Roy Paterson’s Zoom presentation on Wednesday 8 September was attended by 90 CRSC members and friends, including a good number from south of the border and across the Atlantic. Aberdeen-based member Donald Thomas gives his impressions below, and paid-up members can watch the meeting video here, showing all 150 images.
After Donald’s report, you will find Graham Lappin’s insights into the word ‘Frith’, which cropped up in a post-presentation discussion about Ivanhoe’s original owner, the Frith of Clyde Steam Packet Company.
Roy’s ‘dip’ into the Club’s digital archive lasted 46 minutes, an ideal time-span for the Zoom format, but this meant he could only include edited highlights.
I was particularly taken by the quality of the digitised images of vessels, some from the distant past, including many that are just names to me. Roy showed images before and after restoration, demonstrating the clarity that digitisation can produce, preserving a record of our heritage for years to come.
One memorable image showed the three ABC car ferries tied up at Gourock during the Seamen’s Strike of 1966. These were some of the only vessels shown on which I have travelled.
A view of PS Marchioness of Breadalbane at Gourock around 1900 not only showed the impressive vessel but also the magnificent station buildings. Roy traced her history from construction in 1890 to scrapping in 1937, through minesweeper wartime service and finally as an excursion steamer from Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.
His detailed research brought this and other vessels to life, reminding us that the lifespan of many of these steamers exceeded that of the current CalMac fleet. An intriguing side-track discussed the spelling of the current Argyle rather than ‘Argyll’, comparing ships with one or other spelling of the name over the past 150 years.
A variety of images of the pioneering turbine steamer King Edward traced her hardworking life from 1901 to 1951. Roy speculated on the fate of her turbine engines.
There were some rare colour shots from the 1930s. Some of the best views featured Duchess of Montrose, Duchess of Hamilton, Caledonia, Juno, Jupiter, and Talisman at a variety of locations around the Clyde, including many overlooking Rothesay Pier. Roy documented various stages in their careers.
He concluded an excellent presentation with a group of photos without narration. Throughout, there were images showing crowded decks, something that we miss today.
This taster of what the CRSC Digital Archive holds whets our appetite for more to come.
The full video of Roy’s talk, featuring all 150 photos, is now available for viewing by paid-up CRSC members here. If you are experiencing password difficulties when trying to access ‘Members Only’ posts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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During the post-presentation discussion, some members speculated on the derivation of the word ‘Frith’, as in Frith of Clyde Steam Packet Company, which operated the teetotal boat Ivanhoe from 1880 to 1896.
Graham Lappin, who attended the meeting (and who operates the west coast historical website Dalmadan), has since provided the following insights, for which we are most grateful.
Frith is an archaic form of firth, meaning an arm of the sea or fjord. It became popular in the 1830s and was used by the English poet William Wordsworth in the title of his poem “On the Frith of Clyde — In a Steamboat” (see text below).
There is an old English word frith meaning peace, and this double meaning may have appealed to him.
The term was used by Hugh Macdonald in Days at the Coast in 1857 that has as its sub-title “A series of sketches descriptive of the Frith of Clyde — its watering places, its scenery, and its associations”, that I am sure more than anything popularised the term. Editions were published into the 1880s when Ivanhoe came into being.
On the Frith of Clyde — In a Steamboat
by William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
Arran! a single-crested Teneriffe,
A St Helena next,—in shape and hue
Varying her crowded peaks and ridges blue;
Who but must covet a cloud-seat, or skiff
Built for the air, or wingéd Hippogriff,
That he might fly, where no one could pursue,
From this dull monster and her sooty crew;
And, as a god, light on thy topmost cliff?
Impotent wish! which reason would despise
If the mind knew no union of extremes,
No natural bond between the boldest schemes
Ambition frames and heart-humilities.
Beneath stern mountains many a soft vale lies,
And lofty springs give birth to lowly streams.
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Published on 11 September 2021