On Wednesday, March 31, 2004 we reported that...

A SIGNIFICANT piece of Dumbarton’s history was marked last week — the 160th anniversary of Denny Shipbuilders.

The heyday of shipbuilding may be long gone in the town but an historic part of it still remains, is still used and open to the public— the Denny Experimental Tank Museum.

And to acknowledge the tank’s role in world shipbuilding a new exhibition commemorating the anniversary of Denny’s is on display at the Castle Street Museum.

The Denny Tank, a grade ‘A’ listed building and a three star Visitscotland attraction, is still one of the most important industrial monuments in the country.

The exhibition features photographs showing some of the workforce, particularly those in Denny’s tracing office in the 1950s.

There are also displays of vessels built by the firm during its 120 years of existence, reminding people how important the yard was to the town and world shipbuilding.

After the demise of the yard in 1964, the Denny Tank was taken over by the Scottish Maritime Museum; it is still a fully functional and viable facility even though it is 120 years old.

Also re-opening for the first time in two years is the renamed Corner Cafe.

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The anniversary is poignant as it comes just after the old Denny’s offices in Castle Street, which were taken over and used by Allied Distillers, were demolished, removing another part of the town’s shipbuilding heritage.

Museum manager Anne Hoben said: “It is a shame that the offices were demolished as they were a major part of Denny’s.

“We were concerned that because of the demolition many people may have thought that the Denny Tank was closed — but we are still here and open to the public.

“The shipyard was opened in 1844 by the three Denny Brothers, William, Alexander and Peter and their first contract was for the steamer Loch Lomond, and the keel for it was laid that year.”

It was William Denny III who recognised the benefits of building and equipping a tank for experimenting the best designs of ships and propellers and predicting the power required — a vision that is still relevant today.

The innovative structure is 100 metres long (about 300 feet), 23 feet wide and eight feet deep, and contains 322,000 gallons of fresh water, the equivalent of just under four times the amount of a swimming pool.

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University students still use the tank with models to simulate how ships react to various conditions.

But the facility is not just a look and see for visitors.

Anne explained: “We like people to interact with some of the facilities. “We have a sample tank which children and adults can use with models.

“There is also a visual display where people can actually see the tank being used by Denny’s workers.

“There is also the area where the first model ships were made in paraffin wax before glass fibre became the norm, and we have one of these models which children can smooth down to show how apprentices rubbed off the rough areas before they were used in the tank.”

The newly opened Corner Cafe has been taken over by a local woman, Liz, who said that she wants to offer ‘a nice wee tearoom’.