Silvers & Co: motor yachts of disctinction


The Silvers yard at Rosneath

Silver is one of those names that when attached to a yacht – in this case a motor yacht – denotes undoubted quality. And most people with half an idea of yachting history would append the forename James to the designer of any given Silvers yacht. However, by far the largest number of yachts built by the Silvers company, and most of those upon which the firm’s sterling reputation is based, were designed by James’ immediate successor, John Bain.

The first evidence of a boatyard at the site on which Silvers Marine Ltd is now based can be traced back to the early 1880’s, to the yard established by local boatbuilder Peter R McLean.

Silvers yacht Thelma VI
The 1953 Silver-built, 72ft Ormidale class, Thelma VI, alongside at Cowes in 2013

It was under McLean that James A Silver, the son of a local shop owner began his apprenticeship as a boatbuilder.

After serving his apprenticeship, James Silver left the yard before McLean sold it in 1906, and set up business with his brother and John A McCallum, a well known Clyde designer. They built their first motor yacht in a yard in Glasgow. The partnership worked well and the yacht was a great success.

When the yard at Rosneath came up for sale again James Silver took it over and rapidly built a reputation for high quality motor and motor-sailing yachts. The first Silver yacht rolled down the slipway at Rosneath in 1910. Silvers yachts were a great success but James Silver was a poor businessman and the yard fell into financial difficulties. He sold the yard to a syndicate and stayed on for a couple of years as manager.

The Bain-designed Cairngorm from 1937, at play with Fife’s Mariquita

In 1916 he left and the syndicate approached designer John Bain to take over the management of the yard. Bain was not only a motor yacht designer of merit, he was also a shrewd manager and this partnership was to bring the yard renown and prosperity over the next fifty years.

By the mid 1950’s Bain had fallen ill and his future with the yard seemed in doubt. Ill health eventually forced him to give up the management of the yard and John Boyd took over the role. Under Boyd the yard continued to build luxury motor yachts, and went from strength to strength.

The 1960’s witnessed an increase in the maximum size of craft turned out by the yard in response to the ever increasing demands for luxury, comfort, and power by prospective motor boat owners. As the size of the craft increased, the turnover for yards such as Silvers vastly reduced and the company encountered problems. In 1970 the Silver’s yard went into voluntary liquidation.

During the late part of 1970 and again in 1976 the yard was owned by two successive owners, but very little work was done.

Silver Buccaneer
An Ormidale Class, Silver Buccaneer, is launched at Rosneath in 1964

In late 1976 the yard was bought by DM Russell being renamed DM Russell Ltd, and a great deal of work was put into re-establishing the yard. The sole aim of the new owner was to restore the yard to its former glory and re-establish motor powered boats in the first class tradition. After building several Jura Class motor sailers the business failed and the yard fell into receivership in 1982.

The yard was then bought in 1983 by the Arthur Duthie group and renamed ‘Silvers Marine Ltd.’ The yard has undergone a period of redevelopment and reorganisation and now operates as a high-standard maintenance and storage facility.

A feature common among all the truly great designers is that not only do they excel in terms of performance design but also in build quality, and it’s a testament to both these aspects that so many Silvers yachts are cherished and enjoyed today. Yachts such as Sea Crest, Cairngorm, Thelma VI and Janick, have stood the test of time and are available for sale today.


With kind thanks to Silver Marine (UK) Ltd, Rosneath.

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