Robertson's Yard Exhibition
David Hutchison has recently finished work on the history of Robertson's Yard and accounted for 468 of the 482 numbered boats built there. The local Library Historian at Sandbank is organising a wee 'Robertson's Yard' exhibition at the Dunoon Library from 12 April to 31 May. There will be a slide show with photos of the main boats (1890-1980). A list of all the Robertson boats, with their histories, will also be available to view
After the exhibition all the material will be archived and available for research purposes at the Robertson's Yard section of the National Archives, Lochgilphead and the Live Argyll Library HQ at Sandbank
Dunoon Library is hosting an exhibition about Robertson’s Yard from 12th April to 31st May. There will be display boards highlighting the history of the yard and its boats. A more detailed visual presentation entitled Robertson’s Yard & Boats: a History in Pictures (1876-1980) will also be on display. A list of all the boats with their histories will be available to view, so you can find your favourite Robertson-built boat, and add any new information.
Many glowing tributes were paid to the legendary Sandbank boat-builder Alexander Robertson when he died in 1937.
“Mr Robertson’s success in the yachting world had been won because he laid down the first rule that everything that went out of his yard must be of the very best.”
“Not only was he eminent as a designer and builder of yachts, but he also took an active part in the sport of yachting, especially in his younger years.”
“He has left an enduring monument to his memory in the yacht-building yard which is the creation of his genius; the permanent result of his courage and industry.”
“Today Robertson’s of Sandbank is a household word in the world of yachting and yacht-building”
"The men who worked at the yard were among the finest craftsmen in the world. They were not just boat-builders but artists in wood."
Only recently has it been possible to quantify Alexander Robertson’s contribution to yachting. For many years there was no complete list of boats built at Robertson’s Yard due to inadequate records, as a result of: fire damage in the office; haphazard reporting during WWI; requirements for great secrecy during WWII; and the challenging conversion from wood to fibreglass construction. In order to compile the history of the yard and boats it was necessary to use a diverse range of sources: Robertson’s Yard section of the National Archives at Lochgilphead; Live Argyll Libraries; Castle House Museum; Lloyd’s Register of Yachts; RNLI; Royal Navy Associations; yachting clubs/associations; yachting magazines; newspapers; boat list compiled by the late Peter Collyer; and contact with the boat owners and their families. As a result of this new research 468 out of the 482 numbered boats built at the yard have been identified.
Over 60 wooden boats are still afloat around the world, in place such as the Caribbean, Australia, USA, Switzerland and the Mediterranean. The oldest is Camilla (1894) and she is still racing at Rhu, based at the RNCYC. The oldest yacht designed and built by Alexander Robertson, which is still afloat, is a 29 ft Auxiliary Yawl named Jura (1903) which is currently undergoing restoration work in Kirkcudbright.
Analysis of the statistics reveals that the most predominant Class of wooden yachts built were: twenty seven Loch Longs; five 12-Metres; five 6-Metres; and five Dragons. In terms of wooden launches the most numerous were: twelve Fairmile ‘D’ MTBs; twelve Admiralty 20 ft motor launches; eleven Admiralty 25 ft Whalers; nine Watson lifeboats. On the later fibreglass phase at the yard, fifty seven Pipers, forty nine Etchells and eleven Bolero 25 footers were built.
With the boat list completed it was feasible to start looking for photographs of the key wooden boats and the main fibreglass yachts. Following the exhibition the boat list, histories and photographs will be archived in the Local Collection of Live Argyll Libraries at Sandbank so boat owners and future researchers have access to all the information.