Many families in the Port' can claim a long connection with shipbuilding, but few can equal the record of the Bonars.
They have been with Hamiltons at the Glen Yard for four generations and are still going strong. Three generations still work
there-David senior is a caulker, his oldest son Willie is a plater, and his grandson David junior is an apprentice plater.
The founder of the clan, William, was a shipwright who sailed in the old windjammers
and then came to work in the Glen Yard in 1906.
He helped toassemble and launch the first steamship to sail on Lake Titicaca in Peru,
the highest freshwater lake in theworld. His son, 'Old Davie' to-day, followed him
and started his apprenticeship building the last of the old sailing ships.
During the lock-out of 1910, when he was 25, he packedup and went to America
for a spell in Philadelphia and Quincy before returning to the Glen Yard.
He has been there ever since. During the Second War he was yard fire master;
and he is still, at the age of 77, regarded as a man of outstanding ability and character.
His son Willie, at present working in the prefabrication shed, used to be with the frame squad.
Young David is in the final year of his apprenticeship, has won his City & Guild Certificate,
and is studying for his National Certificate. He has been commended for his standard in
technical studies at day release and evening classes.
But one fact about the Bonars links the generations. Ever since the days of William Bonar they have been interested in model yachts. Old Willie made them to while away the time at sea, and Old Davie sailed them.
William says one of his earliest memories is seeing his father carrying one of the original yachts up the hill to the Mill Dam and back- no easy feat, for it weighed close on 40 Lbs, and there was no clubhouse in those days where yachts could be stored by the waterside. Old David was in the international class of model yachtsmen and in his day sailed against several continental countries. When he retired from racing three years ago he decided he wanted to leave some lasting mark on the sport, and after thinking it over he presented a cup for world competition. So far it has been raced for France and England.
William took up the family hobby in school and won the junior championship four years in succession. After the war he took it up again, was picked as skipper to sail in the European and Scottish Championships, and eventually gave up in 1954 when fire destroyed the Port Glasgow Model Yacht Club's clubhouse and all the yachts with it. Carrying 401b. yachts seems to have been a lost taste, for the sport languished and only recently began to recover, with a few enthusiasts sailing in Greenock. It still attracts only a fraction of the once thriving membership, but there are signs of a revival and, Willie is thinking of taking it up again this year, starting with a bought yacht. He is keeping his eyes open for a likely design, and when he finds it he is following in grand-father's footsteps and building his own. He expects to spend a full winter on it, and after that maintenance will still take up winter time, what with scraping papering and repairing.
'It's a good sport,' he says, 'It's something that gets into you. There's a lot more in it than you'd think, a lot of skill and judgment.'
Young David is too busy building full-sized ships, but he may be bitten by the family hobby in the long run. He is still only in his teens. It looks as if the Bonar record has a long way to go yet.
The Bonars............Three Generations
This article was first published in 1963
The details in these portraits have not been alterd from the source material or editied in any way. They were all taken from the Lithgows Journals and permission for their reproduction has been saught. This site was to built to bring the history of the town and what better way than to "hear" about the past from the people who lived it.
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