On discovering in 1863 that a French shipbuilder, with the connivance of Napoleon III., was constructing two formidable iron-clads and two corvettes for the use of the Confederacy, he devoted his energies to thwarting this scheme, and succeeded in preventing the delivery of all but one of these vessels to the Confederate agents.
Elder Park (40 acres) presented to the burgh in 1885 contains a statue of John Elder (1824-1869), the pioneer shipbuilder, the husband of the donor.
A statue of Sir William Pearce (1833-1888), another well-known Govan shipbuilder, once M.P. for the burgh, stands at Govan Cross.
In 1877 the firm bought several steam ships from local shipbuilder William Gray.
Today the only shipbuilder still in operation on this stretch of the Clyde is further upstream at Port Glasgow.