The Birth of Steam Navigation

The first commercially successful steamship in Europe sailed up the Clyde on its maiden voyage 200 years ago this month.

For an image see here. It shows a painting of the ship passing Dumbarton Rock. It’s a detail from a picture painted in 1914 by William Daniell.

The ship was commisioned by Henry Bell and called the Comet. She was named for a prominent comet that had appeared in the skies the year before. Bell became known as the father of steam navigation.

This tale and the inspiration for the ship from the earlier Charlotte Dundas was a familiar one to children of my generation but with the demise of shipbuilding on the Clyde I don’t know how much of it today’s youngsters will hear about.

There were substantial celebrations for the 100th anniversary and again in 1962. This year‘s have been more muted.

At least two obelisks to the memory of Bell were erected on the banks of the Clyde and a replica of the Comet can still be seen in Port Glasgow.

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