James Bremner

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James Bremner (25 September 1784 – August 1856), a notable Scottish naval architect, harbour builder and ship-raiser.

Life and work[edit]

James, the youngest of the nine children of Janet and James Bremner, was born in Stain, near Keiss, in the parish of Wick, Caithness,[1] in Scotland.

At the age of 16, he was apprenticed for six years to the shipbuilders "Robert Steele & Sons" of Greenock.[2] After he had completed his apprenticeship he returned to Wick and started his own shipbuilding yard in Pulteneytown, near Wick Harbour, where he built 56 or more vessels, ranging in size from 45 tons to 600 tons. At this time, he also became well known throughout the United Kingdom for his skills in rescuing sunken and stranded vessels.

A monument to James Bremner, Naval Architect, overlooking Wick Bay and harbour.

When, in 1846, Brunel's SS Great Britain went aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay, Ireland, it is to Bremner that Brunel turned for help.

His career involved the rescue of perhaps 236 or more stricken vessels. As well as building and rescuing ships, he worked on 19 harbour structures in Scotland, not least an extension to Telford's harbour in Wick Bay.

Bremner became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1833, and he was awarded the Telford Medal for several of his papers on engineering.

Bremner married early in his life and had numerous sons and daughters. His wife died in 1856 and Bremner himself died in the August of the same year. In 1903 a tall obelisk was erected to his memory on high ground overlooking Wick Harbour, where it stands to this day.


  1. ^ The county of Caithness is now within the Highland area of Scotland.
  2. ^ Greenock is now within the Inverclyde area of Scotland.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Bremner, James". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.