Motor Yachts on the Clyde

By on Jan 10, 2015 in Clyde River and Firth, Dumbarton, Gareloch, James Silver, McLaren Brothers, Shipbuilding | 8 comments


In the 1860s, a boat yard was built at the mouth of the burn at Rosneath on the Gareloch by Archibald McKellar. In May 1909, the yard was purchased by James Silver, a local man who had served his apprenticeship in the yard, and a yacht designer, John McCallum, and they set about building yachts of high quality. The business failed in 1914 and was taken over by Ferguson and Thompson, Ltd., of Glasgow who retained James Silver as manager and continued the business under the name of James A. Silver, Ltd. A new designer, John Bain, arrived at the yard and became the yard manager when James Silver left in 1916. The firm developed a reputation for the production of high quality motor yachts at Rosneath in the 1920s and 1930s. Their designs and their methods are well documented in the publication “Motor Yacht Building” by John Bain that was published in the late 1930s. The firm closed its doors in July 1971.

Silver Silverette 195


This 36 ft Silverette was capable of just over 8 knots , driven by two 12 hp Morris engines.  The accommodation consisted of two folding cot berths in the forecastle that adjoined the saloon and galley with two more berths in the aft cabin.


MY Brisk Silver Advert912


The Brisk was built in 1931.  She was a 62 ft wooden construction driven by two 60 hp Gleniffer diesel  engines and capable of 10.6 knots.  There was self-contained accommodation for a crew of three in the forecastle, a forward double berth cabin, a single cabin amidships and the owner’s cabin aft, in addition to a galley, dining saloon, saloon, bathrooms and toilets.

Saqqa Silver barge983


The firm also built orders for foreign owners.  The state barge Baqqa was ordered by an owner in the Gulf.

McAlister Dumbarton Sandpoint Boatyard 196

The Sandpoint Yard of Robert McAlister & Son at Dumbarton

The Sandpoint yard at the mouth of the Leven in Dumbarton was another location famous for the construction of sailing yachts and steam yachts.  It was owned by Robert McAlister & Son from 1885 but in 1908, the firm of McLaren Brothers, Ltd., set up as a builder of motor yachts, lasting until 1926.  Latterly they had strong connections with the James Silver at Rosneath on the Gareloch.

MY Silver Gareloch 913

Rosneath Bay (McLaren Brothers, Dumbarton)

The picture of the fine motor yachts with a backdrop of the merchant ships laid up in the Gareloch during and after the trade depression of the late 1920s provides an interesting contrast.  Some better-off working men with an interest in answering the “call of the sea” began purchasing motorized lifeboats available as many of the older merchant ships were scrapped.  These were converted into “cabin cruisers” and saw much use on the Clyde and Leven.

Gareloch Layup376

Ships laid up in the Gareloch around 1929

Yachts were far beyond the reach of the unemployed.  The Renton photographer, William McKim, however, provided some relief to a few men who were laid-off.  Equipped with a camera, they provided an excellent record of the times.

MK Gareloch

Looking across the Gareloch to Shandon Hydropathic Hotel (McKim)

MY Maudorces346


Maudorces was a 42 ft yacht of wooden construction with a 32 hp Morris engine driving two propellors.  She was built in 1925 by McLaren Brothers, Ltd., for Mr. Charles J. Waldie of Glasgow.

Phyllis Irene Motor Yacht McGeachie 684

Phyllis Irene (McGeachie)

The Phyllis Irene came from McLaren Brothers in 1926 for Mr Alexander Watson of Rutherglen.  At just over 39 feet, she was powered by two Bergius paraffin engines.

MY Papakura343


One of the leading lights in shipbuilding in Dumbarton, Walter Brock, ordered a motor yacht, Papakura, from McLaren Brothers in 1912.  At 60ft long by 11 and a half feet in the beam, she was powered by a Bolinders motor of 80 hp.  It would appear that a new Papakura was built around 1927, and this is the vessel shown here, completed by Silver at Rosneath.

MY Seahawk Caldh Harbour546

Seahawk at Caladh Harbour in the Kyles of Bute (Cuthbert Spencer)

Demand for motor yachts was high.  The Seahawk was built in 1929 by the Rigidus Boat Co., of Whiteinch.  She was powered by two Gleniffer motors of 80 hp.

Seahawk in Kyles of Bute 1936 043

Seahawk in the Kyles of Bute in 1936

The remaining pictures await more information.  The neat looking Waveney dates from 1927, while the remaining motor yacht, is unidentified.

MY Waveney340


Motor Yacht882

unidentified motor yacht in the Kyles of Bute


  1. Bruce

    June 29, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Was looking for The Rigidus Boat Co when up came your delightful site. I have only scratched at it but have had so much pleasure already. Mind you, i spent much time on MAUDORCES. I think there might be a problem. I say “might” because I’m not sure but have her by Silver and have MAUDORCES II from Maclaren Brothers at Sandpoint.

    Please be assured that I will be visiting often and hope you will add to the site as promised.

    • valeman

      July 1, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Bruce: Thanks for the comments, I’ll look into the “problem”. Graham

      • Jonathan Hyslop

        July 4, 2017

        Post a Reply

        Came upon your site as a pleasant surprise. I am very interested to see MY Maudorces photograph. This photograph looks like Maudorces 11 which I have owned since 2012. Maudorces 11 is now named MY Shontishar. I am desparately trying to restore her to her original specification or as near. She was requisitioned in 1939 for the Navy and bought back for £100 by the same family that had her built. Maudorces 11 is 46feet long and now powered by a Kelvin J4 petrol/diesel. Let me know if you want some photographs including interior and engine. if you have a large format picture of Maudorces I would be grateful for comparison. Do you know where she is now? The photograph you show is so similar I doubt it was built by Silver but someone will know!

        Best regards.

        • Andrew D MacLaren

          September 4, 2017

          Post a Reply

          I am fascinated to read this. I am the grand son of Alexander P MacLaren, one of the MacLaren brothers who died in 1926 If the Shontishar is accessible from Preston I would dearly love to have a look at her. I had no idea that any of their yachts was still afloat.
          Regards, Andrew D Maclaren

          • Andrew MacLaren

            September 4, 2017

            Correction- great grandson- sorry.
            Andrew MacLaren


    September 27, 2015

    Post a Reply

    Hello, I was over the moon to find this wonderful photo of “Papakura” on your site. We bought her in 1964 and she was our only home for 14 years, travelling intensively all over the Mediterranean. I have many photos of her and our adventures were made even more wonderful by having our lovely “Varina” (which she was named before we bought her) take us safely into port every time. I would love to try and find out what happened to her. The last tie I heard of her she was for sale inthe Lyon area in France in 1985. We all like to think that she is still alive and kicking. So, if you have any news f her we would love to hear about it. If you would like any photos of her (with teak wheelhouse and mizzen mast) I’d be happy to send you some for your archives. All the best, Suzy Annett-Brown

    • valeman

      September 28, 2015

      Post a Reply

      Suzy: Glad you found this of interest. Perhaps more news of Papakura will turn up. Graham

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