Favourite sailings — now it’s your turn

As part of Stuart Craig’s ‘Ten of the Best’ series on favourite sailings, CRSC invites you to send in a short description of your own most memorable trips, preferably with accompanying photographs. Please email your essay and pictures to info@crsc.org.uk

The first such contributions come from CRSC stalwarts Terry Primrose and Ken Mills:

Columba at Tarbert on 2 April 1988 -- copyright photo Terry Primrose

Columba at Tarbert on 2 April 1988. Copyright Terry Primrose


Terry Primrose recalls a sailing on Columba from Largs via Tarbert to Oban on 2 April 1988, and to Iona the next day — one of several special cruises organised in the 1980s by CalMac Publicity Manager Walter Bowie.

One of my most memorable sailings was on the car ferry Columba in 1988. On April 2 we went from Largs to Tarbert in Loch Fyne, then down the Kilbrannan Sound, round the Mull of Kintyre, up the west coast past Gigha, through the Sound of Jura and into Oban for the night.

The following day we set sail for Iona, going ashore for a unique service in the Abbey to pay homage to Saint Columba. Fittingly, our ‘pilgrims’ progress’ had been aboard a ship named after him.

When anchored off Iona I asked if I could visit the engine room to take a few photographs. “OK,” I was told, “but you’ll have to be quick: there’s a posse of VIPs due to inspect the engines.”

Below decks everything was spotless — bright cream engine casings and gleaming brass fittings.

The VIPs turned out to be the new owners of the ship, Hebridean Princess Cruises PLC of Skipton. They had bought her earlier in the year for £275,000 and, during the following winter, were to spend more than £1m refurbishing her as a cruise ship — for which role she was renamed Hebridean Princess.

On that memorable two-day cruise in 1988, our overnight cabin beneath the car deck had set us back less than £20. In November 2015, during the CRSC visit to Hebridean Princess at Greenock, I mentioned this to the steward, only to learn that the cabin rate had increased somewhat.

Columba in the Sound of Iona (Copyright CRSC). The sailing from the Clyde to Oban and Iona in April 1988 was a ‘Walter Special’ — one of several cruises to unusual destinations organised in the 1980s by CalMac Publicity Manager Walter Bowie

The special service in Iona Abbey on 3 April 1988 was led by Rev Allan Bowie, father of Walter and Hamish

Passengers were ferried ashore from Columba on the ‘Island’ class ferry Morvern

Ticket for the special voyage to Iona by Columba, on which Terry Primrose sailed

Ticket for the special voyage to Iona on which Terry Primrose sailed (Reproduced by courtesy of Walter Bowie)

The young Terry primrose in his cabin on Columba on the night of 2 April 1988

The young Terry Primrose in his cabin on Columba on the night of 2 April 1988



Ken Mills singles out CRSC’s charter of Waverley on Saturday 16 September 1972, when the itinerary — typically adventurous in those days — embraced Glasgow, the Gareloch, Kilmun, Innellan, Troon and both Cumbrae piers.

On looking through some of my photographs recently, I was reminded of the charters CRSC used to arrange on the larger vessels then available in the 1960s and 70s. These included King George V — particularly the evening charters to Lochranza and Tarbert, taken immediately prior to her summer season at Oban. That, of course, is not to forget the full-day charters on Duchess of Hamilton, Queen Mary II, PS Caledonia and the smaller vessels. These were all great events, well supported by the Club and the public. They usually produced a surplus — often quite a large surplus.

A charter I remember particularly well was on Waverley on 16 September 1972, when we left Glasgow’s Princes Dock (Bridge Wharf being no longer accessible) on what seemed to be a strange itinerary. We sailed first to Gourock and then across to Craigendoran, which was about to close permanently, and where some of us disembarked. A bus took us from there to Rhu Pier where we boarded Roy Ritchie’s Countess of Kempock (formerly Countess of Breadlbane), which acted as a tender, taking us out to Waverley which had meanwhile made her way round to Rhu and was lying off. We transferred from the ‘Countess’ to Waverley whilst others disembarked on to the tender and at Rhu Pier boarded the chartered bus which was to take them to Kilcreggan. Once under way Waverley proceeded to just above Faslane, where she turned and made her way back down the loch. At Faslane we had a sighting of MacBrayne’s Lochfyne, by then laid up and awaiting disposal.

We made a brief stop at Kilcreggan to pick up the passengers who had disembarked at Rhu and then headed to Kilmun, where a short stop was made. Some of us were able to visit the Campbell family’s graves in the churchyard behind Kilmun Church. Back on board Waverley, we then headed for our final destination— Troon. On the way we called at Innellan, which was about to close permanently, allowing time for photographs.

The cruise was busy and on the return we called at Millport Old Pier, from where those of us so inclined, including myself, were given the opportunity to walk round to Keppel, where we rejoined the ship. I think we called thereafter at Largs and Dunoon before returning to Gourock where the cruise terminated.

It was a long but very enjoyable day — and especially memorable for the calls at two piers on the point of closure, not to mention a boarding/landing by tender at Rhu and a re-enactment of the former NB Gareloch sailings on board a paddle steamer. Yes — those were the days!

Boarding Countess of Kempock at Rhu -- copyright C. Kennedy Mills

Boarding Countess of Kempock at Rhu on 16 September 1972. Copyright C. Kennedy Mills

Countess of Kempock approaches Waverley for an exchange of passengers in the Gareloch. Copyright Iain Dewar

Waverley and Countess of Kempock exchange passengers off Rhu -- copyright photo C. Kennedy Mills

Ship-to-ship transfer off Rhu. Copyright C. Kennedy Mills

Countess of Kempock prepares to cast off and return to Rhu. Copyright Iain Dewar

KIlmun *Sep 1972

Kilmun pier featured in the ‘strange itinerary’ undertaken by Waverley for the CRSC charter. Copyright C. Kennedy Mills

Innellan* (final call) Sep 1972

Waverley’s call at Innellan came a fortnight before the pier was closed. Copyright C. Kennedy Mills

Troon* Sep 1072

Waverley’s visit to Troon on 16 September 1972 was thought to be the first time she had been seen there. The Ayrshire town would become a regular calling point in her early years of preservation. Copyright C. Kennedy Mills

Look out for the next two sailings in Stuart Craig’s ‘Ten of the Best’ (Nos. 6 and 5) as the countdown continues in coming weeks. If you have yet to catch up with his series, you can find Nos. 10 and 9 here and Nos. 8 and 7 here. If you wish to contribute your own most memorable trips to this series, please send a short description of them, preferably with accompanying photographs,to info@crsc.org.uk