Sir Nathaniel Dunlop - a Campbeltown Lad o' Pairts

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Sir Nathaniel Dunlop - a Campbeltown Lad o' Pairts

Post by SCameron » Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:24 am

Further to the reference in my reply to Gerry in his post 'Waverley & the Lang Dyke' some further information on Sir Nathaniel Dunlop, a Campbeltown-born lad who moved to Glasgow for work, taking a job a a clerk with the Glasgow-based Allan Line and rising through the ranks to become a director and also the longest serving Chairman of the Clyde Navigation Trust. I was at an IESIS meeting in the Clydeport Head Office in Robertson Street on Wednesday and, as usual, walked up the stairs rather than take lift, partly to take another look at the great oil painting of Sir Nathaniel Dunlop that adorns the grand staircase at the half-landing level between ground and first floors.

A biography of Sir Nathaniel Dunlop can be read at

Even as a younger man Nathaniel Dunlop was obiously resourceful and determined The story is told of how he met Miss Smith, daughter of the Chairman of the City Line, one of the world's most prominent shipping companies at the time (founded in Glasgow as George Smith & Co, its vessel, the City of Glasgow, built by Barclay Curle in 1848 ... sp?id=3797, commenced a style of nomenclature that led to the famous title, the City Line). Young Nathaniel went to Mr. Smith and asked for his daughter's hand. Mr. Smith dismissed the idea that a mere clerk should aspire so high. "Would it make any difference if you knew I was to become a director of the Allan Line?" the young man ventured. The reply being affirmative, Dunlop went backto his office to enforce his case for a directorship. When the reply was negative he countered "Would it make any difference if you knew I was to marry Miss Smith of the City Line?" Well, it does sound a bit far-fetched but the Campbeltown lad did end up with the Chairmanship, the Bride and a Knighthood !

That knighthood came at the culmination of his long tenure at the Clyde Navigation Trust in 1907 with the Royal opening of the new Rothesay Dock at Clydebank by HRH the Prince of Wales and Duke of Rothesay (later HM King George V) when the Campbeltown lad o' pairts was suitably honoured for his services to the shipping industry and the Clyde Navigation Trust. He retired from the Trust at the end of 1907 having completed 27 years at the helm of the body responsible for the Clyde Navigation, that spectacular man-made canalisation of the naturally shallow River Clyde between Greenock and Glasgow, which was an engineering feat of global proportions, a fact that,sadly, is almost forgotten nowadays. The development of the Clyde Navigation enabled the City of Glasgow in pre-WW1 days to lay claim to the title 'Second City of the Empire' both in terms of its population and the scope and values of its industrial base. This led to the once well known phrase

"Glasgow made the Clyde
and, the Clyde made Glasgow"

In sense this was literal, the Clyde from the Tail of the Bank off Greenock to the Broomielaw quay in the city is literally a man-made 'navigation' (unlocked canal) to use the word in one of its older senses. Furthermore, it was only through that development of the 26 mile long shipping channel that Glasgow was able to establish itself as a world port and industrial powerhouse. Prior to the creation of the Clyde Navigation goods had been inported and exported via Port Glasgow, 20 miles west of the city, over rudimentary roads, or in small vessels via Port Dundas in the north of the City on the Glasgow Branch of the Forth & Clyde Canal (this branch runs north from Port Dundas to join the main canal at Stockingfield Junction)

A few years earlier, in 1898, Nathaniel Dunlop had purchased the estate of Shieldhill near the south Lanarkshire town of Biggar in the upper valley of the River Clyde close to its source. One of the powerful steam dredgers in the fleet of river vessels owned by the Clyde Trust was the SS 'Shieldhill', named after Dunlop's esstate. The dredger was built in 1906 by Ferguson Brothers, Port Glasgow as their Yard No 166, ( ... .asp?id=39) and served on the river for 53 years, being scrapped by W H Arnott Young & Company in Dalmuir Basin in 1959. It was the development of the steam dredger by another pioneering Clydeside engineer, Andrew Brown (of shipbuilders A & J Inglis and, more prominently, William Simons & Co, Renfrew), that enabled the Clyde Navigation (and other new ports around the world) to be developed - but that's another story into which we mustn't digress, here!

Nathaniel Dunlop was instumental in the establishment of the Glasgow Shipowners and Shipbrokers Benevolent Association and he was appointed as its first President in 1899. He can be seen at the centre of this 1902 pictures of association members That worthly trust continues to this day as the Scottish Shipping Benevolent Association, currently under the Presidency of Mr Philip Preston of Calmac Ferries Ltd.

Until the creation of the Clyde Port Authority in 1966, pilotage on the Clyde was the responsibility of a separate body from the Navigation Trust. It was under the jurisdiction of the Clyde Pilotage Trust, which, In 1904, honoured Dunlop by naming its new pilot cutter (built by George Brown & Co at the Garvel Shipyard in Greenock, Yard No 23), the SS 'Nathaniel Dunlop' A good summary of the work of the Clyde pilots of old, originally published as CLYDE PILOTS by T. M. HADDOW in "Sea Breezes" May 1967 Vol. 41 No. 257 (Pages 303 – 310), includes a fine picture of the cutter Nathaniel Dunlop with the liner Queen Mary off Gourock, is available at

Clyde Pilots Part 1 ... cle_id=169

Clyde Pilots Part 2 ... cle_id=170

(Note: Part 2 infers that the pilot cutter was called 'Sir Nathaniel Dunlop' This was certainly not true when she was built as that was 3 years before he was knighted and, as far as I know, the name of the vessel was never changed from the original).

On the retiral of Sir Nathaniel Dunlop in 1907, the Chairmanship of the Clyde Trust was taken on by Sir David Richmond, a former Lord Provost of Glasgow, Chairman of the tubemaker and brass-founders David Richmond & Co, the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company and one of the early oil barons as chairman of the Broxburn Oil Company. The new Richmond Park in Glasgow, close to his original tubeworks, was named after him. However, unlike Dunlop his time with the Trust was very short as Richmond died at his home in Pollockshields on 15th January 1908.

The best history of the development of the shallow River Clyde into a major international seaway and shipbuilding / engineering centre without equal, is Dr John Riddell's book 'Clyde Navigation - a History of the Development and Deepening of the River Clyde' (1979). It has been out of publication for some years but is still obtainable via internet booksellers ... m_cmu_pg_t. Alternatively, there is a short summary of the history of the Clyde as a port, available as a free download from the Clydeport website at ... _clyde.pdf

The A-listed Clydeport building at 16 Robertson Street, Glasgow, designed by architect Sir John James Burnet in the early part of Nathaniel Dunlop's stewardship of the Clyde Trust, is an architectural gem of French walnut panelling, stained glass, mosaic flooring and gold leaf ornamentation. Generally it is only opened to public access during the annual 'Doors Open Day'. It was opened in 1886 and extended in 1906-08 onto the corner of Robertson Street and Broomielaw but a further planned extension, eastwards along the Broomielaw, was never built. The building still serves its original purpose as the headquarters of the Clyde port and nowadays also accommodates other organisations, one of which is the venerable 'Institution of Engineers & Shipbuilders in Scotland' (IESIS), which was founded around the same time as the Clyde Navigation Trust in the mid 19th Century. I count myself lucky in having cause to visit this wonderful building from time to time for IESIS meetings - a visit is highly recommended, the Trust Room being particularly stunning. Meantime, a descriptive brochure can be downloaded at ... son_St.pdf

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Angus Mac Kinnon
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Re: Sir Nathaniel Dunlop - a Campbeltown Lad o' Pairts

Post by Angus Mac Kinnon » Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:46 am

An excellent posting, Stuart, a lot of information contained in there and perhaps it should feature as a stand-alone portal feature in the fullness of time.

Agree anyone who has not yet taken advantage of a visit to the Clydeport Building, on Open Doors Day, should do so for all the reasons you give, a memorable experience.
Angus Mac Kinnon

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