One of the last Clyde-built sailing ship in the world rescued by the Clyde Maritime Trust in the drama of a Spanish auction and brought back to the river of her creation for the purpose of permanent display.
The story had begun in 1896 at the Port Glasgow yard of Anderson Rodger and Company, where the Glenlee was built as a large steel barque for Sterling and Company of Glasgow. In all truth, she had arrived at the tail-end of' her era, when the world was already by-passing commercial sail and tile finelined clippers were giving way to large iron and steel carriers which would carry maximum cargo under the most economical rig.
In that uncertain climate the Glenlee was sold on to Ferguson's of Dundee within two years and, not far into the new century, she was sold again, to R Thomas and Co., managers of the Flint Castle Shipping Company of Liverpool. Already the name Glenleehad been replaced by the -Islamount, which was to be found on trips to Rotterdam, sailing for Vancouver and down to Perti, Chile and back to Falmouth. Indeed she was all over the world as a bulk carrier.
The First World War offered sailing boats an extended life but the end of that conflict sent many a windjammer to the scrap-heap. The Islamount made her last voyage under the Red Ensign in November 1919, sailing from. Java to Cette in France with a cargo of sugar.
She was then sold to Italian owners in Genoa and given her third name, Clarastella, but that was short-lived. For she was on the move again, this time to Spain, whose government was looking for a naval training ship. She emerged from alterations with yet another name, the Galatea, now powered by twin Atlas diesels and at full strength carrying 17 officers, 30 petty officers and 260 ratings and boys. That was in contrast to her days under the Red Ensign when her crew didn't extend beyond 28.
Thus the Galatea settled to her training role with the Royal Spanish Navy, which lasted from 1922 till 1969, when she was laid up.
In 1990 she was located by the Clyde Maritime Trust in Seville Harbour and a survey indicated that she was still in a condition worthy of restoration. Mr Hamish Hardie of Glasgow, one of the Maritime trustees, set sail for the rigors of a Spanish auction, the currency problems of which brought some anxious moments of drama.
But he was victorious - and it took �60,000 to survey, buy and insure the old Clyde ship and secure it in Seville Harbour. Nearly 100 years after her birth, the 245 foot vessel was thus towed back to where she started. Her hull was painted at Greenock before she proceeded up to Yorkhill Quay in Glasgow.
The Trust launched a public appeal and embarked on the restoration.
The Glenlee is one of only 5 Clydebuilt sailing ships that remain afloat in the world and was restored over a six year period by the Clyde Maritime Trust's paid and voluntary crew.
An announcement in November 1999 saw the Glenlee recognised as part of the Core Collection of historic vessels in the UK. Chosen from a list of over 1,500, the Glenlee is one of only 43 vessels recognised by the National Historic Ships Committee as being of pre-eminent national significance in terms of maritime heritage, historic associations or technological innovation In 1993 Lord Provost Bob Innes of Glasgow gave her back the name with which she had started. The Glenlee was home for good.
In 2010 she again returned to the waters off Greenock when she was brought to the dry dock for refurbishment The ship's hull will be cleaned and the back deckhouse will be altered to resemble more closely the ship's original blueprint. A 1.5 million renovation and is expected to take approximately three weeks to complete.
The Clyde Maritime Trust, which owns and maintains the Glenlee, decided a renovation was necessary after it was announced she would tie up alongside the new Riverside Museum, due to open in spring 2011
Glenlee will soon generate heat from the river water using a revolutionary new system that will work even in very cold temperatures. Glenlee is one of the first sailing ships to employ this technology which is expected to cut the museum's annual heating bills by 75%. The heat will be extracted from the river distributed via onboard radiators and water heaters. Funding for the heat pump was provided through a CARES grant of £150,000, and by private firm Rock Wool Insulation, which donated 68,000 worth of insulation to improve efficiency.
Dr Christopher Mason, chairman of the Clyde Maritime Trust, described the move as "Another first for Scotland. I believe Glenlee will be the first floating museum ship in the world to be heated with renewable energy resources" . This innovative heating system complements The Tall Ship's ethos and provides an educational message about the benefits of using nature's power. The new heating system is part of a wider 1.5m refurbishment project that will make essential improvements to the Glenlee in time for her move alongside the new Riverside Museum in March 2011 and will help secure the long-term future of the ship
Further Reading and Photographs
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