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Falls Of Clyde

Falls Of Clyde

Falls of Clyde

Clan Ewen Society Member Works to Save Piece of Scotland in Hawaii. Built in 1878 by Russell & Co. in Port Glasgow, the four-masted, iron-hull sailing ship Falls of Clyde has resided in Honolulu Harbor for over 50 years. She was one of the first of the Falls series of ships named for the various waterfalls on the River Clyde. A sleek cargo ship plying the seas from Britain to the Far East, she was renowned for her speed. Coming into the Hawaiian service in 1898, she was purchased by Captain William Matson who was starting a commercial service between the mainland United States and the Territory of Hawaii. She flew the Hawaiian flag for about a year before being reflagged in the U.S. Sold to Associated Petroleum in 1907, she was converted to a sailing oil tanker by constructing 10 steel tanks. She carried oil to Hawaii and took back molasses from sugar plantations to the West Coast. She was retired from the Hawaii service in 1923 and was sold to become a floating bunker vessel for the fishing fleet in Ketchikan, Alaska.

After being taken out of service in Alaska, the ship was mothballed and was put up for sale to be scrapped. In the early 1960s, citizens from Hawaii, led by an historian and a newspaper journalist began a campaign to raise funds to purchase Falls of Clyde and bring her to Honolulu. In 1963, their project was successful and the ship was towed by a U.S. Navy vessel from Seattle, WA to Honolulu. An organization was formed to take ownership and responsibility for restoration of the ship, which was accomplished in the early 1970s. The ship became an attraction for local residents and tourists and ownership was transferred to the Hawaii Maritime Center. She was a popular venue for events, as well as an educational museum artefact. The local Caledonian Society held events and its members did volunteer work aboard the Falls. In 1988 the maritime center became a part of Bishop Museum, the major museum in Hawaii. In 1989 the ship became a National Historic Landmark as the only remaining sailing oil tanker in the world.


Unfortunately, Bishop Museum was not committed to a maritime exhibit and did not adequately support either the Hawaii Maritime Center or Falls of Clyde. Although drydocked and restored in 1988, the ship was not maintained and in 2007 the ship was closed to the public for safety reasons. In 2008 the Museum had the ship surveyed and a report determined it would take $30 million to fully restore her as a historic museum ship. The Museum’s Board of Directors authorized the derigging and sinking of the ship because they deemed it financially impossible to maintain as a museum exhibit.


The year 2008 is when members of the maritime industry and Scottish community in Hawaii came together to rescue the ship from its impending fate. A small group of community members began meeting with a representative of Bishop Museum in an attempt to dissuade them from destroying the ship. Society member Bruce McEwan was part of the community group as someone who was both in the maritime industry and a leader in the Scottish community. He was and currently is the Chieftain of The Caledonian Society of Hawaii.   The community group formed a charitable, non-profit organization called Friends of Falls of Clyde (FFOC) to negotiate a change of ownership with Bishop Museum. After a series of meetings,  FFOC met pre-requisite requirements for a purchase and on 30 September 2008 purchased Falls of Clyde from Bishop Museum for US$1.00. Fortunately, a substantial amount of money donated for the maintenance of the ship came with the new ownership, so FFOC has been able to work on the ship and prepare to take her into drydock for preservation work. Much work has been done to document the condition of the ship and in 2013 a naval architectural firm was hired to inspect the ship and provide a condition report and a plan for drydocking the barge. These were done successfully and the local shipyard in Honolulu Harbor has committed to doing the work. At the first drydocking in over 25 years, the work will be to clean the hull, inspect it, repair weak areas, and paint the hull. Once back in her berth, FFOC will set up small projects to restore deck structures and eventually below deck work and tank work will be done. Needless to say this is a long-term commitment. FFOC wants to get the ship open to the public as quickly as possible once the drydock is completed.


McEwan has been leading FFOC as its president from the beginning and is the primary spokesperson with the media and in negotiating issues with outside parties. FFOC has embarked on a US$3 million capital campaign and needs an initial US$1.5 million for the drydock. It is a major challenge and one that Scots stubbornness will hopefully help us be successful.

For Further Information Please visit the Friends Of Falls of Clyde Website  :

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