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John Duffus & Co., Shipyard

According to family history, John Duffus (1780 - 1855), Shipbuilder & Mechanical Engineer. The Duffus Shipyard was officially known as John Duffus & Company. In addition to shipbuilding, Duffus manufactured engines for steam vessels; and, trading as the Aberdeen and London Steam Navigation Company, had his own ships plying their trade between Aberdeen and London. Inter alia the "Royal Tar" (the nickname of King William IV) was built by John Duffus, Aberdeen in 1832.

John Duffus, Ironfounder, all Aberdeen, trading as John Duffus & Co., Manufacturers of Anchors & Chain Cables in Aberdeen.

Queen of Scotland 1827 2 decks, 3 masts, schooner rigged, standing bowsprit, square stern, carvel built, quarter galleries, a woman figurehead.
: wood steamer; sheathed in felt and copper in
Tonnage: 390 tons using old measurements and 435 tons using new measurements 
Propulsion: steam engine producing 150 horsepower 

Aberdeen Journal, 18th April 1827:
'On Thursday last we had the gratification of being present at the launch of the 1st steam vessel which has been built at this port. If we may judge by the admiration which this magnificent ship had excited, among naval and scientific persons, as well as those acquainted with steam navigation, we may safely pronounce her the finest of her class not only for a frame of timber which cannot be surpassed, but which has been put together in a manner that would do credit to any King's Dockyards. Her length is that of a 36-gun frigate, she has a spar deck and poop, with 2 splendid cabins, separate from the sleeping compartments, which are ranged along the side of the ship, and all entering from the main deck. These berths have removing stanchions, which, if necessary would enable her to carry 15 guns on a side. She will be propelled by 2 engines of 75 horse-power each, and is calculated to carry, beside her machinery, fuel etc, 300 tons.  Not withstanding the unfavourable state of the weather from the incessant rain, a vast concourse of spectators had assembled at an early hour, and seemed delighted with the beautiful airs played by the Band of the Aberdeen Militia. At a quarter past one o'clock, the Queen of Scotland majestically glided into her future element, amidst the cheers of the multitude, the band playing "God Save the King".  This superb vessel has been built by Messrs J. Duffus & Co and her engines constructed at their extensive establishment here; and if the Queen of Scotland is to be considered a fair specimen of their work, it will bear a comparison with that of any of her class in the kingdom. The launch was conducted by Mr Ronald, the master builder, in a style which did him much credit; and we were much pleased to observe the accommodation afforded by the proprietors of the neighbouring dock-yards, whose servants appeared to vie with each other in rendering every assistance in their power on this novel occasion. We sincerely wish Messrs Duffus & Co every success in the prosecution of this now most important branch of nautical science.'

Advertised maiden voyage: Aberdeen 22nd August 1827 to London and returning to Aberdeen 5th September. Carrying goods and passengers. Managed by John Lumsden & Co of Castle Street Aberdeen and John Duffus & Co. Footdee. Master advertised as Alex. Lovie, RN, commander. However, due to technical difficulties, her Maiden voyage was postponed until December 1827. Left Aberdeen afternoon of Saturday 22nd December arrived London Tuesday, 25th December 1827. 

Paul Jones – Wooden Steam Tug 1827 Yard No.52
Described in Press & Journal by John Duthie 10/01/1981 as having 'one high, slim funnel and two paddle boxes'. 40 horse power engines.

Used for pulling sailing ships in and out of the harbour and occasionally for rescue operation.
1 deck, 1 mast, not rigged, no bowsprit, round stern, carvel built, propelled by steam

Red Rover Wooden Schooner 1828
1 deck, 2 masts, schooner rigged, standing bowsprit, square stern, carvel built, no galleries or figurehead.
Glasgow Herald, 31st May 1844:
Shipwreck - schooner RED ROVER, of Aberdeen, drove ashore 17 May at Scrabster. Men, immediately took to the boat. One of coastguard men, David Horne, gallantly sprung into the breakers and caught hold of the boat until men landed. That morning while getting under way the block of the main sheet struck Captain on head and laid him insensible - now recovering. Vessel was bound for Africa for cargo of guano and had 2 years' provisions aboard (safely landed on fall on tide). [Larn, Shipwreck Index of British Isles confirms RED ROVER wrecked Scrabster Sands, Thurso, Scotland, 17 May 1844].

Duke of Wellington 1829 Wooden Paddle Steamer built and managed by John Duffus & Co.

Duchess of Gordon 1830 Smack
Construction: Wood, Part Iron Built, 1 Deck, 1 Mast, Running Bowsprit, Square Sterned, Carvel Built, no Galleries. Fiddle Figurehead added in April 1832.

Royal Tar 1832 -

Steam Paddle Schooner named after King William IV, who served in Royal Navy built by John Duffus & Co
The ROYAL TAR was a 308 ton burthen ship, built by John Duffus, Aberdeen in 1832. Her details were - length 50.29m (165ft) x beam 8.43m (27.7ft) x depth 1.98m (6.5ft), 1 funnel, 2 masts (rigged for sail), clipper stem, side paddle propulsion and wooden hulled. She had a speed of 8 knots. After being chartered to Spain, she was transferred to P&O ownership in 1840 Ship No.1 and continued on the Southampton - Peninsular - Gibraltar run. In 1847 she was sold to the Portuguese government and was used as a troopship.

Ravenswood 1933 Schooner Description: 1 deck, 2 masts, schooner rigged, standing bowsprit, carvel built, square stern, mock galleries, billet figurehead

Marrappa Wooden Steamer 1834
1 deck, 2 masts, propelled by steam and schooner rigger, standing bowsprit, square stern, billet figurehead.

North Star Wooden Paddle Steamer 1837
Completed April 1837 by John Duffus & Co. for their own account.
Registered 29 April 1837. Owned by John Lumsden, George Elsmie and William Reid, merchants, trading as North of Scotland Steam Navigation Co.

In 1846 Shipbuilder Duffus merged with Blaikie Brothers Iron Founders.

John Duffus also cast Bells for churches

CASTLEHILL BRIDGE - In early times the hollow between the Castle Hill and the Heading Hill was but slight, and no bridge was necessary to connect the 2 hills. By lowering the south end of Park Street/Lane, the depth of the gap between the hills was increased, and in 1839 the lane was widened and improved and a bridge was thrown over it connecting the 2 Hills. From the bridge stone stairs at both ends lead down to the street below, which is now called Commerce Street but formerly Park Lane and also Justice Street. The latter name was historically the more appropriate because the bridge is probably on or near the spot where the Justiciar of the north of Scotland held his courts. They were usually held in the open air near a small hill or artificial hillock. A court was held near the Castle in 1299 (" Book of Bon-accord," p. 375). It is from being near the site where the Justiciar's Courts were held that the later Justice Street derived its name.   The bridge rested upon 4 cast-iron ribs, segments of a circle, from which slender stanchion bars rose vertically, supporting a horizontal roadway. The ribs rested upon cornices in the stone piers at the ends. On both sides is the following inscription :-
. Alas - Knocket Doon

BISHOPMILL BRIDGE ELGIN  - "The Lossie is here spanned by a handsome iron bridge, erected in 1831 in place of a stone one which was swept away by the great spate of 1829. When this bridge was built, the contract for the iron work was accepted by John Duffus & Co., Iron–founders in Aberdeen, who erected the bridge in their own yard – the specifications bearing that it was to be set up, but not specifying where, so that the Road Trustees had to pay them to take it to pieces, carry it to Elgin, and put it up in its proper place!"  There was an Aberdeen Advocate in the family.

A handsome iron bridge occupies the site of a stone bridge which was swept away by the great flood or Muckle Spate of 1829.  The bridge at Elgin, over the Lossie, of 80 feet span, is partly of cast metal and partly of timber.  A representation of a Litho executed at Elgin shows the Gas Works adjacent and an ornate over arch sided Bridge with cast balustrades supported on Stone Buttresses.  Cows and Fisherman add to the semi rural scene of the Riverside dated 1833.

John Willet, CE 1873?. Iron girder bridge supported by centre pair round cast-iron pillars and rusticated ashlar  terminal piers. Approach ramps with low wall, cope and pyramidal coped end buttresses. Cast-iron parapet.  Relegated to pedestrian traffic only.

Replaced bridge of 1880 (William Robertson, Elgin) which in turn replaced that of 1814, destroyed during Great Spate of 1829. 


St Nicholas Churchyard Gravestone Inscription - Aberdeen

In Memory of John Duffus
Iron Founder, Footdee Iron Works, Aberdeen.
Died 25th Dec. 1855. Aged 75
Ann Fraser,
his spouse
Died 26th April 1831 Aged 53
Their Son
William Duffus, Engineer
Died 15th March 1838 Aged 25
Their Son
John Duffus, Advocate, Aberdeen
Died 24th Sept. 1840 Aged 32
Their children Helen, Alexander & George
died in childhood.
Also James Duffus, Civil Engineer
Their last surviving son

John Duffus, Advocate. 5th April, 1832.
Son of John Duffus, engineer and iron founder, Aberdeen, and Ann Fraser, his wife. Alumnus, Marischal College, 1821-24. Apprenticed to William Smith (1817).  Died, unmarried, at Aberdeen, 24th September, 1840, aged 32.   Old John had buried his wife all but his namesake son in this grave before his own demise in 1885.

John Duffus & Co., Manufacturers of steam engines, chain cables, anchors, locks, hinges; millwrights, machinists, and shipbuilders,  works entrance off St. Clement Street to the left of the Graveyard.  There was a large Iron Works behind the St Clements Church bordering the Links and Garvocks Wynd.  The nigh square Iron Works site housed a Crane, Pattern Shop, Boiler Shop, Chain Shop, Turning Shop, Fitting Shop and Store.  Castle Hill Bridge and Elgin's Bishopsmill Bridge structural elements were cast here.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013