The Murray, Cormack Associates design and survey partnership was formed in 1972 by Maitland Murray and the late Douglas Cormack. Their first significant design commission in 1973 resulted in the tooling production and building of the prototype of what became the highly successful Talisman 49 launch.

The 15m round bilge, semi displacement hull form, with forward sections and spray deflecting rail refined by the Wolfson ship model test tank, was conceived as a fast pilot boat for the UK ports catering for the burgeoning North Sea oil industry. Part of the concept included fitting the main engines aft with remote-mounted gearboxes forward in a U-drive configuration to allow easy removal and maintenance of the machinery and reduced noise levels in the accommodation.

The first commercial version was launched in 1975 as a 20 knot twin screw pilot launch. More than sixty Talisman hulls have been since been built, primarily for the commercial market as pilot, patrol and survey launches.

The success of the Talisman 49 brought about design commissions for the North 40/45 and 58/65 models, also produced in frp, together with several derivatives built in wood and alloy.

The 20m North 65 was conceived for arduous service in some of the most exposed waters found around the UK coast at the Sullom Voe Oil terminal at Shetland where two examples of the design have been in continuous service since 1976 and a third was added later.

At the Scapa Flow Oil port in Orkney the pilotage service has been provided by two North 58 pilot launches operating in the notorious waters of the Pentland Firth.

The North 65/58 design provided the commercial market with a large capacity hull capable of operating at speeds up to 25 knots as an all-weather pilot or patrol launch.

With Douglas based in Kent and Maitland at Hunters Quay, this allowed the partners to readily oversee the building of their new-build projects in boatyards spread across the UK and to refine the fit-out details while working closely with the boatyard staff. Boats were being ‘built up to a standard and not down to a price’ for what was a 24/7 service often in extreme conditions.

Both partners also continued to build up a UK-wide client base for survey work, some of which involved their overseeing major refits of motor and sailing yachts as well as commercial vessels in Europe.

In 1991 Douglas retired from the partnership and Dennis Davidson, a naval architect who had been technical director at McGruers on the Clyde and involved with the building of a number of Murray Cormack designs, joined Maitland. Their first design commission produced the first of two steel 17m NorthBay class fast displacement type pilot-tug boats. Designs for commercial boats built in frp, steel and aluminium followed including:

  • NorthBay 15 and 17 displacement steel hulls
  • 17m steel passenger and stern-loading cargo ferry Graemsay
  • North 1050, 1400 and 1500 aluminium chine hulls
  • North 665 and 750 fast aluminium workboat.

In 1998 polar adventurer David Scott Cowper commissioned the design of an exploration vessel for single-handed operation which could survive squeezing upwards in heavy pack-ice. The vessel required to carry sufficient fuel to complete a 5000 mile passage, be able to manoeuver down leads as these zig-zag cracks appeared in the ice and to have reinforced hauling points on the keel for dragging the boat ashore and back afloat. The vessel was also to be self-righting and a good sea-boat.

The massively structured 15m Polar Bound built in aluminium has since completed two circumnavigations of the world and passed through the North West Passage on four occasions, the first of which involved hauling the boat on to the beach at Cambridge Bay for the winter due to heavy ice completely blocking the passage.

With marina and yacht repair facilities continuing to expand out of the Firth of Clyde and up the west coast of Scotland, the demand for survey work continued to grow and in 1998 surveyor-engineer Jim Abernethy joined the partnership and an office was established at Oban.

In addition to conventional design and survey work, Murray Cormack is often asked to assist with investigating and resolving structural problems arising on vessels. Adapting composite structural software combined with in-house knowledge of manufacturing techniques has enabled the partnership to design the load bearing frp structures of tanks and fairings on submarine rescue vehicles.

Carrying out damage surveys for insurers and underwriters over many years has allowed Murray Cormack to build up a useful database of salvors and repair facilities throughout Scotland. Incidents involving the failure of yacht storage cradles have resulted in the development of windage calculations and stress analysis methods for various types of yacht support arrangement, to determine the mode of failure.

The partners also act as expert witnesses in marine related disputes arising throughout the UK and Ireland.

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