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Last Update
July 2015


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About this Website

For much of the 1960’s and 70’s the view of Berwick upon Tweed from Tweedmouth was dominated by the Berwick Shipyard crane.  For the spectator the view would have been punctuated by the sound of metal on metal, the sight of sparks and the eerie white glow of acetylene torches.  The small steel vessels built on the Quay Walls site would never match the leviathans constructed elsewhere in terms of size. Nevertheless the ships built on the Tweed would establish the name of Berwick Shipyard throughout the world.

Berwick Shipyard in 1979 shortly before it closed.

The site of the former Berwick Shipyard in November 2006.

The site of Berwick Shipyard in 1979 and 2007 viewed from the Tweed Dock.
Photos: © Billy Swan

Wullie Swan
Wullie Swan

In 1979 after a 29-year burst of activity the yard fell silent ending the modern era of shipbuilding on the Tweed.  Today little remains as a reminder of an industry that had first been established at Berwick more than 200 years previously.  The former shipyard site has been cleaned up, many buildings have been demolished and the concrete slipway from which many vessels were launched is now filled in.

The purpose of this website is to keep the memory of shipbuilding at Berwick alive. From 1950 – 1972 my father, Wullie Swan (right), was employed at the yard as a ship’s driller.   Despite my family connections (my brother Les also worked at the yard for a short time) I was struck by how little accessible information there was about the yard and the vessels that were completed there. Internet and book searches provided little detail. It was also revealing to discover that many younger people in Berwick and incomers to the town seemed unaware that shipbuilding was once an important source of employment and contributor to the local economy.

In the years since the last vessel built at Berwick left the Tweed many former workers like my own father had passed away taking with them precious memories. My own memories of the shipyard date include spectating at launches, running errands for workers, attending Christmas parties in the Youth Centre in Palace Green and dropping off my father’s flask and sandwiches on the way to school on the rare occasions that he slept-in.
 
A chance encounter with fellow ex-Berwick Grammar School pupil Graham Toward provided the impetus to research the yard and develop this website.  Graham has researched and written on different aspects of the fishing industry and has a wide network of contacts both in Berwick and beyond. He had previously researched the history and technical specifications of every steel motor fishing vessels built at Berwick over the years.  His willingness to share knowledge, information, materials and contacts was invaluable and without his help it is doubtful that this website would have been possible.

2006
1970
Two contrasting views of the shipyard site in 2006 and as it was in 1970.
Photos: © Billy Swan (left) and Iain Havery (right).

With Graham’s help and support I was able to gather information from a range of  sources including archived copies of the Berwick Advertiser, books, articles and photographs.  A number of individuals who once worked at the yard also provided personal recollections and anecdotes.  In the world-wide ship enthusiasts community various ‘subject experts’ were willing to share information and undertake research on my behalf. Information was also obtained from owners of Berwick-built vessels still in service and from contacts from across the globe including Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

2006 view
50's view.
The site of one of the yard's plate fabrication shed.. The only reminder of the site's former use is a concrete anchor point (centre left) for one of the upright steel stanchions of the plate fabrication shed. In 2007 the yard was being used as a car park. Photos: © Billy Swan (left) Berwick Advertiser (right).

The site that you are visiting is a product of these efforts and represent more than a years work.  Hopefully it will provide a useful reference source in it’s own right and stir more memories of an industry that was once an important part of Berwick’s industrial past.

Former employees of Berwick Shipyard pictured at Berwick Guildhall on Friday 9th November 2007.
Former employees of Berwick Shipyard pictured at Berwick Guildhall on Friday 9th November 2007.

Tug

The Berwick Advertiser was one of several businesses that kindly gave permission to allow photographs connected with Berwick Shipyard to be used on this website. Here a trailer towing a twin-screw tug built for British Guyana is turning into Golden Square at the top of Marygate before heading south over the Tweed Bridge. The Berwick Advertiser offices and the old bus station can be seen in the background. This picture was taken in July 1956. The bunting in the picture was erected for a royal visit to the town during the same week that the tug left Berwick.
Photo: © Berwick Advertiser

Can you help?

Do you have any information that you would like to share concerning Berwick Shipyard? Have you spotted something on the site that is not accurate? Have you any photographs of the yard, workers or vessels that could be displayed on the site? Can you provide information on Berwick-built vessels? If so, could you please get in touch by contacting webmaster@berwickshipyard.com

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