Canadian ship-owner Samuel Cunard, having negotiated a contract with the British Government to carry the Royal Mail across the Atlantic to Boston and New York, entered into partnership with the Glasgow-based steamship operators G & J Burns and their Liverpool-based agents D & C McIver to form and finance a new packet steamer company to deliver the service. The respected Glasgow-based engineer Robert Napier specified the design of the initial ships and built the side lever steam engines for them. The partnership was officially known by the rather cumbersome title of 'The Glasgow Proprietary in the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company'. From the outset the concern was known conveniently as the 'Cunard Line' but it was the mid 1880s, over 40 years after its formation, and after the death of Samuel Cunard, before its title was changed to the Cunard Steamship Company. Robert Napier subcontracted the building of the wooden hulls of the early Cunarders to shipbuilders in Port Glasgow and Greenock but built the engines for the ships at his Lancefield Foundry in Hydepark Street close to the eastern end of Lancefield Quay. After the hulls were completed on the lower Clyde, the pioneering Cunarders were towed upriver to Napier's Dock, a small off-river fitting out basin between the western end of Anderston Quay and the eastern end of Lancefield Quay, to have their machinery fitted. Note: sometime after Napier acquired his own shipyard in Govan, Napier's Dock was in-filled, the resultant additional riverside berthage being known initially as Hydepark Quay but ,after a subsequent realignment, it became simply a small eastward extension of Lancefield Quay. Today, the registered offices of the Waverley Steam Navigation Company occupy the site of Napier''s Dock where the first Cunarders were engined. In 1855-56, Robert Napier & Sons built the newest, and largest, Cunarder to date at their new shipyard in Govan. Yard No 60 was a 376 feet long iron hulled paddle steamer. When launched into the Clyde she was given the name Persia and at that time she was the largest ship afloat in the world. As with all of Napier's ships she was a very sturdily built vessel with an elegent but stong clipper bow to assist her to cleave her way through the big Atlantic swell. This picture shows the forward section of Persia under construction in 1856. It is believed to be one of the earliest picture in existance of a ship under construction on the Clyde.
From Clyde-built Ocean Liners