Bruce Partington’s memories of Robb’s 1962-72

Bruce Partington

Recently I was contacted by Bruce about his time at Robb’s and here are some of his memories which I hope may also trigger some from other Robb’s workers, or come to their attention so that they can get in touch too.

I joined Henry Robb Ltd. In the summer of 1962, as a tea boy to begin with. In December 1962 I began my apprenticeship. I left in 1972 as work was slow because of lay offs and threatening strikes. During my ten years there we built and fitted out 26 ships.

The Ships Bruce worked on

The first that I worked on was UNO, yard No. 484 a small tanker. I also worked on 482 and 483, RFA HEBE and RFA BACCHUS which were fitting out down the docks. Next was a GRAB DREDGER No. 485 for Calcutta, India. After that it was Nos. 486 and 487 HAMBLE and KILLINGHOLME for Shell Mex & BP. Then along came 488 LIGAR BAY a cement carrier. It was our first metric build.

I think 489 and 490 were two little Hopper barges. 491 ABDUL MALIKI was a diesel tug for NIGERIA. ASTRO, yard No. 492 was a sister ship for the UNO (484) and No.  493, TRIBENI, was a survey vessel for Calcutta.

Number 494, GEORGE OHIKERE was a sister ship to 491 tug for NIGERIA. Nos. 495 SALERNO, 496 SALMO, 497 SORRENTO, 498 SILVIO, and 499 SANGRO were five diesel cargo ships for the ELLERMAN WILSON LINE. Then along came No. 500 RFA ENGADINE, a helicopter support ship. Next was No. 501, ATHENIAN, also for the ELLERMAN WILSON LINE. 502 was the ARO, sister ship to the 485, for NIGERIA. Yard No. 503 was called MEDITERRANIAN and again for ELLERMAN WILSON LINE. No. 504 EIGAMOIYA was a diesel cargo for NAURU, No. 505 was a GRAB HOPPER DREDGER for the Tyne, PORT TUDY and No. 506 the motor tanker SOFLUMAR.

507 SPEEDWAY was a vehicle transporter for ELDER DEMPSTER in1970 – I was nearly killed on this one! RRS BRANSFIELD No. 508 was an order for an ANTARCTIC SURVEY VESSEL and No. 509 was LLOYDSMAN, the biggest tug in Europe at the time. This was my last ship at Henry Robb which had become Robb Caledon by then.

Some of the people Bruce remembers at Robb’s from 1962-1972

Shipyard Manager:- J. McKinnon

Shipwright Head Foreman:- Tom Dick

Deputy Head Foreman:- Robert Aitchison


Tommy Hughes, George Robinson, Willie Stirton, Andrew Brown, George Fox, Willie Sproule, Teddy Toner, Jimmy Toner, Peter Quinn, Donald Wren, Jimmy Leask (Maverick), Jimmy Linton, Willie Coates, John Cooper,Willie Salmon, Paddy Brookes (ex Barrow), Alec Williamson (ex Barrow)


Alan Wishart, Robert Dignan, Kenny Brodie, Clarke Paterson, Tony Angelosanto, Francis McEwan (?)

Plater Head Foreman:- Jimmy Findlay

Assistant Foreman:- Joe Paterson

Willie Burgesss – Plater

Jimmy Russell – Loftsman

George Ewan – Loftsman

John Conafrey – Loftsman

Dave Cunningham – Craneman

Tommy Rae – Burner – “The best I have ever seen”. (Including through having worked at Vickers Barrow, Vosper Thornycroft Southampton).

John White – Burner (ex Barrow)

George Ingles – Caulker

Jimmy Cox – Welder (He was also a speedway rider for Edinburgh Monarchs).

Dave Hume – Driller

Personally I am always amazed at the detailed memories everyone at the yard has of the ships and those who worked on them. I have some other names passed on to me which will appear in another post shortly.

My sincere thanks to Bruce for taking the time to share all this information with me.

If you have stories to share or details which you think will be helpful in putting together the record of Henry Robb’s, please get in touch.

Related posts which may be of interest:

Making New Friends and Learning More

Jimmy Reid shipbuilder and setter of standards

Eigamoiya – ship number 504 built for the Island of Nauru

Of Shipyard Trades and Cameraderie

Shipyard Trades

Sourcing the history of a family and it’s business

Meeting through the internet! Memories of Henry Robb’s Shipyard

Copyright: Ruth Patterson 2011


About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
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5 Responses to Bruce Partington’s memories of Robb’s 1962-72

  1. Bill Patterson says:

    Dear Ruth
    The Eigamoiya was launched with a coconut and the Nauruans insisted on having Whisky and Haggis on the launch dinner menu. They were lovely, friendly people. The island of Nauru is composed of phosphates which they shipped abroad. The Eigamoiya had to transport the phosphates out and bring back fresh water (there was no such source on the island). The whole island was very rich thanks to the exports and then had the highest ratio of Rolls Royce cars per population of any country in the world despite the small size of the island and very short length of road over the 8 sq miles of its area.

  2. John Stirton says:

    Did you ever meet a man called Billy Stirton or Donald Thomson they were great pals in Robb’s. I worked at Vickers along the road and was in Robbs a few times I always remember the Foremen wore Bowler hats .

  3. james finlay says:

    hi the foreman plater you have listed jimmy findlay is jimmy finlay still alive and kicking im his son and worked in the engineering shop for two years in early 70s

    • John Stirton says:

      I used to visit Robbs on a few occasions to get some large machining carried out. I worked at Vickers Offshore just along from Robb.
      Since I was the machinist, turner/fitter it fell to to me to visit Robbs to get any large machining carried out. I liked when I had to pop along to visit Robbs. My Uncle Billy Stirton worked in Robbs and also his friend Donald Thomson. It was good when I could catch up with them. My memory of Robbs was a finishing time, it seemed all the guys there had push bikes, walking the bikes out with pieces of small timber strapped to the bikes
      John Stirton Nephew of WILLIAM (Billy) STIRTON

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