Connections - G. L. Watson

6:05 PM

In 2009, a combination of the Ballast Trust’s contacts and the interests of Duncan Winning (Archive Assistant) led to the establishment of a useful relationship with the world famous firm of naval architects G. L. Watson & Co. Limited.

Hal Sisk, an Irish entrepreneur with a keen interest in yachting history, restoring old yachts etc., and an admirer of the Ballast Trust and its method of operation, suggested to Watsons that the Trust might hold some of their old drawings, which were missing from their own archive.
Consequently, the Trust received an enquiry from Watsons concerning their design numbers 128, 129 and 130, which they claim were the very first “one design” yachts ever produced and hold an important position in the history of recreational yachting. They were called “RED”, “WHITE” and “BLUE” and were built by R. McAlister & Son of Dumbarton for the Clyde Canoe Club then based at Rosneath, at the mouth of the Gareloch. Happily, we had catalogued two plans for these yachts among the material we had processed from McAlisters on behalf of Glasgow City Archive, which was still in our care at Walkinshaw Street and were able to supply Watsons with scanned copies for their own archive.

Here are images of the scans, you can see that one of them was quite badly damaged but nevertheless a great find.Watsons, now based in Liverpool, are taking a very responsible attitude towards their historic material and are having all their older plans scanned to prevent unnecessary handling of the originals. Jack Gifford, their Design Office Co-ordinator, visited the Trust to view other material of potential interest in the McAlister collection, resulting in more plans being scanned to fill gaps in their records. It transpired that Jack is a keen International 10sq metre Sailing Canoe sailor and Duncan invited him to the AGM of the Historic Canoe and Kayak Association, held in the premises of the Mersey Canoe Club, (The second oldest such club in the UK), on Hilbre island at the mouth of the Dee Estuary, where they were able to view a number of sailing canoes from the late 1800’s. Duncan now has a standing invitation to visit Watson's offices to view their records.

The memorial stone to G. L. Watson in the Glasgow Necropolis had been vandalised and Watsons paid for its refurbishment. Duncan attended the re-dedication service, meeting a number of very interesting people in the process one of whom, Martin Black, is currently writing the history of Watson’s. Subsequently, we have been able to help him with some details of his research for the book. Watson's are currently involved with the restoration of a large steam yacht in Germany, the deck machinery of which was made by the Reid Gear Co. of Linwood who overhauled this machinery shortly before their closure, a sad event which the Ballast Trust had previously brought to the attention of the BACS Surveying Officer. And this story shows how interconnected this business can be.

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