A Lady in Grey

In the beginning: when Isle of Arran was launched at Port Glasgow on 2 December 1983, she had a grey hull, but by the time she entered service on the Ardrossan-Brodick run on 13 April 1984, her hull had reverted to the traditional black

Club member Greg Beecroft has used the lockdown to do some digging into his slide collection….

The photograph above, rediscovered while spending lockdown scanning slides, shows Isle of Arran in James Watt Dock, Greenock, on 3 March 1984. She had been launched three months earlier and was to enter service in April. Unusually, her hull was painted grey, but it was very soon to be changed to the standard black.

Grey suited Isle of Arran well and made her look almost yacht-like.  It was particularly appropriate for the Arran service, because the steamers of the Glasgow & South Western Railway had grey hulls. If Isle of Arran had plied the Mediterranean all would have been well, but in typical Scottish weather a light grey hull would have made her all but invisible.  

The rarity of a Caledonian MacBrayne vessel in anything other than black and white reminds us how long-lasting the livery has been. In contrast, when Isle of Arran was launched, Glasgow’s trains and buses were in the course of being painted orange, but in the intervening period have been through several other colour schemes.

Since CalMac was formed in 1973, CSP lions have been added to vessels’ funnels and the distinctive lettering emblazoned on hulls, but there cannot be many transport operators who are still using essentially the same livery as their Victorian forefathers.

Isle of Arran off Ardrossan

Isle of Arran off Ardrossan in her first season, with the hull painted black in a straight line above gallery deck level

As we know her today: Isle of Arran in Campbeltown Loch, photographed on 29 September 2019 by Greg Beecroft from the shingle bank running out to Davaar Island

Are you a CRSC member with a special photo about which you could write a short descriptive essay? Please drop a line to info@crsc.org.uk

Published on 26 May 2020