William Ritchie

The founder of shipbuilding in Belfast.

The founder of shipbuilding in Belfast, William Ritchie was born in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, in 1755. He opened a shipyard in Ayrshire in 1775, but the depression of 1790-91 encouraged him to look for new opportunities elsewhere. Following a visit to Belfast, where he was assured of the support of the Ballast Board, Ritchie and his brother Hugh, along with skilled workers imported from Scotland, established a yard on the Co Antrim shore of Belfast Lough, where Corporation Street now runs. 

Ritchie’s first Belfast built ship the Hibernia was launched from the Old Lime Kiln Dock in 1792. By 1811, his yard had built and launched 32 vessels and worked with the Ballast Board to construct new dock facilities between 1796 and 1800 (later renamed Clarendon Dock No 1). 

Ritchie’s two brothers, Hugh and John, also followed William into shipbuilding in their own right. Sixty year old William Ritchie retired in 1820 and died in 1834.