In pictures: Fairfields, the home of Scottish shipbuilding

IT HAS been the site of heavy industry for more than 150 years but takes its name from a humble farm.

The bulk carrier Duhallow is launched from Fairfields shipyard on October 26, 1965. Picture: Allan Milligan
The bulk carrier Duhallow is launched from Fairfields shipyard on October 26, 1965. Picture: Allan Milligan

The Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company opened its new Govan yard in 1864 and was named after the once agricultural land it occupied.

Fairfields would become the greatest shipyard in a city that was responsible for 20 per cent of global production by 1913.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

At its peak, the industry on the Clyde employed 100,000 staff at more than 40 yards.

The 33,000-ton tanker Shell Naiguata in the Fairfields fitting out basin, berthed alongside the 10,000-ton cargo ship Yorkshire in August 1960

With its imposing red sandstone head offices lining Govan Road and a reputation for technological innovation, Fairfields was arguably the most prestigious of the lot.

The yard continued to operate throughout the late 20th century as others around it shut.

Fairfields was amalgamated in 1968 with four other Clyde yards and survived many brushes with closure before being nationalised in 1977. It was subsequently sold to the Norwegian Kvaerner group in 1988.

Today, the yard is owned by BAE Systems and is primarily used for the construction of Royal Navy vessels.

A group of electricians are locked out at Fairfields shipyard in August 1965 after they reported for duty following an official strike

Its workforce may be a fraction of those employed a century ago but staff can look forward to a bright future after BAE announced in May that it would invest £100 million in the Govan yard and its sister site in Scotstoun.

While shipbuilding continues at Fairfields, the historical importance of the yard is also now recognised.

The A-listed former Fairfields head offices and drawing rooms, which had lain empty for several years, were bought in 2009 by social enterprise Govan Workplace.

The refurbished buildings now provide office space for local businesses and is home to the Fairfield Heritage centre.

Prince Albert of Belgium tours Fairfields with James Lenagham, managing director, in March 1964

“Fairfield was once the nerve centre of Clyde shipbuilding and the museum celebrates over 150 years of this remarkable and enduring shipyard,” said Abigail Morris, the centre’s coordinator.

“The magnificent boardroom has wooden panelling which recalls the opulence of the interiors fitted to Cunard liners in the 1890s.”

The heritage centre was created with the help of many past and present Fairfields staff. Many have donated artefacts from the yard’s history which are now on public display.

“It is the first time that former yard workers have had access to the building, which was very much geared towards clients and the running of the shipyard,” Morris added.

Wahine, a passenger ferry, is launched at Fairfields in July 1965. The vessel sank during a storm in 1968 near Wellington harbour, New Zealand, with the loss of 53 lives
HMS Dragon, the fourth of the Royal Navy's new Type 45 class destroyers, is launched from the former Fairfield shipyard in November 2008. Picture: Donald MacLeod