Document of the Month - December

The last ships to dock at Stirling Harbour

As we reach the climax of the ‘Year of Coast and Waters’ it seems fitting to end with an overview of the last ships to dock at Stirling Harbour.

In 1919, Stirling Harbour was taken over by the Forth Conservancy Board from Stirling Town Council. Better ports, a decline of trade and bigger ships, however, lead to a drop in the amount of vessels coming down the Forth and into Stirling. In May 1938, the building that housed the passenger shelter was demolished and the harbour itself was scheduled for demolition in 1951.

No one quite knows what the last ship to dock at Stirling Harbour was, but we can make a good guess thanks to reports in the local newspapers held here in Stirling Council Archives.

The motor ship ‘Mary’ was a regular visitor to Stirling harbour in the early 1950s. On 6 September 1951, the Stirling Observer reported that ‘Mary’, from Antwerp, docked with a ’22-ton cargo of phosphate for the MacEwen Grain Company’ who were based in Stirling. This company was the main reason behind the revival of cargo ships in Stirling in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The following year, the same vessel ran into trouble trying to get into Stirling. A report on 29 January 1952 noted that the ‘presence of ice on the River Forth’ prevented ‘Mary’ from unloading at Stirling with 200 tons of fertiliser for the MacEwan (Stirling) Grain Co.’ Because the ice was so bad, the unloading took place at Alloa Docks where ‘one vessel had to force its way in’.

Another local business also had shipments arrive at Stirling harbour. On 20 November 1951, a Dutch vessel named ‘Dinkel’ arrived with a shipment for Messrs J. Gray & Co, seed merchants in Stirling. The Observer states that the Dinkel unloaded 200 tons of potash for the seed merchants along with ’20 tons of bagged potash’ for the MacEwen Grain Co.

The last reference of a ship docking at Stirling Harbour in the local newspapers is for a Dutch motor ship named ‘Henriette’. It docked at Stirling on Sunday 29 August 1954 and its arrival was mentioned briefly in the Stirling Observer with no great fanfare.

As the number of ships arriving dwindled, the harbour was eventually transferred back to Stirling Town Council from Forth Conservancy Board. A meeting of the Planning Committee on 8 January 1968 confirmed that missives had been concluded ‘for the acquisition of Stirling Harbour and adjoining land’.