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Shipping & Ports

Grease horn


Sail maker’s tool.  This grease horn belonged to John Robson, a sea captain of Carsethorn.  It was filled with tallow or animal fat, and sail needles were stored in it to keep them from rusting.


The shipping companies of Dumfries had most of their ships built at Kelton or Glencaple.  The ships were made from timber which these firms imported from Canada and northern Europe.  The boat yards employed ship's carpenters, rope makers, sail makers, sail cloth weavers, and cabinet makers who made the ship's furniture and fittings.  Messrs Thompson of Glencaple built schooners and carried out repairs.  They employed fifty tradesmen and apprentices in their yard.


Most of the ships constructed on the Nith were small coastal vessels, but several large ships used in trade across the Atlantic were also built for Dumfries merchants.  The ownership of sailing ships across the Atlantic were also built for Dumfries merchants.  The ownership of sailing ships was divided into 1/64ths and many local tradesmen, merchants and farmers around Dumfries invested in ships from the boat yards at Kelton and Glencaple.  Smaller boats were also built at the yards at Carsethorn and New Abbey onthe west side of the Nith estuary.


From 1860s, as the shipping trade of the port of Dumfries declined so did the business of the boat yards.  Many of the Glencaple ship builders were forced to go as far as Liverpool to find work.  Others were able to transfer to the Kipford yard of Messrs Cumming.


The last ship to be built in Glencaple was the "Morton Castle", a brigantine of 122 tons, launched in 1877.

animal, horn
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
Digital Number:
DMSH012a, DMSH012b
Dumfries & Galloway Council

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