The Greenock was an iron steam dredger launched in 1876 by William Simons & Company at Renfrew. Her dimensions were 181.5′ x 38.6′ x 14.2′, with a net tonnage of 461t. Built for the Greenock Harbour Trust at a cost of £25,000 the Greenock, a twin screw steam hopper dredger, was launched on 4th November, 1876. Designed specifically for use in the harbours of Gourock, Greenock and the surrounding estuary, she spent most of her working life around her home port, occasionally being contracted out to other harbour authorities.
On Tuesday 18th November, 1902 the dredger left Gourock Bay around mid afternoon, bound for Garroch Head, where she was to deposit her day’s dredgings. The return voyage was uneventful for her master, Thomas Scott, and the sixteen crew until they were about a mile south of the Cloch Lighthouse. The bow lookout reported a steamer’s lights coming around the Cloch, outward bound and taking a course inshore of the dredger. The two vessels kept their respective courses for three of four minutes until, when almost abreast, the other vessel abruptly altered course to starboard and headed straight for the dredger. The engines of the Greenock were immediately reversed to try and prevent the imminent collision, but to no avail. The unknown steamer crashed into the dredger on her starboard side midships, cutting her through to the bucket well. The dredger then drew alongside the other vessel, which turned out to be the Burn’s steamer Ape, and most of the crew were able to scramble aboard.
The Greenock meanwhile was turning over on her starboard side, with the stern lifting and her propellers racing in the air. The master and engineer were last to leave and, seeing that the dredger was about to sink, jumped overboard, eventually being picked up by the Ape. All the crew of the Greenock were saved except for William Rodger, the sixteen year old son of the engineer, who could not be found after a prolonged search. The Ape sustained some damage to her bow plating but was able to return to Victoria Harbour, Greenock with the survivors.
The wreck was located three days later by the Clyde Lighthouse Trust, lying three quaters of a mile south west of the Cloch Lighthouse in sixteen and a half fathoms. No attempt to raise or part salvage the wreck was made and insurance monies of £10,000 were later paid to her owners by the vessel’s underwriters.
The Wreck Today
On Thursday 4th July, 1996 the Navy destroyed two unexploded mines which had lain on the wreck for many years. The mines had been laid during the war as part of the defenses for the Clyde anchorage which included an anti-submarine boom from the Cloch across to Dunoon and an extensive minefield to deter prowling U-boats. In fact, it is likely that the wreck of the Greenock received special attention from the minelayers as a wreck would provide ideal cover for a lurking submarine waiting to pounce on ships entering or leaving the anchorage.
However the wreck is still substantially intact and sits upright on a flat sand/mud seabed, in position 55°55.943’N, 004°53.628’ W, 30 metres below the surface and oriented approximately 140/320 degrees with stern pointing towards Dunoon. The shallowest part of the wreck, 16-17 metres, is on top of the bucket gantry, which, even before the demolition team moved in, could only be described as a confused tangle of metal leaning over the starboard rail. Even in its original state the ship had virtually no deck structures other than the dredging gear.
The open area located aft of the gantry, around the engine room where the decking has fallen away to expose the two 99hp engines and forward of these the two boilers, is the only area of interest below deck level. Just aft of the port engine lies the four bladed spare propeller, originally located at deck level, which has subsequently fallen below. Beyond the engine room below deck are the heavily silted stores and on deck the main stern winch.The remains of items from the raised pilot bridge originally lay on the deck behind the aft rail of the hopper. These included the steering gear and wheel hub and two telegraphs. Also located there were the two smoke stack bases, coal shute gratings and bunkering deck plates. The hopper is partially silted up, but it is still possible, with care, to descend below, through the remains of the gantry. Moving forward, the diver passes either side of the ruined gantry where again it is possible to investigate the below deck accommodation either side of the bucket well, by dropping through the many openings in the deck. The bow section is somewhat similar to the stern, with prominent steam winch and stores below deck. Around the bow, items such as anchors, remains of a deck house and lifting tackle can still be seen.
The Greenock can be dived at all states of the tide, though diving on or shortly after slack water on most occasions gives better visibility.