Ship Builders; 1864 - 1992
Hall Russell & Co. Ltd was the last of the Aberdeen shipbuilders, closing in 1992. The firm made iron and steel ships, ranging from cargo vessels to warships.
Hall Russell & Co., Engineers and Iron Shipbuilders, was founded in 1864. The firm was a partnership between James and William Hall, sons of Alexander; Thomas Russell, a Glasgow engineer, and John Cardno Couper of Sussex. Initially the company built engines and boilers but in 1868 produced its first ship, the iron steamer Kwang Tung.
Many fishing vessels and cargo steamers followed. As trawling took off in Aberdeen in the 1890s, the company built many of these vessels, including North Star, North Wind and North Breeze for William Pyper and Strathdon, Strathtay and Strathspey for the Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing Company.
One of the company's first customers had been J T Rennie whose barque Umvoti was constructed in 1869. Over the years, Hall Russell built increasingly large cargo steamers for Rennie and Son. These included Ifafa of 1889(270 feet long) Insizwa of 1899(330 feet long) and Inanda of 1904 (370 feet long). This series culminated in the 386 feet long Intaba in 1910.
During the First World War, Hall Russell constructed minesweeper trawlers. They built 'Flower Class' corvettes, frigates and other defence vessels during World War 2.
After the war, the company returned to fishing and cargo vessels. Star of Scotland, produced in 1947, was regarded as the most advanced fishing trawler of the time. The company also built a variety of specialised ships. These included Kirkella, a freezer stern trawler in 1965; Pol XV a steam whaler in 1951; Sugar Importer, a motor bulk sugar carrier in 1955 and the fishery protection vessel Jura in 1973.
In 1971 Hall Russell delivered the largest ship ever built in Aberdeen, the 10500 tons deadweight cargo vessel Thameshaven, for a Rotterdam owner. Three years later, the yard built its last fishing vessel, the purse seiner Courage for a Mr West.
Hall Russell became part of the state-owned British Shipbuilders in 1977 and was one of its most successful yards, producing a number of offshore patrol vessels and torpedo recovery vessels for the Ministry of Defence. However, when privatised in 1986, Hall Russell was classed as a warship yard. This made it difficult for the company to compete in the merchant vessel market and business fell away.
A & P Appledore took over in 1989 but orders remained scarce. The completion of the St. Helena, a cargo and passenger vessel, in 1990 marked the end of Aberdeen shipbuilding. The yard did repair work until its closure in 1992. At the time of the launch of St. Helena, the workforce numbered around 300. This contrasted with the 1200 employed in 1907.
The site of the shipyard was redeveloped and now houses Telford Dock, a multi-user deep water berth facility. This is used by the larger vessels associated with the oil industry. Hall Russell's dry dock is now run by the A & P Group under the name 'River Dee Ship Repairers'. The company's Social Club closed in 1992, leaving only the junior football team to continue the Hall Russell name.