Eric Schofield stumbles upon a piece of history-in-the-making — the final dismantling of the old Brodick steamer pier, a structure that, until its replacement by an airport-style terminal four years ago, had served as a steadfast portal for Arranites’ comings and goings for a century and more.
National mourning for our late Queen dictated the cancellation of a football match for which I held tickets last weekend, and so Saturday 10 September did not seem to promise much. To ensure my sanity, all news media had to be avoided, and on rising early from my slumber and opening the curtains to find a day of clear blue sky, I made the immediate decision to get away for the day.
Initial thoughts were to head into town for the early Citylink coach to Oban and a trip on Loch Frisa, but that plan was dashed when I discovered at Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station that the 0830 bus was fully booked. The most suitable alternative was to go by train from Central Station to Ardrossan, and then take the ferry to Brodick.
What a wonderful sight presented itself on arrival at Ardrossan — a flat calm sea, azure blue sky and Caledonian Isles already loading for her 0945 sailing. Then I had a thought: given the perfect conditions, why not take some photographs from the shoreline north of the harbour and catch the next sailing? A batch of pictures soon accumulated. Wandering back round the well filled marina, I found myself wondering why the owners were not on board their boats for what promised to be a great day out on the water.
As I moved round to the outer wall of the harbour, the approaching Isle of Arran occupied my camera’s attention.
It was not until midday that I finally arrived at Brodick — and realised my timing was perfect, as a piece of Clyde shipping history could be seen unfolding.
While we were sailing in to Brodick, I had noticed that the dismantling of the old steamer pier — a familiar friend since youth — was just about complete. All that remained to be cleared were a few timbers and girder supports close inshore: I imagine they would be worked on from the landward side, as the floating crane barges were unlikely to get near enough.
Here was my opportunity to capture on camera the dying moments of an iconic Clyde pier — a structure that had been in situ for 150 years, that had witnessed three generations of Glen Sannox, two of Duchess of Hamilton and a lifetime of my own arrivals and departures, from the paddle steamer Caledonia to Cowal, Pioneer, Iona and Saturn.
Whilst awaiting the 1325 arrival of Caledonian Isles, I and a group of other onlookers watched as a diver with underwater cutting gear was lowered by cage into the water between the barge and the former vehicle access road. Every so often bubbles would appear as the diver moved around underwater.
We sailed away before he re-surfaced, so I have no knowledge as to what treasures he found.
But one thing was clear: no matter what relics of the past he may have dredged up from the deep, Brodick’s dear old steamer pier was gone for ever.
ERIC SCHOFIELD’S MEMORIES OF THE STEAMER PIER AT BRODICK
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Published on 14 September 2022