The early 1960s editions of CRSC’s annual Review of west coast shipping have now been digitised, and are available to all paid-up members in PDF format here.
They recall a period when Clyde steamer services were in decline and operators faced mounting financial losses. There were several pier closures (Whiting Bay in 1962, Kirn in 1963, Hunter’s Quay in 1964). At the end of the 1964 season four vessels were withdrawn — Duchess of Montrose, Jeanie Deans, Ashton and Leven. Others would soon suffer the same fate.
Despite the air of stagnation in the early 1960s, it is fascinating from today’s perspective to note just how rich the programme of sailings remained. The years 1960-64 were full of variety and incident, with a summer timetable embracing the farthest corners of the Firth on a weekly, if not daily basis (Campbeltown daily in July and August, Three Lochs Tour three times a week, Inveraray twice a week, Round Bute virtually every day, three paddlers in the Kyles of Bute on Sundays, plus a dedicated Ayr excursion steamer).
The Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s fleet numbered three turbine steamers and four paddlers (plus Maid of the Loch on Loch Lomond). There were four diesel ‘Maids’ as well as four side-loading car ferries. David MacBrayne’s Lochfyne continued to ply the Royal Route to Ardrishaig six days a week throughout the year. Every summer King George V sailed daily except Sundays to Iona. Lochiel was the crane-loading Islay mail boat, surviving a near-fatal sinking in West Loch Tarbert in October 1960. The old faithfuls Lochearn and Lochmor continued to serve the inner and outer Hebrides until the arrival of the first MacBrayne car ferries in 1964.
All this and much, much more was faithfully documented by the CRSC Review. The early 1960s editions, like those of 1953-59, were typewritten and duplicated, but they expanded from nine pages in 1960 to 18 pages in 1964, gradually establishing a more detailed historical record and prompting the publication’s transformation in 1965 into a professionally printed and illustrated format.
We pay tribute here to all who worked on behalf of the Club to make these Reviews so illuminating and informative, notably Robin Boyd, Ian McCrorie, Fraser MacHaffie and Michael Warren. Early editions of the Review may not have the sophistication we expect of their 21st century successors, but they have an authenticity of their own, and provide valuable detail about an era that is beyond the ken of most members today.
Click here to access the 1960-64 Reviews.
Published on 30 June 2023