Favourite sailings — Up-River Cruise by PS Caledonia in 1967

‘Q4’ (later Queen Elizabeth 2) on the building berth at Clydebank in July 1967

Charles McCrossan marvels at the enormous range and volume of shipping activity on the River Clyde in his younger days.

The series of ‘favourite sailings’ by Stuart Craig and others got me thinking. My favourite sailings are not so much aligned to a particular vessel or route, but occur when there is much to see and photograph in the way of other steamers, ferries and shipping activity in general, wherever that may take place. The journey to or from a sailing event (if possible by train) often adds much to the day.

‘We passed a very quiet Queen Mary II off Greenock’. Copyright Charles McCrossan

The day I pinpoint as giving me my first taste of what I consider a ‘good day out’ is Friday 14 July 1967. As part of a 14-day Clyde season ticket, a trip up-river to Glasgow from Largs was planned. PS Caledonia was the vessel allocated that day and the passage from Largs as far as Greenock was fairly typical of most days on the Firth, passing other steamers on their regular commuting and excursion duties. But as we approached Greenock to start the main up-river cruise I began to realise just how much there was to see on and alongside the river. Oh for a digital camera back then… But the selection of images here gives some idea of what could be seen on an ‘up and doon the watter’ trip in 1967, and hopefully describes in pictures what such a trip was like. Much has changed in 50 years!

We passed a very quiet Queen Mary II off Greenock, on her daily run from Glasgow (Bridge Wharf) to Tighnabruaich, before viewing several vessels alongside Princes Pier. Further up-river Gallic Bridge was fitting out at Lithgow’s. The Shell tanker Hemimactra and the freighter Lady Sophia were seen at Bowling. ‘Q4’ (as she was then, before being launched later that summer as Queen Elizabeth 2) was well advanced on her building berth.

Gallic Bridge fitting out at Lithgow’s

Then, from Elderslie Dry Dock (Scotstoun) onwards, we were passing shipping of all sorts, all the way to Bridge Wharf. At Broomielaw there was a fine collection of Burns Laird vessels. Time ashore at Glasgow allowed the steamer which had taken us there to be photographed.

The day had a rather different end. On the way back to Largs, as we nosed out past Cloch point, we found that a fairly stiff sou’westerly was blowing. By the time we got to Largs there was an announcement that an attempt would be made to berth at Largs but passengers might have to return to Gourock.

Caledonia came alongside with her starboard paddlebox against the NW corner of Largs pier. The Mate supervising the gangway announced that anyone going ashore “would have to run” as the end of the gangway was rolling to and fro on the pier. With a “go now” ringing in my ears, I ran.

Only two of us tried it and I think the gangway was dropped and Caledonia was going astern just as the second pair of feet touched the pier. Yes, things were done differently then!

It just so happens that 14 July 2017 also falls on a Friday. Although a sail up-river from Largs is no longer possible on the actual date, a trip down-river may be on the cards. Exactly 50 years on, I will count it a good day if I manage to see three or four vessels (no matter how small) by the time we reach Greenock.

Vessels photographed by Charles McCrossan on his up-river cruise in 1967:

Lapad passing Yoker

Lady Sophia passing Shell tanker Hemimactra at Bowling

Loch Carron passing the mouth of the River Kelvin (the background forming what is now the Riverside Museum)

The Shaw Savill Line cargo ship Doric, built by Fairfields in 1949 and broken up in 1969

Carnatic, built at Birkenhead for Shaw Savill in 1957. Renamed Darro in 1973, she was broken up in 1979

Burns & Laird’s Lairdscrest, berthed ahead of Brookmount on the north side of the river

Irish Coast was built in 1953 and served on Irish cross-channel services until she was sold to Greece in 1968. After being radically redesigned, she continued until 1989, when she was lost in a typhoon

Royal Ulsterman was a fixture on the Glasgow-Belfast overnight run from 1936 until a few weeks after this photo was taken in 1967. Sold to the Mediterranean, she sank in 1973 and was scrapped

‘Time ashore at Glasgow allowed the steamer which had taken us there to be photographed’: after canting in the river, Caledonia lies peacefully at Bridge Wharf, the south-side berth in the city centre, ready for the return voyage downriver to Gourock, Dunoon, Rothesay and Largs

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Also by Charles McCrossan:

Favourite Sailings — to Fort William with Oban Gaelic Choir

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Last blast on the Thames

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