KYLES is a rare survivor, a representative of Clyde shipbuilding dating from the 1870s - a period of expansion for both the shipbuilding on the west coast of Scotland and for Glasgow as a whole. She was launched on Tuesday 12 March 1872 at the Merksworth yard of John Fullarton & Co of Paisley. Her engines were supplied and fitted by Wm. King & Co of the Dock Engine Works, Glasgow.
Her first register entry in Lloyds lists her as a 90A1 flush deck lighter with an iron hull and a pitch pine deck. She was fitted with a single pitch pine mast and derrick and carried a single suit of sails. She was registered in Glasgow and her first owner was Stuart Manford of 24 Oswald Street in the city.
KYLES was a basic cargo coaster, typical of the many built by the smaller yards on the Clyde. Manford worked her as a tender for the firth of Clyde fishing fleet. The fishing fleet tenders collected the catch from the fishing boats and transported the fish to railheads on the coast allowing the fleet itself to remain profitably at the fishing grounds.
In 1881 Manford sold KYLES to William Vietch, a chemical manufacturer resident in Creiff in Perthshire. Only a few years later he sold her on to another owner in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Records show that KYLES was bought and sold several times over the next fifteen years, although her port of registry remained Glasgow. It was not until 1900 that this was altered and she was registered at Hull. Only a year later, she was purchased by a grocer and corn dealer from Pontypridd in Wales, who was the first in a succession of owners in the South Wales area.
From 1919 to 1921 she was working in the East Kent and Thames waters, before once again being bought by a Welsh owner - this time a Cardiff tug master. During all these years she had been used for the purpose she had been built for and carried heavy and general cargoes on short coastal voyages. The first major change in KYLES’s structure was made in 1921 when she was converted to work as a sand dredger in the Bristol Channel, lifting sand and gravel for the building industries. By the outbreak of the Second World War, KYLES seems to have been taken out of service and de-registered. She was surveyed in 1942 while laid up on the Glamorganshire canal, and was found to be in poor condition. She was acquired by a salvage contractor and sold on to Ivor P Langford, a ship owner and ship repairer based at Sharpness near Gloucester. Langford bought her in 1944 and had her repaired and structurally altered, removing the dredging equipment to return her to a modernised cargo form. The alterations were substantial and included enlarging the forecastle and poop and adding improved and expanded crew quarters. KYLES was reregistered at Gloucester. Members of the Langford family recollect that he had a particular affection for KYLES. She was the only vessel in his fleet that he did not rename, possibly because he respected the fact that she had managed to keep her original name for such a long time.
Langford worked her as a steamer in the Bristol Channel for a number of years, then in 1953 had her converted from steam to a diesel engine. In 1960 she was converted structurally once again to function as a sludge tanker for dumping industrial waste in the Bristol Channel. Eventually she was downgraded even from this lowly work and became a storage hulk for the waste, which was taken out for dumping by another, more modern, tanker.
The Langford family had by this time retained a long association with KYLES and were keen to ensure that a vessel of such age and varied history should be preserved. There were moves to establish a maritime museum at Gloucester but in the meantime the Langfords accepted an offer from Captain Peter M Herbert of Bude, who had himself a long career in the coasting trade. KYLES became a celebrated vessel in the Bude area.
During the early 1980s the West of Scotland Boat Museum Association, precursor of the Scottish Maritime Museum, was established and came to the notice of Peter Herbert, who offered to sell KYLES to the group. On 8 November 1984 the Scottish Maritime Museum became the 24th registered owner of the vessel and KYLES was reregistered in Glasgow, 112 years after her first appearance in the records.
In 1996 funding for a full restoration of the vessel became available. It was decided to recognise KYLES’ long and varied career in the restoration and that the most suitable appearance to restore her to was to take her back to her 1953 refit when she was changed from steam to diesel power. Work began in 1997 to strip out the sludge tanks, reinstate the original hatch and hatch cover and replicate the mast and derrick. Her wheelhouse had been removed in the 1970s and this was replicated from old photographs of the vessel. Work was completed in 1999 and after sea trials KYLES made a well publicised arrival back to her birthplace on the river Clyde where she forms part of the displays at Clydebuilt, the Scottish Maritime Museum at Braeford.
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp159, Edition 2, 1993
Curdy, John, Ships Monthly: The Kyles Story, pp28-31, April 1990
Built by John Fullerton & Co. at Paisley as a coaster
Served as a tender for the Clyde fishing fleet
Sold to William Vietch - a chemical manufacturer resident in Crieff, Perthshire
Vessel bought and sold several times during this period, although her port of registry remained Glasgow
Port of registry changed to Hull
Purchased by a grocer and corn dealer from Pontypridd, Wales, who was the first in a succession of owners from South Wales
Sold to a ship-owner in Herne Bay, Kent
Worked in East Kent and Thames waters before being sold to a Cardiff tug master
Vessel converted to work as a sand dredger in the Bristol Channel, lifting sand and gravel for the building industries
Taken out of service and de-registered
Surveyed while laid up on the Glamorganshire canal and found to be in poor condition
Sold to Ivor P Langford, a ship-owner and ship repairer at Sharpness near Gloucester who removed the dredging equipment returning her to modernised cargo form The alterations were substantial, including enlarging the forecastle and poop and adding imp
Worked as a steamer in the Bristol Channel carrying general cargo
Converted from steam to a diesel engine
Converted to function as a sludge tanker for dumping industrial waste in the Bristol Channel. Eventually she was downgraded and became a storage hulk for waste, which was taken out for dumping by another, more modern, tanker
Sold to Captain Peter M Herbert of Bude and became a celebrated vessel locally
Bought by the Scottish Maritime Museum and re-registered in Glasgow
Funding for a full restoration of the vessel became available and she was restored to her 1953 specification
Work was completed and she was put on display at Clydebuilt, the Scottish Maritime Museum at Braeford
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