The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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The Shipwrights

Following a resent request I have decided that the esteemed branch of shipbuilders "The Shipwrights" should have a section of the website and over time we shall endeavour to name as many Shipwrights as possible who have worked in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd.


Shipwrights build Ships


The following is from a list sent in by Jim "Gibby" Gibson Shipwright in reply to David McGarry Shipwright

HI David, It has been over 50 years since I left Robb,s and emigrated to Canada, but I will try my best to remember ,as long as no one is offended because I forgot some of them , or in many cases only knew them by their Nicknames , as many of them will only remember me as Gibby. so here goes

I will start with my best Mate Bertie Law, I am sure he his sorely missed by all who knew him

Willie Drummond ,Billy Sproulle. Joe Haggerty, Ray Meikle, Eddy Watson, Kenny Hamilton, Pat Murphy, Jimmy Murray, Jimmy Tonner,

Dougie Elliot, George, ( DoD) .Kay, Theo Henderson, Gordon Rennie, Chik Love, Jimmy Ewing Junior, and Jimmy Ewing, Senior

Tam Hughes, Mick Darcy, Willie Rule , Martin Borman, Dykes Morrison, Abe Locke , Tammy Fox, Andy Brown , Donald Thompson,

Tam Devlin,. Joe Gracie, Danny Bowie, Bobby Aitcheson, Jimmy Fowliss, Tam Dick and of course Jimmy " SODGER " Cairns

There are few more I can still picture the and see their faces but their names escape me.

If I remember some more I will forward them on to you.

PS These were all Shipwrights, There was also Bobby Bell and Donald Thompson who worked in the Shipwrights Mill.

I will add to this list over time to include as many Shipwrights as possible.

 Ships of Wood and Men of Iron

Ships of Wood and Men of Iron




 Some more names of Shipwrights at the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb Ltd

Big George Robinson, Alan Wishart, Dan Hutchinson who was the Shipwright trainer at the apprentice school

Joe Clark who worked in the Loft along with Bobby Brown who also worked in the Loft, both Shipwrights

Then Archie Harvey went up to the Loft for a while as well.

Stevie Borthwick, Ian (Woolie) Woolard, John Kemp, Chris Sandison, Rab Dignan, Dode Ramsey, Barry Booth

Ross Lumsden and Mav (real name escapes me for now)


wully graham,tony angelosanto,flash Thomson, Kenny brodie

sadly no longer with us,bruce partington,john pennington,tam dall,and mav from your previous list was jim leask,


Clipper Ships and the Golden Age of Sail

Clipper Ships and the Golden Age of Sail

In the era of commercial sail, clipper ships were the ultimate expression of speed and grace. Racing out to the gold fields of America and Australia, and breaking speed records carrying tea back from China, the ships combined beauty with breathtaking performance. With over 200 gorgeous paintings and illustrations, and thrilling descriptions of the adventures and races on the water, this beautiful book brings the era vividly to life. Chapters include: The origins of the clippers - from the gold rush to the tea trade A hell ship voyage with 'Bully' Waterman, one of the most successful and notorious captains of the era Marco Polo , the fastest ship in the world - her rise to prominence and subsequent decline Mary Patten's battle with Cape Horn - a lady captain takes charge in a very male world Mutiny aboard the 'wild boat of the Atlantic' The great China tea race of 1866 - an amazingly close race across the world, only decided in the final few miles The Sir Lancelot defies the odds - her eccentric captains and rivalry with the legendary Thermopylae The Cutty Sark 's longest voyage First-hand accounts, newspaper reports and log entries add fascinating eyewitness detail, whilst the stunning images show how the designs of these thoroughbreds developed over the years. A wonderful read and worthy celebration of these racehorses of the sea.

Some more names sent in by B.Booth Shipwright


Kevin Kneeshaw, Jim Finlay and Alan'Moe'Morris on. Others I remember Carlo Di Lorenzo, Mickey Widison or Woodison, Ike Payne and his son Stevie. Sadly no longer with us Billy Adamson, Wullie Nicholson. The Gaffers I remember the 'wee man' Bobby Aitchison, Bobby Klar, Ivan Borman and Willie Stirton.


He also sent in this old reminder of how it was if you wanted out of the shipyard for any reason you had to get a "Pass Out" used and abused by all with many laughs along the way it was even rumoured that someone actually painted his leg with the now infamous "Red Lead" paint to make it look like he had shit himself, early morning after the pubs in Leith had started opening all day.


The "Pass Oot" gave the day and the reason for your absence from the shipyard and as you can see from the above photogragh of this particular old "Pass Oot" the reason for absence was a pretty common one which covered probably 99% of the workers in the yard. The other 1% where in denial.......

But by this time even the time keepers where giving in to a sense of humour.

  Ships and Shipbuilders

Many more to add over time.






scroll back to top


0 #12 Vivien 2017-07-31 21:07
Found this page when browsing. My grandad John/Johnnie/Jo ck Simpson from Lorne Place was a welder at Henry Robbs until I'm not sure when. I know for sure it was from before & during WWII, not sure how long after he stayed there. The men employed there were prevented from enlisted in order to repair boats damaged in combat. They were also trained to attach limpet mines to any enemy boats that infiltrated the docks.
+3 #11 Steven Payne 2017-03-02 20:25
Found this site by accident, saw the trinity house ship that was build at leith The Patricia on telly. Great place to work, probably still be there if it was still open. Came through with Keith Pringle, Robert McFarland & Gary houston. Remember Kevin, Jim ,mo , billy, mike, Barry & many more. Remember big alan wishart taking me for a pint at half 6 in the morning before my Saturday shift, good job auld Ike never found out lol
0 #10 Bruce Partington 2016-09-30 20:06
I still have my brass check, number 5. I have references from Bobby Aitchison Shipwright Foreman, Jimmy Finlay Plater Foreman and Mr.J Mckinnon Shipyard Manager.
0 #9 Bruce Partington 2016-09-27 19:37
Here are some more names that I worked with at Robbs. 1962 to 1972, Frank McEwan, Peter Quinn, George Fox, Donald Wren, Jimmy Linton, Willie Coates, John Cooper, Willie Salmon, Paddy Brookes, Alec Williamson, The Dall Brothers, Clarke Paterson, Jimmy Russell (loft), John Conafrey (loft). Bruce
0 #8 Bruce Partington 2016-09-24 21:03
I have an old story to add to your page. When I was at Robbs I was a Shipwright. We used to have our official and unofficial breaks under the boat. In the winter we would have a brazier burning to keep warm. Keeping a lookout for any managers on the roam. There was one, a guy called Joe Paterson who went from Plater to Foreman to Manager. He would go around the boats looking for fires and kick them over. There was this old plater working in the Pre Fab shop called Bobby Bennett he must have been in his seventies. (In them days you did not have to retire at 65). Joe must have felt sorry for old Bobby and gave him a pair of boots because his were a bit thin. A few days later Joe said to Bobby how are the boots Bob. Bobby replied they are great Joe, except for one thing. Joe says what is the problem Bob, Bob says every time that I come to a fire my leg kicks out.
+3 #7 Kevin Kneeshaw 2016-05-03 12:57
A year or two late I have found this site. Great photos even better memories great friends and journey men that moulded you like Archie Harvey, Ike Payne, and Willie Barber not forgetting Archie Grassack as hard a man as I had met but always looked out for us. Remember him showing Barry Booth how to punch and catching him right on the chin. Served my time with Carlo-de Lorenzo my school mate Jim Finlay, Barry Booth, Billy Adamson, and Mickey Widdowson.
Also remember the big football game with the Welders Verses the Platters always a friendly game. Drinks in the boilermakers club after.-Kevin
+1 #6 Mike widdowson 2015-03-30 22:08
I remember most of these shipwrights too so many good memories worked with most of them Carlo Jim Finlay Barry booth wee Bobby and also mo and willie adamson sadly both no longer with us,I was an apprentice and was on the launch of the garrison point with big Alan wishart, had great times wi Archie grassick Donald thomson John Pennington too many to name,also the gaffers Bobby aitchison willie stirton, Ivan il always be grateful to Bobby aitchison for giving me a second chance after I left and found out the grass wasn't greener on the other side, I still miss it even after all this time robbs wasn't just a place of work it was an institution a way of life for many guys not just from leith but Fife, prestonpans Gilmerton my dad also worked there and every day he would say I wish I was walking down there now how true..sorry forgot to mention Keith pringle and stevie Payne I will try and pass on photos soon...
+3 #5 Mike widdowson 2015-03-30 21:43
Ye I too remember a lot of these shipwrights above sadly Alan,mo,Morriso n no longer with us. When I was an apprentice I was on the garrison point with big alan wishart when it was launched shipwrights legends were Archie grassick, John Pennington willie sproul Mav, to name but a few. Fond memories of the gaffer,s Bob aitchison, willie stirton, Ivan, had great times with Carlo dilorenzo jim Finlay mo Barry booth wee Bobby jake mcewan and the funniest guy in the yard and a fifer wullie adamson who grew a potato patch behind the riggers shed ha ha sadly passed away in 1984 and who's grave I still go and visit to this day,I have so many memories of robbs some funny, some not but il always be grateful to Bobby aitchison for giving me a second chance to come back after I found out the grass wasn't greener on the other side in the words of my dad who also worked there I wish I was walking down there tomorrow....... ..
+4 #4 Jim Clark 2014-10-10 18:30
Hi Came across the website it's great to see some of the names from the past.
I served my time from 1975 and was there until it closed.spent a lot of time working with Donald Thomson he used to call me 'jimmy Son'.also worked on the erection squad with Big George,Andy Brown and Tammy Hughes.
Willie Stirton was the gaffer mainly on new work .Used to go up to Hound Point in the Forth to do maintenance work sometimes.Remem ber tough guys like Archie Grassack who had hearts of gold.
Also worked with Ike Payne and Willie Barber who were great tradesmen.Start ed my time with Carlo de Lorenzo
Still got a fruit bowl from Bobby Bell somewhere.
Tough but great days sadly missed.
+3 #3 robert mcfarlane 2014-10-05 12:55
i was a shipwright from 79 till it closed.the tradesmen that trained me where archie grassick willie sproule john gaffers were bobby aitchison ivor borman and willie stirton and the guys i came through the training center were steven payne,keith pringle and gary houston.

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