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TV series to tell fascinating tales of four Clydebuilt ships

THE murky role of Glasgow in the American Civil War and a heroic mission following the sinking of the Titanic will be examined in a new BBC Scotland documentary series.

ON DECK: Actor and presenter of Clydebuilt: The Ships That Made The Commonwealth, David Hayman.
ON DECK: Actor and presenter of Clydebuilt: The Ships That Made The Commonwealth, David Hayman.

Presented by actor David Hayman, Clydebuilt: The Ships That Made the Commonwealth will tell the tales of four very different ships that began life on the same Scottish river.

They include the CS Mackay-Bennett, a cable repair ship built in Govan whose crew was tasked with recovering the bodies of those who perished when the Titanic sank in 1912.

Hayman, 66, travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in a bid to unravel the mystery surrounding the discovery of child's body, a passenger on board the ill-fated liner, whose identity took almost 100 years to solve.

Paddle steamer Robert E Lee, built on the Clyde in 1862, arguably most captured his imagination.

"It is not a story of triumph," said Hayman. "The Robert E Lee reveals Glasgow's involvement in the American Civil War and perpetuating slavery for two years longer than it needed be. We built ships at the rate of one a week, oceangoing paddle steamers that went to Bermuda and loaded up with arms and munitions, then shipped them through President Lincoln's blockade.

"After Gettysburg, the south was more or less defeated and if it wasn't for our supply ships breaking through those cordons, the war would have been over," he added. "We were making a profit of something like £60,000 for each two week run. Today that would be worth £4 million. A lot of Glasgow's wealth is built on that."

The opening episode, to be shown on Monday at 9pm on BBC Two Scotland, focuses on the famous Cutty Sark, built in 1869 for the Jock Willis shipping line.

The final vessel in the four-part series is HMS Hood, built at John Brown & Company in Clydebank, which was the world's largest battlecruiser until it was sunk by the Bismarck in World War Two.

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