The firm was started in 1864 as a partnership between James and William Hall, Thomas Russell and John Couper, to build machinery for the shipbuilding industry. Originally it concentrated on building engines and boilers but in 1867 the firm obtained a launching berth from Alexander Hall’s. This allowed the company to build entire vessels rather than just supply the machinery. The first seagoing vessel was the KWANG TUNG, an iron-hulled steamer destined for the Hong Kong trade.
In all around 1000 vessels left the yard over the next 124 years. During the Aberdeen fishing ‘boom’ of the 1880s -1890s Hall, Russell built numerous steam-powered vessels to keep the industry afloat, including NORTH CAPE, NORTH WIND as well as the ‘straths’, STRATHDON and STRATHSPEY etc.
In 1891 the steam-powered THERMOPYLAE was completed for the Aberdeen Line. At the time it was the largest vessel ever built in Aberdeen and was expensively fitted out with ornate carving in luxuriously appointed saloons and cabins. THERMOPYLAE was to carry cargo and passengers to and from Australia. It was lost in 1899 when it was wrecked off Cape Town en route to London.
The outbreak of the First World War saw Hall, Russell being given over 40 orders by the Admiralty for patrol vessels and minesweeping trawlers. The years following the armistice the yard built mainly trawlers of increasing size, as well as cargo and passenger vessels, barges, and motor yachts.
The years between 1938 and 1945 were dominated by the war effort. Hall, Russell found themselves building landing craft, tugs, frigates, corvettes and other craft on behalf of the Admiralty.
Unlike Lewis yard in Aberdeen, Hall, Russell didn’t concentrate of fishing vessels after 1945, but continued to construct tankers and a variety of other vessels attempting to meet the needs of an ever more competitive market. By 1965, the future of Aberdeen was heralded in the placing of an order by P&O for an Offshore Supply Vessel LADY ALISON to service the rapidly expanding offshore oil activity.
In 1971 Hall Russell delivered the largest ship ever built in Aberdeen, the 10500 tons deadweight cargo vessel THAMESHAVEN. However, like much of British Shipbuilding at the time the yard was struggling to get orders. In 1977 the national government stepped in and took the yard into state ownership and designated the yard as a defence contractor so limiting its output to Admiralty orders. By 1986 the yard which was becoming increasingly unviable finally went into receivership. It was eventually taken over by A&P Appledore in 1989 who stepped in to complete the order for a liner, the RMS ST. HELENA. This was completed in 1990 and was to be the last vessel completed not only at Hall, Russell but also in Aberdeen.
Image: Leaflet Advertising The Hall Russell Shipyard's Services Available To The Oil Industry (detail)