The Comet Replica.
Provost Lucas suggested a week long celebration to mark the to mark the 150th anniversary of the launching of "Bell's Comet". This was to include a procession and he thought that it would be good if a model Comet could lead the celebrations. Up untill this point celebrations were only held every 25 years and organised by the town council.
The ship was built by enthusiastic experts great difficulties of research, design and engineering had been overcome and it is their wish that the new "Comet" should act as a symbol of the traditional qualities of British shipbuilding skills.
The original drawings and plans "did not add up" . For every problem faced the great skill of the men involved and the experience of their own judgment a decision was reached, a compromise agreed on. Mr James Ferrier was to be the co-ordinator for the project which truly was a community effort with each of the yards on the lower Clyde playing their part.
A gentleman by the name of Mr A A Mumford who was Kincaids chief draughtsman at the time even travelled to the South Kensington Science Museum on more than one occasion in order to photograph, measure ever aspect of the engine.
Two items from Henry Bell's Comet" of 1812 have largely made possible an authentic reproduction of the vessel. These are the original lines plan of the hull and the original engine which is on display in the South Kensington museum.
The greatest single difficulty was in determining the correct engine position. This problem was resolved by using a sketch of 1848 appearing in Napier's autobiography, which is assumed correct, since he himself was involved in the "Comet" project.
Mr Alfred Barber mills the crankshaft at Kincaids. The original was hammered out by a blacksmith.
The engine had been 'pirated' at some point after the Comet herself was wrecked and changes had been made. It was rusted solid and assumptions had to made about what it was like on the inside by examining the outside.
Any part of the engine that could actually be seen was copied with meticulous detail. When you consider that the hexagonal nut was not invented until 1860 they then had to make square nuts and a bolt for each.
The skill shown by each and every man and boy involved is admirable.
The hull, by George Thomson of Buckie, is of carvel construction, planked 11/2 in. larch on 3 in. oak frames. Framing is at 11 1/2 in centres.
The boiler being hoisted into the replica at Lithgows yard August 1962
Such problems, however, were eventually overcome while attention was continually paid to the task of redesigning the missing parts, just as they had been made in 1812.
The engine is a single cylinder, double acting, side lever, jet condensing type with a cylinder of 12 1/2 in bore and a piston stroke of 16 in. The throw of the crank is 7 1/2 in. and there is only a single overhung crank. The original engine worked with steam at 7 lbs. per square inch gauge pressure, and the present engine has been designed to give similar performance.
The return trip was somewhat wet and nearly 15,000 people turned out at Coronation Park to see her arrive back in Port Glasgow.
Replica Sets Sail
On 1st September 1962 at 12.30 the new Comet replica took the water, correct in every detail. She took a party of local people, all dressed in period costume, across to Helensburgh where the provost laid a wreath on Henry Bell's memorial and called in at the hotel which was once Bell's bathing establishment.
Lithgows had a plaque made to commemorate the launch of the replica from their East Yard, close to where the original had been built.
The replica was situated on display in Port Glasgow town centre within a pond which at one time had a working water pump. Sadly she fell into dis-repair given our climate and the fact people had acess to her. The pond was drained and a fence erected around her. It was removed for repairs and spent a short time on display elsewhere before being returned to the town.
Redevelopment seen her on the move again and each time the people of Port Glasgow turn out on mass to see the spectical. She was finaly given a new spot after road realignment and the completion of the new retail development.
In 2007 the replica was repositioned and now enjoys a more central and permanent spot in the town centre and a new memorial with details of both the boat and Mr John Wood has been erected giving visitors and locals information about her .
While work continues the local school children have completed some art work to brighten up the space - the plaque reads:
This work is inspired by pupils from Port Glasgow Primary Schools: Newark, St Francis, Lilybank, St Michael's, St John's along with Port Glasgow Heritage Group and Branching Out.
Artist Janie Nicoll worked with each group and collated all their work, creating panels to celebrate both the Comet and the town of Port Glasgow.
This page last modified on Friday, July 02, 2010
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