Artist: Robert Wilson, Marine engineer
Location: Victoria Harbour
The four-ton screw propeller was found in Gourock and came from a Clyde tug The Thunderer. In September 2003, the bicentenary of Wilson’s birth, Dunbar Community Council erected the propeller in his memory. During his lifetime, he became an engineer and at age 24, he created a prototype ship’s screw propeller although he was not the only engineer to claim credit for the invention. He is credited with the honour today as he did work on the principle as early as 1827. The giant propeller was gifted by Dunbar Community Council in association with Dunbar & District History Society. Recent landscape improvements by Dunbar Harbour Trust has made the propeller more accessible.
Robert Wilson was born in Dunbar on 10 September 1803. At age 24 , he was a member of Dunbar Mechanic’s Institute; on 18 October 1827, the Institute’s minutes record two models invented and presented by Wilson. One of these was described as ‘A Model with an Apparatus for propelling steam vessels from the stern, a kind of Revolving Scull…’ in effect the forerunner of the screw propeller. The Admiralty showed no interest. In 1833, the Superintendent of Woolwich Dockyard described the propeller as ‘objectionable, as it involved a greater loss of power than the common mode of applying the [paddle] wheels to the side [of the vessel.’ Credit for inventing the propeller went to Francis Pettit Smith, a Kent farmer who was granted a patent for his improved screw propeller’ in 1835, eight years after Wilson’s invention. In 1880, Wilson was awarded £500 by the War Office for his double action propeller for torpedoes. He died at Matlock, Derbyshire in 1882.
Adjacent to the Propellor is the entrance to the Harbour vaults, information board tells you more info, unfortunately they are not open to the public.