Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb.
Researching the history of Henry Robb’s Shipyard and in the process of writing a book about it.
Finally living back in Edinburgh with my husband, having been in exile in Norfolk for 12 years until 2011!
While reseaching my family history came across your web site. I believe a mary robb of the shipbuilding family married john rogers in the 1940’s. My father long deceased was his best man and good friend. Do you have any any knowledge of this?
yours C Kennedy
Absolutely, I remember Uncle John well. He was married to Mary Robb, the daughter of the Henry Robb who started up the shipyard. They were like an extra granny and grandpa to us, always kindly and endlessly patient. John Rogers was a board member. I will look up some more family tree and yard history details and let you know dates and other details.
thank you for taking the time to comment 🙂
The publication that you have referred to on British Shipyards mentions, apart from the great Robb yards, the yard of W J Yarwood & Sons Ltd. We have something in common in that WJ was my Great-Grandfather and I too am doing reserach into the Yarwood Docks at Northwich and am at present writing a slightly contrived article about the connection between the Yarwood yard and Cowes. If, in your researches you have picked up anything of interest about Yarwoods, I would be delighted to hear from you. Andrew Collins
Thank you for getting in touch, Andrew. Whilst I am not aware of anything specific, I will keep my eye out, and would be grateful if you could reciprocate on the Robb’s yard.
Some of my blog readers may also have information to help you, so I am posting your comment on the blog to let them see/know of your sphere of research.
All the best with your hunt!
Hello, I would like to contact Andrew Collins regarding information relating to W.J Yarwood & Sons Ltd.
I’ve posted your comment Ana, so Andrew can make contact with you.
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Hi Ruth, I do not know if it is of any interest to you. I served my apprenticeship as a Shipwright, at Henry Robbs. I worked from 1962 to 1972.
Absolutely it is of interest to me, if you were willing for me to interview you to learn more about the yaird from you, I would be delighted to arrange to do so. If you are still in the area, then that’s easy enough, if you have moved away then it will take a bit more arranging but I’d travel to meet up. Thank you so much for getting in touch, what a great surprise for a Sunday morning!
It is a few weeks now since I sent you some information about Robbs. Has anyone else been in contact with you?
Just to let you know that I am not ignoring you! We’ve just returned from three weeks driving to Hungary and back for our holidays, so I’ve not been online at all, this is my first peek at the blog.
I will be getting back to work on it and using the information you sent for a couple of posts early next week and that may bring about some more contacts through the information you sent me.
Thank you for checking!
Just been reading your site. I saw SADDLERS mentioned my mother used to work there in the 60s, she met my step father while working there. “Vicky ” baths was where my step father`s sister Belle worked. I used to get a free bath every Friday after work, as the tenements that we lived in only had a large tin tub that we had in front of the fire range.
I thought that you would have posted them little stories that I wrote you. It might jog some other memories from other ex shipyard workers.
I wrote a post soley about your stories and the people you remembered at:
I hope I didnt miss anything out of that, if I did, my sincere apologies and please let me know what is omitted so I can add it.
You are, of course, completely correct, the stories people share bring out more details and encourage other people to share things which to them are just how it was, but to those of us a generation removed are new information!
Hi Ruth ,I served my time as an apprentice shipwright at Robbs from 1951 to 1952 before immigrating to Canada.
I saw a list of names of shipwrights submitted by some one else but I cant seem to find it again
on the Web Site . Perhaps I am not looking in the right place ,but I do know I can add a lot more names than there are listed.
Could ypu please advise me how I can go about this .
Thank You and all the Best for the New Year.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
I think that it’s possible you might want one of the following for the information you seek:
British Shipbuilding yards III review
John Stevenson’s comment about his research
John Stevensons’s comments about Bevin and about Harland and Wolff
John Stevenson’s comment about shipyard jobs and safety (or lack thereof!) issues
Wullie Wright’s memories of working as a welder
Terry McGuire – includes terms used in shipbuilding
My post on shipyard trades – further additions to the list or details always welcome!!!
If none of these “hit the spot” let me know and i will look further. You should be able to search a word on the site in the box at the top of each post and it will look at all my blog entries to find what you are looking for – i’d appreciate knowing if that works successfully for anyone!
There will probably be others who have more to share which is not on the blog, so you might like to check back here for further comments too.
And, of course, a Happy New Year to you !
My father (Tom Nicolson) was the captain of the Eigamoiya on her maiden voyage. I came several times to the shipyard to watch her being built.
Dear Ruth… I came across this website by chance. I served an apprenticeship in Henry Robbs as a marine engineering draughtsman from 1963 until 1969 before setting off on a career as a graphic designer and animator. I have photos from that era that I donated to the leith docks museum (which no longer exist) which you might be interested to see. I also have a few anecdotes from my time as an apprentice. Let me know if your would be interested in me sharing these with you. Sincerely George McBean
Thank you so much for getting in touch, yes, I would be delighted if you would share your information and anecdotes with me, that is exactly the sort of information which i think needs to be in the book and to be preserved for all to enjoy!
Hi Ruth, apologies for contacting you in this way. It was just to let you know that my Dad John Stewart who ran the http://www.oldleithercom website sadly passed away a few weeks ago after a short illness. I know he spoke very highly of you and enjoyed spending time with you as he re-counted his boyhood memories of working for your great grandfather.
I learned of your sad news through Frank’s item in the Scotsman about your Dad.
I have written a piece based on this which I would like to put on the blog for readers if you would be happy for me to do so, I am also waiting to hear back from Frank as it’s largely his piece. If you would like me to email you it to check over first, please use email@example.com to contact me.
My sincere condolences to your family, your dad was the first person I met from the yaird to gather information for my research and he was absolutely spell-binding to listen to and a real encouragement to me thereafter in our various communications online.
I hope you’ll keep in touch.
Hi Ruth, don’t know if you’re aware but a tangible piece of Robb’s shipbuilding history still exists in Leith Docks. She’s ‘Grab No.1’, a floating steam crane which was used to raise and lower the gates for the cofferdams needed at launches. She was also used for dock gate servicing, repairs and dredging i believe. The Grab has been largely abandoned in a corner of Edinburgh Dock but is in good condition internally, complete with steam winch. Regards, Bob
Thank you for this, no, I didn’t know. I am aware of Grab no 1 as a job name but didn’t know what she was exactly, far less that she was still around.
One of my missions has been searching out information on what still exists, I am aware of the South Steyne and Scot II and have a notion that when my husband and I visit India we may somewhere discover the odd little workhorse still plying her trade in the backwaters of Cochin. So it is fabulous to hear of this nearby still extant example and I shall try to get down to see her as soon as possible.
There have been a few hiccups recently due to family illness which have put my research on hold, but I am intending to get some more work in hand over the Easter holidays, including catching up on some links with ex-workers.
I was down in Leith last weekend and had a look for Grab no 1 but to no avail, is she inside the part controlled by the ports authority, in which case I will get onto them and ask permission to visit? I did ask at their wee booth, and apart from having a relative who worked at Robb’s the young chap I spoke to was unable to supply any information.
If she is not in there, any clues on how to find her will be gratefully followed up!
No. 1 Grab or as we called her “The Digger” is now virtually a derelict hulk which still remains on the north side of the Edinburgh Dock. Permission is required from the Harbour Master to visit her but to this day I have photographs of the Diver James Ward laying the Albert Passageway stonework from her, circa 1950 approx. This Photo will be included in my third book on Hard Helmet Diving. My book No. 2 ‘Last of the Hard Hat Divers 2’ ISBN 9780956852700 tells a few stories of this venerable old craft and the work she used to do while I was Diving with her in attendance circa 1965 – 1978.
Thank you Bob I will get onto them to arrange that.
I have both your books, my book 2 is a signed copy. I look forward to book 3!
I really enjoy your style of writing which brings the stories you tell to life and give a real sense of what it must have been like back in the day.
The two greatest similarities I have noticed with your accounts and the tales I have been told about the yard is how very harsh working conditions used to be and what a fantastic camaraderie there was amongst the people working in these situations.
I started work in the shipyard in 1945 as a store boy in the Joiner Shop’s own Ironmongery store to await serving my time. A year later I was joined by Johny McLean and Richard Lynch, both now deceased but as apprentice joiners we became known as the three Musketeers. In those days the toilet block consisted of a very long U shaped metal trough with a constant flow of water running through it and a continuous broad board of pine wood cover over its top. A series of eight holes were cut through the pine in the fashion of Toilet seat tops and eight cubicles were then formed over everything to afford privacy. At the entrance sat old Tam who took your brass number as you entered, you were allowed 7 minutes to do your business but one more minute and you lost a quarter of an hours wages which carried the extra penalty of having to be made up after you had served your time.
One day Ricky and I kept old Tam talking while Johny slipped back in with a lighted candle in a small tin can.He went to the open end of the trough and set the tin floating on its journey under the exposed bottoms and we fled to the accompaniment of screams and curses all around.
Have just put my memories on facebook (spirit of Leith) re Robbs’ I worked there from 1951 and was one of the last out on 1st June 1984. Few of us left that day fixed up the hooter and sounded it at 4 40 pm, finishing time, many Leithers knew the right time by the Robbs hooter, morning, noon, and evening. Eddie Toner and I then padlocked the gate for the last time. I have many memories of Henry Robb Shipbuilders. Alex Higgins.
thank you alex, your piece on facebook has brought out a load of great comments already!
Hiya Andrew, I note way back up there in 2010 you commented that you were also researching the Yarwood line? I am a Yarwood from Northwich and am currently looking in to my family tree, be interested in anything you found, Im a little stuck at the mo
Thinking about Henry Robbs today, 30 years since we left for the last time. I started on 4th Feb 1951 and left 1st June 1984. Alex Higgins
Thank you for sharing this Alex, Graeme passed on your piece via facebook which i’ve shared too.
Does any one have a family tree of Henry Robb (1874/1951)? Trying to tie up some info on his Rolls-Royce car.
Hi Ruth just wondered if you finished your book.
I am trying to get information on my wife’s Great grandfather. Captain Robb was apparently lost at sea in the mid to late 1800’s. He was based in Leith. You wouldn’t know anything about him perchance?
This is more of a genealogy question, you could try the excellent facebook group “Old Leithers” on which someone might know something, the scottish genealogy society or an online site like ancestry. My Robb family were all shipbuilders so there’s not likely to be a connection there, I have an extensive family tree so could look just in case, but whatever route you take there will need to be more information such as first name(s) and any dates, relatives etc to be able to pinpoint information, Robb is a very common Scottish surname! Hope that helps a bit and good luck in your search.
Ruth, I’m wondering if a 19th century William Robb figures anywhere? He married Mary Hector in 1904 in Bengal, India and I’m not sure if he’s attached to the family.
Hi Ruth, how is your book coming along? I worked at Robbs as a welder from 1972 to 1983, and I have a video that I took of the launch of the St. Catherine in 1983, and also some photos of the construction of the Patricia in 1982 – if they’re of help to you.
I have a large architectural drawing of a ship 472 – let me know if you’d like to see photos
ooooooooh yes, definitely, you may like to know that 472 was Rapallo launched 1960
I am researching my grandfather’s life at sea. He commanded the Bustler-Class Tug “Mediator” from 1944 to at least 47. I have been digitising his photos which I’ve posted on Flickr – see link below. In 1947 he took part in Operation Snow White, which was the towing of a huge floating dock from Bombay to Malta. There are a lot great photos of this adventure in the album. If you have any photos or information on the Bustler Class – and particularly of “Mediator” I’d love to find out more.
Many thanks, Colin Litster
NB follow the link and click on WW2 for the specific photos
thank you for sharing this Colin 🙂
My dad was a blacksmith at Robb’s from when he left school, approximately 1950 until the shipyard closed. He might be able to give you information if you’re interested?
definitely, thank you, when we’re allowed out and about i would love to talk to him
While walking around Leith and Newhaven today, I noticed Dunforth children’s home on Park Rd is for sale. Upon further investigation, I was surprised to see this claim that the house was built around 1860 by Henry Robb. This seems a bit fanciful, since Robb’s wasn’t established until 1918. Can you clarify? I have never EVER heard this story that Henry Robb had this house built.https://www.scarlettdev.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/BRO-Dunforth-House_Park-Road.pdf
yes Sue, great grandpa donated the family home as a home for children, particularly with the wish that siblings be kep together because of his experiences as a child, despite the bequest saying it was to be a childrens home it became an old folks home, not that i disaprove of those in any way, but a principle was betrayed somewhere along the line
Hi, interesting blog site. I’m a diver and maritime archaeologist.
I own one of the Siebe Gorman diving helmets supposedly owned and used by Leith dockyards during the 1960’s/70’s for the expansion of the harbour.
I’m looking for any of the past dive team from this time, I’d love to get some more information on the work undertaken, equipment, diving stories etc and also photos of the divers.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, many thanks!
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A blog about Henry Robb's Ltd. Shipbuilders and repairers from 1918 to 1984 at Leith.
All comments, corrections and extra information very welcome as this blog is the starting point towards my writing a book about the yaird, the workers and the ships of Robb's.
My personal interest? The Henry Robb who started the firm was my great grandfather.
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