All tickets please (5)

Low tide, golden memories: Duchess of Hamilton at Campbeltown on 8 June 1969. Copyright Eric Schofield

Old ticket stubs can stir golden memories, as Eric Schofield makes clear in his account of a Sunday trip to Campbeltown in 1969.

Whether the ticket has survived complete, or is just an outward or return portion that has gathered dust in the intervening years, that little piece of card has the power to bring to mind a simple day out which went to plan. It did not deviate from the timetabled route or timings. It was an excursion which had been done before, quite possibly on the same vessel or vessels. But it stands out in the memory simply because the weather played its part to perfection.

The return portion of the Craigendoran to Campbeltown ticket dated Sunday 8 June 1969 is a case in point: it recalls a truly glorious day. It also encapsulates for me the many features that made Clyde cruising such a fabulous experience around that time, when steamers and ferries provided a wide variety of direct and indirect links to the many piers at both mainland and island resorts.

No. 5  Campbeltown to Craigendoran

The British Rail blue electric train brought me down to Craigendoran. The 20 minutes before Waverley’s departure at 1010 soon passed, but not before I took my first picture of the day — the paddler and her stablemate Caledonia sparkling in the bright morning sun at Berths B and A respectively. Having purchased my ticket aboard Waverley it was not long before the time came to disembark at Dunoon, the changing point to connect with the Campbeltown-bound Duchess of Hamilton. She was already fast approaching to occupy the berth vacated by the paddler, which headed off to provide a late-morning Largs/Fairlie/Millport Old Pier positioning service so as to be ready for the afternoon excursion from Millport to Tighnabruaich.

After dumping her load south of the Cumbraes, the Glasgow sludge boat Shieldhall heads back up-firth — crossing Duchess of Hamilton’s wake as the turbine speeds westwards towards Lochranza. Copyright Eric Schofield

The Sunday sailing to Campbeltown was a trip that I numbered amongst my favourites within the Firth of Clyde, familiarity with the passing scene never failing to impress come hail, rain or shine. This Sunday proved to be one of the best as the turbine sped down the Cowal Coast to Rothesay, then back across Firth to Largs, Fairlie and Keppel.

Considerable numbers had come aboard at the mainland piers, so finding a quiet spot on deck was a challenge. I settled for the very back corner of the promenade deck to port behind the lifeboat. It was little frequented, perhaps because of its restricted view or proximity to the galley chimney on the starboard side.

It was from there that I pictured the crowded upper deck as we threaded our way through the Tan and looked back at Glasgow’s sludge boat Shieldhall, which was returning upriver after dumping another load south of the Cumbraes. Our course continued past Garroch Head and round the Cock of Arran to call at Lochranza and then on down Kilbrannan Sound to Campbeltown.

The hour and a quarter of shore time in the Kintyre town was always appreciated, especially so on this occasion as I was able to take advantage of the extremely low tide to capture a more unusual picture or two from the exposed beach within the harbour area, with its mix of rock, sand and shell.

On the return voyage, high tea was enjoyed to the full as the ‘Hamilton’ headed south of Arran past Pladda and the east side of Holy Isle to Brodick. There was always a large crowd on the pier awaiting this last sailing of the day from the island, comprising mostly weekenders bound for Fairlie and the boat train to Glasgow, plus of course those day trippers who had disembarked at Lochranza on the outward journey for an Arran coach tour.

As we departed Brodick, Cowal arrived to berth overnight, ready for the early Monday morning ‘death run’. About an hour later the trio of calls at Keppel, Fairlie and Largs followed, and as Duchess of Hamilton pulled away from Fairlie and Waverley followed in on her way back from Millport Old Pier, many of the remaining passengers were still availing themselves of sun-baking heat, even as we passed 7 in the evening.

The criss-crossing of the Firth was a particular feature of the Sunday Campbeltown steamer’s return journey, designed to cater for hordes of homeward-bound day-trippers: after Largs the ‘Hamilton’ headed over to Rothesay then back across to Wemyss Bay and from there over to Dunoon before returning to her mainland base at Gourock. I disembarked at Rothesay, and after a quick snap of Duchess of Hamilton swallowing up the Rothesay crowd, moved hurriedly along the pier to join the Craigendoran-bound Waverley, which had followed in on the turbine’s wake but would now steam direct up the Cowal Coast to Dunoon and then Craigendoran.

Although there have been many wonderful days in the years since then, I find it difficult to recall one, in my experience, that remained so idyllic from start to finish.

First photo of the day: Waverley and Caledonia at Craigendoran on 8 June 1969. Copyright Eric Schofield

Calling at Keppel: the ‘Hamilton’ pulls away from the picturesque Cumbrae pier on her way to Lochranza and Campbeltown. Copyright Eric Schofield

Forward view on Duchess of Hamilton from the out-of-the-way spot behind the aft lifeboat. Copyright Eric Schofield

Duchess of Hamilton basks in the midsummer sun at Campbeltown on 8 June 1969. Copyright Eric Schofield

Cowal arrives in Brodick Bay in preparation for the Monday morning ‘death run’. Copyright Eric Schofield

Homeward bound: Waverley follows Duchess of Hamilton in to Fairlie on the evening of 8 June 1969. Copyright Eric Schofield

Duchess of Hamilton gathers up hordes of day trippers at Rothesay on her way to Wemyss Bay, Dunoon and Gourock. Copyright Eric Schofield


Excursion to Ardrishaig with return journey up-river to Glasgow

Helensburgh to Holy Loch Cruise

Ardgour to Nether Lochaber (Corran)

Princes Dock to Ardrishaig and back via the Millport Illuminations

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Published on 12 May 2018