Henry Robb

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Shipbuilding at Henry Robb's Yard, depicted on the Leith Mural
Henry Robb
Industry Shipbuilding
Fate Closed
Founded 1918
Defunct 1983
Headquarters Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland

Henry Robb, Limited, known colloquially as Robbs, was a Scottish shipbuilding company based at Leith Docks in Edinburgh. Robbs was notable for building small-to-medium sized vessels, particularly tugs and dredgers.


Workers at Henry Robb's, depicted on the Leith Mural

The Company was founded by Henry Robb, a former yard manager for Ramage & Ferguson on 1 April 1918.[1]

The Company then expanded through acquisition buying berths from Hawthorns in 1924, the business of Cran & Somerville in 1926 and the yards of Ramage & Ferguson in 1934.[1] The site became known as Victoria Shipyard.[2]

The Company closed its Arbroath and Clyde operations during the 1920s and focused its activities on Leith.[3]

During World War II, Robbs built a large number of naval warships for the Royal Navy, including preparing the designs and building the prototype of the Basset-class anti-submarine / minesweeping trawler.[1]

On 26 February 1940 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured the shipyard.[4]

In 1968, Robbs purchased, and amalgamated with, the Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Dundee, forming Robb Caledon Shipbuilding.[5] In 1977, under the provisions of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977, Robb Caledon was nationalised as part of British Shipbuilders. The Caledon yard in Dundee closed in 1981; Robb's yard in Leith survived two more years, closing in 1983.[5] The land once occupied by Robb's shipyard is now the Ocean Terminal shopping centre, home to the Royal Yacht Britannia.[6] An old pitched roof paintshed that once belonged to the yard, constructed from rivetted iron plates, still stands and has been granted Category B listed status.

The yard features in the video to the track "Letter From America" (1987) by The Proclaimers, whose father worked in the yard. The overall sentiment of the song stresses the loss of Scotland's traditional industries and the mass emigration of Scots to North America due to circumstances such as the Highland Clearances.

Ships built by Robbs[edit]


Flower class corvette

Castle class corvette

River class frigate

Loch class frigate

  • HMS Loch Achanalt - to Royal Canadian Navy on completion.
  • HMS Loch Insh - to Malaysian Navy in 1964 as Hang Tuah.
  • HMS Loch Katrine - to Royal New Zealand Navy in 1949 as Rotoiti.
  • three further ships of this class - Loch Nell, Loch Odairn and Loch Kishorn - were cancelled.

Bay class frigate

Royal Fleet Auxiliaries

Bustler-class ocean rescue tugs

Hecla-class survey vessel

Wild Duck-class RMAS cable-layer / salvage vessel


Yard No Name Type Launch Owner/Notes
267 SS South Steyne Manly ferry 1 April 1938 Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company
508 RRS Bransfield ice-strengthened research vessel 4 September 1970 British Antarctic Survey
515 MV Pioneer ferry 4 January 1974 Caledonian MacBrayne
516 S.A. Wolraad Woltemade salvage tug 15 May 1975 South African Marine Corporation
521 MV Borthwick[7] LPG Tanker 1977 Geo. Gibson & Co.
522 MV Claymore ferry 31 August 1978 Caledonian MacBrayne
530[8] THV Patricia lighthouse tender 1982[9] Trinity House
534 MV St Catherine ferry 1983 Sealink/Wightlink
535 MV St Helen ferry 1983 Sealink/Wightlink


  1. ^ a b c Grace's Guide: Henry Robb
  2. ^ Recollections around Edinburgh
  3. ^ The world shipbuilding industry By Daniel Todd Page 117
  4. ^ Notable dates
  5. ^ a b Masts from the past Evening News, 1 September 2007
  6. ^ Steering its own course Evening News, 9 June 2007
  7. ^ "Geo. Gibson & Co.". British Coastal Shipping Companies. Retrieved 3 July 2010. 
  8. ^ "Ship No 36 to Ship No 40". Leith Built Ships. Retrieved 2 July 2010. 
  9. ^ "Patricia (1982)". ShipPhotos.co.uk. Retrieved 2 July 2010. 

External links[edit]