FEBRUARY 27, 1964, was a sobering day for the town of Dumbarton and for Scottish shipbuilding. The launch of Melbrook, a cargo motorship, and the last vessel to be built at the Dumbarton yard of William Denny and Brothers, Ltd, brought a long era to an end.

Work on Melbrook had stopped in July 1963 and was taken over by the Linthouse yard of Alexander Stephen.

The Denny shipbuilding story had begun in 1822, with the company being established in 1844. It was wound up in its 120th year.

Denny’s died in September 1963 when the stockholders endorsed a recommendation to put the business into voluntary liquidation.

The stockholders’ meeting, at the Merchants House, Glasgow, “accepted the situation with only mild dissent”, the Herald reported.

W.D. Keith Marshall, Denny’s chairman, said the efforts to save the firm that had been made by the STUC in its approach to Lord Carrington, First Lord of the Admiralty, had produced nothing new.

He added that no stone had been left unturned in the directors' determination to save the yard. Orders in this country had been so scarce that they had tried to win foreign business. One overseas order had gone to Japan at a price which would have been unacceptable to any British firm.

STUC general secretary James Jack said: “The news that Denny’s have finally decided to go out of business will bring consolation only to those who say, ‘I told you so’.

“A further 1,000 jobs have been lost to the Clyde at a time when the situation in shipbuilding is little relieved by the additional work, important as it is, obtained recently by John Brown’s and Fairfield's.”

In the midst of all this, it is easy to forget just how innovative the yard had been.

As the West Dunbartonshire Council website notes, Denny’s was “one of the most interesting and important shipbuilding firms in the country. The pioneering use of steel in shipbuilding, the building of the first turbine passenger steamer, the use of progressive trials for ships, and the design and construction of one of the first helicopters to fly, are just some of the notable achievements of the Dumbarton firm”.

In 1901 Denny’s built the King Edward, the world’s first turbine passenger ship. Its experimental tank, built in 1881, was the world's first private testing basin.

During the Second World War it made aircraft carriers, destroyers, and sloops; post-war, it specialised in cargo ships and high-speed cross-Channel ferries.

At the time the yard’s closure was announced, the Denny D2 Hovercraft, or Hoverbus, a 70-seat craft built at Dumbarton, had been operating an experimental sightseeing service on the Thames.

Read more: Herald Diary