All you need to know about the CRSC Video

Saturn really strutted her stuff at Dunoon on the 2009 DVD

Every year CRSC invites members to buy the latest edition of its meticulously compiled Video, comprising major events of the west coast ferry scene from the previous 12 months — all captured on film. These DVDs have proved extremely popular, mainly because they provide a ‘living’ document of ferries big and small — some of which may no longer be here next time you look (remember Saturn? and the ‘Island’ class ferries?).

Until now we haven’t done much to market the CRSC Video beyond the group of subscribers who hungrily snap up the latest edition as soon as it comes out. And so, for the benefit of the uninitiated (including non-members), we thought we would give a more expansive introduction, explaining what this CRSC Video thing really is. Is it any good? Is it just clips of Waverley over and over again? Here, Stuart Craig  sheds some light on it.

You can buy any of the back copies of the CRSC Video by clicking on SHOP at the top of the page, then click DVDs

The questions above are the ones that are asked each October, like a cartoon bubble from the mouths of CRSC members who have never bought one. In case you are among those have yet to discover the Video’s delights, and those questions do actually cross your mind, let me help you.

The CRSC Video – as it is prosaically titled – first appeared as a half-hour biannual production in 1993. In 2005 it evolved into an hour-long annual epic, mainly because the editor was finding it too stressful to make two a year! The production is very much an amateur affair, something which the editor, who is also the cameraman, sound recordist, director and producer, is always at pains to admit. Sometimes these pains are quite acute, especially when he looks back at some of the woolly editing in the early editions.

The idea was to give as many enthusiasts as possible the chance to see film footage of the CalMac fleet, Western Ferries, Waverley and anything else resembling a ferry. It is your choice whether to regard it as an historical document, to be preserved for future viewing when the ferry scene has changed beyond recognition, or as a present-day reminder of sunny summer days, viewed during the dark winter nights.

All very altruistic, you may think, but there is a price to pay – about £15 per copy at current rates. The clips are an up-to-date, if not exhaustive, look at the ferry and steamer scene over the previous year.

Clansman can be seen circumnavigating Cumbrae on CRSC Video 5

Each of us has photos of our favourite steamers locked away in cupboards, never to see the light of day or be seen by anyone else unless you are asked to do a presentation – and even then many of us just borrow slides from one of the ‘Ians’. But the editor likes filming in video, in addition to taking still photos. Surely everyone would want to see the ships progress across their small screen?

So, instead of harbouring his expanding treasure trove of ‘movie clips’, he decided to re-invent himself as Martin Scorsese and assemble his most recent images into a steamer film – like a motion picture CRSC Review, if you like. It would be edited, copied and distributed amongst those members willing to part with a few shillings. And then another would be put together 12 months later.

The editor freely admits, when pressed, that some mistakes were made in the early editions of this enterprise. The use of a ‘presenter’ at the beginning of the first couple and the inclusion of music in several more were soon abandoned, making the production a lot simpler and kinder to the viewer. But there are some gems of footage along the way. Isle of Lewis at Uig, Loch Buie gyrating in the Sound of Iona swell and Waverley splashing past Greenock are particular favourites of the editor, although it is believed that he can barely listen to himself on the finished product.

A frame from Loch Buie‘s voyage across the Sound of Iona, filmed in 1993

Well, in truth, after 29 editions and nearly 3,000 copies sold to date, the enterprise has been a successful one. Despite some gambolled camera gyrations, the inclusion of unintentional subliminal frames (including one – it is rumoured – of his wife stepping out of the bath), and a propensity for capturing the full auditory range of the Beaufort Scale, there are many members who have purchased every single copy. Stand up and take a bow ladies and gentlemen. Your support has made the whole endeavour worthwhile to Mr Scorsese here.

As well as having achieved the goal of sharing imagery, the Club has benefited from a small annual profit in the process, which, along with all the other Club activities, may just have helped to keep the annual subscription low.

But don’t get too carried away here, Mr Editor. A pictorial compendium of video clips is not everyone’s idea of Saturday night viewing. Watching Clansman tentatively make her way towards Oban pier could be likened to watching red, white and black paint dry. It really depends on what floats your boat, and whether you want to actually see it float, or not.

The Second Snark pops up on more than one Video

Filming the ships and ferries since October 1992 has resulted in a considerable cornucopia of clips; some 2,500 at the last count. It quickly became apparent that one did not have to wait long before the subjects of the filming had moved on to the afterlife, rendering the movie as ‘historic’.

It doesn’t seem long since Jupiter and Juno were pirouetting around the Clyde, but look at the video footage taken at Wemyss Bay at the time and their metamorphosis into razor-blades seems from another era. Likewise the first shot ever taken with our cameraman’s Sony — Pioneer and Rhum passing each other off the Cloch. It now looks so ancient that the viewer wouldn’t be surprised to see Alfred Hitchcock walking across the frame.

The nostalgia DVD has been a huge hit with enthusiasts and is still available

With the addition of vintage footage from the film collection of others, interest in the CRSC Video has been maintained, if not enhanced. The older the footage, the more precious it becomes. Indeed two years ago the CRSC produced a separate DVD of steamers from the 60s and 70s. Entitled Clyde Steamers in Colour the hour-long film was assembled entirely from clips from the Ian Brown collection. It has sold over 230 copies, which raises the question – are there more clips available from which a similar omnibus might be compiled in the future? The answer is undoubtedly yes.

So what of the future? The CRSC Video was initially available on videocassette (what’s that, I hear some of you ask?). Surely it will evolve away from DVD — perhaps being sent out electronically to subscribers. The future is bright – the future is digital, for it is believed that the production of the annual DVD has not yet reached its nemesis.

I have it on good authority that the jack-of-all-trades who produces it has no intention of hanging up his video-camera – as long as those who enjoy the productions continue to support them. Oh, and the bit about the wife in the bath, I just made that up, but the rumour certainly helps boost sales.

All 29 editions of the CRSC Video, as well as Clyde Steamers in Colour, are still available, and as the cameraman was spotted perching precariously on Ardrossan Harbour wall as Isle of Arran passed on the recent CRSC charter, I reckon another edition will be in the can by October.

You can buy copies of the above-mentioned DVDs by clicking here.

Isle of Lewis at Uig in 2015 features in the 2015 edition of the CRSC Video

Published on 4 February 2020