Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Monday, 24 October 2011

18 Oct 2011 – "An Ayrshire Shipbuilder"

We were delighted to welcome as speaker Mr Dougal McIntyre, who last session gave us such a fascinating talk on the flying exploits and aviation career of his father David F. McIntyre. This evening we were treated to a second beautifully illustrated talk, this time on his grandfather John’s long career as a naval designer and his connections with the West of Scotland’s shipyards.

Born In Partick in 1861, young John left school at 14 and after various office jobs, became an apprentice shipwright with his Uncle Hugh, soon going into Napier’s shipyard drawing office. He had found his niche, becoming chief draughtsman in 1883. In August four years later he emigrated to Canada with his wife and young family and settled in Montreal. The six years he spent there brought a wealth of shipbuilding experience as he freelanced on a number of design projects. In 1893 he sent his wife and children ahead of him back to Glasgow where tragically, his two younger sons died of diphtheria. The following year found him designing barges for Brazil at the Abercorn shipyard. Around this time, his Uncle Hugh reopened the Alloa shipyard, and as he was in poor health for most of the time thereafter, John was left in charge of the yard. Some years later he moved to the Govan yard, becoming their Chief Draughtsman and staying there for seven years.

In 1908 came a big move to the Ailsa shipyard in Troon, where John built a reputation for quality work, becoming first Manager then Managing Director. Two and a half years later he left by mutual consent having frequently found himself at odds with the other directors in his efforts to keep the yard on a sound economic footing. His next post was as M.D. of Mackie and Thomson, where he saw the takeover of the Govan yards by Harland and Wolff, the move to new premises in Irvine and the birth of the Ayrshire Dockyard Co. Wartime demands resulting in the designing of minesweepers and cargo vessels which further enhanced his reputation, as did his improvements to harbour facilities.

The McIntyre family moved to Ayr around 1914, a home and an area they grew to love deeply. In his retirement, John took on public responsibilities being at one time on the Town Council and on the Board of Ayr County Hospital. A gifted naval designer, highly skilled draughtsman and a leader in West of Scotland shipbuilding, John McIntyre died in 1939. Almost incredibly, he had designed 105 ships during his long, illustrious career and must have had a hand in many more. Truly he is an ancestor to cherish and admire, and our warmest thanks go to Dougal for sharing his research with us.

Sheila Dinwoodie

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