TSC 50th Anniversary Exhibition

Top Skippers' Choice exhibition. Photo:Jan Nimmo.

David Tod, Skipper of the St Adrian, Leslie Howarth, former managing Director of Campbeltown Shipyard, and Mr and Mrs John and Pamela Tait, skipper of the Sunrise, Fraserburgh. Photo: Kenny Craig

South Kintyre Development Trust’s “Top Skippers’ Choice” exhibition was launched in style on Saturday 15th February, 2020, at Campbeltown Town Hall.

The exhibition marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Crimson Arrow CN 30, the first boat completed at Campbeltown Shipyard, for local skipper James McDonald, and celebrated this and almost 100 other vessels which went down the slipway between 1970 and 1997. The vast majority of these vessels were fishing boats, many of which are still fishing today.

The exhibition included interpretive boards, along with slideshows, films and shipyard memorabilia.

Jan MacDonald. Photo: Jan Nimmo

The Project & Exhibition are a fantastic record of all the those associated with the Yard and its boats. It’s important to keep the history of fishing & shipyards alive for future generations. My late father-in-law, James MacDonald, would have been proud to know this is being recognised 50 years down the line.

Jan McDonald

Top Skippers’ Choice was launched to the strains of pipers Catriona Newman and Erin Cameron, from Kintyre Schools Pipe Band, (with thanks to John Lang Brown) with a speech from former shipyard manager, Les Howarth OBE, and beneath bunting created for the occasion by pupils of Castlehill and Dalintober Primary Schools, all aimed at re-creating the atmosphere of a launch day at Trench Point.

The refreshments for the launch were provided by Glen Scotia Distillery and by Leslie and Sheena Howarth.

Catriona Newman and Erin Cameron, from Kintyre Schools Pipe Band. Photo: Jan Nimmo.

The opening day of the exhibition was attended by skippers from Fife, Fraserburgh and the Black Isle, and reunited skippers with shipyard workers from Campbeltown. The exhibition was well attended throughout the weekend and visitors included former owner of Campbeltown Shipyard, Sir William Lithgow and his wife, Lady Lithgow.  We estimate that the exhibition was visited by some 600 people of all ages. Weekend visitors were able to see a 50 year old model built by skipper David Tod of Anstruther of the yard’s second completed boat, the St Adrian KY 245, alongside a larger working model of the same boat which the skipper has just completed.

Jan Nimmo, who devised, designed and delivered the project for SKDT says:

“Top Skippers’ Choice started as a project about Campbeltown Shipyard and its place in the history of the town because I strongly felt the need to preserve this piece of local heritage, however from the outset it became apparent that the boats built at the yard had a significance which extended far beyond Campbeltown. The project has grown arms and legs as contributors and volunteers have become involved across the length and breadth of Scotland and beyond. Skippers have without exception spoken highly of the seaworthiness of the boats built at Trench Point and said they felt safe fishing in Campbeltown-built boats. This illustrates the esteem in which the boats were and are held. I am extremely grateful to all the contributors and  volunteers for helping make the project such a success.”

The exhibition was a snapshot of all the material gathered in the course of the project and which now forms the online archive:


The online archive is an extensive collection of material gathered throughout the duration of the project and which showcases the town’s shipbuilding heritage. The online archive includes personal testimonies, technical information and over 2,500 images from participants and remains open for people from Campbeltown and beyond to share memories and information about the shipyard.

Skipper David Tod, Anstruther, the McLeman family with Skipper Sandy Mcleman, Avoch, Black Isle and Paul Barham, volunteer, with David Tod’s new model of the St Adrian. Photo: Jan Nimmo.

Two former shipyard workers, Willie Paterson and John Lang Brown. Photo: Jan NImmo.

I would like to offer my congratulations and sincere thanks to Jan and SKDT for a marvellous exhibition.

It was wonderful to see the many exhibits and photographs – which immediately brought back many happy memories of working at “The Yard” with a dedicated team whose skills can be seen in the vessels built. 

Thanks to all who supported this project to capture and preserve the history and character of Campbeltown Shipyard and its important role in our community.

Bobby Wylie, CAD Operator and Designer, Campbeltown Shipyard

Bobby Wylie, CAD Operator, Designer & photographer with Danny McGeachy also a former shipyard worker and contributor to the TSC project. Photo: Kenny Craig.

Josh MacDonald, Leslie Howarth and Carys Martin (both children are the great grandchildren of James MacDonald, the Skipper of the Crimson Arrow. Photo: Kenny Craig.

The exhibition was looked after throughout by Leslie Howarth, Davie Anderson and Adam McClelland and school visits were guided by them as well as by Bobby Wylie. We are very grateful to them for the time they gave to looking after the exhibition.

The project finished at the end of February but Jan Nimmo will continue to manage the archive and the Facebook page on a voluntary basis, as contributions are still arriving from near and far. The project Facebook page has over a 1,000 likes and followers. If you have anything that you would like to add to the archive, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

It was important for this exhibition to happen when it did; celebrating this significant date – the 18th of February, 1970, when we launched our first vessel at Trench Point. We were very pleased with the turn out for the launch and the exhibition in general. We are delighted with the response. I have been calling the exhibition “The Jan Nimmo Spectacular” as Jan has worked so hard to put this and the archive all together”. 

Leslie Howarth, former Managing Director, Campbeltown Shipyard

Mr and Mrs Leslie and Sheena Howarth with Adam McClelland, also formerly of Campbeltown Shipyard. Photo: Kenny Craig.

The project was facilitated by SKDT and has been supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland.

There are lots of photos of the exhibition here on Flickr from Jan Nimmo or in the gallery below:

and there are more from photographer Kenny Craig in the gallery below.

Some exhibition feedback.

This project and its exhibition has brought back so many great personal memories  and has helped to show just how much the men and the boats built at Campbeltown Shipyard were held in such high regard. The exhibition was a wonderful opportunity to show the younger people in Campbeltown just how important the yard was not only to the local area but to the men who ordered and sailed the boats. It was also a great chance to bring together the old workforce to share their experiences and cherished memories of colleagues no longer with us. Tremendous work from Jan.

Billy McLean, former shipyard worker.

Billy McLean’s granddaughter, Abbie Stewart, was one of the first visitors to the TSC exhibition. Photo: Jan Nimmo.

Fascinating project. And an insight into how the coastal communities of Scotland were connected through fishing, boatbuilding and family.

Michael Thain, originally from Findochty

Absolutely excellent exhibition, a wonderful mix of photographic images, personal stories, boatbuilding history and Adam [McLelland] on hand to discuss matters with. Well done on the quality of the installments! It was a nice balance of testimonies, photographs, plans and drawings. Set up in a way which meant you spend time reading and discovering more. The large drawings hanging round the hall were a great touch.

Gail McMillan, former Shipyard apprentice.

The Top Skippers’ Choice project is a great insight into the history of Campbeltown Shipyard and the stories of the men who built the record breaking boats accompanied with a fantastic online photo gallery! If you like fishing boats then the website is a must!

Well done to Jan and everyone involved in the project. Keep Up The Good Work!

Excellent Page!

Jackie Green, nephew of Skipper of Campbeltown-built boat, Fraserburgh

Thank you for having the Dalintober pupils. We really enjoyed the exhibition and found it very interesting. Loved the bunting the children had made earlier.

Lesley Ronald, Deputy Head at Dalintober Primary School, Campbeltown

A massive thanks to everyone involved. The exhibition was superb and my class had a fantastic time. Thank you for giving them the opportunity to learn so much about the shipyard and the boats built there.

Fiona Watson, Teacher, Castlehill Primary School, Campbeltown

Thank you Jan. Great exhibition – had you not undertaken to do this it would have all been committed to history; you have brought it all alive again, hope you can replicate it all again in Anstruther. I enjoyed meeting some of the YERD workers, one in particular was Neil – he started as an apprentice when I was there, now he is 65 – a whole lifetime; I also had the pleasure to meet Jimmy’s widow and family [Jimmy MacDonald, son of the skipper of the Crimson Arrow].

David Tod, Skipper of the Campbeltown-built St Adrian and Director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.




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