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Arrangements for our 2017 South Ayrshire History & Family History Fair on Saturday 3rd June are well underway with an exciting line-up of speakers.

Whether you’re interested in exploring your family roots or wanting to take a more specialised look at a particular topic, the History Fair – and the guest speakers – will help bring your interest to life.

The tomb effigy at Dunkeld Cathedral of Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, son of the first Stewart king Robert II (who died at Dundonald Castle) and Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan.

Our Speakers for the day are:

Thomas Rees, Rathmell Archaeology –  Demolition work for the Riverside Development in Ayr will include an archaeological investigation of a significant area of the historic town centre. Thomas will explain the project’s potential to uncover new evidence about the Royal Burgh’s medieval origins.

Tom Barclay, Local Studies Librarian, South Ayrshire Council – King Robert the Bruce is arguably the most important figure in the shaping of Scotland’s later medieval history. Tom will look at Bruce’s many connections with Ayrshire, and the traditions and sites associated with him in the county.

Professor Steve Boardman of the University of Edinburgh – Ayrshire’s Kyle district was an important power-base for the Stewarts in their rise to occupy the Scottish throne. Professor Boardman will speak about the career of one of the most notorious of the family, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, better known as ‘the Wolf of Badenoch’.

Neil Fraser, The Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN) – SCRAN is an online treasure-house of images covering all aspects of Scottish history and culture, which is constantly being added to. Neil will give a presentation on the site’s resources which will highlight its extensive and fascinating Ayrshire content.

Stalls

In addition to a full programme of informative talks featuring respected guest speakers, stallholders from various groups will be offering advice and guidance on family history, tracing your roots, and exploring local and national history between 9am and 4.30pm. There will also be a specialist Scottish bookshop. Admission to the stalls is free.

Location and Cost

As usual, the Fair will be held in the Walker Halls, Troon, from 10am until 4pm. The cost of the full day conference is £10, £5 for half a day.  Tickets for individual talks are priced at £3 each or £2.50 for 2 or more and will be available from Troon and Carnegie Library during the month prior to the fair.  Tickets will also be available to purchase on the day.

History Fair Enquiries

If you have any enquiries about the History Fair or would like to make a booking please don’t hesitate to contact us. Tel: 01292 559318 or 272231  Fax: (01292) 616301 or email: localhistory@south-ayrshire.gov.uk.

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onthesands_troon

Troon Library are having an exhibition of photographs of Troon from days gone by.  They would love to involve the local community in this exhibition and would be very appreciative of anyone who can help in lending any photographs to be displayed.  If you can help please contact Annette Simpson at Troon Library on 01292 315352.  Please note photographs must be received by May 20, 2015.

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During May 2013, a number of events were held in the UK and Canada to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1943 turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic – the battle to ship vital supplies to Britain from the USA and Canada which lasted for the whole duration of the 1939-45 war with Germany.

As the war progressed, it soon became apparent that large numbers of escort craft were required to protect the convoys of merchant ships crossing the North Atlantic from attacks by German submarines – unterseebooten, which the British called U-boats. Small shipyards around Britain set to work on vessels of a simple and austere design which could be built quickly. To boost the morale of those who would have to face the Atlantic storms as well as the enemy in these tubby, uncomfortable, unglamorous craft, a name from the romantic age of sail was revived for them – the corvette.

Troon’s Ailsa Shipbuilding Company Ltd received orders for two Flower Class corvettes which would see much wartime action, but not in the British Navy. They would both be crewed by exiles who were continuing to fight alongside the British after their countries had been overrun, Acanthus being transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy and Aconite to the Free French Naval Forces.

Acanthus1

Acanthus in service with the Royal Norwegian Navy. The Free French Aconit was similar.

Work began on Acanthus in December 1939. In late September 1941 the completed vessel came under Norwegian command at Troon. Having worked up to operational readiness, she was soon in action, taking part in the commando raid on the Lofoten Islands, off the Norwegian coast, in December 1941. For most of her war service, Acanthus escorted Atlantic convoys. Although not credited with actually sinking any U-boats, she helped to drive off their attacks on a number of occasions. She briefly served on the Arctic convoy route to Russia in late 1943, and was part of the naval force escorting the D-Day invasion fleet in June 1944.

Aconite was laid down at Troon in March 1940. In July 1941 she entered service with the Free French and adopted the French version of her name, becoming Aconit.

Aconit would become one of the most famous Free French warships. This was due to her participation in a bitter engagement which began on the night of 10/11 March 1943 and continued into the next day. The North Atlantic convoy HX228, with Aconit among its escort, came under U-boat attack during the night. Aconit was summoned to assist the destroyer HMS Harvester, which had surprised U-444 approaching the convoy on the surface. (Most U-boats were much faster surfaced than submerged, and they often made surface attacks under cover of darkness.) Harvester rammed and crippled the submarine, but in doing so suffered heavy damage herself. When Aconit arrived, she also rammed U-444 and finished her off. She then re-joined the convoy as ordered while Harvester limped along behind, but was called back during the day when the destroyer broke down completely. Meanwhile, another U-boat, U-432, had come on the scene, and in a submerged approach she torpedoed Harvester and sank her. 183 lives were lost. The final duel now commenced as Aconit and U-432 stalked each other. It ended in victory for the French, who forced the submarine to the surface with depth charges and destroyed her with gunfire and rammimg. Aconit then picked up 60 survivors from Harvester. Of the 91 Germans on the two U-boats, 24 were also rescued. Aconit’s battle damage was repaired at Glasgow, and on 21 April 1943 General Charles de Gaulle came aboard her at Greenock, the base for the Free French Atlantic escort force, and presented awards for valour to the ship and her commander, Lieutenant Jean Levasseur.

GreenockFFmon

The dedication of the Free French Naval Forces memorial at Greenock, from the wartime magazine The War Illustrated.

The second pair of corvettes to be built at Troon were improved Castle Class vessels. Work began on Tintagel Castle in April 1943, and around a year later she entered service with the Royal Navy. On 10 April 1945, along with the destroyer HMS Vanquisher, she depth charged and sank U-878 in the Bay of Biscay – there were no survivors from the submarine’s crew of 51.

Wolvesey Castle was laid down in June 1943, but by the time of her launch in February 1944 she had been earmarked for service with the Royal Canadian Navy, and her name had been changed to Huntsville after a town in Canada. Her active service commenced in August 1944, and by the end of the war she had helped to protect the passage of 14 convoys.

LochTrbrtFrigate

Builder’s model of Loch Tarbert at the Walker Halls, Troon.

The stop-gap corvettes were followed by larger anti-submarine vessels which were better-armed and more seaworthy. Again, they were given a type name revived from the great days of Nelson – the frigate. Two, Loch Tarbert and Loch Veyatie, were ordered from Ailsa at Troon in early 1943, but their greater degree of sophistication and the unfamiliar pre-fabricated method of construction led to delays. Loch Tarbert eventually became operational with the Royal Navy in mid-April 1945 and commenced convoy escort work, but she saw no combat before the war in Europe ended on 8 May that year. Loch Veyatie was not completed until well after the war had ended.

AilsaBrochure3

An Ailsa Shipbuilding Company brochure of around 1950 included photographs of Loch Tarbert and the only tank landing ship built at Troon, LST3036, which received the name Puncher after the war.

All of the Troon-built U-boat hunters survived the war. Loch Tarbert, Loch Veyatie and Tintagel Castle were scrapped at the end of their Royal Navy service, the latter vessel returning to Troon in 1958 to be broken up. Huntsville was converted to a merchant ship after the war, and was lost in a collision in 1960. Aconit and Acanthus were also sold for commercial use, and had long careers as whale-catchers before being scrapped, in 1967 and 1970 respectively.

In addition to these escort vessels, eight Bangor class fleet minesweepers were built at Troon during the war for the Royal Navy, of which two were lost in action.

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As the winter draws towards its end, the thoughts of many will be turning towards the prospect of a holiday cruise in a sunny climate. Although cruise liners do not appear in the lists of Ayrshire-built shipping, passenger-carrying vessels were constructed for service on sun-warmed seas.

The replacement of merchant shipping lost during the Second World War resulted in a post-war boom for British shipyards, and the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company of Troon was able to secure a share of this work.

Ailsa Ship Building brochure

Sicilian is proudly featured on the cover of an Ailsa brochure of around 1950.

The vessels built at Troon during this period included two for Ellerman Lines Ltd, a company with head offices in Liverpool and Glasgow which was mainly involved in cargo and passenger services to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Far East. Well over half of their fleet had been lost during the war, and their replacement programme concentrated on fast cargo liners with accommodation of a high standard for no more than twelve passengers. These included Sicilian and Grecian, ordered from Ailsa Shipbuilding for voyages to the Mediterranean. They were sisters about 360 feet long and of around 3,300 gross registered tons. (Three cargo/passenger vessels were also built at Troon around this time for Ellerman’s Wilson Line Ltd of Hull – Domino and Dago in 1947 and Borodino in 1950. In 1951 it was reported that the shipyard had around 1,000 employees.)

Grecian in Troon harbour, almost ready to set off for her home port of Liverpool.

Grecian in Troon harbour, almost ready to set off for her home port of Liverpool.

Sicilian was the first to be completed – the largest ship built at Troon up to that time. She was launched on 27 April 1948, the naming ceremony being carried out by Mrs E. Thurley, the wife of a director of the shipping line. Having been sold in 1965 to a Liberian-registered shipping company, she was scrapped in 1971.

Another view of Grecian at Troon. The late-nineteenth century steam crane continued in use until the 1960s.

Another view of Grecian at Troon. The late-nineteenth century steam crane continued in use until the 1960s.

Grecian’s naming ceremony was performed on 18 January 1949 by Mrs Norah Latta, but the actual launch did not take place until ten days later due to stormy weather. (Mrs Latta’s husband, James Douglas Latta, was chairman and managing director of Scottish Stamping & Engineering Co. Ltd, Neptune Stamping Works, Ayr, and had been an ‘ace’ fighter pilot during the First World War.) In 1966 Grecian was sold to a Greek shipping company, and she was scrapped in 1969.

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