To the left of the picture is Water Row, the road that led from the centre of the village to the main river crossing. In the foreground is the hand-operated chain ferry which carried passengers and carts between Water Row and Pointhouse from 1734. The long chain which can be seen stretched across the river bed was attached securely on each bank and to a windlass on the boat, and the ferryman turned the windlass to haul the boat across the water. In 1865 a larger boat with a steam-powered windlass was introduced on the crossing and ten years later it was replaced by a double-chain steam ferry. The ferry appears to be carrying a cart loaded with hay. The steeple of Govan Old Parish Church dominates the village, and a steam ship and two sailing boats are further down-river.
The Govan Vehicular Ferry on the River Clyde, March 1882.
A & J Inglis' shipyard and the ferry slipway at Pointhouse at the mouth of the River Kelvin are in the background. From 1857, a chain-hauled vehicular ferry for horses, carts and carriages operated between Water Row in Govan and Pointhouse in Partick. A new double-chain vehicular ferry was introduced in 1875, and continued in operation until it was replaced by a steam vessel with an elevating deck (and the vehicular ferry dock was altered) in 1912.
The sheds of Napier's Shipyard are on the left. Known locally as the "Old Yard" it had been acquired by Robert Napier from McArthur & Alexander in 1842. Napier launched his first iron ship, the Vanguard, in 1843. In 1850 he built a new shipyard to the east of the old, at Highland Lane, and it became known as the "New Yard". He sold the Old Yard in 1858. The Govan Ferry row boat has just disembarked passengers at the little bay in the foreground, at the end of Water Row. Govan Old Parish Church's steeple can be seen beyond the shipyard's sheds.
The view from the north bank of the Clyde shows the steeple of Govan Old Parish Church (right) and the houses at the end of Water Row.
The rowing boat working on the Govan Ferry service appears to be setting off on a wayward course!
The Govan Ferry and Harland & Wolff's workshops at Water Row in Govan, looking south-west, post-1914.
The company's workshops on Water Row were designed by Sir William Arrol & Co and built 1914-1915 using steel columns and roof trusses and with terracotta brick-faced walls. The stocks at the western end of the firm's shipyard are visible on the left.
The passenger ferry that crossed between Govan and Pointhouse is in mid-stream on its way to Water Row.
The Pointhouse, an Inn and Tavern on the East bank of the River Kelvin at its confluence with the Clyde, 1815. The Pointhouse was reached by the Ferry Road from Partick, and the chain-hauled Govan Ferry carried passengers across the 450 yards of the Clyde which separated it from Water Row in Govan. During the 1840s Thomas B Sneath opened a shipyard at Pointhouse, which was subsequently acquired by A & J Inglis. The house remained standing in the midst of the yard for many years.
The Govan passenger and vehicle ferry both operated between Pointhouse and Govan.
The first record of a ferry from Pointhouse to Govan is from 1734. The Clyde Navigation Trust became responsible for operating the service in 1857. The layout of the double-ended ferry was simple, with a small cab at each end for the ferry captain and shelters on either side for the passengers.
The vehicle and passenger ferry was withdrawn from the Govan-Pointhouse crossing in 1966, two years after the opening of the second section of the Clyde Tunnel.
View of mouth of the River Kelvin from the south west c 1890s, showing ships under construction at D & W Henderson's yard on the west bank, and A & J Inglis' on the east bank.
The Govan Vehicular Ferry is at the landing slip at Pointhouse, far right.
This beautiful landscape on the right shows the inn and other buildings at Pointhouse on the north bank of the river, looking west. The small rowing boat that provided a passenger service between Pointhouse and Water Row in Govan can be seen close to the bank. In the foreground cows are drinking from a pond while couples court at the riverbank in the evening sunlight.
On the left is a cottage at the foot of Water Row, with the spire of Govan Old Parish Church behind. The incongruous sight of a small steamboat in this idyllic rural setting, and of the functional industrial architecture of the Govan Silk Works further down the river, indicates how times were changing on the outskirts of early Victorian Glasgow.
Postcard view of Water Row in Govan c 1902. In the foreground the slipway to the Govan Ferry can be seen sloping down to the River Clyde. According to local tradition, Keir Hardie lived in one of the cottages during his childhood. On the extreme left of this view are the gates of a boatyard.
D & W Henderson's Meadowside Shipyard can be seen in the background (right), on the north bank of the Clyde at the mouth of the River Kelvin. The cottages on Water Row were demolished 1910-1911.
The Govan passenger ferry, which operated between Pointhouse and Govan. The first record of a ferry from Pointhouse to Govan is from 1734. The Clyde Navigation Trust became responsible for operating the service in 1857.
The layout of the double-ended ferry was simple, with a small cab at each end for the ferry captain and shelters on either side for the passengers. The passenger ferry was withdrawn from the Govan-Pointhouse crossing in 1966, two years after the opening of the second section of the Clyde Tunnel.
The Govan ferry was one of the oldest routes crossing the River Clyde. By 1900 there was a vehicular ferry, but this was withdrawn in 1966 after the opening of the 2nd Clyde Tunnel.
As the settlement of Glasgow grew up along both banks of the Clyde, the need arose to communicate and travel between north of the river and the south side. The most obvious manner to cross the water was via a ferry service, and there was certainly a regular service operating at Renfrew by the 17th Century.
Another service sprang up between Govan and Partick, with the impetus coming from cattle drovers wishing to cross the river to reach their markets, although it seems hard to believe that two of the most industrialised and urban areas of the entire country once stood with cattle passing through the streets. This picture shows Water Row Cottages on left of picture.
However, it was with the rapid growth of the 19th Century and the increasing role the river played in the life of the city at that time that the ferries across the Clyde really took off, and by the end of that century there were eight in operation.
Most of the ferries' main traffic was bringing shipyard workers from their homes to the yards and back again, and in fact, some of the ferries went directly to jetties at particular shipyards.
However, just as with their rise, the decline of the Clyde led to the end of the ferries as well.
By the 1960s the lessening of traffic had led many to close, and the extension of cross-river road traffic via the Clyde Tunnel and Kingston Bridge sounded the death-knell for the river craft.
I can remember riding on ferry number 10 when I used to want to cross the river, (just for fun by riding on the Govan Ferry) back and forth until the Ferry Man got tired of us riding back and forth crossing the Clyde five or six time in one go.
I wrote a poem abut our Govan Ferry called “They took ma boat away” back in the 18th July 2010. I guess it could have been about Ferry number 10.
Ma wee grey boat goes too and fro
across the clyde each day.
It takes the men who build the ships,
back hame their only way.
Each Morn they walk doon tay the clyde,
'n' get the ferry oor, they hear the thud of
engine steel, 'n' smoke comes billowing ower.
We see the boat so dirty noo,
with scars across her hull, from
taking men across the clyde,
to the sound of a screaming Gull.
Ma mammy takes me doon sometime,
doon the water side, to let me ride upon
that boat that skims across the clyde.
This Govan ferry workin hard from
where it used tay bide, lies sad and lost
no more to sail, no more to sail the clyde.
They took our ferries away from us,
those men in dark grey suits,
no more to see the children smile
and hear our ferries hoot.
To smell the steam from its funnel spout
and its dirty grey scared skin, I miss ma
ferry across the clyde, I miss her comin' in.
Comin' in tay the widden dock, beside the
wee swing park, where I used to play once
as a child all day until the dark.
I feel so sad our ferries gone,
it seems weve lost or way,
they stopped ma ferry across the clyde
they took ma boat away.
By: Jimmy Strang 18th July 2010
This is a drawing of Harland & Wolf, the Sharp Street Tenements and the two ferries docked on the Clyde. Done from the Partick side of the river.
CLICK TO HEAR THEY TOOK MA BOAT AWAY