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Methil Tugs

One aspect of harbour work that is often taken for granted is that of the humble tug.  These little ships were essential to the smooth and efficient running of the docks.  Methil required that all ships above 500 dwt must employ a dock tug inwards.  The use of tugs by sailing ships was at the discretion of the ship's master.  Towage charges levelled in 1913 were:

Vessel Tonnage Charges (1913) Charge at today's prices 
Steamer <1,000 tons 15/- (75p) £52.89
Steamer >1,000 tons 25/- (£1.25) £88.15
Sailing vessel Light or in ballast 1d (0.42p) per registered ton
[minimum charge 8/4 (42p)]
[Minimum charge - £29.38]
Sailing vessel With cargo 2d (0.84p) per registered ton
[minimum charge 8/4 (42p)]
[Minimum charge - £29.38]

Towage rates - 1913


Over the years Methil employed a total of ten tugs, the last leaving in 1972, plus two others that were used for hopper barge work on a yearly basis.  It is believed that the tug "Betefdoe" (O.N. 73609) belonging to J. Wilson, Bo'ness may have been stationed at Methil for a short period.   A brief history and description of each tug is given below.

  • The "Earl" (O.N. 65715)

    Steam paddle tug - 144 tons - 114.9ft x 19.6ft x 10ft - powered by two 1 Cyl. side lever engines built by builder - 60 HP



1872 - Biult by Redhead Softley & Co., South Shields for George Haslip, London as "Sussex"
1887 - Sold to R. Holland, London
1889 - Sold to T. Gray & Co., Hull and renamed "Welshman"
1913 - Sold to J. Wilson, Bo'ness and renamed the "Earl"
1913 - Staioned at Methil
1919 - Sold to Leith Salvage & Towing Co.
1928 - Broken up 16th March





  • The "Isaac Wilson"
    Steam Paddle tog - 123 Tons - 101ft x 19.9ft x 9.5ft - power ??

    1889 - BUilt by B. Hepple & Co., North Shields, for Tees Conservancy Commisioners
    1923 - Sold to Riddley Steam Tug Co., Newcastle 
    1940 - Sold to Grangemouth & Forth Towing Co.
    1940 - Stationed at Methil
    1945 - Moved to Grangemouth
    1950 - Broken up by G.W. Brunton, Grangemouth

  • The "Dundas" (O.N. 161881)
Steam screw tug - 150 tons - 95.7ft x 22.1ft x 10.9ft - powered by a Compound 2Cyl. by Amos &  Smith Hull - 111 H.P.



1931 - Built by Goole Shipbuilding & Repairing Co.  for J.E. Strong, Belfast as "Stronghold"
1933 - Sold to Ipswich Dock Commission
1949 - Sold to Grangemouth & Forth Towing Co., and renamed "Dundas"
1966 - Stationed at Methil until 1968




  • The "Whitburn" (O.N. 119211)
Steam paddle tug - 119 tons, 95ft x 19ft x 10ft - powered by a 2-Sidelever, 2-cylinder 70hp engine ex builders

1905 - Built J.P. Rennoldson, South Sheilds for Sunderland Towage Company
1913 - Sold to Grangemouth & Forth Towing Company
1914 - Requistioned by the Royal Navy
1919 - Returned to owners and stationed at Methil
1940 - Requistioned by the Royal Navy and based at Rosyth
1945 - Retuned to Methil
1950 - Laid up at Grangemouth
1952 - Broken up

  •  The "Elie"

Steam paddle tug - 168 tons - 105.1ft x 21.1ft x 9.5ft - powered by a 2-diagonal 2-cylinder 68hp engine by Baird Brothers, North Shields

1912 - Built J.T. Eltringham & Co., South Shields for the Great Western Railway, Fishgaurd as "Pen Cw"
1927 - Sold to Tees Towing Company and renamed "Ingleby Cross"
1934 - Sold to Grangemouth and Forth Towing Company and renamed "Elie"
1934 - Based at Methil on relief duties and permanently from 1950-62
1940 - Requistioned by the Royal Navy and based at Rosyth
1945 - Retuned to owners
1950 - Staioned at Methil until 1962
1963 - Broken-up by J.A.  White, St. Davids on 22nd January 1963

  • The "Reliant"

Steam paddle tug - 156 tons - 100ft x 20ft x 9.9ft - powered by a 2-Sidelever 2-cylinder 66hp engine by Hepple & Co., South Shields



1907 - Built J.T. Eltringham & Co., South Shields for the Manchester Ship Canal Co., as "Old Trafford"
1950 - Sold to Ridley Steam Tug Co., Newcastle and renamed "Reliant"
1953 - Relief tug at Methil until 1955, stationed at Seaham Harbour
1969 - Left Seaham Harbour for the National Maritime Museum - Towed to Charlton, River Thames and dismantled. 
1970 - Re-erectd by Cory Bargeworks in the Neptune Hall at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
1996 - Dismantled and removed to make way for new displays.  Starboard engine refurbished and is on display at the Museum
 ???? - Port engine is under restoration at Markham Grange Steam Museum




  • The "Roker"
Steam paddle tug - 119 tons - 95ft x 19ft x 10ft - powered by a 2-Sidelever 2-cylinder 70hp engine by builder




1904 - Built J.P. Rennoldson & Co., South Shields for the France Fenwick Co., Tyne & Wear
1962 - Sold to Grangemouth & Forth Towing Co.
1962 - Based at Methil until 1966
1966 - Broken up by J.A. White, St. Davids in April 1966

During her time at Methil she was fitted with wheelhouse built Jas. Fisher, the local joiner.  She was also fitted with a diesel air pump to relieve the load on her engines. 


  • The "Furnness"

Steam screw tug - 188 tons - 95ft x 26ft x 9.2ft - powered by a 2-cylinder - 20" x 44" x 28"  122hp engine by builder

1934 - Built by Cammell Laird & Co., Birkenhead as "Devonshire"
1937 - Sold to London & Scottish Midland Railway based at Barrow and renamed "Furness"
1961 - Loaned to British Transport Commission (Grangemouth) and  relief tug at Methil until 1962
???? - Broken up - date not known 

 A cutting exists dated 7th March 1962, from an unknown newspaper, describing the voyage of the Furness from Grangemouth to Barrow.  A transcription is given below:


Over six weeks from Grangemouth to Barrow

The British Transport Commission tug "Furness" (188 Gross Tons), which was temporarily transferred from her permanent station at Barrow-in-Furness to Grangemouth last year has arrived back at Barrow after a voyage lsting more than six weeks.

The "Furness" left Grangemouth on January 13 for Barrow via the Caledonian Canal but persistent bad weather was met on the voyage compelling the tug to put into numerous ports for shelter, bunkers and stores.

Among the her calls were Aberdeen, Inverness, Oban, Larne nad Stranraer, and she eventually arrived back at Barrow on the evening tide of last Sunday.

Built in 1934 by Cammel Laird & Co. Birkenhead, the tug was originally named "Devonshire" and was owned by the old London Midland & Scottish Railway Co.  She was renamed "Furness" in 1937. 


  • The "Martello"


Motor tug - 68 tons - 62ft x 19.1ft x 6.72ft

1958 - Built by W.J. Yarwood, Northwich for Leith Harbour Commission - later Forth Ports Authority 
1968 - Based at Methil until 1972 - The first motor tug stationed at Methil and the last tug to be based at the Port.




In addition to the tugs used for manoeuvring ships, two dredger tugs were employed on hopper barge work.

  • The "Fresco"

Steam screw tug - 74 tons - 75.9ft x 17.9ft - powered by a Gaudie & Gillespie engine 13" X 28" - 280hp.

1915 - Built by Scott & Sons , Bowling for Elder-Dempster, Liverpool
1915 - Purchased by the Admiralty
1923 - Sold (purchaser unkown)
1928 - Sold to McLeod, Alloa
1950s - At Methil
1964 - Broken up (Company unknown)

  • The "El Sandra"

Steam screw tug - 83 tons - 81.5ft x 16.6ft x 8.1ft - powered by a Dodman & Co. engine 9" X 15.5" x 24"-18" - 280hp.

1903 - Built by Cox & Co., Falmouth as "Langdon" for the War Department
1932 - Sold to Hemsley Bell, Southampton and renamed "El Sandra"
1947 - Sold to McLeod, Alloa
1950s - At Methil
1960 - Broken up at Bo'ness by P. & W. McLellan