Fife, William

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 15 June 1857 Fairlie, Scotland
d. 11 August 1944 Fairlie, Scotland
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Scottish naval architect and designer of sailing yachts of legendary beauty and performance.
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Following his education at Brisbane Academy in Largs, William Fife (the third generation of the name) became apprenticed at the age of 14 to the already famous yacht-building yard owned by his family at Fairlie in Ayrshire. On completion of his apprenticeship, he joined the Paisley shipbuilders John Fullerton \& Co. to gain experience in iron shipbuilding before going on as Manager to the Marquis of Ailsa's Culzean Steam Launch and Yacht Works. Initially the works was sited below the famous castle at Culzean, but some years later it moved a few miles along the Ayrshire Coast to Maidens. The Culzean Company was wound up in 1887 and Fife then returned to the family yard, where he remained for the rest of his working life. Many outstanding yachts were the product of his hours on the drawing board, including auxiliary sailing cruisers, motor yachts and well-known racing craft. The most outstanding designs were for two of Sir Thomas Lipton's challengers for the America's Cup: Shamrock I and Shamrock III. The latter yacht was tested at the Ship Model Experiment Tank owned by Denny of Dumbarton before being built at their Leven Shipyard in 1903. Shamrock III may have been one of the earliest America's Cup yachts to have been designed with a high level of scientific input. The hull construction was unusual for the early years of the twentieth century, being of alloy steel with decks of aluminium.
William Fife was decorated for his service to shipbuilding during the First World War. With the onset of the Great Depression the shipyard's output slowed, and in the 1930s it was sold to other interests; this was the end of the 120-year Fife dynasty.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
OBE c.1919.
FMW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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