Scottish Maritime Museum

Scottish Maritime Museum welcomes one of only 50

world-wide seaworthy Fife of Fairlie yachts

to the national heritage collection


A stunning, hundred year old William Fife III sailing yacht, which is believed to be one of only 50 surviving seaworthy Fife yachts across the world, was unveiled at the Scottish Maritime Museum on the Harbourside in Irvine today (Friday 26 October).

Transported to Scotland and donated to the national maritime heritage collection by Canadian Tim Morton, Powerful will now sit on public view alongside some of Scotland’s other most historic, beautiful and innovative vessels.

Powerful was built in 1900 by William Fife III, the third and final generation of the world-renowned yacht building family based in Fairlie, Ayrshire.

Over the course of all three generations of the Fife family, only five small sailboats were completed including a trio of small racers named after the last three British wooden battleships – Powerful, Majestic and Terrible.

Regarded as experimental in design, they were built very lightly with an expected racing lifespan of just one year.

Despite the ‘temporary’ build, Powerful was still in good form when she was purchased by Tim’s father Desmond and his siblings Jim and Mary Morton in Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, in 1945 for the princely sum of £120. She was sailed by the children for five years until the family emigrated to Canada.

Fifty years on, Tim’s cousin John Morton discovered and acquired Powerful. In 2008, she was transported to Canada. There, after surviving against all odds for 111 years, Tim, James Morton and friends embarked on her four year restoration.

Fittingly ‘rebuilt’ by another family, this time of keen sailors, Powerful was given new pitch pine hull. Pitch pine was the wood of choice before the World War 1 and, in a nice twist, William Fife III could well have used imported Canadian pitch pine in her construction.

New elements of the stern, which were latterly bound by little more than paint, were created by master carver Del Taylor, using the same chisels his grandfather used to craft the fine interior panels of the Titanic in the early 1900s.


Welcoming Powerful to the Scottish Maritime Museum, Director David Mann said:

“We are delighted to welcome such a significant vessel into the national maritime heritage collection here at the Scottish Maritime Museum. Powerful is a rare and stunning example of a small yacht built by the world famous Fife boatbuilding dynasty and makes a great addition to our existing Fife collection of vessels.

“Built here in Ayrshire over a century ago and now sitting close to our own Scottish Boat Building School here at the Museum, Powerful has a lovely local resonance too.

“We are hugely grateful to Tim and his family for passing Powerful into our stewardship. We are sure she will give much enjoyment to visitors now and into the future.”


Tim Morton added:

“I am so pleased to see Powerful on display at the Museum.  The perfect home for her, being thirty kilometres from where she was built. The goal was to see Powerful’s future safeguarded for future generations.  At 118 years old, I am sure she has already exceeded her William Fife III expectations.  I am proud to have restored her and protected her heritage. Powerful sails like the wind.”

The award-winning Scottish Maritime Museum is home to Scotland’s national maritime heritage collection, which features ships, vessels and engineering designs, which influenced the course of maritime history across the world.

The collection features some of the country’s most beautiful and historic vessels. Highlights include Spartan, the only surviving Scottish-built ‘puffer’; SY Carola, possibly the world’s oldest seagoing steam yacht; sailing boat Lady Guilford, believed to be the oldest surviving Scottish built boat; MV Kyles, the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat in the UK and recognised as one of Britain’s most important historic vessels; and Golden Orfe, another yacht built by Fife of Fairlie.

Other fascinating exhibits include Dodo, a boat built in the bedroom of a Glasgow townhouse by two teenage brothers including one who went on to found the firm that developed the Kelvin Marine Engine; Venus, a Shetland Fourareen built from pieces of driftwood to traditions rooted in Viking boat design; and Wanderer, the Uffa Fox Parachuted Airborne Lifeboat. Held under an aircraft, the Uffa was dropped into the sea close to airmen who had been forced to abandon their planes. Well equipped with survival kit, it also featured a painted arrow indicating the bow of the boat for the unfamiliar.

There are believed to be only fifty William Fife yachts sailing throughout the world today, with another 150 lying in a state of disrepair.

Powerful was restored by Tim and James Morton in memory of Desmond and Jim Morton.

For more information about the Scottish Maritime Museum’s maritime heritage and art collections and year round events programme, visit


After remaining in private ownership for some 55 years, one of the earliest and most significant paintings by internationally acclaimed artist the late John Bellany CBE will go on permanent public display as part of the Scottish Maritime Museum’s new national art collection, it was announced today (Friday 28 September).


Helen Bellany, the artist’s partner and muse, unveiled ‘The Boat Builders’ at the painting’s new home at the Scottish Maritime Museum on the Harbourside in Irvine calling it “one of the key works of his career” and a symbol of their life-long journey together.


The Scottish Maritime Museum acquired, ‘The Boat Builders’ by John Bellany (1942-2013) with £95,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), £90,000 from the Art Fund and £15,000 from the National Fund for Acquisitions.


Whilst Bellany’s works have been exhibited across the world and purchased by collectors including Sean Connery and David Bowie, ‘The Boat Builders’ has rarely been seen in public remaining, until now, in the ownership of John Bellany and, more lately, the Estate of John Bellany.


The painting was most recently displayed in the National Galleries of Scotland 2012 John Bellany Retrospective.


One of the most influential Scottish painters since the war, Bellany sailed against the tide of realism and abstraction from the start of his career in the 1960s. Working prolifically to re-establish a native, figurative art, he drew on his life growing up in a family of fishermen and boatbuilders in Port Seton, near Edinburgh, and the sea was a familiar subject of his work. Bellany painted ‘The Boat Builders’ in 1962 whilst attending Edinburgh College of Art, where he met Helen, an artist in her own right. Commanding over 3 metres by 5 metres, the huge oil on board painting captures construction of a seine netter inscribed with the name ‘Good Hope’ and the words ‘BELLANY’ at the stern. Unveiling the painting and recalling stories from her new memoir ‘The Restless Wave’ as part of Tidelines Book Festival, Helen described the moment when a ‘trembling’ Bellany first showed her the painting. “He knew…that it was a triumph” and what he would have called ‘an absolute beezer!’”  Only a few weeks into their romance, which was to see them marry twice and bear three children together, they had already made a pact to spend the rest of their lives together. ‘The Boat Builders’ reflected both the sea voyages of Bellany’s ancestors and the start of their own life-long journey ‘taking on the world’ together.

‘The Boat Builders’ is on view until the end of March. It will then undergo conservation work before returning to permanent display.

Unveiling ‘The Boat Builders’, David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, said:

 “Since 2015 when we embarked on our ambitious, three year art acquisition project, SMMart: Enriching the Imagery of Scotland’s Maritime Heritage, it has been our fervent hope to collect a significant work by internationally acclaimed artist John Bellany as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of our new national art collection.

“We are therefore absolutely thrilled to welcome ‘The Boat Builders’ to a new home on public display at the Scottish Maritime Museum. As well as bringing international significance to the art collection, this wonderful painting enriches the national maritime heritage collection, which includes some of the country’s most beautiful and most historic vessels, and will bring, I am sure, a lot of enjoyment to many, many visitors. 

“Also importantly, ‘The Boat Builders’ stands as a very fitting tribute to all shipbuilders, boat builders and maritime industrial workers who made Scotland a great maritime and industrial nation right through to the talented young trainees at our Scottish Boat Building School here at the Museum.

“We are very grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund for supporting the acquisition of ‘The Boat Builders’ and to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund and National Fund for Acquisitions for both this highly significant purchase and the creation of our stunning and nationally important collection as a whole.”


Helen Bellany, added:

“’The Boat Builders’ is one of John’s most important works of art. It was completed during his third year at Edinburgh College of Art when he was twenty one years of age.  It is astonishing to think that this truly remarkable painting is a student work, ambitious not only in its scale and composition but also a fully realised and accomplished vision of the world he was born into and which remained at the core of his life’s work. It is one of the key works of his career. One that he termed ‘an absolute beezer’. John would have been well pleased, if he had known, that ‘The Good Hope’ had finally tied up in the sheltering harbour of the great Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. The perfect home.”


Fiona Greer, Curator of Art at the Scottish Maritime Museum, said:

 “Bellany and his close friend Alexander (Sandy) Moffat were inspired by social realism and the desire to present a modern Scotland whilst embracing the nation’s heritage. ‘The Boat Builders’ is an exciting and important example.

 “The style of Bellany’s work went on to change dramatically over his lifetime as can be seen to some degree comparing ‘The Boat Builders’ with a smaller work also acquired for our collection, ‘The Dawn Pearl in Port Seton Harbour’ (2006). We are excited to be able to display ‘The Boat Builders’ here at the Museum alongside ‘The Dawn Pearl’ and engage with our visitors around Bellany’s evolving style as well as the large scale changes in the style of, and attitudes towards, Scottish art during the sixties.”


Sir Peter Luff, Chair of NHMF, said:

“John Bellany is one of the most prolific and acclaimed Scottish artists of his generation. And with this exquisite painting, considered amongst his very best work, he has created a vibrant tribute to Scotland’s illustrious ship and boat building heritage. We, at the National Heritage Memorial Fund felt it important that it should be on permanent display at the Scottish Maritime Museum for everyone to enjoy.”


Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, said:

“We are delighted to support the acquisition of this important painting by John Bellany, which promises to be a highlight of the museum’s thriving collection of Scotland’s maritime heritage. It will give visitors from Scotland and beyond the opportunity to see and enjoy one of the country’s most celebrated artists, as well as firmly establishing the international significance of the museum as a leading collector of works by Scottish artists.”


Dr Hazel Williamson, National Fund for Acquisitions Manager, said:

“It is wonderful to see works collected with the support of the National Fund for Acquisitions, particularly John Bellany’s Boat Builders, going on display for people to see.”


The Scottish Maritime Museum’s new art collection was created to enrich and enhance the nationally recognised collection of maritime heritage. The art collection has been made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme, with further support from Art Fund and the National Fund for Acquisitions.

The collection features over 80 artworks capturing Scotland’s coastline in all its grit and glory. Exploiting a wide range of mediums from oil painting, watercolour, sketching and photography through to sculpture and mixed media, works feature scenes of shipbuilding, fishing, island communities, travel ‘doon the watter’ through to life on North Sea oil platforms and war and loss at sea.

Issued on behalf of the Scottish Maritime Museum by


Joanna Harrison, Mobile: 07884 187404.