Waverley 40th Anniversary – 8th August 2014


          Booking Form
Greenock, Largs, Ardrossan, Lochranza to cruise
around Inchmarnock Island and return, celebrating
the 40th anniversary of PS Waverley being
handed over to PSPS Scotland for £1.00

Notes from Charles McCrossan who sailed from Greenock to Ardrossan 
To commemorate the 40 year anniversary of Caledonian MacBrayne ‘selling’ Waverley to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, the Clyde River Steamer Club and the Scottish Branch of the PSPS organised a joint charter of Waverley for a celebratory cruise.
Waverley ready for the day ahead 
Photo – Gavin Stewart 
Itinerary for the day

Photo – Charles McCrossan 

Prior to departure from Greenock, a short reception was held in the Jeanie Deans Lounge during which Douglas McGowan, Terry Sylvester and John Whittle, each delivered a brief speech recounting their memories of events 40 years ago. Bailie James Scanlon attended on behalf of the Lord Provost of Glasgow.  It was disappointing that this part of the day was behind closed doors and not done in the open air so that all on board could share in the occasion.  Most people on board had come to celebrate the Anniversary.

Calmac’s Crawford Paterson, Douglas McGowan former
Calmac Chief Executive, John Whittle and Terry Sylvester
re-inact the transfer of the ship and the pound note
Photo – Roy Tait

Waverley left Greenock and headed past the Ocean Terminal where, unusually, there were two cruise ships berthed, and then out into the more open Firth and a stiffening breeze.  Next stop was Largs where another group of passengers were embarked, with the two respective group organisers doing much checking and double checking of numbers and how many unbooked could be taken on-board as over 300 were booked to come on board at Ardrossan.  Fortunately everyone was able to join the ship.

Ruby Princess and Aida Cara
at Greenock Ocean Terminal
Photo – Charles McCrossan
Waverley at Largs
Photo – Stuart McMahon
Loch Shira and Loch Riddon at Largs
Photo – Charles McCrossan

While Waverley was alongside at Largs the Cumbrae ferries, Loch Riddon and Loch Shira, went about their business. It later transpired that at least one intending passenger made a very tight connection off the arriving Loch Shira. The rain started to fall more heavily and as we headed towards Ardrossan, visibility was considerably reduced.  Nearing Ardrossan, Caledonian Isles could still be seen on her berth.  Waverley’s speed was reduced with fine judgement and she continued to make a steady approach to Ardrossan without having to lose way.  When it seemed inevitable to those on deck that Waverley would have to abort her approach, Caledonian Isles was finally seen to start moving astern, cant quickly, and then make a quick exit from the harbour (I was later told by an observer on the harbour wall that they had never seen Caledonian Isles move out the harbour so quickly).  Waverley continued her entrance into the harbour and was soon tied up, boarding her next batch of passengers.
 Caledonian Isles Heads out of Ardrossan Harbour
to make way for Waverley
 Photo – Charles McCrossan
 Caledonian Isles
Photo – Charles McCrossan

 Waverley alongside loading passengers
Photo – Charles McCrossan
 Waverley departing Ardrossan
Photo – Charles McCrossan

Notes from Stuart Craig who joined at Ardrossan 
Friday 8 August 2014 was an auspicious day for paddle-steamer Waverley. Forty years ago, on that date, she was sold by Caledonian MacBrayne to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society for £1. I am sure both parties considered they had got the best deal, but I bet neither would have believed that the ‘old girl’ would still be conveying paying passengers around the beautiful waters of the firth of Clyde, and elsewhere, four decades later

My late father helped as a volunteer during those first fraught years in the mid 70s, and so I remember the difficulties, the joys and the sheer commitment and hard work that got her going under the flag of her new owners. I remember the names of the protagonists – John Whittle (General Manager of CalMac), Douglas McGowan, Terry Sylvester and Peter Reid (of the PSPS). So here, between the funnels of Waverley forty years on, it is amazing to find all the main characters reassembled once again for a re-run of that ‘sale-of-the-century’.  Even more astonishing is that the leading lady, the steamer herself, is here also, having weathered the years as well as her human cohorts.
To celebrate her big day Waverley was taken on a cruise from Greenock to Largs, Ardrossan and Lochranza. She circumnavigated the island of Inchmarnock and then retraced her wake to those same Clyde piers. Almost 700 were aboard by the time she sailed out through the hole-in-the-wall at Ardrossan into the drizzly gloom of the firth.  

Waverley going astern past Horse Island
Photo – Charles McCrossan
 Loch Tarbert squeezing past
Waverley at Lochranza
Photo – Stuart McMahon
 Waverley at Lochranza
Photo – Stuart McMahon

Iain Quinn compered the re-enactment of the original sale and short speeches were given by John Whittle and Douglas McGowan, who re-lived the day that a Royal Bank of Scotland pound note procured a future for the paddler as a real, working steamer rather than as a museum piece.  Those aboard were reminded of the far-sighted, intuitive and magnanimous gesture that John Whittle, and his CalMac board, gave all those years ago. And that this couldn’t have been offered if it were not for the commitment and organisational skills displayed to him by the guys from the PSPS. John pointed out that the paddler was only 27 years old when she left CalMac employment – the same age that Isle of Mull is today.  The current Chief Executive of CalMac, Martin Dorchester, also gave a few words of support, and above it all the old ships’s paddles beat out that familiar rhythm that we are all delighted to hear forty years on. 

Waverley arriving back at Lochranza
after her cruise around Inchmarnock
Photo – Norman Crawford 
Waverley arriving back at Lochranza
Photo – Norman Crawford
The cruise was a joint charter between the PSPS and the CRSC and was very much an enthusiast’s cruise. The complement included almost the entire CRSC committee, several  frequent-flyers, a former purser, a couple of well-known thespians and one or two mediocre authors. 
On arrival back at Ardrossan Waverley held back to allow an anxious Caledonian Isles to skip speedily out through the gap, on her way to Brodick, and then nipped in neatly to load up her remaining passengers.  Into reverse gear, and she then steamed back out into the grey waters of the firth.  Isle of Arran was passed at distance shortly after,  and Loch Tarbert  (the Lochranza-Claonaig ferry) shared the Lochranza berth with us.

 Waverley arriving back at Ardrossan with Isle of Arran
on the Irish berth preparing for her trip to Campbeltown
Photo – Stuart McMahon

Despite the truculent weather Waverley ran to time all day and gave her enthusiastic passengers much fun and much to be grateful for on this special day. As Martin Dorchester suggested, some of us may be celebrating the last Clyde steamer’s continuing success in another forty years. She will be 107 then!  Who knows?  Maybe he is right – did we really think, back in 1974, that she would still be carrying passengers in 2014!
Waverley departing Ardrossan at the end of an enjoyable day out
Photo – Stuart McMahon 
Souvenir Raffle Brochure
produced for the day
Click on the image above to see a video 
by Allan and Andrew Comrie of both of
Waverley’s arrivals and departures
at Ardrossan  – dedication indeed! 

Photo – Norman Crawford 

Thanks to Stuart Craig for supplying text and to the photographers identified who kindly supplied photographs and also to Allan and Andrew Comrie for the link to their video.