Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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John Lewis and Sons

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John Lewis and Sons of Aberdeen

The shipbuilding firm of John Lewis & Sons Ltd. specialised in cargo and fishing vessels. One of their most famous was Fairtry, the first purpose-built factory stern trawler.

1886 The company was started as a coal importer and trawler manager based at Albert Quay on the south side of Aberdeen Harbour. John had been a wooden boat builder in Cove. He then built up a marine engine production and repair business in Aberdeen.

1907 John Lewis died and his son Andrew took over. Soon after, the demand for vessels in World War I meant that the yard could afford to expand to four berths.

WWI The yard began filling orders for war time builds, and this included eleven standard steam coasters along with larger colliers which were the mainstay of the yard throughout the 1920s.

1930s The yard made a number of steamships for various Australian companies along with steam trawlers for the Aberdeen fishing fleet. Trawlers, tugs and coasters kept the yard in business during the Depression along with motor coasters.

WWII The yard made a number of Admiralty trawlers and small warships along with the continuing line of commercial trawlers. Dry cargo coaster building continued until 1969.

The trawler Fairtry was completed in 1954. This vessel was equipped for filleting and freezing its catch at sea. Fish meal and oil could also be produced. The blocks of filleted fish produced aboard Fairtry were used by Birdseye and Ross to make fish fingers.

1950s/60s The yard made a large number of trawlers and tugs until 1969 when it only built trawlers.

1961 Shipbuilders and engineers. Dealers in electrical fittings.

1970s The yard was taken over by the John Wood Group of Aberdeen in Summer 1972 who ended trawler building in 1976. However, the yard continued to be used by the company for their transport machinery and metal products interests.

In 1976 a new 1600 ton slipway was constructed by the Wood Group, suitable for the repair of offshore supply vessels. The yard then began to concentrate on such repair work, although it continued to build occasional vessels until the 1980s.

See Also

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Sources of Information


  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • [1] Aberdeen Ships Web Site