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A history of Dundee’s Caledon Shipyard

By Stewart Ross, 4 December 2013 11.00am.

It’s been a labour of love nearly 50 years in the making but at last it’s to be published — the definitive history of Dundee’s Robb Caledon Shipyard.

At its height in the 1930s the Caledon Shipyard employed 4,000 and another 2,000 at the Lilybank Engine Works in Kemback Street.

For more than the 100 years the yard laboured, over 500 ships were built to sail the world’s oceans. But in 1981, it was all over. Ships were cheaper elsewhere and, after a period of Government ownership, the yard closed.

Jack Reilly, 73, from Baxter Park, started amassing notes, details and pictures when he joined the Caledon in 1955. When at long last he had finalised the book — which is essentially an encyclopaedia of the yard — he had a tough time finding a publisher.

“It’s too big, it’s too local — that’s the sort of thing I’ve been told,” he says and shakes his head.

“I want this to be something that the remaining Caledon people can have, something that children will have access to in Dundee schools or at the library.”

But Jack, working closely with the chairman of Dundee Museum of Transport, James McDonell, finally found the support he needed. The Government’s Creative Scotland, the Alexander Moncur Trust, the William S. Phillips Fund and DC Thomson all backed the project. Now, 250 copies of “The Caledon Shipyard” have been printed and the launch will, suitably, be on the Frigate Unicorn on December 14.

The book will be on sale on launch day and available from Dundee Museum of Transport at Market Mews, The Unicorn, Manus Gallery and Brand’s Book Shop, Albert Street.

“I’m delighted,” said Jack. “This means the people of Dundee will be able to see what their forefathers achieved. Because this isn’t just about ships and parts. This is, above all, about the people.”

Mr McDonell added: “Without Jack Reilly, the time and great effort he has put in to the book, a lot of history could have been lost through the passage of time.

“This book will be recognised as a reference work charting an important part of Dundee’s 107-year heritage in shipbuilding.”