Tug Clyde

A Story of the Tugs Clyde

In the 110 years between 1851 and 1961 the Clyde Navigation Trust, developers of the 23 mile man-made Navigation in the River Clyde between the C├Čty of Glasgow and town of Greenock, ordered three tug / tender vessels which all bore the name ‘Clyde’.

The first Clyde was a steam paddle vessel built in 1851 and she was succeeded by a steam screw tug in 1912 and a motor screw vessel in 1961.

This photo is of paddle tug Clyde of 1851. The photo comes from the magnificent Wotherspoon Collection which is a vast resource of wonderful artefacts relating to the River Clyde during its years of industrial importance during the 19th and 20th Centuries. The Witherspoon Collection is held in perpetuity at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.  It was amassed by James Witherspoon (1858-1936) and consists of 41 folio containing over 4000 images of the Clyde from the appearance of the pioneering paddle steamer Comet in 1812 to the 1930s. James Wotherspoon was the son of a well-to-do confectioner of the Victorian era. In the 1870s James Wotherspoon started an ultimately very prosperous business supplying rubber and asbestos steam engine packings to the Clyde engineering industries. 


The Paddle Tug Clyde was something of a family affair. She was designed by William Brrown of the Renfrew shipbuilding firm of William Simons & Company and was built in their London Works in Renfrew. However, the twin side lever engines for the PT Clyde of 1851 were not produced by her builders. In fact, they were the first marine steam engines to be built by the firm of Anthony & John Inglis at their Whitehall Foundry in Warroch Street in the Anderston district of Glasgow. Furthermore, it was not the brothers Inglis that designed the machinery for PT Clyde, that task falling to their Engineering Superintendent, Andrew Brown, father of Wiiliam Brown of Simons shipyard.

Soon after designing, building and installing the engines in PT Clyde Andrew Brown left Inglis’ employ to become Enguineering Director of Simons. Later he became the principal owner and Chairman of the Company. He also became Provost of the Royal Burgh of Renfrew and a significant benefactor of the town but, undoubtedly, Andrew Brown’s greatest claim to fame is his pioneering work in the development of the steam dredger and he is often referred to as the Father of mechanized dredging plant. Simons yard became a world renowned builder of dredgers.

When the PT Clyde was replaced by the ST Clyde in 1912 one of Andrew Brown’s sons purchased the twin engines that his father had designed for the little paddler 61 years earlier and placed them on a plinth on the Ferry Green at Renfrew in memory of his father’s achievements. They remain there to this day, almost 170 years after Andrew Brown built them at the Inglis  Brother’s  Whitehall Foundry.