The Why?s Man

"My art is place specific and people specific." George Wyllie

Back to Boats


There was a time when many, many ships were built on the Clyde. The shipbuilding industry, as it was, is no more.

In 1989, the Paper Boat, a 25 metre boat in the shape of the traditional paper boats made by children, was launched on the Clyde, raising questions about that lost industry and what had happened to the people and the skills and the imagination they had shown in building world famous ships such as the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth and the QE2.

The Paper Boat had the letters QM at its bow... QM... Queen Mary, Question Mark, Questioning Mind, maybe even Quartz Magic, as a child once suggested.. and inside it, powering it, a large question mark was revealed.

The Paper Boat made its point in Glasgow, where it was launched in Finnieston, not far from where shipyards lay empty.

The creation of the Paper Boat was funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, following an application by George Wyllie to its 'Large Scale Events' scheme, presenting the ideas behind it.

It went on to raise questions in America, where it was docked in the financial centre, the home of banking. George Wyllie read from Adam Smith's book when he arrived in New York and asked those working in the banks to think carefully about what they were doing.

In Antwerp, Belgium the Paper Boat raised questions about the design of the restored waterfront there. It went on to become part of a Clydeside festival in Ayr. Later, in Dumfries, it was moored on the River Nith and daily ceremonies out to the boat were linked to an exhibition in a local gallery, and then finally, on the east coast of Scotland, it sailed under the Forth Rail Bridge on its way to being broken up, as many Scottish vessels had been, in the shipyards of Inverkeithing.

Fife, Scotland

George Wyllie Education Initiative

Managed by Media Matters Education Consultancy