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Their History and Successors
© 2004 P. Donald M. Kelly.
The right of P. Donald M. Kelly to be identified as Author of this book is hereby identified by him in accordance with The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
P. Donald M. Kelly
© 2004 P. Donald M. Kelly.
I was brought up in the Ayrshire village of Skelmorlie, beside and overlooking Wemyss Bay. The Clyde’s Steamers and ships were then very much part of everyday life and, my father, The Customs and Excise’s Landing Officer at Prince’s Dock in Glasgow in the 1950’s, had me well schooled in the ways of the ships from an early age. Our house, built by my parents, directly overlooked the start of Skelmorlie’s Measured Mile and Wemyss Bay’s Pier and Railway Station and, in winter, with the leaves fallen from the trees, I could see the very spot where the little “Kintyre” had sunk in 1907, the year before my mother was born. One of the “Kintyre’s” white porcelain toilet pans, in near pristine condition and brought to the surface in recent years, now has pride of place in Armitage Shanks' historic collection in Staffordshire. My earliest knowledge of the Campbeltown steamers came from a “non-blood” aunt who had served, in the fruit stalls, on both the old “Davaar” and the “Dalriada”. Wemyss Bay was no stranger to the Campbeltown ships, a regular port of call on Monday mornings and too a main berth in World War I and at the start of World War II. There were other connections between Skelmorlie and Kintyre. Skipness House’s owner was a cousin of Skelmorlie Castle’s tenant and when new sandstone was required it was sent by ‘puffer’ from the quarry at Skelmorlie to Skipness. Though lying in Kintyre, Skipness was never served by the Campbeltown company’s steamers but had instead calls from those ships serving the Loch Fyne ports and, for that very reason, their combined stories is set out here, the story of the Campbeltown steamers and the Islay steamers connecting with MacBrayne’s Tarbert and Ardrishaig services being set apart elsewhere.
The many ‘standard’ references used to prepare the summaries here included the various editions of Duckworth and Langmuir’s “”Clyde River and Other Steamers” and their “West Highland Steamers”, Alan J.S. Paterson’s “The Golden Years of The Clyde Steamers (1889-1914)”, Brian Patton’s “Scottish Coastal Steamers 1918-1975”, Fraser G. MacHaffie’s “The Short Sea Route”, Fred M. Walker’s “Song of The Clyde” and to many other corroborative items in the pages of “Ships Monthly” and “Sea Breezes” and to many old and local newspapers and to a miscellany of steamer enthusiast sources and references. A special note of thanks to my late father who developed my interests in shipping and to Duncan MacMillan of Kintyre’s Antiquarian and Historical Society without whose generosity and support little of this work would have been possible, to Duncan Ritchie of Carradale, to Hamish Mackinven of Edinburgh, to Captain John Leesmoffat, to the late Ian Shannon and to the many other, some long departed, friends that I made through our mutual interest in ‘steamers’. Donald Kelly, Kintyre, 2004.
Skipness and Claonaig Tarbert or Not Tarbert ? The Tarbert Canal Loch Fyne Piers and Ferries The Inveraray Steamers Puffer, Ahoy ! Fancy Tarbert ? MacBrayne’s Royal Route The Turbine Steamers The “King Edward” The “Queen Alexandra (I)” Breakfast, Luncheon, Dinner & Tea “Good Spirits” The “Queen Alexandra (II)”/ “Saint Columba” Clyde Cargo Steamers 1935 Fleet Changes The “Duchesses” of Argyll The “Duchess of Montrose” and The “Hamilton” Ayr Ways 1 5 5 8 8 17 18 23 29 31 35 37 38 39 41 42 44 47 49 3
From “Queen” to “Knooz” Keeping Up Steam The Hovercraft and The Catamaran “Calvin B. Marshall” The “Pibroch” and An “Eagle”
50 51 51 56 57
Clyde Steamers On Video
Though the days of the Clyde Steamers are now but distant memories, the atmosphere and prosperity of their times has been captured and preserved on a number of VHS-video films which will trigger many people’s memories of their own childhood days and the glories of suumers past. Readers of “Ships Monthly” and “Sea Breezes” magazines will already be familiar with the advertisements of companies and indeed individuals from whom such video films can be purchased and a 2004-dated list from Mainmast Books, 251 Copnor Road, Portsmouth, Hants. PO3 5EE Telephone number 023-9264-5555 is indicative of those then available. * CLYDE STEAMER MEMORIES (Part 1) (8356)
THE GOLDEN YEARS OF THE P.S. “Waverley” 1947 - 1997 covers her first 50 years around the coasts. (16196) (16314)
Excursion Ships in The Wake of The Paddlers
features 21 ships from around the U.K. including “Waverley” and “Balmoral” and the ill-fated “Southsea” which, as the “Prince Ivanhoe”, was wrecked on the Welsh Gower Coast. * Ships of The Clyde (16194)
recording the period from 1919 to 1949 its commentary given by Largs-based BBC presenter Iain Anderson. Black and White * CLYDE STEAMER MEMORIES (Part 2) Colour (16180) (16252) (8357)
shows the vasr variety of ships, from clippers to liners, from paddle steamers to tugs, which appeared on the Clyde between 1859 and 1959. * Isle of Man Steam Packet - The Island Lifeline (16148)
continues the story from 1949 through to 1989. * * CLYDE STEAMER MEMORIES DOON THE WATER
features the Manx ‘baby-liners’“Lady of Mann” and “Ben-My-Chree” which often sailed from Ardrossan to Douglas and too looks at the cargo ships and ‘ro-ro’ car ferries on the Isle of Man services. * The Video Film Prices should be checked with advertisers.
is a compilation of British Transport Commission films, the “Coasts of Clyde”, its commentary by the late Bernard Braden, includes film of the turbine steamer “Duchess of Montrose” on a trip to Arran. * WEST HIGHLAND STEAMER MEMORIES looks at the MacBrayne fleet and West Highland services. * PADDLE STEAMERS OF LOCH LOMOND (16195) (16201)
covers the steamer history of the loch from 1820 to 1990 when the former Loch Awe motorship“Countess Fiona” / ”Countess of Breadalbane” was finally withdrawn. 4
Skipness and Claonaig
hough Skipness was never served by the Campbeltown company’s steamers, the Ardrishaig and Inveraray cargo steamers had landed passengers and cargo by ferry there since at least 1827. A small sandstone harbour for fishing boats, but unsuited to steamers, was built in 1838 but easterly winds and seas soon began to erode the structure and it was destroyed without trace in a 1911 gale. Skipness’ pier, built at a cost of £3,000, the same as it had cost to build the 1838 harbour, opened in 1879, twenty-one years after the first pier at Carradale was built. A second pier had been built at Carradale in 1870, the first in Scotland to be built in iron and Skipness followed suit in 1879, its pier constructed from iron railway track, known as ‘Barlow rails’, patented hollow iron rail sections used by I. K. Brunel for his ‘wide-gauge’ railways, bought from The Great Western Railway Company who, four years later in 1883, would buy the Campbeltown company’s “Gael” for their cross-channel Weymouth - Cherbourg route. The success of Skipness’ pier construction was due to the very slimness of the ‘Barlow rails’ which gave minimal resistance to wind, wave and current and other designers, such as William Grover and Richard Ward, who had built The Bristol Channel’s 1,000-foot long Clevedon Pier, had used similar iron lengths to withstand the rapid currents and 50-foot tidal range of The Bristol Channel.
From July 1882 onwards, Skipness would be served by The Lochfyne & Glasgow Steam Packet Company’s 140-foot long cargo-passenger steamer “Minard Castle”. The company was essentially successor to Donald Dewar’s Jura Steamboat Company which had the 1869-built puffer “Jura” in 1876. The “Minard Castle”, a neat little steamer, two masts and funnel amidships, had been built by a number of local disenchanted Fyneside merchants who set themselves up to run in opposition to MacBrayne’s. Launched on June 19, 1882, the “Minard Castle” achieved 12 knots on her trials, on July 12. Her 1910 sailings, like most other years, saw her leaving Inveraray on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 a.m. and Ardrishaig at 8.30 a.m. before going on to Skipness, the Friday call being omitted in winter. Arriving in Greenock for 3 p.m. and then went up-river Glasgow for about 5 p.m.. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, she left Glasgow at 6 a.m., Greenock at about 9.30 a.m. and, picking up a Glasgow - Gourock train and steamer connection at Dunoon, then called at Port Bannatyne, Colintraive, Ormidale (it being a Thursday only call), Tighnabruiach, Auchenlochan, Kames and on to Skipness ( the Thursday call being dropped in winter) then Tarbert, Ardrishaig, Otter Ferry, Crarae, Furnace and Inveraray. Other calls would be made if there had been advance arrangements. On occasion, MacBrayne’s “Aggie”, a ship chartered by them so often for the Loch Fyne run that she too was in their official fleet list, would also call at Skipness in the early 1900’s. During the 1880’s, Campbell’s fleet of Wemyss Bay steamers called fairly regularly at Skipness on excursion trips. Campbell’s, who ran Wemyss Bay - Rothesay and Wemyss Bay - Largs - Millport services, fell out with the railway company and withdrew from Wemyss Bay in April 1890, their ships then sold. Campbell’s 1885-built “Victoria”, the first Clyde steamer to be fitted with electric light, was sold for service on The Thames but came back to The Clyde and, in 1897, under the ownership of A. Dawson Reid, tried reviving a daily service to Skipness but it failed and the “Victoria” ended her days across The Atlantic, in Bermuda. On Friday, June 22, 1894, the most notable of all Clyde ships to call at Skipness was the Glasgow & South Western Railway Company’s handsome two-funnelled paddle steamer “Glen Sannox” then on charter to the Trades’ House of Glasgow for their annual outing. Some three hundred passengers were carried by special train from Glasgow’s St Enoch Station to Prince’s Pier at Greenock and, departing at 5
Opened in time for the 1879 Glasgow Fair Holidays, Skipness was included in MacBrayne’s summer timetable and calls given by their 1864-built “Iona (III)” which had been displaced from her regular Ardrishaig run by the new “Columba”. The following 1880 season, the “Iona (III)” moved on to Oban to cater for the increased traffic brought in by the then new Callander & Oban Railway. During the 1879 season, the Shearer & Ritchie’s 1877-built “Glen Rosa” and Keith & Campbell’s 1869-built “Guinevere” ships had battled for the Glasgow - Arran trade and, with the withdrawal of MacBrayne’s “Iona (III)” to the Oban station, Shearer’s and Keith’s reached a compromise deal which saw their ships calling at Skipness on alternate days - there was no profit for either in the calls at Skipness and the “Glen Rosa” was sold off in 1881, first sailing on The Thames and then on The Bristol Channel, leaving the “Guinevere” free to drop Skipness and concentrate on the Arran trade. She was sold off to Buchanan’s in 1884, running from Glasgow’s Broomielaw and then, in 1894, sold again to Turkish owners in Constantinople. Sadly, a Clan Line ship witnessed her sinking in The Bay of Biscay and no survivors were found.
1010 a.m., they sailed to Dunoon, Innellan, Largs, Millport and Lamlash, then on to Skipness where the party went ashore for an official photograph to be taken. Dinner was served as the steamer made her way through The Kyles of Bute and then, rounding Toward Point, the “Glen Sannox” met up with The Channel Fleet steaming up river to anchor at The Tail of The Bank. As they steamed on by, ensigns were respectfully dipped and “Rule Britannia” was sung by the passengers, led by the ship’s band who had already played throughout the day’s cruise. In 1899, The Lochfyne & Glasgow Steam Packet Company bought the 1868-built paddle steamer “Sultana” from John Williamson’s and put her on a daily passengercargo run from Glasgow, via Dunoon, Fairlie, Millport and Skipness, to Tarbert and Ardrishaig. The “Sultana” lasted only one season and was sold on March 27, 1900 to French owners based in Cherbourg and spent her final days on The Seine being eventually scrapped about 1907. The “Sultana” and the Campbeltown company’s little “Kintyre” had both been built in 1868 by Robertson’s at Port Glasgow, both were successful and well-liked ships. Captain James Williamson, who would later become manager of The Caledonian Steam Packet Company, had fond memories of his time with the “Sultana” for not only had he served his time as an apprentice engineer with Robertson’s as she was building for his father but too would he be her emergency engineer and then her skipper. She was indeed a record breaker and reduced the running time of the Glasgow Rothesay service by some forty minutes forcing the railway company and the Wemyss Bay steamers to bring their own timings down to just eighty minutes for the through service. For some years too she ran the Princes Pier, Greenock to Rothesay service and even though she called at Kirn, Dunoon and Innellan, she covered the run in just fifty-seven minutes, still a record to this day. On one occasion too she had left Greenock as the regular Dublin steamer arrived and, before the Irish steamer’s captain managed to tie up at his berth, the little “Sultana” was back from Rothesay ! Needless to say in these heady days, steamer skippers were almost weekly, some even bi-weekly, in court to explain their actions and the young Williamson was no stranger to the River Baillies and on such occasions ‘the standard’ appearance fee was invariably £5. As chance would have it, on the very day of young Williamson’s wedding, he was ordered to appear yet again before the River Baillie. Fortunately, 6
the good old fellow had a sense of humour and Williamson found his appearance ‘cancelled’ and ‘the fiver’ was spent on the honeymoon ! On Wednesday, August 16, 1899, The North British Railway’s “Redgauntlet” had been engaged on a cruise round Arran with 290 passengers and crew on board when she was blown off course, in a near gale-force south westerly wind, on to Iron Rock ledges at the south end of the island, near Sliddery. She was refloated and returned to service on Monday, April 16, 1900 and two months later, on Thursday, June 16, 1900 - Tarbert Fair Holiday, ran a ‘Grand Excursion’ to Campbeltown via Skipness. The sailing times and fares were Ardrishaig at 7 a.m. Cabin 4/6d Steerage 3/-; Tarbert 7.45 a.m. and Skipness 8.15 a.m., the return fares from either being 4/- for Cabin and 3/- for Steerage and the ship arrived in Campbeltown about 10 a.m.. After eight hours ashore, the return trip left at 6 p.m. a band, perhaps that of The Argyll and Bute Asylum, being engaged to play on board during the excursion. On Glasgow Fair Tuesday, July 16, 1901. The “Iona (III)”, on the ‘up-run’, left Tarbert at 6.30 p.m. and, after finishing her service run to Ardrishaig, left there at 7.30 p.m. to give a cruise to Skipness, allowing half-an-hour ashore and returning to Tarbert at 9.45 p.m. and Ardrishaig at 10.30 p.m., fares 1/-. The previous night she had given Tarbert and Ardrishaig passengers a cruise Round Minard’s Islands and on the Wednesday evening that week she extended her ‘service run’ to give an evening cruise to Inveraray, fare 1/6. During the pre and inter-war years, Skipness would continue to be an occasional port of call for excursions and charters but the growth of lorry traffic and the start of World War II brought the end of Skipness’ iron pier. Though Lochranza pier was closed to passenger steamers at the end of the 1971 season, it was decided to replace the last remnants of MacBrayne’s old ‘Royal Route’, the Fairlie - Brodick - Tarbert car ferry service, which had been instituted in 1970 by the “Cowal” and to open a new car ferry route, from Lochranza to Kintyre. The following year, on Saturday, July 8, 1972, the new bow-loading car ferry “Kilbrannan” began the service to Claonaig. The “Kilbrannan” (re-named “Arainn Mhor”), along with three of her sister car ferries, the “Morvern”, “Coll” and “Rhum”, were sold to operate the service from Burtonport to Aranmore, County Donegal and “Arainn Mhor” and “Morvern” more recently sold again to run between the west end of Bere Island and Castletownbere on Bantry Bay.
Tarbert or Not Tarbert ?
arbert derives its name from the Gaelic compounding of tarruing, to draw and bata, meaning boat. The variations of spelling are as numerous as the writers are ingenius !
On making his report to Campbell, the surveyor told him that it was an “undertaking for the Empress Catherine of Russia and not fit (financially) for private individuals”. Campbell persevered and the road completed before his death in 1777. The isthmus at Tarbert, reaching only 47’ above sea-level, might have seemed wellsuited for a canal - Watt suggested a channel about 16’ deep and costing some £120,000 - but it was the difficulty of sailing ships having to beat up the narrow channel of the West Loch that discouraged its establishment. With Loch Gilp now the preferred option, the Duke of Argyll promoted a new company to build The Crinan Canal. John Rennie surveyed two routes, one to the north of Loch Crinan and the other to the south. Parliament sanctioned the chosen route, to the south of Loch Crinan, in 1793 and work eventually began on the cutting, expected to take some five years, in September 1794. The new company struggled financially from the outset. The company got a £25,000 loan from The Treasury and even the army loaned soldiers to work on the construction as it was impossible to attract experienced contractors to carry out the work and even the seasoned navvies quickly left, fearful that they might not get paid for their labours ! It was indeed a badly built canal that opened in 1801 and it had to be quickly closed when, even with a reduced water level, it breeched. It re-opened again, eighteen months later, in 1806 and was eventually thought to be complete in 1809, complete that was until two years later, in 1811, a reservoir collapsed. Thomas Telford, the engineer on the Caledonian Canal, carried out an inspection and, following implementation of his recommendations, the Crinan Canal, now under the management of the Caledonian Canal commissioners, re-opened yet again in 1817 - The Caledonian Canal itself opened in 1822. But, given the introduction of steamships, there was still interest in the canal proposals for Tarbert and, in 1828, Henry Bell, who had built the “Comet”, made a further survey. Just two years later, writing from his death-bed on August 23, 1830, at Helensburgh, Bell addressed a letter to ‘The Gentlemen, Freeholders and Merchants of Argyleshire’. 7
In the oldest records it is Tarbart, then Tarbard. Later it is spelt indiscriminately as Terbert, Tarbert, Tarbett, Tarbet, Tarbatt, Tarbat, Torban, Tarbot, Tarbitt, Terbat, Turbet and too Terbart. Take your pick or phone a friend ? There was, though no date of its foundation can be traced, a shire of Tarbert which included Kintyre, Gigha, Islay, Jura, Scarba, Colonsay and Mull plus the various and adjacent smaller islands. Rathlin Island also then reckoned to be within The Sheriffdom of Tarbert. On February 26, 1481, Knapdale too was made made part of Tarbert-shire. Previously it was part of Perth-shire ! Eventually, on Friday, June 28, 1633, Tarbert-shire was amalgamated with the shire of Argyll - The last Tarbert-shire M.P., elected in September 1628, was Sir Lachlan M’Lean of Morvern. Tarbert’s famous fair appears in records at least as early as 1705.
The Tarbert Canal
n 1771, James Watt, carried out surveys of possible routes for canals between the East and West Lochs at Tarbert, the isthmus just 1,600 yards wide and between Loch Gilp and Loch Crinan.
It would seem that James Watt most likely would have stayed at Barmore House, home of Sheriff Archibald Campbell, while carrying out his survey. Campbell himself was responsible for instructing an earlier English surveyor to explore a route for the Sliabh Ghaoil road and the story goes, according to the (then) ‘New Statistical Account’, that the surveyor “attempted to travel over the ground but the rocks were so precipitious, the ferns so gigantic, the Englishman so unwieldly and so unaccustomed to travel such grounds that, after much tumbling and scrambling, he was obliged to betake himself to his boat and finish his survey by rowing along the shore.
“The straight cut 50’ wide at the bottom, 60’ wide at the top and 3’ deep giving 15’ of depth at high water, the cut of 6’ depth giving 18’ and that of 9’ giving 21’ at high water and, the cuts being made in a straight line, through solid rock and without locks or draw-bridges, the total expense being £90,000. “Two stone (road) bridges would be needed, high enough to allow vessels to pass through the arches under full sail. Their arches being 70’ and their breadth 25’. “The monies needed raised by a joint stock company and by passage charges suggested as 2s 6d (12 ½ pence) for small rowing boats, 5 shillings (25 pence) for ½ decked fishing wherries and for other vessels of 10-50 tons @ 1 shilling (5 pence) per ton, 50-100 tons @ 9 d (3+ pence) per ton and 100 tons upwards @ 6d (2 ½ pence) per ton to amply repay shareholders. Fifteen years after Bell’s letter, in 1845 and the defects of the Crinan Canal becoming more and more apparent, an Act of Parliament was passed to enable work to begin on the Tarbert Canal but, due to the monetary crisis of 1847, work never began and the company dissolved in 1849. Another attempt to revive the proposal - and another Act of Parliament passed in 1882 also came to nothing, the projected revenue in this case was expected to be in the region of some £11,750 from passage dues.
north, Largiemore Pier, in 1900. Other ferries, Lochgair and Minard and Furnace, also were given steamer calls. Crarae Pier would be built in 1880 to supersede a stone jetty at the quarry and Strachur Pier built in 1877. Inveraray’s stone jetty was replaced in 1821 and a wooden gangway and ‘T-shaped’ frontage added in 1877. There were also two ferry services across the head of Loch Fyne to Inveraray. One from Cairndow and another, served by the 1865-built “Fairy Queen”, at St. Catherine’s, which closed eventually in the late 1950’s when ferryman Hope McArthur retired. The Portavadie ferry, again of antiquity, was re-established only in July 1994.
The Inveraray Steamers
ntil 1768, when the 93rd Regiment repaired the old military road over The Rest and Be Thankful and it became possible for stage coaches to travel from Tarbet and Arrochar to Inveraray, the only other roads for those seeking to make for Glasgow were by Loch Eck, to Ardentinny and by Hell’s Glen, to Lochgoilhead. Despite these routes, the sea route down Loch Fyne was the most convenient and the coming of the steamboats would almost run the horse-drawn coaches off the roads. The first recorded steamer to enter the Glasgow - Inveraray trade was the “Rothesay Castle”, entering Loch Fyne in the spring of 1816, the year of her building. Other sources suggest that it was the 1814-built, note the spelling, “Inverary Castle (I)” that began the service in 1816 but, regardless, the Loch Fyne trade became the preserve of The Castle Steam Packet Company and, by 1818, the “Dumbarton Castle” too had become a regular sight on the loch. In 1820 came the “Inverary Castle (II)” she being joined by the “Toward Castle” two years later. In 1826, the fleet was joined by the new “Dunoon Castle” and she and the “Rothesay Castle” became the main Inveraray steamers from Glasgow calling daily at Port-Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, Dunoon, Rothesay, Tarbert and Lochgilphead as they plied to and from Inveraray and, in competition to them, ran the 1824-built “George Canning” and David Napier’s own 1825-built “James Ewing” and it is entirely due to Napier’s imspiration that the famous ‘Loch Eck Tour’ began. 8
Loch Fyne Piers and Ferries
nly small vessels could tie up at Tarbert’s quay, in the ‘inner’ harbour and in 1825 the laird, Campbell of Stonefield, extended the harbour and built the ‘New Quay’. Again it would be the Stonefield laird, Colin George Campbell, who built the outer pier, East Loch Tarbert’s pier, in 1866 and it was itself rebuilt in 1879 when MacBrayne’s new 301-foot long paddle steamer “Columba” arrived on the scene, too long to go alongside the 1866 pier.
The early steamers made a weekly call at Sir John Orde’s Kilmory Pier, on the east side of Loch Gilp, until 1817 when the remedial work finished on The Crinan Canal and Ardrishaig Pier extended, in 1817. The Otter Ferry - from ‘oitir’, or sandbank - was of great antiquity and though there was a small stone quay there, a steamboat pier was built, just a mile to the
Some time around 1820, David Napier had built The World’s first iron steamship, the little “Aglaia” and placed her in service running up and down Loch Eck, her passengers transferring to horse-drawn coaches connecting to Inveraray ferry and to the early steamers calling at Kilmun, the traditional burial ground of The Dukes of Argyll. Such was the success of this venture that, in 1827, Napier built a new steamboat pier and hotel at Kilmun and then contructed a proper road for his new steam-driven coach to carry passengers to the foot of Loch Eck and had the little “Aglaia” was replaced by another new paddle-steamer. In the same year, 1827, through his uncle Robert Napier, blacksmith to The Duke of Argyll, David Napier was able to avoid the first year’s cost of pier dues at Inveraray and placed the new “Thalia” and the “Robert Bruce” into service on Loch Fyne. Based at Inveraray, they gave a 7.30 a.m. sailing to Cairndow, the through Glasgow connections being via Loch Lomond on Napier’s own paddlesteamer “Marion” and a 10 a.m. sailing to Strachur to link up with the “Aglaia” on Loch Eck and then with Napier’s steamers, “Venus”, “Loch Eck”, “Kilmun” and “St. Mun” sailing from Kilmun to Glasgow. The new through service was but short-lived, the steam-driven Kilmun - Loch Eck coach was accused of damaging the roads for horse-drawn traffic and soon disappeared as too did the little Loch Eck paddle-steamer, the Loch Eck service not being renewed until 1878. Napier’s withdrawal from the Inveraray ferry services was no doubt persuaded by the fact that The Duke of Argyll was a shareholder in The Loch Goil and Loch Long Steamboat Company, established on February 9, 1825, which had taken over the “Oscar”, operating, since 1818, the Lochgoilhead - Glasgow service. Whereas Napier had been content to operate the Inveraray services without seeking any security of ferry rights, simply paying the official “ferriers” a proportion of his receipts, The Loch Goil and Loch Long Steamboat Company, The Duke of course a shareholder, secured a 35-year lease on the crossings, effective from 1829 onwards and placed their own small steamer on the St. Catherine’s run, crossing daily in winter and twice daily in summer, a four-horse coach making the seven mile haul through Hell’s Glen to connect with the Lochgoilhead steamers. For the final 16 years of the ferry rights’ lease, the company built the paddle-steamer “Argyll”. The 1816-built “Rothesay Castle” was sold off in 1830 and wrecked off Beaumaris in August 1831, the “Inverary Castle (II)” also being sold in 1831, she, in 1836 under the ownership of one Alexander Barlas, sailing from Oban, via Tobermory, to Staffa and Iona. During 1834 -35, the 96-foot steamer, the “Dolphin” put in a brief appearance on the Glasgow - Loch Fyne route but was quickly sold off to 9
Malcolm McLeod to trade to Tobermory, Barra, South and North Uists and to Skye. The “Tarbert Castle (I)” appeared in 1836 but lasted only till 1838 when, because of the introduction of the rival “Argyle”, she was replaced by the faster “Tarbert Castle (II)”, which had an even shorter life being wrecked in a storm on the Silver Rocks off Ardmarnock Beach in Kilfinan Bay on January 17, 1839, the rival “Argyle” coming to give assistance found that all had been saved. The steeple engine from the “Tarbert Castle (II)” was fitted into the new “Inverary Castle (III)” which then took up service at the end of 1839. During the summer of 1842, the second, note the spelling, “Rothsay Castle” left Glasgow at 6 a.m. on Saturdays for Inveraray. In September 1842, the last of the “Castle” steamers to be built with the Inveraray run in mind was the “Duntroon Castle”, she was to be involved in a collision with the Campbeltown company’s “Duke of Cornwall” off the Cloch Light on Saturday, October 26, 1850 and though, as The High Court judge remarked, the actions of the master of the “Duntroon Castle ” were the cause of the collision, the Campbeltown master was charged but then necessarily acquitted unanimously by the jury ! For a time, each “Castle” ship had been owned by a separate company and it was not until 1832 that the various ships were transferred to The Castle Steam Packet Company which, in September 1842, was renamed The Glasgow Castle Steam Packet Company which, in June 1846, was taken over by G. & J. Burns and their Glasgow and Liverpool Steamship Company. The general manager of the “Castle” steamers until their sale to Burns was Captain John M’Arthur, son of Tarbert harbour-master Alexander M’Arthur. G. & J. Burns, determined to get control of the Clyde passenger traffic, now reduced their fares to an all-time record low conveying passengers between any two piers of their choice for just two-pence ! The fare-cutting exercise failing to increase Burns share of the passenger traffic and their fleet was then sold. In 1847, Glasgow merchant William Roxburgh ordered the 75-foot long, schoonerrigged screw steamer “Lochfine” from Denny’s Dumbarton yard and, though appearing on the Loch Fyne run, she was often trading out through the Crinan Canal to the West Highlands. In 1850, she was also acquired by G. & J. Burns, just before Burns’ own heads of department, David and Alexander Hutcheson and Burns’ nephew, David MacBrayne formed David Hutcheson & Company, in February 1851, to take over Burns’ West Highland services. From April 1851, the
Loch Fyne cargo-passenger services were operated by The Glasgow & Lochfine Steam Packet Company, one of its directors being the same William Roxburgh who had first built, then later sold, the “Lochfine” to the G. & J. Burns. Initially, under charter, the “Inverary Castle (III)” and the second “Rothsay Castle” continued the Inveraray services and then, in August 1851, the new company bouught the former and replaced the latter with the 1846-built steepleengined paddle-steamer “Mary Jane” from Sir James Matheson in Stornoway. A month later, in September 1851, they also bought the wooden hulled “Dunoon Castle”, she was sold off in November 1854. The ‘Lochfine’ company was taken over by Hutcheson’s in February, 1857. In 1864, the St. Catherine’s ferry running unprofitably and unreliably and The Loch Goil and Loch Long Steamboat Company now at the end its lease of the ferry rights, a group of Inveraray businessmen, including The Duke of Argyll, bid for the ferry rights and, forming The Inveraray Ferry and Coach Company, put the little paddle-steamer “Fairy (I)” on the St. Catherine’s run, she was replaced by “Fairy (II)” in 1894, the latter, foundering in a gale in December 1912, then being replaced by a series of motor ferryboats which served until September 1963. The “Mary Jane” continuing on the Inveraray run till 1875, when she was lengthened and re-named “Glencoe”, the “Inverary Castle (III)”, being reregistered officially as the “Inveraray Castle (III)” in 1874, continuing on the run till 1891, the only alteration to her sailings being the inclusion of a weekly call at Ormidale from February 1875 onwards. Making her first appearance at Inveraray on February 17, 1857, the 1844-built paddle-steamer “Dolphin(I)” was regularly on the run till 1862 when she was sold as an American blockade-runner in which trade she had a bit more luck than Hutcheson’s “Iona (I)” and “Iona (II)”, both sunk before they could even leave British waters . “Dolphin(I)” was captured by the Federals in 1863, taken as prize to New York then sold in July 1864 and immediately sold on to, the Confederates ! Renamed “Ruby”, she was intercepted near Key West and again taken to New York to be used as a patrol vessel. Sold to a Memphis, Tennesse owner in 1867, she was wrecked in an 1874 gale. There being no replacement for the “Mary Jane” and the steadily ageing, now named, “Inveraray Castle (III)” left to serve Inveraray and the other Loch Fyne ports, a new company, The Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Company, formed in 1877 and subscribed to by some of the shareholders of ‘The Lochgoil Company’, 10
ordered the fine paddle-steamer “Lord of The Isles (I)” from D. & W. Henderson’s yard. The main purpose being to revive David Napier’s ‘Loch Eck Tour’, abandoned at the end of the 1820’s and to provide a regular daily summer service on the ninety-mile long Glasgow to Inveraray route, an excursion service that would compete directly against ‘The Royal Route’ service to Ardrishaig. So successful was the new steamer that Hutcheson’s ordered a new paddle-steamer for the 1878 season, the “Columba”. To operate the Lock Eck service itself, Napier’s original steamers having been broken up nearly fifty years earlier, a new 80-foot long single screw steamer, the “Fairy Queen” was built at Seath’s Rutherglen yard and, after re-assembly on the lochside, launched on February 28, 1878. Although badly damaged by fire at the end of the 1879 season, she was soon refurbish and indeed lengthened to cope with the demand for this popular tour which now ran through Dunoon instead of Kilmun, the old Napier ‘interchange’. In June 1879, at the age of 65, David MacBrayne, now the sole partner of David Hutcheson & Company, began to trade in his own name but, there still being no mention of any replacement for the “Mary Jane”, a group of businessmen formed The Lochfyne & Glasgow Steam Packet Company, in 1882, to build the “Minard Castle”, she was later transferred to the like-named shipping company in 1913. This neat little 12-knot ship, sailing from Glasgow to Skipness, the various Loch Fyne ports and Inveraray, had a long and successful career, being replaced by Clyde Cargo Steamers’ “Minard” and broken up at Port Glasgow in 1926. Rather than refit and refurbish the 1877-built ship, the ‘Inveraray Company’ directors placed an order for “Lord of The Isles (II)” in the autumn of 1890, the original being sold for service in The Thames that September. Her career there, as the “Jupiter”, was short-lived and she returned to the Clyde under the ownership of A. Dawson Reid who renamed her “Lady of The Isles” and, after unsuccessful attempts to find a place in the Glasgow excursion trade, she was scrapped in 1904. The “Lord of The Isles (II)”, launched on Saturday, April 25, 1891 by Miss Mary Maclean, daughter of the owning company’s chairman, made her trial trip to Inveraray on Wednesday, May 20, 1891 with a party of invited guests, her timing from Rothesay to Inveraray bettering that of her predecessor by some twenty minutes. Peter M’Farlane, Chief Engineer of the “Lord of The Isles (II)”, had been an engineer on the Lochgoilhead steamer “Alliance”, built in 1857. Her designer
George Mills, son of a one time Lord Provost of Glasgow, was, in turn, a steamboat agent, shipbuilder, newspaper proprietor, then chemist. The 140-foot long, 30-foot beam, “Alliance” was in fact double-hulled, a catamaran and, in consequence, she had a central paddle-wheel. She was also the very first Clyde Steamer to have saloons on the main deck. She must have been successful for she was sold off as a blockade-runner and, though nothing of her later career is known, she at least safely crossed The Atlantic. The now elderly “Inveraray Castle (III)” which had been off the Inveraray run, with a broken paddle-shaft, for five weeks in the summer of 1889, was withdrawn in the winter of 1891-92. MacBrayne’s had bought the 1857-built, ex-Channel Islands’ paddle-steamer “Cygnus”, which they rebuilt in 1892 as the “Brigadier”, to replace her but soon moved her to Strome Ferry and once again, as had happened before, the Loch Fyne cargo service was operated by chartered ships such as the “Battle Isle”, first chartered in the summer of 1891 and the “Rossgull”, in 1893-94. Fish salesmen, McKinney & Rafferty’s ships, “Nellie”, “Marie” and “Aggie”, were well-suited for the Loch Fyne cargo service and the “Aggie” was chartered so frequently into the early 1900’s that her name was eventually included in the official company fleet list. In 1902, with the appearance of the new “Queen Alexandra (I)” on the Campbeltown run and the “King Edward” sailing ‘south about’, round the Garroch Head to Ardrishaig - the run being extended to Inveraray, but then via The Kyles of Bute, in 1909, both the “Columba” and the “Lord of The Isles (II)” extended the length of their sailing seasons. To publicise the ‘Loch Eck Tour’ connections, the ‘Inveraray Company’, having built a brand new four-in-hand, thirty passenger, charàbanc, drove it through the centre of Glasgow, its driver and guard dressed in red coats and white satin hats on the first Monday of May as it set off on its long delivery run to its Dunoon base. The “Lord of The Isles (II)” herself left Glasgow at 7.20 a.m., called at Prince’s Pier, Greenock for train connections from London (St Pancras), the Midlands and the Midland Railway’s overnight service to Scotland, then Gourock for passengers from The Caledonian Railway and the ‘West Coast’ route passengers from London’s Euston Station and then to Dunoon to connect with The North British Railway’s steamer bringing passengers from Edinburgh and the east coast of Scotland and England, a highly integrated timetable and one that, a century later, would seem doomed to failure were it presented to the managements of the modern rail network operators. 11
MacBrayne’s own cargo service to the Loch Fyne ports and Inveraray had, since the departure of the old “Mary Jane” in 1875, been operated by a succession of small chartered ships, most often the “Aggie”. In 1903, the company had put in hand the building of three new screw passenger-cargo ships, near ‘sisters’, of about 135feet in length. While “Lapwing (II)” had been already delivered by the end of the year, there was still a lot of work to be done on the “Plover (III)” and “Cygnet (II)” when MacBrayne’s first ever twin-screw ship, the “Flowerdale”, bought second-hand in 1889, went ashore on Lismore at the start of 1904 and became a total loss. Her machinery and boilers were however salved and, one of her boilers and her port engine, with its right-handed propellor, was given to the new “Plover (III)”, the other boiler and the starboard engine, with its left-handed propellor, being fitted in “Cygnet (II)” - Here, it is not the ‘economy’ of the supply which is interesting but rather, it is the curiosity of the “Flowerdale” being fitted, very unusually, with inward-turning propellor shafts that bears note. “Flowerdale”, it might be added, had been built for The Independence Marine Salvage and Steam Pump Company in 1878 and, observers noted that, though externally of very rough finish, the machinery was remarkably solid and dependale to the end. Despite the “Texa” now ‘partnering’ the new “Cygnet (II)” and the often chartered “Aggie” on the Loch Fyne cargo service, the “Texa” herself left the Inveraray and upper Loch Fyne calls to the “Cygnet (II)” and the “Aggie”. Leaving Glasgow at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for Ardrishaig, the “Texa” lay the weekends at Ardrishaig before returning to Glasgow. Even before the death of their veteran manager Malcolm Turner Clark, the ‘Inveraray Company’ was in serious difficulties, the turbine-driven “King Edward” now often well on her homeward journey before the “Lord of The Isles (II)” had even reached Inveraray. In 1909, both The Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Company and its close associate, The Lochgoil & Lochlong Steamboat Company, in liquidation, a new company, The Lochgoil & Inveraray Steamboat Company was formed to take over their assets. Three years later, in April 1912, the month in which the “Titanic” was sunk, Turbine Steamers Ltd., in association with David MacBrayne Ltd., who had acquired shares in the former, purchased and registered both the “Lord of The Isles (II)” and the ‘Lochgoil Company’ steamer “Edinburgh Castle” which remained on the Lochgoilhead service until November 1913 when she was sold for scrapping. With the “King Edward” now running the Inveraray day excursions, Turbine Steamers put the “Lord of The Isles (II)” on Glasgow - Round Bute excursions, these continuing after World War I and the ship continuing these and other
excursion services until the end of the 1927 season. In the spring of 1928, the “Lord of The Isles (II)” was employed briefly on the Greenock - Ardrishaig mail run and then, MacBrayne’s “Iona (III)” being called to Oban, covered the Glasgow to Lochgoilhead and Arrochar run till the end of that season when, too costly to run, she was broken up at Smith & Houston’s Port Glasgow yard. Meanwhile the 1909-formed Lochgoil & Inveraray Steamboat Company continued to own and operate the “Fairy Queen”, on Loch Eck. After the end of World War I, an attempt was made to run her in 1919 but, this unsuccessful, she was scrapped on the lochside during the following year. Though no longer owning any steamers, the company continued to operate motor coaches on the ‘Loch Eck Tour’ route and the names of the “Fairy Queen” and the “Lord of The Isles ” survived on two of the company’s vehicles till 1936 when the company was finally wound up. From August 19, 1915, until, at least notionally, December 31, 1948, the Loch Fyne cargo services would be operated first by Clyde Cargo Steamers Ltd. and then, from March 4, 1937, their successors, The Clyde & Campbeltown Shipping Company, the majority of the latter’s shares being owned by The MacBrayne Trust Ltd.. The “Minard Castle” continued to operate independently until 1922 when she was purchased by Clyde Cargo Steamers and then ‘partnered’ the former MacBrayne’s “Lapwing(II)” after her purchase in July 1923. The “Minard Castle”, having been succeeded by a new steamer, the “Minard”, in January 1926, was broken up at Port Glasgow towards the end that year and too, at the beginning of 1926, on Burns’ Night, January 25, 1926, the “Lapwing(II)” had been renamed “Cowal (I)”, she would be sold in April 1930, two years after the introduction of the new “Ardyne”. Clyde Cargo Steamer’s “Arran (III)” was wrecked off Barmore Island, north of Tarbert, on December 31, 1932, just six hears after MacBrayne’s “Chevalier (II)” had also gone aground near the same point. By early 1940 and now until the very end of the Loch Fyne cargo service, the 1928built “Ardyne” was on her own and sailing thrice-weekly, on alternate days, to Tarbert, Ardrishaig and the upper Loch Fyne ports. After World War I, in 1919, the turbine-driven “Queen Alexandra (II)”, which had rammed and sunk the German submarine “UB-78”, west of Cherbourg, on May 9, 1918, took up the daily excursion run to Inveraray. She continued through the seasons until the new turbine steamer “King George V”, which had only joned the fleet at the very end of the 1926 season, took up the Inveraray excursions until 12
the end of the 1935 season, both she and the “Queen Alexandra (II)” were MacBrayne’s. In 1936, the “Queen Alexandra (II)”, now given a third ‘dummy’ funnel and renamed “Saint Columba” took up ‘The Royal Route’ sailings to Tarbert and Ardrishaig. Now, from 1936 till the outbreak of World War II in Septwember 1939, The Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s turbine steamer “Duchess of Argyll” was transferred to the Inveraray run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the turbine “Duchess of Montrose” giving a fourth excusion sailing on Thursdays. After World War II, in 1946, the “Duchess of Hamilton” restarted the summer excursions, the “Duchess of Montrose” being refurbished and the Inveraray excursion consequently restricted to Tuesday sailings only. With the return of the “Duchess of Montrose” in 1947, Inveraray was now reduced to a twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, sailings, these continuing until the end of 1964 when the “Duchess of Montrose” was withdrawn and sold for scrapping in Belgium. Yet again, the Inveraray sailings were reduced to Tuesday only sailings, the “Duchess of Hamilton” back on the run from 1965 till her withdrawal at the end of the 1970 season and then the “Queen Mary II” taking over until the end of the 1973 season when regular sailings to Inveraray were abandoned. Now, thwarted by Loch Fyne’s great length and the need to operate at an economic speed, it is a rare occasion even for “Waverley (IV)” to make the trip to Inveraray, not even for Inveraray’s world-famous Highland Games.
Puffer, Ahoy !
The supreme marine achievement of man’s invention !
Their shallow draft, flat-bottomed hulls, suitable for grounding on beaches where they could discharge their cargoes, were full-bodied with a good sheer, had generally rounded, though some were square, short counter sterns and outside rudders and all of a size able to fit the locks on The Forth and Clyde Canal. All were cutterrigged with gaff main and topsails, jib and staysail.
mongst the host of small cargo-carrying Clyde sailing craft were the gabbarts, some schooners but most ketches of about 50 registered tons, 60-feet long, 15 to 17-feet in beam and about 7 to 9-feet in depth.
More than fifty years had passed since the “Charlotte Dundas” had shown the viability of steam-power on the canal, a technical success which was not then followed through by the canal proprietors who feared the effect of the steamer’s wash on the canal banks. Now, in 1856, James Milne, the canal engineer, fitted a twin cylinder, 10” stroke and 6½” bore, atmospheric engine, powered by a 3’ diameter boiler working at 35 lbs pressure, into the “Thomas”, a ‘standard’ canal barge at a cost of £320. With a four-foot pitch ‘screw’ and the engine turning at 130 revolutions per minute, the “Thomas”, capable of carrying some 70 or 80 tons of cargo, was able to do some 5 mph and ‘the puffer’ was born, her atmospheric engine ‘puffing’ merrily along exhausting steam directly into the atmosphere and sky ! As an ordinary canal barge, she had been worked by two boatmen, a horse and a horseman, now the “Thomas” needed just two crew. The following year, 1857, at Kelvin Dock, the Swan brothers, David, John and Robert, built and engined the “Glasgow”, the first purpose-built ‘puffer’ and in the same year one James Hay set up business at Port Dundas as a shipping agent. Ten years later, as J. & J. Hay, James and his brothers John and Robert, both engineers, took over Crawford & Company’s boatyard at Kirkintilloch to build ‘puffers’, most given ‘tribal’ names, for themselves.
never settled accounts for the first “Comet” ! The new “Comet (II)” was run down and sunk off Gourock by the “Ayr” on October 21, 1825 ! The little 1815-built “Greenock”, which, in 1844, would become a ferry ‘cross The Mersey, was advertised to take farmers and ‘trippers’ to Tarbert Fair in August 1815 - The Battle of Waterloo was, of course, on June 18, 1815. Only small vessels could actually tie up alongside Tarbert’s Old Quay, in the harbour and the bigger, early, steamers had to rely on ferries to land and load passengers and cargo. After Tarbert, the early steamers made a call at Sir John Orde’s Kilmory Pier, on the east side of Loch Gilp, until 1817 when the remedial work finished on The Crinan Canal and Ardrishaig Pier extended, in 1817. In 1825 the laird, Campbell of Stonefield, extended the harbour and built the ‘New Quay’. Again it would be the Stonefield laird, Colin George Campbell, who built the outer pier, East Loch Tarbert’s pier, in 1866 and it was itself rebuilt in 1879 when MacBrayne’s new 301-foot long paddle steamer “Columba” arrived on the scene, too long to go alongside the 1866 pier. For the better part of the first thirty years of steamer services, Tarbert’s trade was in the hands of the ‘Castle’ steamer owners - The first Hutcheson (MacBrayne) steamers did not ‘cast off’ till Monday, February 10, 1851. Despite their seemingly common fleet names, the Castle steamers, nearly twenty, were each owned by separate companies and ‘the company’ served Loch Goil as well as Loch Fyne. The first to appear in Loch Fyne was the 1816-built “Rothesay Castle”, which would be joined later by the 1814-built “Inveraray Castle (I)”. In 1822, Loch Fyne would be served thereafter by the 1820- built “Inveraray Castle (II)“ and the new 1822-built “Toward Castle” and then the 1826-built “Dunoon Castle” partnering the old “Rothesay Castle” till the end of the 1820’s when the latter was sold, later lost and a large number of passengers drowned off Beaumaris. A daily service was given every lawful day - not Sundays - between Glasgow and Inveraray with calls at Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, Dunoon, Rothesay, Tarbert and Lochgilphead, each ship returning the following day.
Fancy Tarbert ?
“Dream no more southern rambles ! Snowy Alp or Castled Rhine; Step on board the good “Columba”, Book for Tarbert on Loch Fyne !” n September 2, 1812, just a month after making her debut sailing between Glasgow and Greenock, Henry Bell’s “Comet” extended her route via Tarbert and The Crinan Canal to Oban, Port Appin and Fort William, the return journey taking four days. The first “Comet” was wrecked near Crinan on December 13, 1820. A second “Comet (II)” was built in 1821, one of the shareholders was Neil Malcolm of Poltalloch, at Lochgilphead, who subscribed £50. So seemingly too did his wife who, like her husband, very trustingly left the cash in Henry Bell’s own hands ! Bell too was financially embarrassed at the time and one report has it that Bell had 13
The ‘company’, advertising its, then four, ships as ‘Royal Mail Steam Packets’, also operated a steamer to run mail on Sunday mornings from Rothesay, at 8.30 a.m. to Greenock, leaving there for the return trip at 11 a.m. It too, then in 1829, ran twice a week from Glasgow to Brodick and Lamlash. Running to Lochgilphead, thrice weekly, were 1825-built “James Ewing”, “St. Catherine” and the 1830-built “Superb”. In 1832, the “Windsor Castle (I)”, owned by the consortium of Finlay, Watson and Miller. Under the command of Captain Don Currie, she was on the Glasgow to Inveraray run until 1838 when replaced by another, “Windsor Castle (II)” given a figure-head of Queen Victoria. Then came the 1836-built, three - masted “Tarbert Castle” which was wrecked opposite Tarbert at Ardmarnock Beach on January 17, 1839. By the time the new 1838-built “Argyle”, owned by James Fleming, James McDonald and William Ewing, went to her assistance everyone had been safely evacuated. The ‘Tarbert’, known as ‘the long Tarbert’, was refloated but her hull beyond economic repair, her machinery was salved and given to the new 1839-built “Inveraray Castle (III)”, now built to oppose the “Argyle” ! The origins of The Castle Steam Packet Company are somewhat obscure but its title is noted in 1832 when the ‘Castle’ steamers were transferred to its trustees. The company was reconstituted in April 1842 as The Glasgow Castle Steam Packet Company and among its trustees was one Robert Thom, a Rothesay cotton spinner. In the summer of 1842, the 1837-built “Rothsay Castle” - note the spelling - left Glasgow at 6 a.m. every weekday morning for Greenock, Dunoon, Rothesay, Tarbert and Lochgilphead, on Saturdays she extended her run to Inveraray. At Tarbert, she linked with the “Toward Castle” which had been on the West Loch to Islay run since 1838. Now the 1842-built “Duntroon Castle”, a single funnel and a female figure- head. She was unusual in that she had two masts, both of them rigged to carry square-sails ! The next ship, the 1844-built “Cardiff Castle”, the first Clyde Steamer to be fitted with a ‘double diagonal’ engine, is of particular interest for two other reasons, firstly, because it is generally agreed that she inaugurated the famous ‘Royal Route’ to The Isles and, secondly, because she ended up in the ‘Sunday Trade’, from Glasgow to Millport, in 1866, under the ownership of Glasgow publican Harry Sharp, a sorry end for an otherwise interesting ship. 14
Her builder’s certificate is one of the oldest known Clyde Steamer records reads “We, Caird & Co., engineers and founders in Greenock, County of Renfrew, built in our building yard here, in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-four and launched from thence on the third day of June of the same year the steamer “Cardiff Castle”, John Campbell, master, being a square-sterned, clinker-built iron vessel, constructed to be propelled by steam, rigged, two-masted schooner, with one deck, a scroll head and quarter pieces and that her length, from the inner part of the main stem to the fore part of the stern post aloft, is one hundred and seventy feet three-tenths, Her breadth amidships on deck is nineteen feet; depth of hold amidships, nine feet three-tenths; and the admeasures after deducting the engine room. And that William Campbell Esq. of Tilliechewan; John Watson Esq., merchant, Glasgow; James Hunter Esq. of Hafton; Alexander Struthers Findlay Esq., merchant in Glasgow and other partners of The Castle Steam Packet Company, are the first purchasers and sole owners and that the said vessel was never registered before. Given under our hands at Greenock this eighteenth day of September, one thousand eight hundred and forty-four. Caird & Co..” A new “Windsor Castle (III)” was built in 1845, the fastest ship on The Clyde covering the Glasgow to Rothesay run in a record 2 hours and 28 minutes ! She was indeed a very ‘tender’ ship and was scrapped after her very first season and her engines would be fitted into the 1846-built “Dunrobin Castle” which was occasionally on the Loch Fyne run till 1851 when she was sold to Russia. Now, in June 1846, The Glasgow Steam Packet Company, though its steamers continued to be advertised till 1848 under its name, was acquired by G. & J. Burns, the ships being registered in the name of the Trustees of The Glasgow & Liverpool Steamship Company, in whose name all Burns’ Highland ships were registered. When Burns had introduced through shipping services, via The Crinan Canal, to the West Highlands in 1839, they had placed the four-year old “Helen McGregor” on the Oban to Crinan service and a year later on the through Glasgow to Inverness service and, towards the end of 1843, she gained the dubious honour of being the first ever vessel to sink in The Crinan Canal ! She was salvaged and served on the same run till 1848. The through route from Glasgow to Inverness was jointly worked between Burns and Messrs. Thomson & MacConnell whose paddle steamer “Brenda” covered the Glasgow to Lochgilphead route.
To cover The Crinan Canal section, the “Thornwood”, a horse-drawn ‘track-boat’, was brought down from The Monkland Canal. She was succeeded for the 1847 season by the track-boats “Maid of Perth” and “Sunbeam”, the latter conveying Queen Victoria along the canal to Crinan in August that year. For the occasion, the “Sunbeam” was was specially fitted out, her two plate- glass windowed 20’ by 6’ and 18’ by 10’ cabins being hung with curtains and drapes and an 18’ by 10’ timber canopy, supported by four pillars surmounted with gilt crowns, extended across her after deck. A decorated scroll filigree style panel ran the outside length of her cabin roofs. “At five we reached Loch Gilp and landed at Lochgilphead,” wrote Queen Victoria. “We and our people drove through the village to the Crinan Canal where we entered a most magnificently decorated barge drawn by three horses ridden by posthillions in scarlet.” In fact, she had come ashore in Ardrishaig and was driven to the ‘Poltalloch Posting House’ where, supposedly, she walked up the, somewhat steep, little steps behind what would be re-named The Royal Hotel to the canal. Burns took over William Ainslie’s three Fort William-based steamers in June 1849, including the 1844, Wingate-built “Queen of Beauty” which was sent back to Wingate’s for dismantling, her machinery, Robert Napier’s very first marine engine, from the 1823 “Leven”, to be used in a new ship, the “Merlin”, which made her inaugural trip on the Glasgow to Ardrishaig route on Saturday, April 20, 1850. On that run, her owners and friends aboard, she made the 80-mile run against the tide in five-and-a-quarter hours, much to the delight of all on board. The following year, at 6 a.m. on Monday, February 10, 1851, the former Castle Company steamer “Pioneer” took over ‘The Royal Route’ as David Hutcheson & Company took over control of ‘The West Highlands’. David Hutcheson retired from the company in 1876, his brother Alexander two years later, in 1878. This left the third partner, Burns nephew David MacBrayne, to carry on the business which he now did, in his own name.
MacBrayne’s Royal Route
ollowing Queen Victoria’s passage through The Crinan Canal and her passage on to Inverness in 1847, the route became known as “The Royal Route”, a title which would be promoted enthusiastically by Hutcheson and MacBrayne over the next years and decades.
Towards the end of 1851, the year of The Great Exhibition in London, a new ship, the “Mountaineer”, was ordered for the Clyde section of the route. She was launched from J. & G. Thomson’s Govan yard on May 29, 1852 by Master David Hutcheson, a nephew of two of her owners and on July 22nd “ran the lights” between the Cloch and the Wee Cumbrae at a fraction under 15 knots. Single-masted and two-funnelled, she was flush-decked, with a slanting stem finely decorated on each side with a guilded carving of a Highlander in full costume holding a greyhound on a lead and had a square stern, which too was embellished. On the hatch-cover of the lower saloon companionway was a wooden carving of a goat. The artists and decorators had indeed liberally and lavishly decorated the new ship and such was her success on the Ardrishaig run that she was succeeded by the first “Iona (I)” in 1855 and thereafter the “Mountaineer” would only to the route in spring and autumn. The route to Tarbert and Ardrishaig did not have a daily service until the winter of 1867-1868 and, from November 1869, Greenock became the route’s winter terminal with Glasgow through sailings operating only in summer. The first “Iona” too was a ‘crack’ ship and then, The American Civil War came along and, in September 1862, she was sold as a blockade-runner to The Confederates who had been under blockade since April 1861. Laden with coal and now fitted with a main-mast, she left Glasgow around 2 p.m. on October 2, 1862 for Nassau in The Bahamas. She spent the afternoon adjusting her compasses at The Tail of The Bank and then at about 7 p.m., just off Gourock was run down and sunk by the new “Chanticleer” which was returning upriver after running speed trials on the Skelmorlie Measured Mile. The “Chanticleer” was still ‘at speed’ and sliced through the starboard side of the “Iona (I)” cutting to within just a couple of feet of her port hull. Both ships had steaming lights and the collision is still something of a mystery.
The master of the “Chanticleer” vainly tried to push the “Iona (I)” towards the shore and, unbelievably, the master of the “Iona (I)” refused assistance from a passing tug arguing that the master of the “Chanticleer” should accept liability for paying the tug ! Fortunately, no lives were lost in the collision and the crew of the stricken “Iona (I)” plus a stowaway all got safely ashore ! Today the “Iona (I)”, her stern pointing towards Helensburgh, Henry Bell’s last abode, sits upright in about 90-feet of water at about 55° 57’ N 04° 47’ W and some three-hundred feet or so south-east of the Whiteforeland Buoy, her coal bunkers strewn in mounds beside her wreck. With the sale of the first “Iona (I)”, Hutcheson’s ordered a replacement ship, the “Iona (II)”, from J. & G. Thomson’s Govan yard again. She ran her trials on Wednesday, June 24, 1863, attaining some 18 knots and a feature about her appeared in “The Illustrated London News”. The 245-foot long ship, driven by twenty-foot feathering paddle wheels, had her engine-room open to view on three sides, enclosed only by rails. Her main-deck passenger saloons, fore and aft of the engine and boiler space, totalled some one hundred and eighty feet and her dining saloon, on the lower deck about seventyfive feet in length. Described as “a floating mansion in which a person may go to sea without losing the sense of home,” she too had a post office on board. After only working the 1863 season, shee too was sold for blockade running to Charles Hopkins Boster of Richmond, Virginia and, like her predecessor, also ended up sunk in British waters, off Lundy Island, in The Bristol Channel, on February 2, 1864 when outward bound to America. Her wreck, about 51° 11’ N 04° 38’ W , was discovered in 1976 and she is now listed as one of Lundy Island’s diving attractions. Some items retrieved from the wreck are in Greenock’s McLean Museum. Now Hutcheson’s built “Iona (III)”, launched on May 10, 1864 and she would serve the company until broken up at Dalmuir in April 1936. Many of her internal fittings and furnishings had come from “Iona (II)”, not needed by the blockaderunner. Her navigating bridge was raised to paddle-box height in the winter of 1870-1871 and two years later, in 1873, she was fitted with steam steering gear and Chadburn’s engine-room telegraphs. She was reboilered in 1875 and again in 1891 and too, in 1880, had been given an oil-gas lighting installation and a third lifeboat for working out of Oban to Crinan and Corpach. 16
In 1866, The Crinan Canal ‘track-boats’ gave way to the “Linnet”, a twin- screw steamer, based at Crinan, which made the two-hour passage through the canal to meet up with the “Iona (III)” at Ardrishaig in summer-time. The “Linnet” would survive until the end of the 1929 season when she was sold to The Glasgow Motor Boat Racing Club at Shandon, in The Gareloch. She arrived there in June 1930 and was wrecked in a storm in January 1932. The Glasgow and Inveraray Steamboat Company’s “Lord of The Isles (I)”, built in 1877, called at many of the piers used by “Iona (III)” and Hutcheson’s now ordered another new ship for the Ardrishaig run, hoping to take away some of the ‘intermediate pier’ passengers from the rival ‘Loch Fyne’ ship. Again they went to Thomson’s and, for around £28,000, got the wonderful 301foot long “Columba” complete with post office, book and fruit stalls and a barbers’s shop which even had a steam engine to drive the hair brushes ! The Post Office service was withdrawn at the start of the 1914-1918 war and not reinstated. Too, with the arrival of the new 301-foot long ship, Tarbert’s East Loch Pier had to be extended. When reboilered in 1900, the “Columba” was raised some five inches out of the water and her speed increased from 18 knots to 19½ knots at 40 r.p.m. Her engineroom was however a very dark and gloomy place until 1929, when a small electric light plant was fitted. Her only drawback was her coal consumption, some 18 to 20 tons daily. With the arrival of the new “Columba”, the “Iona (III)” became ‘spare’ in the main part of the season, although she carried out the Clyde service in the spring and autumn, the winter runs being carried out by the “Mountaineer”. In 1879, the “Iona (III)” found herself doing Glasgow Fair cruises to the newly opened pier at Skipness but was otherwise idle and the following years found her sent to Oban until, in the summer of 1886, she found herself back on the summer Ardrishaig station, in concert with the “Columba”. A ‘rival’, Alexander Williamson, had had the temerity to try running a weekend-only service to Tarbert and Ardrishaig, berthing his ship at the latter over The Sabbath Day and now, given the return of the “Iona (III)”, the ‘rival’ disappeared ! The “Columba” left Glasgow’s Broomielaw at 7 a.m. and then returned to Glasgow leaving Ardrishaig about 1 p.m.. The “Iona (III)” balanced the service leaving Ardrishaig at 5.45 a.m. and then left Glasgow at 1.30 p.m. In 1901, the “Iona (III)”, on Friday, June 14th - the local holiday, called at Queen’s Dock on
the upward run to give passengers a chance to visit The Glasgow Exhibition and, delaying her return trip, a 6 p.m. call was made at Partick to take everyone home again. In 1904, the “Iona (III)” had her route shortened and, still leaving Ardrishaig at 5.45 a.m., ran to the piers in The Kyles of Bute, Rothesay and then on to Wemyss Bay to leave at 10.40 a.m. and run direct to arrive back in Ardrishaig at 12.50 p.m., more or less with the “Columba”. On Wednesdays and Saturdays during July and August, she would go on to Otter Ferry and, departing there at 1.45 p.m., would retrace her route back to Wemyss Bay, then back to Ardrishaig, a 10 p.m. finish after a 17-hour day. On Monday, August 14, 1905, with a large complement on a beautiful moonlit night singing and dancing to the music of The Argyll and Bute Asylum’s band, the “Iona (III)”, doubling round on her service run, picked up evening cruise passengers from Tighnabruiach at 7.15 p.m. ret. 10.30 p.m., Auchenlochan at 7.20 p.m., ret. 10.35 p.m., Kames at 7.25 p.m., ret. 10.40 p.m., Tarbert at 8.15 p.m., ret. 11.20 p.m. and Ardrishaig at 8.50 p.m.. The cruise, back down to The Kyles of Bute - possibly circling through ‘the narrows’ and ‘the south channel’ - did not return to Ardrishaig till 1 a.m.. On the following Saturday, the “Iona (III)” had to anchor for two hours off Ardlamont, due to overheating engines, on her midday run from Wemyss Bay to Ardrishaig ! In 1909, on Friday, August 6 and in aid of funds for Ardrishaig Public Hall, the “Iona (III)” was chartered for a ‘Grand Moonlight Cruise’ to Crarae and round the Minard Islands, leaving Tarbert at 8 p.m. and Ardrishaig at 8.40 p.m.. Ardrishaig’s Pipe Band was on board and a concert too had been arranged, the inclusive charge being 2/- per ticket or, just 1/6 for the cruise. 500 passengers were carried and the gross takings were £42 .13/-. Outlays, “including the cost of the steamer charter from Messrs MacBrayne’s on very liberal terms” amounted to just £11.17/- and the profits were thus £30.16/-. The 1914-1918 War saw the “Iona (III)” running the Ardrishaig service from Wemyss Bay, the anti-submarine boom closing the river north of the line between The Cloch Lighthouse and Dunoon. The “Columba” took over again from August 1916 and the sailings from Greenock and Gourock were resumed on February 1, 1919, initially by the “Chevalier” which, until she stranded on the south-east of Barmore Island, en route for 17
Ardrishaig on March 25, 1927, would also cover the winter reliefs, these then being covered by the “Fusilier”. After the war and until 1927, the “Iona (III)” would be the summer steamer on the Lochgoilhead and Arrochar run, originally served by the ‘Castle Company’ ships and would do the spring and autumn ‘shoulders’ on the Ardrishaig run. On October 12, 1931, the new diesel-electric “Lochfyne”, her first and later summers spent at Oban, took over the winter Ardrishaig service. She was the first British passenger vessel to have electric motors, supplied current by diesel engines, which directly drove her propellors, much was written about her in ‘the technical marine press’. The “Lochfyne” would thereafter carry out all the winter reliefs, occasionally relieved by the “Lochnevis” and too would provide the service through the 1939-1945 war years from Wemyss Bay. On October 3, 1935, MacBrayne’s, in conjunction with The London, Midland & Scottish Railway Company, acquired the ships of Turbine Steamers Ltd. and Williamson-Buchanan Steamers, the “Queen Alexandra (II)” and the “King George V” going to MacBraynes. The “Queen Alexandra (II)”, built in 1912, was given a mainmast and a third funnel and renamed “Saint Columba” put on to the summer Ardrishaig run and the old ships “Iona (III)” and “Columba” broken up at Dalmuir in April 1936, the bell from the “Iona (III)” can be seen today in The Puffer Aground Restaurant at Salen, on Mull. Requisitioned as an accomodation ship for Greenock’s East India Harbour in January 1940, the “Saint Columba” returned to the summer Ardrishaig run on May 19, 1947 though now only operating from Gourock, the crew-hours from Glasgow out-weighing any thoughts of resuming sailings from Glasgow. With World War I, the “Saint Columba”, then named “Queen Alexandra (II)”, was requisitioned as a troop transport and was fully engaged in this work from February 7, 1915 until May 10, 1919. Just a year and a day before she was released, on Thursday, May 9, 1918, when under the command of her old skipper, Captain Angus Keith and west of Cherbourg, at 49° 49’ N, 01° 40’ W, she depth-charged, then rammed and sank the German Coastal Type UB III submarine “UB 78” at 0050 hours in the morning, none of the submarine’s 35 crew survived. Captain Keith received an O.B.E. and a Distinguished Service Cross as a reward for his initiative.
The “Saint Columba” ran aground in fog at Ettrick Bay on Bute in August 1953 and then, in her final year of service, 1958, was given a radar ! She was towed to Smith & Houston’s yard at Port Glasgow for breaking up - hauled stern first on to the shore as was their custom - on December 23, 1958. The “Lochfyne”, relieved occasionally by the “Lochnevis”, then became the allyear-round Ardrishaig ‘steamer’ - She was also relieved by the turbine “King George V” at the beginning of November 1960 as the “Lochiel” had broken down on The West Loch Tarbert to Islay service. In turn, on September 30, 1969, the “Lochfyne” too was withdrawn and, in January 1970, was sold to the Northern Slipway Ltd. of Dublin but spent some time at Faslane supplying power there to the ship-breaking yard. Then she was sold to Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, docked at Govan and renamed “Old Lochfyne” but too ended up being scrapped, at Dalmuir in 1974. The Ardrishaig service, now under the control of The Scottish Transport Group, was operated, only to Tarbert that winter of 1969. First by the “Maid of Skelmorlie” and then, in the spring, till May 29, 1970, by the “Maid of Argyll” which effectively brought ‘The Royal Route’, through The Kyles of Bute, to an end. Now the Fairlie-based car ferry “Cowal” began a daily service Fairlie - Millport (Keppel Pier) and Brodick to Tarbert. This service was, essentially, ‘unadvertised’ as it was designed to provide a relief for the sometimes over-loaded Ardrossan Brodick car ferry “Glen Sannox”. Much to STG’s surprise and thanks largely to the editor of the weekly “Autocar” magazine, quite a considerable traffic built up for the Tarbert section ! Perhaps as a consequence, the decision was taken to operate a car ferry from Lochranza and the little car ferry “Kilbrannan” duly opened the new service from Lochranza to Claonaig, near Skipness on July 8, 1972.
In 1881, after his time serving a ‘premium apprenticeship’ at Armstrong’s of Elswick on Tyneside, Charles Parsons joined Kitson & Company of Leeds, builders of railway locomotives for many overseas companies. There he invented and developed the ‘epicycloidal’ steam engine and also experimented with ‘rocketpropelled’ torpedoes. In 1884, he joined Clarke, Chapman at Gateshead as a junior partner and took charge of their electrical department. His first problem was to design a steam driven ship’s lighting set where the optimum dynamo speed was much in excess of the top speed attainable by a steam reciprocating engine and his steam turbo-generator, with an output of 7.5kW was soon followed by larger and more powerful machines. From this came Parsons’ 1884 patent giving birth to the steam turbine. In 1889, Parsons severed his connections with Clarke, Chapman and set up The Parsons Steam Turbine Company and, because his earlier patents were in the name of Clarke, Chapman, he was forced to design a completely new turbine system using ‘radial flow’ turbines. The first of his new generators had an output of 350kW and soon he was producing turbo-generators with up to 200,000kW outputs for power stations. Despite his interest in producing steam-powered electrical generators - the very first was installed in The Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s 1890-built “Duchess of Hamilton (I)” - Parsons decided to develop his steam turbine design further, as a marine propulsion unit. Gustaf de Laval, the Swedish engineer whose first turbine patent had been granted in 1883, a year before Parsons own patent, had also secured a patent for ‘double helical reduction gears’ in 1889 and three years later, in 1892, he constructed a reversing turbine developing some 15 h.p. and running at some 16,000 rpm, to this day a most remarkable speed. Using his own reduction gears to drive a propellor at around 330 rpm, Laval put a small launch on to the waters of Lake Mäleren in Sweden, this the first marine application of the steam turbine. Two years later, in 1894, Parsons, backed by a group of speculative investors launched the 100-foot long, 2,000 s.h.p. 34-knot “Turbinia”, her 9-foot beam being little more that that of an English canal narrow-boat. Today she is preserved and on view to all at Newcastle’s Science Museum. “Turbinia” ran her first set of trials in late 1894 but the results were disappointing, the high speed of the main propellor creating a vacuum behind its blades causing a considerable loss of power, this effect referred to as ‘cavitation’. To measure the 18
The Turbine Steamers
he theory of turbines is, like Archimedes’ screw, ancient but the practical harnessing of the idea is due to the Swedish-born Gustaf de Laval (18451913) and to Charles Algernon Parsons (1854-1931), a member of the Rosse family of astronomical telescope fame from Parsonstown (now Birr) in Ireland.
torque on the shaft, created by the turbine, Parsons designed the instrument we know today as the ‘torsion meter’ and, thanks to this, he was then able to make great improvements to the design of high-speed propellors. Much to the annoyance of The Admiralty - and to the delight of many onlookers the little “Turbinia” easily out-paced and ran rings round the Navy ships sent to chase her as she ran through the lines of ships at the 1897 Fleet Review at Spithead and, as a consequence of such a very public demonstration of the potential of turbine propulsion, The Admiralty ordered the turbine driven destroyer “Viper” and then too took over another, being built “on spec”, which they named “Cobra”. Both were over-lightly built ships and both came to grief. On August 3, 1901, the “Viper” ran aground on Renonquet Reef, in The Channel Islands and was declared a total loss. Six weeks later, on September 17, 1901, the “Cobra” was seen to break in two in heavy seas off Flamborough Head, never again would Navy ships be named after snakes ! Denny’s of Dumbarton, who too had built the famous “Cutty Sark”, were enthusiastic about developing the turbines for merchant ships as were Parsons and together they approached the various railway companies looking for contracts but the railway companies “affected a terrible amount of modesty, each anxious that somebody else should make the first experiment” - then along came John Williamson, in the background, The Glasgow & South Western Railway Company itself barred from operating the Campbeltown service but quite free to guarantee any loans that Williamson might need and so was born The Turbine Syndicate.
feet, had a draft of 6-feet. Parsons part of the work was estimated to cost £8,000 and a further £800 was to be provided to cover the other miscellaneous start-up costs of the venture, a total of £33,000 divided equally amongst the three parties. To fund his share of the venture, Captain John Williamson obtained a loan of £2,500 from The National Bank of Scotland, now The Royal Bank of Scotland and in turn, as noted in a Glasgow & South Western Railway Company minute of January 22, 1901, Williamson’s loan was guaranteed by the railway company on condition, one that too was included in The Turbine Syndicate’s own agreement, that the new ship was placed on the Fairlie - Campbeltown service. The new ship, Denny’s Yard No. 651, was launched by Mrs Charles Parsons on Thursday, May 16, 1901. For the machinery, Parson’s Engine No. 8, steam, at 150 lb per square inch, was supplied by a conventional double-ended boiler. The Navy ships “Viper” and “Cobra” had Yarrow’s water tube boilers but here, with no need for lightweight construction and such high running speeds, the need was for fuel economy which involved a wider range of steam expansions than in the two Navy ships. Whereas steam might be expanded between eight and sixteen times in a contemporary triple expansion engine, there were one hundred and twenty-five expansions in the turbines of the “King Edward”. The high-pressure steam, driving the centre turbine, was expanded five times before being exhausted into the low-pressure turbines driving the outer shafts. There the steam was expanded a further twenty-five times before being again exhausted, now into the condenser. The separate astern turbines (turbines cannot be reversed due to the curved formation of their blades) were fitted into the casings of the outer ‘wing’ turbines - Early turbine ships lacked any great power when going astern a deficiency remedied in later engine designs As no gearing was involved, the propellor shafts of the “King Edward”, like that of the little “Turbinia”, turned at extraordinarily high speeds and from the start it was appreciated that the propellor surface area and the high peripheral speed of the propellor tips would cause cavitational problems. The centre high-pressure shaft could, in theory, turn at up to 700 rpm and the two outer low-pressure shafts at up to 1,000 rpm and the outer shafts fitted with an extra propellor thus making her effectively a ‘five-screw’ ship
The “King Edward”
he members of The Turbine Syndicate - William Denny & Brothers, The Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company and Captain John Williamson each contributed one-third of the £33,000 cost of the new “King Edward”, the first instalment when the hull was framed, beamed, bulkheads in place and had all internal work rivetted; the second, when launched and the third and final payment made on delivery. Considering the very experimental nature of the new venture and not wanting to add further to its risks, Denny’s chose to adhere to a hull model similar to that of the successful 1890-built paddle-steamer “Duchess of Hamilton (I)” and it seems, that had the screw turbine experiment not been successful, the turbine machinery could have been removed and the hull then fitted with paddle machinery. The hull, costing £24,200, was 250.5-feet long, 30.1-feet in beam and, with a depth of 1019
Her first steam trial took place on Friday, June 14, 1901 and on the following Monday she reached a mean speed of 18.66 knots in calm weather on a return run over the measured mile at Skelmorlie before heading back up-river to Scott’s yard at Greenock where she was dry-docked for hull cleaning. A week later, on Monday, June 24, 1901, she ran a further series of seven double runs over the Skelmorlie Measured Mile, the best mean speed now 19.7 knots, still short of the expected 20 knots and so she was slipped the following day at Inglis’ Pointhouse yards to change propellors. Now the 4’ centre propellor was exchanged for one of 4’ 9” diameter, the two outer 2’ 10” propellors replaced by 3’ 4” propellors and on Wednesday, June 26, 1901, again on the Skelmorlie measured mile, on a smooth sea and in a light breeze, she reached a mean average of 20.48 knots with the centre shaft turning at 505 rpm and the outer shafts at 755 rpm, the fastest run that day being 20.57 knots. Test tank calculations estimated her to have 3,500 i.h.p.. Over the following years, there were numerous changes of propellor configurations and extra endurance trials and a further 34 double runs were carried out over the Skelmorlie Measured Mile between June 1901 and April 1905, when at last, the extra propellors on the outer shafts were finally removed. Buried amongst a maze of steampipes on the lower deck, b e l o w the main deck, was the engineers’ control platform, virtually out-of-sight of passengers. When the main stop valve wheel was opened to the centre, high-pressure ‘ahead’ turbine, it too admitted steam to the two outer shaft ‘ahead’ turbines. When manoeuvring, the centre ‘ahead’ turbine was shut down by means of the main stop valve wheel and the outer ‘ahead’ and ‘stern’ turbines then opened and shut down as necessary by their own individual stop valves. The official trial trip of the “King Edward”, under the command of Captain Alex Fowler of The Glasgow & South Western Railway Company’s “Glen Sannox (I)”, took place on Friday, June 28, 1901, just a fortnight after she had first raised steam. A party of guests too having been ferried out to her off Craigendoran, she called at Dunoon, Rothesay, Largs, Fairlie and then Lochranza where she found the “Duchess of Hamilton (I)”, on charter to The Institute of Naval Architects, ready to race her down Kilbrannan Sound as she headed for Campbeltown. Needless to say, she had no difficulty in overtaking her. Three days later she began her first season to Campbeltown. With 50 crew and a capacity for 1,994 passengers, she left Greenock’s Prince’s Pier daily (except Sundays) at 8.40 a.m., she called at Dunoon and Rothesay before 20
picking up the Fairlie train connection at 10.20 a.m.. Proceeding direct to Lochranza, where passengers could join horse-drawn charàbancs for Brodick and connections to Ardrossan, she was timed to arrive in Campbeltown at 12.20 p.m.. Leaving Campbeltown again, at about 3 p.m., her passengers could, via Fairlie, be at St. Enoch’s Station in Glasgow at 6.18 p.m., a journey time little bettered a hundred years later by the private motor car ! 1901 too was the year of The Glasgow Exhibition and the “King Edward” was back at Greenock’s Prince’s Pier in time to do a two-hour ‘musical evening cruise’ with passengers leaving Glasgow St. Enoch at 6.05 p.m. and returning to Glasgow at 10.25 p.m. - the success of these evening cruises led to them becoming an annual feature of her sailing programme. At the end of September, the “King Edward” was laid up for the winter. During the 1901 season, the “King Edward”, under her chief engineer H. Hall, had averaged 19 knots on the 160-mile daily return run to Campbeltown and her average daily coal consumption, working out at 1.8 lbs per equivalent indicated (i.h.p.) horse-power, had been about 18 tons per day. Chief Engineer Hall’s successor, a man called Stuart/Stewart (?) who had been with the “King Edward” since her building - he retired to Skelmorlie in the 1930’s, held that the average daily consumption was actually just 11 - 12 tons of coal for the Campbeltown run and only when ‘obliged to race other ships’ did she use 18 tons ! By way of direct comparison with the identically lengthed-hull paddler “Duchess of Hamilton (I)” which consumed a ton of coal per 8.47 knots when travelling at 16 knots, the turbineengined “King Edward” consumed a ton of coal per 8.87 knots when travelling at 18 knots. In any event, everybody was happy, Williamson cleared his overdraft, formed a new company, Turbine Steamers Ltd., bought the “King Edward” and now ordered a second turbine, the “Queen Alexandra (I)”. When the new steamer appeared at the start of the 1902 season, the “King Edward” took up a new run sailing from Fairlie via the south and west of Bute to Ardrishaig where it became the custom for her German string band, held superior to other steamer bands, to land with the passengers and play through the village. Five steamers then were calling daily at Ardrishaig which itself had a splendid band of its own, that belonging to the Argyll and Bute Asylum, its members often being requested to play on evening cruises from the village. With the increased traffic at Ardrishaig too that month, there were rumours that an electric tramway was to be
built between Ardrishaig and Crinan, rumours that proved unfounded. Later, the “King Edward” extended her run to Inveraray, the return trip still being through The Kyles of Bute - the Ardrishaig call was dropped in 1908. Much was made of the swiftness of the new “King Edward” but, in the first week of July 1902, the “Columba” overhauled her one morning between Innellan and Rothesay and would have got alongside Rothesay first but for the fact that shed had to take the outside berth.In February 1915, “King Edward” was requisitioned by The Admiralty and spent the next four years, based variously at Southampton, Dover and Folkestone and carrying troops to and from The Channel Islands, Le Havre, Rouen, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Calais and Boulogne. Later, as she was returning to The Clyde after a spell of duty as an ambulance transport in the White Sea, based at Archangel, she was nearly wrecked in a ferocious storm. Reconditioned, she returned to the Campbeltown run in June 1920, now, from Greenock and calling at Gourock and Wemyss Bay as well as Fairlie and, with the exception of occasional trips to Inveraray, she remained on the Campbeltown run until the end of the 1926 season. From 1927 onwards she sailed mainly in the upper reaches of the river with her 1928, 1929 and 1930 sailing programmes giving her occasional excursion trips to Stranraer. During World War II, she was used as a passenger-troopship tender at The Tail of The Bank but again returned to peacetime duties in the spring of 1946. Eventually, on June 6, 1952, she was sold for scrapping and four days later, on Tuesday, June 10, 1952, was towed to The West of Scotland Ship- breaking Company’s yard at Troon, a tow to which the author was witness as he came home from primary school ! One of the turbines from the “King Edward” is now on show at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum.
On Monday, May 19, 1902, with a moderate sea and a 20-knot wind, she made six runs on the Skelmorlie Measured Mile, achieving a best mean speed of 18.56 knots. Three days later, after dry-docking at Scott’s in Greenock for hull cleaning, she made twelve runs over the Skelmorlie mile, this time with a smooth sea and a light breeze. Now her best mean speed had risen to 21.63 knots and her fastest ever to be recorded run was 21.82 knots and this was done using the first set of propellors that had been made for the “King Edward” ! Between then and her final set of speed trials on May 5, 1904, there would be six different changes of propellors but none helped her get up to the record set back on May 22, 1902 ! Late in May 1902, a party of guests boarded the new “Queen Alexandra (I)” for her first trip to Campbeltown, out through The Kyles of Bute and then down Kilbrannan Sound. The return trip to Greenock, via the east coast of Arran, took just three hours, a very creditable performance and on she opened her season on Saturday, May 31, 1902, with a special public excursion from Prince’s Pier and Gourock, between The Cumbraes and then up Loch Fyne. Two days later, on Monday, June 2, 1902, she took over the Campbeltown service from the “King Edward”. In appearance, the “Queen Alexandra (I)” was very similar to the “King Edward” but, the new ship had a continuous boat deck extending from the bridge to the top of the companionway to after saloon and thus had her lifeboats slightly further aft than those on the “King Edward” and, although she too would have her boat deck lengthened in the winter of 1905-06, the “King Edward” retained a complete break between her boat and navigating bridge throughout here career. One summer evening in 1906, the “Queen Alexandra (I)” was on charter to carry a party of John Brown’s shipyard employees on a non-landing cruise to Arran. So too, with a party from Singer’s Sewing Machine Company, was the three-years older North British paddle steamer “Waverley (III)”, both ships’ courses converged at The Tail of The Bank and a race ensued, past The Cloch and Cumbrae Lighthouses, the old 13.666 nautical mile ‘standard’ ship’s speed trial course and on to the coast of Arran. The “Waverley (III)”, whose best trial speed had been 19.73 knots, passed The Fallen Rocks, at the north end of Arran, a full ship length ahead of the newer and ostensibly faster turbine “Queen Alexandra (I)” ! Sometime in the early morning of Sunday, September 10, 1911, as she lay at her coaling berth in Greenock’s Albert Harbour, a fire broke out, burning through the 21
The “Queen Alexandra (I)”
wenty-feet longer than the “King Edward”, the new ship was launched by Miss Dorothy Leyland, her father a close associate Charles Parsons, on Tuesday, April 8, 1902, at Denny’s yard in Dumbarton, the new ship, Yard No. 670, cost £38,500. Like the “King Edward”, she too had five propellors and their configuration would be changed over the course of the next 3 years.
upper and promenade decks and causing such damage that John Williamson decided it better to sell her and build a replacement rather than effect repairs. Even before the fire, The Canadian Pacific Railway had been interested in the ship to operate their Vancouver - Nanaimo service. Now, re-named “Princess Patricia”, after the daughter of the Duke of Connaught who had just become GovernorGeneral of Canada, the fully reconditioned ship left The Clyde under her own steam on Wednesday, January 17, 1912. After what her Chief Engineer Walter Anderson called ‘an awful voyage’ round Cape Horn - The Panama Canal not then open - the ship arrived in Victoria on March 18, 1912 - forty-three days actual steaming from The Clyde. Walter Anderson stayed on with the ship and The C.P.R. Co. and he too oversaw the ship’s storm damage repaired and her conversion to burn oil before she began her new service from Vancouver to Nanaimo, a two-hour run, on Saturday, May 11, 1912. Her lack of space for automobile traffic led to her being replaced in 1928 by John Brown’s Clyde-built “Princess Elaine” and the “Pat”, as she had become known was relegated to excursion and relief work till 1932. In 1935, she became a floating boarding house during a waterfront strike in Vancouver and was finally scrapped at Victoria in 1937. Her ship’s bell was presented to the City of Nanaimo to mark her long association with the Vancouver ferry service.
Tea - served from 4.15 p.m. onwards - 2/- (reduced to 1/6d if only a single main dish selected) : White Fish, Cold Salmon, Cold Meats, Boiled Eggs, Toast, Preserves, Tea. Plain Tea - served from 4.15 p.m. onwards - 9d : Toast, Biscuits, Preserves, Tea. For those simply ‘peckish’ : a plate of soup with bread 6d; a plate of meat and potatoes, or salmon 1/-; tea, or coffee, with bread and butter, or a pastry 6d; pudding, or tart, or a compôte of fruit 6d; jellies, or creams 6d; biscuits and cheese 6d; sandwiches 4d; pastries, or biscuits 1d each.
Spirits - per glass : Brandy 8d; Whisky, Rum, Gin, Port, Sherry, Cordial (a range of these were available) and Lime Juice were all 4d; Special Whisky : 3d per ‘nip’ and Bottled Beers were all priced at 4d each as were aerated ‘waters’. Liqueurs were 6d per ‘nip’, the most poular of the period being Marachino, Benedictine and Green Chartreuse. A small selection of wines, reflecting the better sellers of the time, was also carried on board and sold by the bottle - and by the pint ! . Champagnes all at 10/6d per bottle, 5/6d per pint : Dry Monopole Heidsieck, G. H. Mumm’s, Perinet and Fils and Pommery. Port and Sherry being 5/- per bottle and 2/6d per pint. Hocks : Sparkling Moselle at 6/- per bottle, 3/6d per pint; Hockheimer at 5/- per bottle and 2/6d per pint. Clarets : Medoc at 2/6d per bottle, 1/6d per pint; St. Julien at 3/- per bottle and 1/9d per pint. For those who enjoy the challenge of ‘mental arithmetic’, these simple ‘rule of thumb’ conversions persuade that there has been little change to restaurant and bar prices in the course of a century though, if anything, one might say that one got better value for money in ‘the good old days’ ! Given £1.00 in the 1890’s/early 1900’s, one would now need £60.00 to have the same puchasing power. In ‘the good old days’, there were 240d, old pence, to the £. A shilling 1/- (12 old pence) was equal to our 5 p coin and for those who would convert to ‘euros’, the £ is currently equal to somewhere between about 1.45 and 1.63 euros ! 22
he typical 1890’s steamer bar prices were slightly more expensive than ‘shore prices’, not surprising in view of the fact that they had a ‘captive’ clientele !
Breakfast, Luncheon, Dinner & Tea
he typical selection of fare offered in the dining saloon of the 1890’s being
Breakfast 2/- (reduced to 1/6d if only a single main dish selected) : Ham and Egg, Salmon Steak, Chops, White Fish, Herring, Sausages, Cold Meats, Rolls, Toast, Preserves, Tea and Coffee. Luncheon - served from 10.30 a.m. till 2 p.m. - 2/- : Soup or Salmon, Roast Lamb, Roast Beef, Corned Beef, Boiled Ox-Tongue, Boiled Ham, Potatoes and Vegetables, Assorted Sweets, Salads and Cheeses. Dinner Table d’Hote - served from 2.30 p.m. till 4 p.m. - 2/6d : Soup, Poached Salmon, Roast Lamb with Mint Sauce, Roast Beef, Corned Beef and Vegetables, Pickled Ox-Tongue, Boiled Ham, Potatoes and Vegetables, Assorted Sweets, Salads and Cheeses.
Today, the 2/- cost of lunch would equate to about £6.00, a ‘nip’ of whisky or a ½ pint bottle of beer £1 - the prices for eating and drinking out do not appear to have much changed but then too the 5/- cost of a third class rail and cabin class steamer return ticket for a day cruise from Glasgow would now equate to about £15 and in fact, in 2002, a day trip from Glasgow on the “Waverley (IV)” costs about £25, up 60% ! High fares ‘drive away’ passengers.
before she was released, on Thursday, May 9, 1918, when under the command of her old skipper, Captain Angus Keith and west of Cherbourg, at 49° 49’ N, 01° 40’ W, she depth-charged, then rammed and sank the German Coastal Type UB III submarine “UB 78” at 0050 hours in the morning, none of the submarine’s 35 crew survived. Captain Keith received an O.B.E. and a Distinguished Service Cross as a reward for his initiative. Reconditioned after the war, she was placed on the Inveraray run until 1927 when she returned to the Campbeltown run. To conform with the other newer turbine steamers, her upper deck was enclosed to form an observation lounge in 1932 and then, on October 3, 1935, she was sold along with the 1926-built twin screw g e a r e d turbine steamer “King George V”, to David MacBrayne Limited. Now renamed the “Saint Columba” and with a third, dummy, funnel added, she replaced the grand old 1878-built paddle steamer “Columba”, on the Tarbert and Ardrishaig run from Glasgow, in May 1936 and, the following winter, was converted to oil-firing. Requisitioned at the start of World War II, she was used as an accommod- ation ship for Boom Defence personnel, lying in Greenock’s East India Harbour from 1939 till 1946. Reconditioned, she returned to the Ardrishaig run, now beginning her run at Gourock, in 1947. Apart from grounding in fog at Ettrick Bay, on the west side of Bute in August 1953, her final days were uneventful. In her final year, 1958, she was finally fitted with radar and then, on Tuesday, December 23, she made her final voyage, under tow, to Smith and Houston’s yard at Port Glasgow, there to be broken up, winched stern first on to the shore.
The “Queen Alexandra (II)” / “Saint Columba”
o replace the original fire-damaged ship of the same name, now sold to The Canadian Pacific Railway, Captain John Williamson wrote to Denny’s on October 7, 1911 and placed a £39,000 order for her successor, Yard No 970, the “Queen Alexandra (II)”. She was launched by fellow director Captain Leyland’s ward, Miss A.M. Chetwynd on Tuesday, April 9, 1912, exactly ten years to the day after the launch of the first ‘Queen’ and a week lees a day before the “Titanic” sank ! The “Queen Alexandra (II)” carried out her speed trials, reaching 21½ knots, on Saturday, May 18, 1912 and now, with a 50% improvement in her reversing power, attained an astern speed of 12½ knots too. In the first ‘Queen’, the astern turbines included six expansions, each of four rows of blades, now there were seven expansions, each with six rows of blades. In the new ship too, all three propellors were of the same 3’ 8” diameter, revolving at 800 r.p.m. and the new boilers worked too at a slightly higher pressure, now 155 lb per square inch. To improve matters further, she was equipped with a telemotor for operating the steam steering gear, the first in a Clyde steamer and, she had a bow rudder, another feature new to The Clyde. Under the command of Captain Angus Keith who had served in the old ‘Queen’, her first public sailing took place on The King’s Birthday Holiday, Thursday, May 23, 1912 when she ran outwards from Greenock and Gourock, via The Kyles of Bute, to Campbeltown, returning via the Garroch Head. The following Monday, June 3, 1912, the new “Queen Alexandra (II)” took up the the regular daily Campbeltown run from Greenock’s Prince’s Pier with calls at Wemyss Bay, Fairlie, Lochranza, Pirnmill and Machrie Bay. With World War I, she was requisitioned as a troop transport and was fully engaged in this work from February 7, 1915 until May 10, 1919. Just a year and a day 23
Clyde Cargo Steamers
uring July and August 1915, the Campbeltown steamers’ passenger servicewas operated from Ardrossan, a goods service being run three days a week from Glasgow. From Wednesday, September 1, 1915, Wemyss Bay became the terminus for passenger sailings until Tuesday, April 1, 1919, when services again were re-opened from Prince’s Pier and Gourock. On Thursday, July 1, 1915, the four main concerns operating the Clyde cargo services from Glasgow placed a joint advertisement about the new arrangements for their war-time services and, seven weeks later, on Thursday, August 1915, the four
companies - Hill & Company, The Minard Castle Shipping Company, David MacBrayne Ltd. and John Williamson - registered Clyde Cargo Steamers Ltd.. Hill & Company had been founded in 1876 and, with the opening of Fairlie Pier, on Saturday, July 1, 1882, had, until The Glasgow and South Western Railway began employing its own steamers on the run in 1892, provided passenger steamer services to Millport and Kilchattan Bay. Now, their ship, the “Bute 4” - one of the few ships, like Cunard’s “Queen Elizabeth 2”, ever to have an Arabic, rather than a Roman numeral, in her name - and their “Arran (II)” (ex-”Barmore” ) ran to Rothesay, Millport, Arran and Loch Fyne. “Arran (II)” was sold to Glasgow fish merchants in August 1917 and “Bute 4” was broken up at Ardrossan in 1935. The Minard Castle Shipping Company, successor to the old Lochfyne & Glasgow Steam Packet Company, with the “Minard Castle” continued as before from Glasgow to Skipness and the various Loch Fyne ports. During May and June 1921, because of a national coal strike, she was advertised to sail from Glasgow to Rothesay on alternate days, seemingly on behalf of Williamson-Buchanan Steamers whose own ships were laid off for the duration of the strike. Towards the end of 1926, she was broken up at Port Glasgow and replaced by the “Minard” which too was broken up there, in April 1955. Her sister, the “Ardyne”, arrived in 1928 and scrapped at Troon in July 1955. “Cowal (I)”, originally MacBrayne’s “Lapwing” had run aground at Oban in 1916 and then sold to Clyde Cargo Steamers. Soon requistioned by the government, she did not appear on Clyde services again until 1920 and only changed her name to “Cowal (I)” in 1926. She was broken up at Troon in 1932. The “Jane”, a converted trawler and the ex-Steel & Bennie lighter “Lintie” also ran for the company for a couple of years each in the mid 1920’s. “Arran (III)”, built in 1926 and just 100-feet long, replaced the “Jane” but her career was short and she was wrecked on Barmore Island, just north of Tarbert on New Year’s Eve 1932. MacBrayne’s paddle steamer “Chevalier”, disabled by the fracture of her starboard paddle-wheel in a gale on Friday, March 25, 1927, had also grounded on Barmore Island and then been scrapped at Troon after sixty-one years of service. Launched on Monday, July 31, 1933, the “Arran (IV)”, later re-named “Kildonan” to make make way for the names of the three Caledonian Steam Packet Company car-ferries “Arran (V)”, “Bute (VI)” and “Cowal (II)” which entered service over the course of 1954, the “Arran (IV)/ Kildonan” was withdrawn in July 1957 and scrapped at Port Glasgow the following year. 24
1935 Fleet Changes
he Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s 1895-built paddle-steamer “Duchess of Rothesay” had called at Campbeltown in her early years, in her 1896 timetable she ran through The Kyles of Bute and down Kilbrannan Sound, returning via the south end of Arran, every Friday till September 18 that year, the return fare for the saloon being 2/6d, the fore saloon fare just 1/6d. Her ‘quasi-sister’, the beautiful 1903 “Duchess of Fife” would later stand in on occasion for the new turbine steamer “Queen Alexandra (I)” and her successor. The “Duchess of Fife”, the L.N.E.R. 1931-built paddle steamer “Jeanie Deans (II)” and the 1930-built Canadian Pacific liner “Empress of Scotland”, originally launched as the “Empress of Japan”, were all designed by Fairfield’s Percy Hillhouse, son of a Caledonian Railway Company officer and later destined to become Professor of Naval Architecture at Glasgow University.
In 1919, the Buchanan and Williamson fleets and the associated Turbine Steamers Ltd. had all joined together. A generation earlier, Buchanan and Williamson had been jointly involved in the running of the 1852-built “Eagle” on the Glasgow to Rothesay run but had gone their separate ways in 1862. On October 3, 1935, the ‘L.M.S.’ railway, in association with David MacBrayne Ltd., took over the Buchanan-Williamson steamers. In April 1912, the month that the White Star liner “Titanic” was lost, Turbine Steamers Ltd., in association with MacBrayne’s, purchased the two remaining steamers of The Lochgoil and Inveraray Steamboat Company, the “Edinburgh Castle” and the “Lord of The Isles (II)” registering them in Turbine Steamers Ltd.’s name but having the catering on the latter contracted out to MacBrayne’s who had acquired shares at that time in Turbine Steamers Ltd.. Now, at the end of 1935, the ‘L.M.S.’ railway took over the three paddle steamers, the 1897-built “Kylemore”, the 1910-built “Eagle III”, the 1912-built “Queen Empress” and two of the turbine steamers, the 1901-built “King Edward” and the new 1933-built “Queen Mary II”, the ships being passed into The Caledonian Steam Packet Company fleet and then into a new railway company, WilliamsonBuchanan Steamers (1936) Ltd., which company was eventually wound up in 1943 and the steamers transferred back to the ‘C.S.P.’. MacBraynes took over the 1926-built “King George V” and the 1912-built “Queen Alexandra (II)” which, with a third ‘dummy’ funnel added, they would rename
“Saint Columba” and, although MacBrayne’s took over the ownership of Turbine Steamers Ltd., the goodwill of the Campbeltown and Inveraray trade was vested in The Caledonian Steam Packet Company whose 1932 Harland & Wolff - built turbine steamer “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” had been running recent day excursions from Ayr to Campbeltown, her older, 1930 Denny-built sister, the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” being based at Gourock. The “King George V” and the “Queen Alexandra (II)” now away from their respective daily runs to Campbeltown and Inveraray, The Caledonian Steam Packet Company brought in their 1906-built “Duchess of Argyll” to cover both runs. The Inveraray and Loch Eck Tour connection being operated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with an additional Thursday service being handled by the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” and the Campbeltown run being operated on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and, in ‘high season’, on Sundays. In addition, the 1925-built turbine, the “Glen Sannox (II)”, a near-identical sister of the “Duchess of Argyll”, was transferred from the railway company to the ‘C.S.P.’ in order that she too could work without restriction to Campbeltown and she was put on an additional daily ‘express’ run from Ardrossan to Brodick, Lamlash, Whiting Bay and Campbeltown, the Ardrossan to Arran service now given to the 1936-built, twin screw geared turbine steamer “Marchioness of Graham”. The 1939 Sunday timetable for the “Duchess of Argyll”, from June 4 to September 17, supplies the following departure (arrival) times. Leaving from Gourock at 9.30 a.m. (8.20 p.m.), Dunoon 9.50 a.m. (8 p.m.), Rothesay 10.30 a.m. (7 p.m.), Largs 11 a.m. (6.30 p.m.), Fairlie Pier 11.20 a.m. (6.15 p.m.) and Millport (Keppel Pier) 11.30 a.m. (6 p.m.) via Kilbrannan Sound in one direction, via Pladda and the east coast of Arran in the other, to arrive in Campbeltown at 2 p.m. and depart at 3.50 p.m.. The fares were 6/3d return in saloon class, 4/3d in 3rd class and return motor coach tickets to Machrihanish were charged extra at 1/- or to Southend at 2/-.
distinguished from the 1901-built “King Edward”. As on the paddle steamers, her engine control platform was at main deck level for all to see, the control platform on the older and first commercial turbine, the “King Edward”, being hidden away, amongst a mze of steam-pipes on the lower deck. In a rough sea and a stiff breeze, on Friday, May 4, 1906, she achieved a mean speed of 20.9 knots over the Skelmorlie Measured Mile. Four days later, in calmer conditions and ‘running the lights’ between the Cloch and Cumbrae, she achieved a mean speed of 21.11 knots, her fastest run that day being at 21.65 knot After only three years in service, the “Duchess of Argyll” was laid up in 1909 as part of a ‘pooling arrangement’ reached by the railway companies over their Ardrossan to Arran services. It was therefore something of a happy coincidence that, in the spring of 1910, The Larne & Stranraer Steamship Joint Committee and The Caledonian Steam Packet Company reached an agreement whereby the “Duchess of Argyll” would be available for the Stranraer to Larne service if needed between April 1 and October 15, 1910, the necessary alterations to the ship, mainly the plating up of the open forward main deck area, which accommodated the steam mooring capstan and the foward saloon’s square windows being replaced with portholes, costing £425, being paid, along with a retainer of £100, by the L. & S.S.J.C.’. The charter rate for the ship was fixed at £50 per day. The “Duchess of Argyll” had in fact been named after Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise who had given her own name to the first ‘L. & S.S.J.C.’ ship, the paddle steamer “Princess Louise” whose delivery had been expected early in 1872 but, on Tuesday, June 25, with workmen still on board putting the final touches to her very ornate decoration, which included stained glass representations of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lorne, she was ordered to leave Glasgow, adjust her compasses in The Gareloch, drop the workmen at Wemyss Bay and proceed at best speed to Stranraer. Princess Louise took on the title of Marchioness of Lorne when she married the 8th Marquis of Lorne in 1871, he acceded to The Dukedom of Argyll in 1900. Five years after his accession, The Marquis and Marchioness of Bute were married at Castle Bellingham on Wednesday, July 5, 1905 and the wedding party then conveyed out to the Stranraer - Larne steamer “Princess Maud”, anchored some two miles out in Dundalk Bay, County Louth, for the journey across to Stranraer.
The “Duchesses” of Argyll
he 250-foot long “Duchess of Argyll”, Denny Yard No 770, was originally intended to have been called the “Marchioness of Graham”, in honour of Lady Mary Hamilton, the daughter and heiress to the Arran estates of the 12th Duke of Hamilton, whose wedding to the Marquis of Graham was due to take place in the early summer of 1906 but, the wedding date, over a month later than the new ship’s launch date, the choice of name was considered injudicious and thus the “Duchess of Argyll”, her lifeboats placed on the after deck and easily
The Caledonian Steam Packet Company had two paddle steamers named the “Marchioness of Lorne (I)”, the first being built in 1891 and the second, built by Fairfield’s yard, in 1935. There was a shipyard strike on the go at the time and, as the companies were desperate to get the new ship in service, the finshing of the ship was left to Fairfield’s apprentices who were excluded from the strike. Known later to only a handful of people was the fact that, in her lower saloon, the mischievous apprentices fitted a most wonderfully crafted piece of marquetry, an inlaid wooden panel showing a full frontal 1930’s style ‘Page 3’ girl ! Sadly, though all the apprentices received handsome bonuses for finishing the ship quickly, the companies’ directors, rather than remove the ‘young lady’, simply had a slightly larger and plain wood panel ‘screwed’, if that is the appropriate word, on top of the apprentices’ work ! The ship was sold to The British Iron and Steel Corporation (Salvage) Ltd. on February 17, 1955 and towed to Smith & Houston’s Port Glasgow yard for breaking up. Perhaps even today, the ‘young lady’ may still be in residence in some Port Glasgow residence, sneaked up a close to give pleasure to secret admirers ! Back now to ‘Argyll’, the “Duchess of Argyll”. As events turned out, it was to be June 1911 before she was needed for the Stranraer to Larne service. On Saturday, June 10, with a certificate reduced now to 592 passengers on the channel crossing, she left Stranraer at 3 p.m. with 165 passengers on an advertised three-hour public excursion round Ailsa Craig. She then took the regular 7.33 p.m. sailing to Larne and, after the Sunday off, picked up the daylight sailings for the whole of the following week, finishing on the Saturday evening. In 1922, she was fitted with radio telegraphy equipment and again retained for the Stranraer - Larne route but never needed. Between February 11, 1915 and April 27, 1919, serving as a transport, she made 655 trips covering 71,624 nautical miles and managed to tow the Clyde paddlesteamer “Queen Empress” back to Boulogne after a collision with an escorting destroyer. During WWII, she was mainly employed on the Gourock to Dunoon service, tendering occasionally to troopships at Greenock’s ‘Tail of The Bank’. In 1952, withdrawn from Clyde services, she was sold for use at The Admiralty’s Underwater Detection Establishment at Portland where she served as a ‘funnel-less’ floating laboratory until Easter 1969 and then, in January 1970, towed to 26
Newhaven, the last resting place of the old Campbeltown company’s “Davaar”, for breaking up.
The “Duchess of Montrose” and The “Hamilton”
hough sometimes difficult to tell apart, the 1930 Denny-built “Duchess of Montrose (II)” only three small rectangular windows forward of the opening ‘stable-type’ landing ferry door on the main deck, the 1932 Harland & Wolffbuilt “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” had four and, being fitted with a bow rudder for ease of handling in the confined spaces of Ayr harbour, the latter was fitted with a cross-tree on her main, after-mast to carry the required signals when going astern and using her bow rudder.
The “Duchess of Montrose (II)”, certificated to carry 400 military personnel and 250 civilian passengers, had been sent to cover the Stranraer to Larne run at the end of September 1939 but, within the month, the Sea Transport Officer had her sent back to Gourock being persuaded that her ‘sister’, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)”, fitted with a bow-rudder might be better suited to the harbours, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)”, now arriving at the end of October, would, in addition to carrying troops, cover the mail service for the “Princees Margaret”, temporarily out of service with engine problems, between December 11 and 13, 1939. The “Duchess of Hamilton” was overhauled at her builder’s yard, Harland & Wolff of Belfast in February 1940, just as well for in April 1940, the 53rd Welsh Division was moved from South Wales via Stranraer to Northern Ireland, a move involving some 11,000 troops and their baggage and a precaution against a possible German invasion of neutral Eire. From the middle of the summer of 1940, continual troop movements after the evacuation of Dunkirk and many personnel going home on leave, led to both the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” and the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” working the Stranraer crossing during June and July 1940. They were both relieved by the Denny-built Thames excursion motor-ship “Royal Daffodil”, the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” returning to the Wemyss Bay Rothesay run at the end of July and the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” returning to Gourock in October 1940 being recalled to Stranraer as needed. In early December 1945, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” again returned to Loch Ryan and, on the evening of Boxing Day, Wednesday, December 26, 1945, while
crossing from Larne with some 300 military personnel on board, she ran at full speed into an almost perpendicular cliff just south of Corsewall Point, at the entrance to Loch Ryan. It was first thought that they had hit a mine and the ship’s distress signals brought out the Portpatrick lifeboat. In the event, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” had only a badly buckled bow and was able to free herself under her own power and proceed to Stranraer where she lay until the Saturday when, in the afternoon, she made her own way up-river for repairs, a new bow at Henderson’s yard in Glasgow. She then returned to the Stranraer station and remained there until Thursday, March 28, 1946 when she returned to Gourock to give assist on the day’s services and then went for re-conditioning at D. & W. Henderson’s yard and return to peace-time sailings. The “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” made a return visit to Stranraer on Saturday, September 6, 1969, a charter from Ayr which too gave Stranraer passengers, as in pre-war days, the chance of an afternoon cruise round Ailsa Craig. Apart from occasional pre-war 1930’s visits to Campbeltown, it was not until 1946 that the sister turbines would begin to appear there regularly, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” carrying out the run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and alternate Sundays and Mondays, thus giving each turbine a day off for maintenance once a fortnight and the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” covering the other sailings each week until the end of August each year when she went into harbour for her winter lay-up. On Wednesdays, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” cruised via The Kyles of Bute to Brodick and Pladda, going direct to Largs from Brodick on the return run and, on Fridays, to Ayr with a short cruise round Holy Isle. The “Duchess of Montrose (II)” carried out the Inveraray service on Tuesdays and Thursdays - on one occasion being relieved by the diesel-electric paddler “Talisman” which was actually observed arriving at Wemyss Bay exactly on the turbine steamer’s advertised return time ! On Saturdays, the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” duplicated the morning Gourock - Dunoon - Wemyss Bay - Rothesay peak ferry sailings and, returning to Gourock, then, via Dunoon, Largs and Millport (Keppel Pier), cruised round Ailsa Craig and on Sunday afternoons, the turbines alternating rosters, one or other would cruise to Lochranza Bay and Catacol or go round Holy Isle.
The “Duchess of Montrose (II)” was withdrawn at the end of the 1964 season and left Greenock under tow on Thursday, August 19, 1965, to be broken up in Belgium. Now alone, her roster having her cover Inveraray on Tuesdays and Ayr on Fridays, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” would carry on with the Campbeltown service till the end of the 1970 season when, ‘for economic reasons’, she was laid up and then sold in the following year to be converted into a floating restaurant in Glasgow. The plans fell through and she was towed to Troon in April 1974 for breaking-up. Of seemingly heavier construction, the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” was undoubtedly the better sea-boat of the pair and, in the last week of her Clyde service proved, at least on that occasion to be faster than her near sister. By correspondence, it would have been Friday, August 28, 1964, the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” as usual going to Ayr and scheduled out of Rothesay at 10.15 a.m. to arrive in Largs at 10.45 a.m., five minutes ahead of the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” on the Campbeltown run but, the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” won the race to Largs that day for unknown to Herbert Waugh, the Chief Engineer on the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)”, his opposite number on the “Duchess of Montrose (II)”, Ned Higgins, had replaced his 1-inch ‘economy’ burners with 1½-inch oil burners that day and, as the two ships swept out of Rothesay Bay towards Largs, the “Duchess of Montrose (II)” quickly out-paced her rival and arrived in Largs at 10.45 a.m. causing the passenger queues on the pier to be re-assembled to board their respective cruise ships !
ollowing World War II, the Ayr-based steamers, first the twin-screw turbine “Marchioness of Graham”, between 1947 - 1953 and then the paddlesteamer “Caledonia”, between 1954 - 1964 inclusively, carried out a weekly excursion to Campbeltown via the Arran piers, including making a call at Whiting Bay, it to close after the 1962 season. From 1957 onwards, day trippers could take the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” or the “Duchess of Montrose (II)”, via Lochranza, to Campbeltown, return with the Ayr-based steamer to Whiting Bay and Arran and then return on the new 1957-buit car ferry “Glen Sannox (III)” from Brodick to Fairlie.
“Queen Mary” Again !
Glasgow’s Stobcross Quay at 7.11 a.m.. To complement “Waverley (IV)” and generate more funds for her upkeep, another consortium refurbished the former Portsmouth - Ryde passenger ferry “Shanklin” and, renamed “Prince Ivanhoe”, she took up her integrated excursion programme of sailings, including Campbeltown, in 1981. Sadly, she struck a ‘submerged reef’, some maintain ‘a submarine’, off The Gower Coast on Monday, August 3, 1981 and, safely beached to evacuate her passengers and crew, she was subsequently broken up where she lay. In 1986, “Waverley (IV)” was joined by the twin-screw 1949-built “Balmoral”, both ships now continuing to provide a wide programme of excursion sailings around Britain. In 1993, the “Balmoral” initiated what was to become an almost annual day trip from Campbeltown to Red Bay and Rathlin Island, the 2002 trip, on Saturday, June 22, was given by “Waverley (IV)” and, breaking new ground, began from Ayr, leaving only time for the steamer to cruise to Fair Head instead of Rathlin itself.
ith the coming of the 1970’s and the demise of the “Duchess of Hamilton (II)” so too came the end of Campbeltown’s regular summer steamer services. The 1933-built turbine “Queen Mary II” took up the excursion programme for the 1971 season and continued running, albeit something of an impoverished schedule till the end of the 1977 season. She had reverted to her original name “Queen Mary” at a ceremony on Thursday, May 6, 1976, the 1934built Cunard liner of the same name now removed from the shipping registers and berthed at Long Beach as a static hotel and conference centre. The “Queen Mary” was laid up in Greenock’s East India Harbour and then sold to Euroyachts Ltd. for conversion to a floating restaurant, her three valuable propellors, simply, burnt off, rather than being uncoupled from her tailshafts, in Lamont’s dry-dock. Though she had been towed from the Clyde to Chatham on January 29, 1981, it was only in July 1988 that, now again with two funnels, she was then towed upriver to be moored near London’s Hungerford Bridge, not far from the old “Maid of Ashton”, in use as a floating restaurant-bar and renamed Hispaniola (II)”.
The Hovercraft and The Catamaran
n the middle of the 1966 seamen’s strike one of Peter Kaye’s Clyde Hover Ferries’ two Westland SRN 6 hovercraft, which had been trying to establish a new service on the Clyde since the previous year, was soon running emergency supplies to the islands, the hovercraft took just 45-minutes to do the single West Loch to Islay crossing.
The “Queen Mary” now occupies the moorings first used by the Clyde paddle steamer “Caledonia”, irreparably damaged by fire in on April 27, 1980, it being then the intention to replace her with the “King George V” but she too had been consumed by fire during conversion work at Cardiff on August 26, 1981.
Keeping Up Steam
ithdrawn from service at the end of the 1973 season, the 1947-built paddle-steamer “Waverley (IV)” was handed over to The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in 1974 and, after an inaugural cruise on the Thursday, gave her first public sailing on Saturday, May 24, 1975, an excursion from Glasgow’s Anderston Quay to Gourock, Dunoon, Tarbert and Ardrishaig, the old ‘Royal Route’ of MacBrayne’s mail steamer service. Three years later, on Saturday, June 24, 1978, she repeated the excursion as a centennial tribute to MacBrayne’s famous paddle-steamer “Columba” leaving 28
Clyde Hover Ferries, a subsidiary of Peter Kaye’s Highland Engineering Ltd. which then owned Dickie’s Boatyard in Tarbert, was formed in 1964 “to operate The World’s first year-round scheduled hovercraft service” and, on December 5, 1964, the company announced that negotiations had been begun about suitable ‘landing’ sites around the Clyde. In those days, The Department of Transport, unsure as to whether hovercraft were ships or aircraft, demanded dual marine and air pilot qualifications for all hovercraft officers. On January 6, 1965, Peter Kaye announced that a Westland SRN 5, able to carry up to 20 passengers or two tons of freight, had been purchased and would commence service from Tarbert, Loch Fyne, on June 1, 1965. A further story, on
February 9, 1965, suggested that the new service might be extended to the outskirts of the new Abbotsinch Airport but speed was against it, fears being raised that the Black Cart being too narrow and the banks liable to damage from the hovercrafts’ wash. In the event, the company secured a five-year lease on two Westland SRN 6 hovercraft, these capabable of carrying up to 38 passengers, or three tons of freight, at speeds of up to 50-knots. The two hovercraft, each built up of three sections sent from the manufacturers in The Isle of Wight, were assembled at Clydebank and SR.N6 010 gave a demonstration run to Finnart, Loch Long, on Friday, June 18, 1965. Eight days later, on Saturday, June 26, she spent the day giving ‘round-the-bay’ trips at Largs and the following Saturday began a ferry service between Largs and Millport, with morning and evening ‘positioning’ runs from her base at Tarbert - Rothesay calls were also added later in the month and by then the sister craft, SR.N6 012, had arrived and, at the beginning of August, a daily service was initiated from Tarbert, at 7 a.m., to Tighnabruiach, Rothesay, Wemyss Bay, Dunoon, Gourock and Craigendoran. The new service was 'launched' by TV series Opportunity Knocks stars Hughie Green and 'Monica', Hughie, a keen motor-yachtsman, later to moor his boat permanently on the Clyde, one of the first to use The Kip Marina, the then mooring charges, to his mind, cheaper than those on England's South Coast and the cruising opportunities of The West Highlands easily outstripping those around the crowed waters of The Solent and The English Channel. Seven ‘commanders’ and six hostesses were employed to crew the two hovercraft, each craft having a ‘commander’ and a hostess - some 200 girls applied for the hostesses’ jobs. Only three backup people were employed at the Tarbert yard and each night the hovercraft were hauled up on hand pulled chain hoists so that their undersides and ‘skirts’ could be closely inspected. On September 9, 1965, barely a month after the service began, SR.N6 012 collided with Gourock Pier and maintenance was transferred to Greenock, the daily Tarbert runs being dropped except for final inward runs on Saturdays and starting runs on Mondays. In September 1965 too, Largs Town Council disputed Clyde Hover Ferries’ payments of landing fees, five shillings per trip, to British Railways who had leased Largs’ beaches from The Crown Estates and banned the hovercraft trips on grounds of residents’ complaints about noise from the hovercrafts’ engines. More mechanical troubles were to follow and the services, estimated to be losing around 29
£1,000 per week, were suspended in January 1966 neither the Craigendoran or Rothesay to Wemyss Bay rail connection services ever winning much support. In 1966, SR.N6 012 visited Belfast and then went south to Cowes, by rail ! Her sister, SR.N6 010, now tried using Fairlie Pier as a terminal but by July was running short non-landing pleasure trips from Rothesay to Inverchaolain Bay at the mouth of Loch Striven, the last of these being made on Monday, September 26, 1966 and then, on October 4, this last “Scooshin’ Cushion” left the Clyde under her own power for Cowes. Just a year after Westland’s first expermental craft, SRN 1, had crossed The English Channel with inventor Christopher Cockerell on July 25, 1959, Denny’s of Dumbarton had formed a subsidiary, Denny Hovercraft Ltd., to build a nonamphibious ‘sidewall’ (catamaran-type) hovercraft design and D2, a ‘hoverbus’ capable of carring up to 70 passengers, was launched on July 18, 1962. Leaving the Clyde on May 29, she arrived in The Thames, 820 miles away, on June 17, 1962. Shortly afterwards, in September 1963, Denny’s went into voluntary liquidation but Denny Hovercraft Ltd. was retained as an asset by the liquidator and while work on a second ‘hoverbus’, D3, was completed, that on the third, D4, was suspended and attention focused on improving the design, this included towing the ‘hoverbus’ at speeds of up to 35-knots astern of a Royal Navy gas-turbine patrol boat on the Skelmorlie Measured Mile. Despite carrying many thousands of passengers on The Thames and Denny’s liquidators doing their best to improve the prototype D2, she failed a series of evaluation tests with the Interservices Hovercraft Trials Unit and was laid up in 1964, the only way ahead now was for Denny’s liquidators to try operating a ‘hoverbus’ for themselves and hope to persuade an operator to purchase either or, hopefully, both the two craft now renumbered as D2-003 and D2-004 and in 1968 they formed Norwest Hovercraft Ltd. for that very purpose. After being overhauled at Poole, D2-003, under the command of Sir John Onslow, Bart., made the longest ever non-stop voyage for a ‘sidewall’ hovercraft, leaving Poole on July 4, 1968 and arriving at Fleetwood the following day. Though the intention had been to operate a service between Fleetwood to Barrow-in-Furness, pulling visitors from Blackpool to The Lake District and vice versa, a theoretically lucrative proposition to this day, the only return trips were on Monday, August 19, 1968, it being suddenly considered more profitable to run 30-minute ‘cruises’ out of Fleetwood alone.
Though D2-003 would also follow to Fleetwood in 1969, and a trans-Mersey service also considered, Norwest Hovercraft Ltd. was put into liquidation in 1970 and D2-002 shipped to Jamaica to open a new route between Kingston and Palisadoes International Airport for Jamaica Hovercraft Ltd.. Too in 1970, MacBrayne’s former Islay ferry, “Lochiel (IV)”, as “Norwest Laird”, began her new but short-lived services from Fleetwood to Barrow-in-Furness and Fleetwood to Douglas, Isle of Man, she too was laid up at the end of 1970. On Saturday, June 6, 1970, The Caledonian Steam Packet Company, with a 62passenger Hovermarine ‘sidewall’ hovercraft, HM2 011, made an inaugural trip from Gourock to Largs and a week later, after a series of trials, began operating from Largs to Millport, calls at Rothesay and Dunoon being later added to her roster. At the end of the 1971 season, unsuited to Clyde waters, she was ‘reacquired’ by her builders American parent company and, rebuilt, was later employed in America, then Canada, now renumbered HM2 311. Though the weather conditions in The Clyde and West Highlands are not conducive to high-speed hovercraft and hydrofoil operations, Western Ferries announced that they were to charter an 89-foot, 160-passenger, 27-knot Westermoen catamaran, which they named “Highland Seabird” for service in The Clyde during the 1976 season. In October 1976, chartered by The Highlands and Islands Development Board, she set out from Greenock for Portree via Brodick, Campbeltown, Port Askaig, Colonsay, Oban, Fort William, Tobermory, and Tarbert, Harris. Given the opportunity to keep her on charter for the following season, Western Ferries, after discussions with the H.I.D.B., based her at Oban and reintroduced the Fort William, Tobermory, Iona and Crinan cruises, last performed by MacBrayne’s turbine steamer “King George V” in 1974 and, following a successful season, Western Ferries purchased the “Highland Seabird” from her Norwegian ownerbuilders in October 1977 and chartered her, till the following May, to Howard Doris Ltd. at the Loch Kishorn oil platform construction yard. In May 1978, again based at Oban, Western Ferries added a new excursion to Portrush and Moville in the Irish republic, on Saturdays and Sundays. On Monday, September 18, 1978, at the end of her season, the “Highland Seabird” gave Campbeltonians a special day excursion to Ayr. In 1979, the Irish day excursion to Portrush and Moville was cut to Sundays only and then dropped completely the following year, the spring of 1981 saw the “Highland Seabird” on charter to Sealink for the Portsmouth to Ryde passenger ferry service and then she was laid up on the slip at Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow. 30
In July 1981, The Secretary of State for Scotland proposed that the subsidy for CalMac’s Gourock - Dunoon service be withdrawn and Western Ferries be given a capital grant so that they could buy another car-ferry to cope with the extra vehicle traffic, a subsidy too would be offered to the company to operate a Gourock Dunoon passenger service with the “Highland Seabird”, now lying idle at Old Kilpatrick. A public enquiry ensued and the proposals rejected, serious hardship, inconvenience and difficulty being expected if the Dunoon passengers had to rely on the “Highland Seabird”, it being acknowledged that, the weather conditions, particularly in winter, would quickly lead to the suspension of the service if it were left to a 90-foot catamaran which was never designed to cope with the big seas which all too often threatened even ordinary car-ferry services and the “Highland Seabird” was now put up for sale. In October 2002, CalMac’s Gourock - Dunoon service was again under threat, the second ‘spare’ car-ferry now focusing on the Rothesay - Wemyss Bay service. To cope with the two morning and one evening traffic peaks, CalMac made the mistake of chartering the 250-passenger, but 19.5 metre-long catamaran, “Ali Cat” from The Solent-based Red Funnel Group and after only one trip to Dunoon she was forced to tie till the weather abated. Interestingly, registered in Campbeltown, the “Highland Seabird” was sold to French owners in March 1985, the new owners taking her to St. Nazaire where, in March 1942, H.M.S. “Campbeltown”, formerly the U.S.S. “Buchanan”, had famously and successfully been used to ram and blow up the big gates into the dock during World War II. And finally . . . . .
“Calvin B. Marshall”
alvin B. Marshall was of course the somewhat brash, impetuous and quite luckless American tycoon whose material sacrifice was rewarded when his name was bestowed on one of Scotland’s well-remembered and famous but fictional ships, a puffer, the “Maggie”.
The whimsical story was written by William Rose, he too wrote the script for “Genevieve”. The music for “The Maggie” was written by John Addison who
composed the music for the “Murder She Wrote” television series, the concertina played by Willie Smith, well known for his playing skills in the Clyde Steamer bands. The 1953 Ealing comedy film “The Maggie” is a wicked little satire on the mutual contempt that even today underlies Euro-American relations and in many ways the seemingly leisurely, gentle-humoured and happily-concluded tale is indeed somewhat cruel rather than quaint. Enter Calvin B. Marshall (Paul Douglas) as the American airways tycoon who’s building a new house on a Hebridean island and needs some building supplies delivered fast so that the job can be finished in time for his anniversary. Enter Captain MacTaggart (played by former Kirkintilloch school-master Alex Mackenzie) and the crew of the “Maggie”, her part played by John Hay & Sons’ puffers “Boer” and “Inca”, both broken up in 1965. Enter a low tide in Glasgow and a case of mistaken identity and then, even before the chase begins, the headlines - ‘Puffer on Subway’ ! Though in the film, the ‘puffer’ was in fact a beautifuuly detailed full-size mock- up, the incident was based on real fact for Warnock’s puffer “Faithful” had indeed once grounded at low tide on top of the Glasgow subway tunnel, near the suspension bridge. When the chase begins, it is by air and a de Havilland Rapide bi-plane and to Kintyre. Then up ‘the West Road’ of Kintyre to the Crinan Canal where poor Mr Pussey (Hubert Gregg), Marshall’s ‘side-kick’, gets arrested for poaching and pushing the local Laird into the canal ! And then of course there is the ceilidh, the 100th birthday party for the old, now toothless mate of the “Maggie”. Outside the party, Mr Marshall - his name from the well-know Greenock puffer owners, Ross & Marshall - he gains something of an insight into decision making when in conversation with a girl who is being wooed by the local shop-keeper and a fisherman, ‘I’ll marry the fisherman because, even if we’re poor, we’ll be together and he won’t be away with his mind away on other things like the shop-keeper building up his business(es)’ ! It is little surprising that this film has stood the test of time for it was made by Alexander Mackendrick who was undoubtedly one of The World’s most talented film directors, he too being responsible for making “Whisky Galore !“ “The Man in The White Suit” and “The Ladykillers” in the Ealing Studios. Mackendrick, an American-Scot, was born in September 1912 and was the son of Scottish parents who had eloped to Boston. At the age of six, his father had died of flu and he was brought home by his grand-parents and raised in Glasgow, where he 31
went on to attend Glasgow’s School of Art. He made short advertising films for Ovaltine and then had joined The Ministry of Information where he made a short film on ‘V.D.’ which earned him promotion to the Psychological Warfare Branch and then, at the end of WWII, he oversaw the re-launching of the Italian film industry before returning to London and then Ealing Studios. Shortly after making “The Ladykillers”, Mackendrick went to America where he directed the film noir classic “Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and then, after directing several films unsuited to his talents, he retreated to teach his film skills to other rising stars in California where he died, aged 81, in 1993.
The “Pibroch” and An “Eagle”
he development of the puffer, from canal barge with with coal-fired boiler, simple ‘condenser-less’ single or twin-cylinder steam engine, the steam ‘puffing’ and exhausting to the atmosphere - hence the ‘puffer’, came to an end in 1957 when Scott’s of Bowling built Scottish Malt Distillers’ 151-ton, 84-foot long, beautiful ‘White Horse’ diesel puffer “Pibroch (II)”. In 1989, she left Scottish waters for a new career on the west coast of Ireland trading around Galway and Connemara and supplying the islands such as Inishturk and Inishbofin until the spring of 2002 when, replaced by the 1970-built, 181-ton, “Lodella”, a former Thames coasting barge previously certificated to trade between the Humber - Shoreham and Harlingen-Dieppe limits. “Pibroch (II)” is now laid up rusting picturesquely alongside the little stone quay at Letterfrack in County Galway. Considering her size, her scrap value is small and her remote location suggests that few shipbreakers might find it profitable to tow her great distance for dismantling, the cost of any tow swallowing up any small profit that might be made from her steel. The “Eagle”, a ‘standard’ 66-foot long Forth & Clyde Canal-length puffer, was built of iron at Leith in 1881 for a Mr Campbell Muir of Innistryinch. She went by sea to Bonawe, on Loch Etive, then by road through The Pass of Brander to Loch Awe where she passed through a variety of owners until sold finally to a Mr Sheriffs in 1929. Withdrawn from service in 1935, she was sold for scrapping and moored inshore just a short distance to the west of Lochawe ‘Railway’ Pier. In the early part of the following year, her hatch covers unsecured, she sank during a fierce gale, her mast remaining visible to mark her last resting-place until at least the early 1960’s.
Inevitably with the passage of the decades, she will have settled herself quite securely, seemingly in a fairly upright position, into the bottom silt of the loch but, although perhaps somewhat reluctant to leave her muddy cradle, it is quite within the capability of modern air-bag technology to lift her to the surface. Her hull is iron and, as has been found from the experience of those raising veteran steamboats now on show and in operation on Lake Windermere, the “Eagle”, raised and re-fitted, would draw interest from far and wide, not least in view of her proximity to Para Handy’s creator’s birth – place.
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