Preservation and restoration Glenlee , by David Paterson


By David Paterson, Trustee of the Clyde Maritime Trust 

Article was in the World Ship Review, Issue No 62 , December 2010.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to sail on a deep water sailing ship, has had what I consider, an experience of a lifetime.  My trip in sailing vessel Glenlee was not so spectacular, but nevertheless thrilling, as I had the opportunity to sail in her in August, while being towed down the River Clyde from Glasgow to Greenock for her ten year cycle of hull cleaning, inspection, and paining. 

However, on this occasion the dry-docking included some structural work in readiness for the ships move to a new location a few hundred yards from her current hearth. But, before explaining, it may be helpful to outline some of the ships history, and the Clyde Maritime Trust’s involvement, which owns and manages the ship. 


SV Glenlee is a three-masted barque of 1,613 gt. built at Rodger’s Bay Yard, Port Glasgow in 1896. She is 245 feet loa by  37 feet broad. She sailed under Glenlee for two years before being renamed SV Islamount. She made 14 cargo carrying voyages between 1897 and 1919, during which time she was at sea for more than 5,000 days, making four circumnavigations of the globe, and 15 passages round Vale Horn. She encountered numerous gales, often sustaining damage to structures and rigging, loss of lifeboats, flooding of cabins, a grounding, and drowning of an apprentice. 

Under the Italian and Spanish flags.

By 1920 the ship had been bought by an Italian company of Genoa, who changed her name to SV Clarastella. The Italians installed a Tween deck, tow auxiliary Diesel engines, and for the first time electric lighting. Her Italian era was short lived, as by 1922 she was acquired by the Spanish Navy for conversion to a sail training ship and renamed Galatea. Not a lot is known of her voyages under the Spanish Navy, however, the Trust is currently undertaking research on this period. The Spanish Navy re-engined her in 1950, and she made her last training voyage in 1959. From then until 1981 she was a rigging training ship in El Ferrol. After ten years when she was laid up in Seville, the Trust bought her for £44,000 in 1992. 

Return to the Clyde.

The Trust has her towed back to the Clyde in June 1993, and dry-docked her at Greenock for hull inspection and painting. It was the discovered that the Spanish Navy, at some point, had double plated her hull. This began phase 1, a six-year programme of restoration at Yorkhill Quay in Glasgow. It was agreed to give her back the Glenlee name, and as much as possible, to restore her to the 1896 configuration. Nevertheless, although the Spanish Navy’s flying-bridge superstructure was removed, it was decided to retain the Italian Tween deck, both (Lower deck aft, and Lower deck forward), and the twin Swedish Polar diesel engines and generator.

Raising funds.

Before the restoration could commence two obstacles lay ahead, to raise sufficient funding for the restoration, and to carry out the laborious task of pre-restoration. The latter consisted of removing much of the Spanish infrastructure below the main deck, along with tons of accumulated debris in the hold. The Spanish Navy had added tons of ballast in the form of pig iron ingots, and nearly a metre high of cement. All the cement was slowly chipped away, and the iron put in crates and barrels to simulate cargo. While mainly volunteers removed the debris and so forth the Trust was successful in receiving grant aid from the European Union Regional Fund (£800,000), the Heritage Lottery Fund (£1.1m), and contributions from Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Development Agency.

Phase 1 of the restoration.

This new funding enabled restoration of the weather deck houses and poop deck, and transportation of the main masts from Spain, by cutting them into 40 feet sections, to fit a ship container. The masts and yards are not original, replacements probably from the 1950s. The rigging was carried out using the expertise of an American, Jamie White, who had worked on the Scottish-built full rigger Balclutha (1886). Phase 1 was completed in 1999 and the ship opened to the public on 13th August the same year. 

30,000 visitors a year.

The next few years brought approximately 30,000 visors a year to the ship. In 2005 Glasgow City Council approached the Trust with a proposal, to move the ship a few hundred yards downriver to berth alongside the Council’s new transport museum to be built and opened by 2011. Such a move would increase visitor numbers, but it also meant the quality of the visitor experience would have to be addressed including further restoration. To carry this out both fundraising and a project plan were required.

Phase 2 of the restoration.

Following much discussion, by the early 2008 a phase 2 project plan had been drafted. as much of the weather deck work had been completed during phase 1, Phase 2, based on visitor feedback and observation, focused more on visitor centre requirements. However, restoration areas not included in phase 1, like poop deck cabins, and engines and generator, were added to the plan. fundraising began in earnest  during 2007 and 2008 with grants for: education – learning pack (2008) : and green energy heating and ventilation systems (2009). Glasgow city Council was also very generous in its support. The tugging cost for dry-docking was donated. The Trust also initiated a flag appeal, and ran social evenings, which brought in additional monies for interpretation and more. It is now hoped that all phase 2 project work will be completed before the move to the new quay at the Riverside Transport Museum in 2011.

Phase 2 project work (dates indicate when work was carried out, or completion planned)

(a) The Cargo Hold ( 2007 & 2008); This first project was to reduce the area taken up by barrels and crates of ballast to double floor space for visitor access. Most of the iron ingots were put into gabions, and suspended between the ship frames.

(b) The Education Programme ( 2008 – 2011): From guided tours for schools to visit based on the development of a learning pack, integrated into the national primary school curriculum. also a part-time worker to assist the museum education officer for two years with a  promise of a third year of funding.

(c) The school room (2009); The downside to moving to the riverside was losing on-shore facilities for education and retail. Therefore it was agreed to utilise the Lower deck forward as a purpose built class school-room, which would resemble an early 20th century classroom. City Building a Glasgow City Council arm’s length training organisation supplied the apprentices to carry out the work free of charge. Volunteers built the wooden trestle tables and stools for sitting. A new staircase was built from the Tween deck to the Cargo hold connects the school room to the rest of the ship.

(d) Energy Efficient Heating & Ventilation Systems (2009 and 2020): Heating the ship in winter had become a serious problem. By using heat exchangers to draw heat from the water of the River Clyde, it will provide adequate heating throughout the ship at half the required current power.

(e) Extending the Aft Deck House (2010); Throughout restoration one problem has been the inability to source ship construction drawings. Using photographs and drawings from similar ships has had to suffice. hence , as a consequence, during Phase 1 the actual size of the deckhouse was not fully appreciated, so from further research, it has now been extended aft six metres. This will now accommodate a retail shop and visitor exit points.

(f) Lift to all Decks (2010); Disabled access to all decks has been Problematic . It has been a mismatch of lifts, with no access to the cargo hold. The lift will be positioned down through the aft deck house. 

(g) The Poop Cabin (2008 to 2010); The Poop  cabin been destroyed during Glenlee’s mothballed years in Spain, and although used for functions since 1999, it had not been restored to its 1896 configuration.  Drawings and a specification were drafted, and a visit to SV Pomern at Mariehamn was arranged to copy furnishings and fittings and other items. City Building apprentices and ships crew are again undertaking this work.

(h) The Polar Diesel Engines; Generator; & Switchboard (2008 to 2011); While laid up in Seville, Galatea suffered severe vandalism, and flooding. Hence, this second set of engines installed in 1950 became unworkable. Nevertheless, many hours by volunteers, crew and some contract work to rebuild the steel platforms, will now provide a new area for the visitor  experience. here the story of the Italian and Spanish eras can be told.

Next year the move.

Restoration and interpretation work is now in full swing, to achieve a state of readiness for the move to the Riverside Transport Museum in 2011. Everyone is full of anticipation, along with staff at Riverside and in the City Council, that it will be a great success, and become a world renowned visitor attraction.