shipbuilding Co., the town's only remaining boatbuilder, builds

& launches the brigantine 'Scotsman'.

1872  The schooner 'Romala', Arbroath Shipbuilding Company's last vessel, is launched.

1875  There are 154 fishing boats in the town.

1875-1880  3 sailing vessels are built at Arbroath.

1876-1881  J. Rooney builds 6 vessels, including the Abertay Lightship (1877).

1888  Lifeboat 'William Soutar' is launched.

1890  James Weir builds the 'Isabella' (AH153), largest yawl in the Arbroath fleet.

1891  13 sailing vessels & 1 steamer are presently registered in Arbroath.

1899  Auchmithie has 12 white fish boats, 6 large boats & 20 or so small boats for lobster/crab fishing.

1900  Lifeboat 'James Stevens No.13' is launched.

1906  Arbroath schooner 'Renner' is wrecked at Buxey Sand near Burnham on Crouch.

1918  Arbroath fishing boat 'Maggie Smith' hits a mine whilst approaching the fishing

grounds near the Bell Rock. All on board are lost.

1925  Lifeboat 'James Gowland' comes into service.

1928  The yawl 'Isabella' has a new engine installed & is renamed 'Fortuna'.

1932  Lifeboat 'John & William Mudie' is launched.

1950  Lifeboat 'Robert Lindsay' is launched.

1953  The 'Robert Lindsay' capsizes by the harbour in dreadful weather conditions.

6 of 7 crewmen die. The 'Howard D' replaces her.

1955  Shipbuilding returns to Arbroath with the opening of Gerrards Boatyard.

1956  Lifeboat 'The Duke of Montrose' is launched.

1960  Fishing boat 'Endeavour' (AH38) is launched.

1961  Fishing boat 'June Rose' (AH45) is launched.

1966  Mackay Boat Builders are established east of the Harbour.

1968  An inshore Lifeboat  Station is established using a 'D Class' Lifeboat.

1973 (Jul)  Boats observed using the Harbour include: 'Harvest Moon', 'Family's Pride', 'Bruce's', 'Fortuna', 'Glad Tidings', 'Guiding Star' & 'Endeavour'.

1983  Lifeboat 'Shoreline' is launched.

1984  The 'Sharridale' AH68 seine net fishing boat is built in Arbroath.

1993  Lifeboat 'Inchcape' comes into service.

1997  Fishing boat 'Westhaven' is lost in the North Sea. Four die.

2005  A new 'D Class' inshore Lifeboat is placed in service.

2007  Mackay Boatbuilders win major contract to restore Dundee's 'R.S.S. Discovery'.

An Arbroath Timeline 4513281889.jpg 4514156707.jpg 4511857424.jpg 4514648949.jpg

image copyright

Jason Hawkes

'D Class' inshore Lifeboat

The harbour mouth

from the Signal Tower

Another pontoon offering

a further 18 berths opened

in this area of the

Marina during 2007

The harbour in 1895


Arbroath Harbour

around 1900


Have you never visited

the Bell Rock ?

Click Here !


Visit : Tayside -

A Maritime History :


Aerial view by

Derek Robertson

Mackays Boatyard

east of the harbour

A Lifeboat Station has existed at Arbroath since 1803........these are the life savers of 2008

The entrance to the inner harbour (Marina)

4511871384.jpg SEAFEST


every August welcomes the

old and new