The final CRSC meeting of 2012 took place on Wednesday 12 December at Jurys Inn, Glasgow. The speaker was Eric Schofield, the Club’s Honorary Secretary, whose theme – “Scenes from the Sixties” – covered his early cruising exploits at home and abroad, at a time when there were still ample possibilities for steamer hopping.
The scene on the screen at the start was reminiscent of the CRSC Quiz Night masterminded by Eric exactly 12 months previously: the identity of ship and pier was vaguely familiar but far from obvious. It turned out to be the Jeanie Deans sweeping past the newly closed Whiting Bay pier in 1963 after a cruise to Pladda. In Eric’s words, “it was a period in time that will always be a highlight for me, when I first experienced the freedom and joy of travel on the Clyde”.
Eric’s pictures of the Jeanie, the Duchess of Montrose and the Ashton and Leven conjured the atmosphere of summers when it was still possible to sail on 14 ships in a day without intermediate travel by road. His eye for nifty steamer connections – and for a prescient shot, preserved in excellent colour – became more and more obvious as the talk proceeded.
On his first solo excursion, a “doon the watter” trip from Bridge Wharf on the Queen Mary II on Friday 30 August 1963, he saw a notice on board advertising the Clyde River Steamer Club (posted by the ship’s assistant purser, Richard Orr). Eric joined without delay. The same year saw the kindling of his love for West Highland cruising, with a train-and-steamer excursion from Glasgow to Tobermory: views of a crowded, sun-soaked Lochfyne alongside Oban’s Railway Pier and at Tobermory captured the flavour of a MacBrayne day out, 1960s style.
On a Thursday in July 1964 Eric bought his first runabout ticket on the Clyde, starting with a trip to Arrochar on what was then, in Eric’s words, “the least popular vessel in the fleet” – the Waverley. The following day he took the Duchess of Hamilton to Ayr and Round Holy Isle, while his Saturday itinerary featured steamer-hopping in the morning – an especially atmospheric shot of a Maid buffeted by strong seas – and an afternoon trip to Tighnabruaich, outward by the Queen Mary II, returning on the Jeanie Deans. On the Sunday he left Craigendoran at 12.40 for a cruise round Cumbrae and Bute on the Jeanie, getting off at Rothesay on the return journey to sail home with the Talisman and Duchess of Montrose via Largs, Wemyss Bay and Gourock. Monday was another Jeanie day, this time to Brodick and Pladda. With poor weather looming on the Tuesday, Eric ditched plans to sail to Inveraray in favour of more up-firth steamer-hopping, richly illustrated, while his final day took him on the Campbeltown-bound Duchess of Montrose as far as Keppel, where he boarded the Jeanie Deans for her Round the Lochs cruise.
At this point Eric’s “scenes” developed a kaleidoscopic quality, embracing MacBrayne cargo boats in Kingston Dock, freighters and frigates on the river, puffers and tugs at work, Blue Funnel liners, Cunarders and the pretty pilot boat Cumbrae. We glimpsed the Talisman at Arrochar in 1966, the North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Shipping Company’s ancient St Magnus (“the most magnificent steamship I’ve ever sailed on”), the Humber paddlers, the Stena Nordica and Caledonian Princess at Larne (a 37/6d day trip from Glasgow) and the Duke of Lancaster, Travemünde and Ulster Prince together at Belfast. Even in Sweden, Eric managed to snap an attractive old steamer.
We then joined him on his six-day runabout from Oban in August 1967 – outward on the Monday from Glasgow via West Loch Tarbert and Colonsay, then to Fort William on Tuesday, the Six Lochs on Wednesday, and Lochaline, Salen and Tobermory and back to Oban on the Thursday. Thereafter Eric exchanged the Lochnevis for the King George V, sailing round Mull southward via Iona on the Friday and ending with a shot of the KGV and Loch Carron together in Tobermory Bay.
Among his other late 1960s exploits was a two-day round-trip to Lochboisdale, outward on the Lochnevis and Clansman via Fort William, Mallaig and Armadale, returning via Coll, Tobermory and Iona on the Claymore and KGV. In 1968 Eric caught all three of Western Ferries’ Islay boats together at Port Askaig, with the Loch Ard in the distance, and witnessed the paddle steamer Caledonia’s second last day in service– to Tarbert in October 1969. His final scene was of the Glen Sannox in Brodick Bay.
As Ian Wilson said in his vote of thanks, Eric’s enthralling talk was a decade’s diary compiled by “a real enthusiast who knew how to get value out of a day – and still does.”
The meeting was attended by more than 80 people, a remarkable turn-out for a chill December evening. Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, Club President Deryk Docherty said he was much heartened by the number of new faces he had seen at recent meetings.
A selection of other photographs from Eric’s presentation are shown below. There were so many evocative and memory provoking images that it was hard to leave any out but hopefully the selection above and below give a flavour of the very enjoyable night we had at the Club meeting.