Oldest Clyde-built ship reunited with bell 70 years on after it was found in Welsh garage

The bell from the MV Kyles, which is believed to be the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat in the UK, is held by Scottish Maritime Museum curator Matthew Bellhouse Moran (left) and Carole Harries (right), who donated it to the museum after finding it in her garage in Glamorganshire in South Wales.
The bell from the MV Kyles, which is believed to be the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat in the UK, is held by Scottish Maritime Museum curator Matthew Bellhouse Moran (left) and Carole Harries (right), who donated it to the museum after finding it in her garage in Glamorganshire in South Wales.
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One of Britain’s most historic boats has been reunited with its bell after it was discovered in a garage in Wales.

MV Kyles, which is preserved at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, North Ayrshire, is believed to be the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat in the UK but it was without its bell for around 70 years.

However, after seven decades out of use it was found by Carole Harries who was moving house from Glamorganshire in South Wales. She has now donated it to the museum.

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MV Kyles is included in the Designated Vessels list of the National Historic Ships Committee.

Made of iron, the boat was launched on 12 March 1872 by John Fullerton and Co of Paisley and from there the boat has had a long and varied working life.

MV Kyles was first used as a tender for the fishing fleet collecting catch from Clyde fishing boats and transporting it to rail heads on the coast.

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It then worked as a basic steam engine cargo coaster, typical of those built by smaller yards on the Clyde to fulfill an essential service before land transport became the norm.

MV Kyles went on to carry heavy and general cargoes on short coastal voyages, docking in Scotland, Newcastle and South Wales, before being converted to work as a sand dredger in the Bristol Channel in 1921.

Over the following 147 years, after a number of structural adaptations made by 24 owners - to suit changing roles - the vessel and bell separated.

After coming to the end of its working life, MV Kyles 
was purchased by the Scottish Maritime Museum in the 
early 1980s and after another refit, it was restored to steam power.

In 1999, after successful sea trials, MV Kyles was registered back in the vessel’s birthplace of Glasgow, 112 years after first entering the records there and under the 24th owner.

Matthew Bellhouse Moran, curator at the Scottish Maritime Museum, said: “As well as being, we believe, the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat in the UK, MV Kyles is fascinating and important for the structural changes made over such a long working life.

“Despite those changes though, much of the vessel is in original condition including the iron and steel hull and steel deck and we’re very grateful to Mrs Harries for donating what we believe to be the original bell.”