The small crane at the Harbour has been there since the mid 1920s when it was purchased by Colin McDonald who came to Hopeman during 1920 from St Margarets Hope in Orkney. Colin, who was a young 20 year old engineer saw an opportunity to support the rising number of cars and vans being sold to residents along with supporting the steam drifters and new type of motor fishing vessels operating from the port. The crane however is much older and clues as to its origon and age are on the crane itself. These include the construction of the crane which is made of cast and wrought iron a method widely used on bridges and cranes before the invention of steel. The crane is also a manual hand cranked crane which indicates that it was built prior to the used of electric motors, however most importantly the cast iron crest on the crane counterweight shows that it was constructed by ‘Bowser and Cameron’ in Glasgow and numbered 302. Research of the museums and archives in Glasgow resulted in the findings that Bowser and Cameron only existed between 1855 and 1863 at the Springfield Iron Works in Renfield Street, Glasgow. Further research highlighted that the Clyde Navigation Trust tendered for a crane with a very similar specification to this one during 1859 and we believe that this crane was built for them. The crane would have been used on one of the many docks and harbours along the length of the river Clyde at Glasgow possibly loading and discharging cargo from the sailing schooners or early steam driven motor ships that came to the port transporting cargoes to the western isles and perhaps worldwide. It was certainly well used over it’s lifetime as the gearing on the hand cranking handles are very well worn.

It was initially thought that the Clyde Navigation trust sold the crane to Wick Harbour Authority around the 1880s to support the huge herring fishery that operated out of Wick with hundreds of steam drifters using the port, however a letter given to us during 2013 written in 1999 by Colin McDonalds daughter says that the crane was in Orkney and taken to Wick during 1920-22 indicating that it may have been used by the Navy during the First World War to support the Grand Fleet at Lyness, the Naval support base in Scapa Flow during the 1st World War. From Wick the crane was transported to Hopeman by road trailer and on arrival positioned on the quayside where it could be moved around on its wheels lifting engines and equipment on and off fishing and latterly pleasure boats. It remained operational till 1979, however over the years the marine environment had caused severe corrosion on the crane and so it was taken out of commission and moved to the present site as a reminder of these earlier years. Unfortunately the corrosion deterioration continued to such an extent that it was close to being scrapped for safety reasons when during 2012 Hopeman Community Association (200 Committee) decided to take some action and crane specialists ‘Sparrows Offshore’ in Aberdeen agreed to refurbish the crane for the village of Hopeman as a community project. They did an excellent job and the refurbished crane is now there for future generation to enjoy.

The following is an extract from the press release by Sparrows Offshore following the refurbishment along with some photographs of the upgrade –

Hopeman crane receives Sparrows makeover
A team of Sparrows engineers have put their skills to good use refurbishing a little piece of Scottish history.
Staff from the company, which is a world leader in offshore lifting and mechanical handling services, have just completed an overhaul of a crane originally built for the marine industry in 1859.

The wrought and cast-iron machine has sat at the harbour in the village of Hopeman, Moray, after it stopped being used during the late 1970s. In recent years it began to deteriorate due to its age and prolonged exposure to the elements.
During the village’s 200th anniversary in 2005, the idea of refurbishing the historic contraption began to gather momentum.

Hopeman Community Association had been looking into ways to preserve an element of their local heritage and Bill Angus a member of staff from Sparrows living in the village decided to ask his employers, who are specialists in crane refurbishment, if they could help.

The suggestion was met with enthusiasm from staff at Sparrows Tern workshop in Bridge of Don who took on the task during breaks and in their spare time.

Workshop engineer Simon Scouller said: “Everyone was intrigued by the project. Overall, between the receipt, movement, strip down and refurbishment, most of the workshop personnel had some sort of input.

“Whether undertaking manual work or providing suggestions as to how best to carry out the refurbishment, looking into the history of the crane or the manufacturer it certainly sparked the team’s interest.”

The hand cranked crane was originally manufactured for the Clyde Navigation Trust by Bowser & Cameron of Glasgow. It was probably initially used to prepare cargo for shipment from ports on the Clyde to the Western Isles or further afield. Wick Harbour Trust purchased it around 1880 for the seasonal herring fishing before the crane was taken by train to Hopeman in 1925. It remained operational for around 50 years following the move.

From September 2011 through to August this year the work in bringing the Victorian construction up to date took place. Repair work involved manufacturing a new chassis to replace the extremely corroded original, while rivets were also fitted into the platework to reproduce the original look. An internal frame was also constructed to hold the bodywork of the crane’s counterbalance together.

The rotten wooden running boards were replaced as part of the renovation work before the crane was repainted bright red and its features, including the maker’s badge, picked out in gold. As a final touch of authenticity, a wire rope was run across the boom and shackled to the chassis.

John McPherson, a member of the community association, said:
“We wanted to restore the crane so a part of the village’s history would be preserved and protected for future generations.The staff at Sparrows have done a terrific job in restoring the crane to its former glory and it looks fantastic now that it is sitting back in its traditional spot on the harbour.”

Established in 1973, Sparrows is one of the most well-known and trusted names in the oil and gas industry, employing 1,600 in 19 locations around the world.

Providing oilfield engineering services, Sparrows specialises in offshore lifting, crane engineering and services, mechanical handling, pipe and cable lay systems, fluid power engineering, equipment rentals and competence training.

Ewen Kerr, Sparrows Global Engineering Director, said: “Our engineers are more used to dealing with the latest in lifting and engineering technology, so it was a slightly more unusual workscope to take on but one they tackled with great enthusiasm.
“Hopefully the repair work will ensure the crane continues to act as a reminder of Hopeman’s history and a point of interest in the village for another 150 years.”


Model of Harbour Crane
During 2012 and whilst the main crane was at Sparrows Offshore yard in Aberdeen for refurbishment a gentleman by the name of Richard (Van) Leiper from St. Cyrus near Montrose came to Hopeman to check the dimensions and finer details of an engineering model he had been making of the crane. Hopeman Community were not aware that such a model was being constructed and we were all very surprised to see such a wonderful and accurate working model made of brass and steel. It was so nice that we asked if we could purchase the model for the village, but it was also the pride and joy of Van and he wanted to keep it. Over the next two years we kept thinking about the model and how it would be a wonderful item for the residents of Hopeman to have and in particular for future generations to see should the old crane at the harbour not be maintained, slide back into a poor state and be scrapped. We decided during 2014 to contact Van again and fortunately he agreed to sell the model to the Community.

Van had painted the model a dark green colour which he said would have been the original colour when it was built back in 1859. We however had painted the original crane a bright red colour following refurbishment in Aberdeen and decided to repaint the model to match the original to make the model instantly recognisable as our harbour crane.

Model now on display in the Memorial Hall.