puffers & vics



J. J. Hay & Sons Ltd.

J. Hay & Sons Ltd of Kirkintilloch were both boat builders and operators on the Forth and Clyde Canal  which linked the rivers Clyde in the West and the Forth in the east. It wasn't too long before their operations extended out onto the Cyde and the west coast and Hebridean Islands.

Starting with a fleet of horse-drawn scows transporting coal, iron, timber and grain on the canal, in around 1857 Hay fitted some of his scows with simple non-codensing steam engines driving a single screw and also in 1857 took delivery of the first ever steam screw lighter to be built as such from scratch. This vessel, named "Glasgow", was built by David Swan at his Kelvin Dock yard on the canal.

In 1867 William's two sons, James and John, took over the floundering boatbuilding business of Crawfords in Kirkintilloch and put it to work maintaining the family's fleet of canal boats. In 1879 they went into the business of operating coastal steamers on their own account with James running that side of the business and John continuing to manage the yard.  They soon turned to building their own vessels and the "Helena" was launched that same year. In the ensuing decade the yard launched eleven vessels, ten for themselves and one, "Aniline" for a Falkirk owner. New-builds were launched broadside into the canal as shown in the postcard from the early 1900s reproduced below. (I cannot make out the ship's name but the letters "ITO" are visible and so I am going to speculate that it is the 1905 "Briton")  The location of the launch is readily identifiable today from the red sandstone building in the background which still stands at the corner of Southbank Road and Townhead.

In 1888 the firm of J Hay & Sons Ltd was formally constituted by John Hay to run the coasting business. Shortly afterwards he took over the shipbuilding side of the business and renamed it  J & J Hay Ltd. In the period from then until the start of WW1, the company built 14 vessels for its own fleet. In 1917 the yard was awarded an Admiralty contract for some barges with tanks for the carriage of oil from Grangemouth on the Forth to Bowling on the Clyde. Just as the work was completed the admiralty decided to lay a pipeline instead.

In 1921 the two companies were merged into J. Hay & Sons Ltd and in the inter-war years the company became the principal operator on the canal.  During WW2, only three vessels were built at Kirkintilloch: VIC18, the Kaffir and the Boer.  Their final build was the 1946 Chindit, for their own fleet.

Hay's shipyard at Kirkintilloch was demolished in 1954 although the slipway remained in use for ship repairs until 1961. During this time Hay required a reputation for rebuilds of salvaged lighters.  As a vessel-operating company only by now,  J & J Hay merged with G&G Hamilton in 1963 to form Hay-Hamilton Ltd, who in turn amalgamated with Ross & Marshall in 1969 to form Glenlight Shipping 

The photograph below, courtsesy of the Roy Cressey Collection, shows three of Hay's vessels, the Cretan, Texan and Boer at Troon in 1962.