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British Industrial History

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Hercules Linton

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Hercules Linton (1837-1900) was a Scottish surveyor, designer, shipbuilder, known as the designer of the Cutty Sark and partner in the yard of Scott and Linton which built her.

1837 January 1st. Born in Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Linton, a Ship builder, and his wife Jane

1841 Living at Findhorn, Kinloss: Alex Linton (age c35), Ship Builder. With his wife Jane Linton (age c25) and their son Hercules Linton (age c4) and Ann Linton (age 5 months). Also James Linton (age c35), Merchant Seaman, and Thomas Linton (age c25), Ships Carpenter, were in the house. Three others.[1]

1855 On his nineteenth birthday Hercules Linton was apprenticed to Alexander Hall and Co who at the time, were the leading shipbuilders in Aberdeen and whose schooner Scottish Maid (1839) with its sharp bow and entry helped coin the term Aberdeen Bow. Linton progressed through his apprenticeship and eventually rose to a senior position at Alexander Hall

Eventually he left Alexander Hall and Sons to become a Lloyd's Register Surveyor based at the offices in Liverpool and subsequently moved to the Liverpool Underwriters' Registry where from early in 1862 he was assisting John Jordan who was the Chief Surveyor.

It is thought that he left the Liverpool Underwriters Association in May 1864 but still associated on a free-lance basis.

1865 April 12th. Married Marjory Anderson at Kincardine

In May 1868, Linton entered into a shipbuilding partnership with William Dundas Scott-Moncrieff to form the firm of Scott and Linton, shipbuilders of Dumbarton, on the River Leven near its junction with the River Clyde.

Approximately £600 of the £1,200 capital to set up the business was provided by Scott’s father. The rest was a borrowing against Linton’s life insurance policy and some cash. Hercules Linton managed the design and shipbuilding and William Scott managed the counting house and engineering.

In May 1868 Scott and Linton rented part of the Woodyard. The yard was previously occupied by Denny’s until they moved across the river Leven upon expiry of their lease. The lack of business experience in the two partners showed as early as August. Correspondence between Scott and his father shows that cash flow problems emerged during the building of their first order, the small iron steamship ‘Camel’, for which there appeared to be no contracted stage payments during the build. Work had to be completed in October and the completed vessel delivered to J. Bibby & Co in Newcastle at which point Scott and Linton would then receive the full purchase price of £980.

The agreement to build the Cutty Sark was signed by John 'Jock' Willis (also known as 'White Hat' Willis) on 1 February 1869 with a contracted completion date six months later on 30 July 1869. Willis had been an experienced shipmaster in his father’s business and now was also an experienced ship owner on his own account.

Cutty Sark was contracted for at a price of £17 per ton but if the tonnage exceeded 950 tons there would be no extra payment. The price of £17 per ton was extremely competitive and given the total lack of experience in building a composite clipper ship of anything close to the size and complexity. The completed vessel was to be delivered by 30 July 1869 with a penalty of £5 per day to be paid by Scott and Linton for every day of delay unless the delays were due to changes in specification or labour strikes. If Scott and Linton were unable to complete then Willis had the right to enter the yard and finish the work paying for materials out of the withheld stage payments.

Cash flow problems were such that all work in the Scott and Linton yard was suspended in the first week of September. Rather than apply for the Company to be liquidated, the creditors met and decided to complete some or all of the outstanding contracts and a financial agreement was reached with William Denny and Brothers to complete the ships.

Cutty Sark was eventually launched on 22 November 1869, nearly five months late, by Captain George Moodie’s wife. It was then moved to Denny’s yard on the other side of the River Leven to have her masts installed and on the 20 December towed down the River Clyde to Greenock to have a specialist firm install her running rigging.

In the midst of the collapse of his business, Linton’s wife gave birth to a baby son in October 1869 but soon after Linton was forced to hand over his house to the creditors. After everything was finished and final costs taken into account, the creditors were owed even more money than the amount outstanding when they made the ill-advised decision to complete the three ships.

After the troubles at Scott & Linton, Hercules Linton joined Gourlay Brothers and Co as assistant manager at their yard in Camperdown, Dundee.

In December, 1869 Linton took a job as head of the modelling and design department at Leckie, Wood and Munro who were shipbuilders and engineers.

At the beginning of April 1870 he resigned due to his involvement with a new firm of shipbuilders Morton, Wyld and Co who started operations at the yard previously occupied by Scott and Linton. In November 1870 they also went bankrupt.

1871 Living at 1 Park Grove Place, Govan: Hercules Linton (age 33 born Bervie), Ship Surveyor. With his wife Marjory (age 24) and their three children.[2]

Linton was appointed a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in November 1876.

Linton went south to Woolston, Hampshire in 1880

1881 Living at Weston Grove Road, South Stoneham, Hants.: Hercules Linton (age 43 born Scotland), Marine Architect. With his wife Marjory Linton (age 36 born Scotland) and their seven children.[3]

Later he went to to Montrose where his tenth and last child, a daughter was borne in December 1884. Linton's wife Marjory died in January 1885 which affected him deeply.

In 1895 he was living in Inverbervie and in November of that year was elected to the Town Council.

1900 May 15th. Died aged 64

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1841 Census
  2. 1871 Census
  3. 1881 Census