Leith-Built Ships – R. O. Neish

Volume 1: They Once Were Shipbuilders, is a comprehensive history of shipbuilding between 1850- 1918, from former loftsman, and Glasgow-based author, R.O. Neish.

Scotland is widely known for its rich reputation of shipbuilding, although it’s often the Clyde shipyards that first come to mind. In fact, ships were being built at the port of Leith hundreds of years earlier, a wealth of history that is now being documented in the first of this non-fiction trilogy.

Neish’s book is valuable on several levels. As a detailed catalogue of the many vessels built just outside of Edinburgh – from steam tugs, to barques, to luxury yachts; from wooden-built ships through iron and steel – names, dates, measurements and specifications are all listed in a highly readable manner.

There is also a potted social history of Leith, information about the different shipyards in situ, commentry on the naval vessels of World War 1, and an array of photographs and line drawings, all of which bring this period of time very much to life. It’s a fascinating snapshot – even if (or maybe, it’s particularly if), you start out knowing little or nothing about shipbuilding. For those involved in the industry – then or now – this book is an essential addition to their shelves.

The culmination of R.O Neish’s lifetime experience of shipbuilding, Leith-Built Ships is a testimony to the almost-forgotten part that Leith played in the UK’s great maritime heritage, and specifically, to the skill of the men who built the ships, and to the many men and women who have sailed and served on them.

Whittles Publishing £16.99. Also available at Amazon in paperback and eBook formats.


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