FAIRFIELD SHIPBUILDING & ENGINEERING COMPANY
FAIRFIELDS MAIN GATE

Govan was for 100 years was the centre of all shipbuilding on the Clyde. Robert Napier (1791-1876), often called (the father of shipbuilding on the Clyde), took over a small wood shipbuilding yard there in 1841 and developed it into a huge enterprise.

Not only was he an innovator who produced high quality work notably for the Admiralty and the Cunard Line, but he also trained many of the next generation of shipbuilders such as the Thomson brothers, who established John Brown's Shipyard in Clydebank, John Elder and William Pearce.

Fairfields, got its name from the farm than once stood on the site of the yard some time ago in 1864. It all began with Randolph Elder & Co, which then quickly became John Elder & Co.

Fairfields Shipbuilding main gate

John Elder (1824-69) was an inspired marine engineer who was responsible for developing the compound engine. The fuel efficiency of the engine now enabled ships to make much longer voyages. Elder died quite young as he was only aged 45 in 1869 when he died. His statue, by Boehm a sculpture of John Elder stands today in the Elder Park and shows him standing beside one of his compound engines.

JOHN ELDER WITH COMPOUND ENGINE

John Elder standing with his Compound Engine

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William Pearce (1833-88) took over management of Fairfields Ship Yard and the company went from strength to strength. Along with Napiers it became one of the principal suppliers of the Royal Navy and during the 1880s repeatedly won the Blue Riband for fast transatlantic crossings.

CLYDE FAIRFIELD FITTING-OUT BASIN WITH CRANE
CLYDE FAIRFIELD FITTING-OUT BASIN

The first yard in Govan was the "Old Yard" and was opened by McArthur & Alexander 1839 and lay just east of Water Row, in 1842 the yard was acquired by Robert Napier and his first ship the "Vanguard" was launched from the "Old Yard".

GOVAN OLD YARD

In 1850 Napier opened the Govan East Yard "New Yard", next to the Middleton Yard which was opened by Smith & Rodgers in 1843. Napier's yards where training grounds for a whole generation of shipbuilders and engineers, who would go on to found their own companies throughout britain; two of these being John Elder and William Pearce. In 1853 after his sons took a more involved role in the company Napier renamed it Robert Napier & Sons.

FAIRFIELDS SHIPBUILDING YARD 1903
FAIRFIELDS MAIN GATE WITH ME COMING OFF SHIFT 1904
GOVAN OLD SHIPYARD ENTRANCE 1900
THE BOWLER AND THE BUNNET VIDEO LINK

The Bowler and the Bunnet

Sean Connery directs and presents a startling, stylish and wry look at the shipyards of Govan, The Bowler and the Bunnet (STV 1967, 36min).

The stunning Oscar-winning documentary Seawards the Great Ships (1960, 29min) celebrates Scotland's role as shipbuilder to the world; there's glorious colour footage of Queen Mary Leaving the Clyde (1936, 2min) - before she was painted grey - newly restored by the Scottish Screen Archive; plus the friendly story of a family firm of propellor manufacturers, Men of Iron.

THE BOWLER AND THE BUNNET VIDEO LINK

Sean Connery examines the gap and suspicion in the relationship between management and workers in industry, and shows how one Scottish shipyard is trying to change that and what could well be a blueprint for other companies to follow. For the first time outside Scotland, the black-and-white documentary, directed by Sean Connery, on the decline of the shipbuilding industry along the River Clyde, was screened during the first edition of the Rome Film Festival on 13th October 2006.
 
Three Harland & Wolff shipyards on the Clyde. The company's yard in Govan (on the site of the Govan Old, Govan New and Middleton yards) is at the bottom, left, opposite the former D & W Henderson's (on the west bank of the Kelvin) and the former A & J Inglis' (east) shipyards.
 
The Meadowside Shipyard was founded 1844 by Tod & MacGregor in 1862 and was occupied by Hendersons in 1872. It was acquired by Harland & Wolff after the First World War but closed in 1935. The dry dock, clearly shown leading off from the Kelvin, was in-filled in 1969.

CLICK TO SEE OLD GOVAN PAST
CLICK TO SEE OLD GOVAN
CLICK TO SEE THE RIVER CLYDE VIDEO
CLICK TO SEE MORE OLD GOVAN PICTURES

Click on an old Govan Picture to see more of Govan long gone but let us hope not forgotten?

Fairfields Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Govan today

Fairfield's changed in 1968 when it became home to the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and subsequently Govan Shipbuilders, British Shipbuilders, Kvaerner Govan and BAE Systems Surface Ships. Even though there was a decline in the shipbuilding industry more so in recent years, Fairfield has undergone a quite a few transformations under its different owners. Fairfield's has survived to become one of only two shipyards still in operation on the Clyde today.
Fairfield's is now part of the BAE Systems.

To say it is very important to the people of Govan would be a bit of an under-statement and is still evident; there was a survey done not so long ago and out of all the people questioned at least 40% of the knew someone who had worked at Fairfield's. My Father included who worked there as a Joiner. Govan was at the centre of the shipbuilding industry and the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company was the largest and most successful of all the yards on the Clyde.

FAIRFIELD SHIPBUILDING AND ENGINEERING COMPANY
CLYDE SHIPYARDS

You can read here about the Fairfield Heritage the story of Glasgow's greatest shipyard on their Facebook page.

By the late 1950s foreign shipyards (as in Korea and Japan) were more competitive than Scottish shipyards.

MUSEUMS GALLERIES SCOTLAND

Fairfield Heritage is housed in the iconic Fairfield office buildings on Govan Road and charts the rise and development of what was the world’s largest, and most technologically advanced shipyard.

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