The Glenlee Story – Glasgow’s Tall Ship

The Glenlee was built at the Bay Yard of Rodger & Anderson & Co., in Port Glasgow, Yard No 324, and was one of a group of 10 steel sailing vessels built to a standard design for the Glasgow shipping firm of Archibald Sterling and Co Ltd.

She was launched on the 3rd of December 1896, fully rigged and seaworthy at a cost of £24,000. Rigged as a three-masted barque, with a length of 245 feet, beam 37.5 feet, depth 22.5 feet and an air draft of 137.5 feet. Gross Tonnage 1613.00. She carried a full set of 19 sails, amounting to 25,000 square feet and carried a crew of 25.   

Glenlee on her Launch day

The cost of her build was £24,000. During her sea trials on the lower Forth of Clyde she achieved 8 knots despite encountering blustery weather. her maiden voyage on 13th December 1896, brought her in ballast to Liverpool and from there with a general cargo to Portland Oregon. 

She voyaged in general cargo work and was bought and sold several times during her career. In 1898 she was purchased by Rbt. Ferguson & Co. of Dundee and renamed ‘Islamount’. She was sold again in 1905 to Rbt. Thomas & Co. Ltd. Of Liverpool. During their ownership she achieved her longest continuous period of voyaging amounting to 1269 days between the 18th March 1916 until the 20th October 1919. Her figurehead is nicknamed Marydoll. Then she was purchased by a Genoese company and converted to an auxiliary sailing ship with twin diesels and renamed ‘Clarastella’

During her cargo carrying days ‘Glenlee’ circumnavigated the globe four times and survived (though not without incident!) passing through the fearsome storms of Cape Horn 15 times before being bought by the Spanish Navy in 1922. Her role was to become an officer sail training vessel and accommodated a crew of 306. The Spanish Navy renamed her ‘Galatea’. The ship was modified and served in that role until 1969. She then operated as a training school until 1981 when she was laid up in Seville Harbour and largely forgotten.

A British naval architect saw her in Seville in 1990 and two years later, the Clyde Maritime Trust succeeded in buying the re named Galatea at auction for 5 million Pesetas (£40,000) and saved her from dereliction.

She is the only large Clyde-Built sailing vessel still afloat in the U.K.

The Glenlee is one of only 5 Clydebuilt sailing ships in the world that remain afloat and she was restored over a six-year period by the Clyde Maritime Trust’s paid and voluntary crew. 

Glenlee web site: www.thetallship.com

The other four Clydebuilt sailing ships still afloat are also visitor attractions.

Balclutha. A three masted, full rigged, steel hulled, square rigged ship built in 1886 at the Charles Connel & Company Shipyard near Glasgow. She is now a Museum ship and is berthed in the San Francisco National Historical Park. 

Balclutha web site: nps.gov.  

Moshulu. A four masted, steel Barque built in 1904 by William Hamilton & Company on the River Clyde, she is the last remaining original windjammer. She is currently used as a floating Restuarant docked in Pens Landing, Philadelphia

Moshulu web site: moshula.com 

Pommern A four masted Barque built in 1903 by J Reid & Co. Shipyard, Glasgow. She is currently a Museum at the Åland Maritime Museum, She had an extensive refit from October 2016 and reopened with a new visitor experience in May 2019.    

Pommern web site: Sjofartsmuseym.ax 

Falls of Clyde. Iron hulled, four masted, full rigged Windjammer. Built 1878 by Russell and Company, Port Glasgow. She is currently in Honolulu, the plan is to return her to the Clyde if funds can be raised.

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