From the early 19th century to well into the 20th century Dumbarton's main industry was shipbuilding. The 'John Wood' was probably named after the owner of a Dumbarton shipyard where she was built. Naval architect and shipbuilder John Wood (1788-1860) was born at Port Glasgow; the son of a Glasgow shipbuilder of the same name. After his father’s death in 1811, Wood and his brother, Charles, took over the business. Charles later travelled to Quebec to experiment with raft ships, returning to open further shipyards at Bowling and Dumbarton. John remained at Dumbarton and collaborated with steamship engine-manufacturer David Napier.
The ‘John Wood’ was built in 1832. It was initially used to transport passage boats from Glasgow to Liverpool for the Duke of Bridgewater’s canal. From the mid-1830s the steamer ferried passengers and cargo between Glasgow and Liverpool; Gravesend and Le Havre in Normandy; and between Shields and Hamburg. In December 1839 the steamer is reported to have arrived at Hamburg from Newcastle. It travelled from Newcastle to Marseilles in August the following year; the last report of the vessel in operation.
William Clark was born in Greenock, Strathclyde. He was the son of a seaman and grew up to be a house painter. However, his interest in ships and his desire to paint pictures resulted in his becoming a ship portraitist of good quality. He worked all his life in Greenock.
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