Alexander Hall and Company

Ship builders; 1811 - 1958

Alexander Hall & Co. were Aberdeen shipbuilders from 1790 to 1957. The firm is best remembered for its development of the Aberdeen or clipper bow in 1839.

Alex. Hall & Co. was established in 1790 by Alexander Hall. He took over the business of Cochar & Gibbon, where he had been an apprentice and then a partner.

The earliest ships built by the firm were wooden sailing vessels. The Scottish Maid, a schooner of 1839, was the first to have the forward curving Aberdeen bow. This improved speed and sailing performance.

Alexander Hall died in 1849 leaving his two sons, James and William, to run the business. The brothers were responsible for many famous clippers. These included Torrington and Stornoway, for the opium and tea trades, where speed was essential. William was responsible for ship design while James managed the business.

The brothers were also concerned with employee welfare. The 'Hall's Dockyard Sick and Medical Fund' was started in 1846. For a weekly contribution, workers received sick pay, medical attendance and medicine. If the worst happened, the fund also provided funeral expenses.

One of Hall's best known ships was Jho Sho Maru, a barque-rigged steamer, built for the Japanese Navy in 1868. This wooden corvette had a belt of iron armour plating at the waterline and carried eight 64 pounder guns and two 100 pounder guns. Unfortunately, due to a miscalculation of costs, the firm actually lost £500 on the project.

This ship was unlucky for another reason. Jho Sho Maru was almost complete when a fire broke out nearby. James Hall was afraid the warship would be burned and rushed to the scene. He ordered that Jho Sho Maru be pulled into the middle of the dock, away from the flames. However, while helping to fight the blaze, James suffered a fatal heart attack, probably brought on by his earlier anxiety.

Although best known for sailing ships, Hall also constructed steamers. They built their first marine engine in 1887, for the launch Petrel. In 1888 Hall constructed their first trawler, Maggie Walker, and many trawlers, coasters, tugs and dredgers followed. During the Second World War, the company built twenty six steam tugs, many of them for the Admiralty.

However, the yard did not modernise after the war and in 1957 Hall Russell took over the company.

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