No one could ever accuse Eric Schofield of lacking imagination in his cruising choices — as this expanding series based on his ticket collection has proved. Time and again he has devised itineraries that not only demonstrate his adventurousness, but also show his flair for interpreting timetables. In the latest of his adventures, taking us back to the late 1960s, he invites us to join him on what he summarises as two ‘Early Starts for Evening Circle Cruises’.
Of the tickets pictured below, the Singles for the downriver runs from Glasgow Bridge Wharf to Gourock on 8 July 1966 and 26 July 1968 were used exactly for that purpose, but that does not tell the whole story.
On both occasions I was having week-long Clyde excursion holidays utilising the Area No. 8 Runabout Ticket, one of which is depicted. The Runabout Tickets covered both rail journeys to/from the coast and freedom to sail on almost all Clyde steamer services with the express exclusion — as listed on the reverse of the tickets — of sailings by MV Countess of Breadalbane, sailings on Loch Lomond, sailings on MacBraynes’ Gourock-Ardrishaig service and, more pertinently, on ‘direct sailings to or from Glasgow Bridge Wharf’ (were there ever any ‘indirect sailings’?).
I was obliged therefore to obtain single tickets in respect of my river journeys between Glasgow and Gourock. On both occasions my intention was to do what was advertised as the Friday ‘Evening Circle Cruise’ from Glasgow to Largs by steamer, and train home.
This did not mean that I hung around Glasgow all day until the 1620 departure time. I had discovered from past experience that, despite not being listed on the face of the Runabout Ticket, it was accepted on Duchess of Hamilton’s Friday cruise to Ayr Harbour.
Ayr Station was not listed as one of the Clyde Coast railheads, but I reckoned that travelling back by rail from Ayr to Glasgow might qualify for the return portion of my ticket. In essence I got two circular excursions on each of these days, working out as follows:-
Friday 8 July 1966
With St Enoch Station having closed just 12 days before, I travelled for the first time from Glasgow Central to Ardrossan Winton Pier Station, crossing to Brodick on board Glen Sannox, 1020-1100. After disgorging cars and passengers, the ferry moved out from the pier to allow Duchess of Hamilton to berth, and I duly boarded for the 1155 trip across to Ayr.
Disembarking at the North Wall in Ayr, which was the usual berth at that time, I walked up to Ayr Station for the train back to Glasgow, still with ample time to get down to Bridge Wharf and join Waverley at 1620 for the return leg of her Up River Cruise. As usual there was a variety of shipping to catch the eye as we sailed downriver, including the tug Flying Spray passing Fairfield’s shipyard, Queen Mary II off Port Glasgow and MacBraynes’ Loch Carron near Gourock.
As we headed down the Cowal Coast from Dunoon to Rothesay, Duchess of Hamilton passed on her homeward journey. At Largs, before hurrying to the station to catch my train, I watched Waverley head off light for Craigendoran. In typical West of Scotland fashion, the sun broke through the day’s heavy cloud cover.
Friday 26 July 1968
My day began with the 0840 train from Glasgow, with Wemyss Bay my starting pier on this occasion. Duchess of Hamilton arrived at 0930 — and there, passing down firth behind her, was Caledonia on her way to Largs to position herself for the Up-River Cruise: later that day she would be my Evening Circle Cruise vessel from Glasgow.
The ‘Hamilton’ soon sped off via Rothesay, Largs, Millport Keppel and Brodick to Ayr. As berthing at Ayr was now at the South Wall I was in a good position to photograph the Duchess going astern out of the harbour, for which two crewmen were deployed to operate the large wheel that controlled the bow rudder.
By the time I had taken the train from Ayr to Glasgow, the coastal sunshine was replaced by high cloud cover, and Caledonia was already loading up at Bridge Wharf for her 1620 departure for Gourock, Dunoon, Rothesay and Largs.
Caught on camera on my downriver journey on this occasion were the Glasgow sludge boat Shieldhall passing the Newshot Island marker, Renfrew Ferry at Yoker, Erskine Ferry at Erskine, Queen Mary II off Greenock, Maid of Ashton leaving Dunoon, and a lively picture of Maid of Bute on one of her evening cruises from Rothesay with, in the background, Maid of Cumbrae heading for the pier.
High, hazy cloud was beginning to dissipate the strength of the evening sun as Caledonia headed away from Largs on her light run back to Craigendoran. It had been another most enjoyable double circle excursion day, completed with my train journey from Largs to Glasgow.
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Published on 8 March 2021