Film Night was Fun

CRSC went to the movies on 10 October — and a capacity audience lapped up the footage of steamers and ferries that Stuart Craig had assembled for everyone’s delight.

An audience member’s eye-view of film footage of PS Caledonia leaving Largs in the mid 1960s

Our 2018-19 series of meetings at Jurys Inn, Glasgow, made a cracking start with film sequences of steamers that some had forgotten, others had never seen ‘live’, but most of us consider to be among the ‘greats’ of the Clyde’s past.

Duchess of Montrose, PS Caledonia, Queen Mary II, Talisman, Jeanie Deans, the ‘Maids’, the ABC car ferries, the 1934 LochnevisCountess of Breadalbane, and yes, even Keppel and Saturn — as if it was yesterday, each passed before our eyes in a kaleidoscope of colour and summer sun.

Here was the magnificent bow wave of the ‘Hamilton’, the stately grandeur of ‘Jeanie’, the red-funnelled beauty of the ‘King George’, miraculously brought back to life — not in a still photograph but sweeping across the screen like a living, breathing, much loved old friend.

If you had a favourite from the postwar era, she was there, speeding along very nicely in the Kyles of Bute or out of Brodick Bay, berthing at Dunoon, Largs or Rothesay, sweeping up the crowds and persuading us that, if truth be told, the good old days were invariably better than today. There was plenty of smoke belching from the funnels — even from Waverley’s!

But, amazingly, the prewar era was also represented, in clear black-and-white clips of the 1878 Columba, the 1864 Iona and the 1905 Pioneer, all captured in their later years but moving along as if they were still in their prime. Perhaps the most striking sequence of all was colour footage of King Edward at Dunoon c1950, as clear as daylight, with hundreds of Glaswegians pouring ashore.

What came across time and again was the astute choice these cine-film pioneers frequently made for their vantage points — the ‘top deck’ of Dunoon’s Victorian pier, the shoreline at Rhubodach, the Albert Pier at Rothesay, the promenade at Craigmore. Everywhere, the Clyde seemed busy-busy, and no matter what pier you saw, there were people swarming all over them — before ‘health and safety’ was invented.

Some of the best sequences were of steamers approaching or leaving Rothesay

It is thanks to the foresight, technical acumen and sheer enthusiasm of past CRSC members that this movie footage has survived — people like Ian Brown, Graham Langmuir, Robert Scott and Tom Urie, all of them cine-film addicts, each richly represented in this parade of the finest.

As were a number of current CRSC members in more youthful guise, with Eric Schofield and Ian McCrorie making occasional appearances in the footage of 1960s and 70s Club charters to Ardrishaig, Corrie, Girvan, Inveraray, Troon — and down the River Cart (a Club charter of Maid of Argyll in September 1966 being the last time a Clyde steamer visited Paisley).

Stuart Craig’s comments were an entertainment in themselves, supported by occasional fact-giving interjections from historical experts in the audience. Stuart pitched in some of his own expert film footage from 2003 — of MV Pioneer powering across the Sound of Sleat, with a bow wave guaranteed to silence anyone with an appreciation of ships on the move. That, of course, was another slice of history, as Pioneer was sold to West Africa shortly afterwards.

CRSC President Roy Paterson chaired the meeting and Vice-President Andy Anderson gave the vote of thanks. Before the entertainment began, Billy Tomlinson gave a moving tribute to Elsie Hinshalwood, CRSC’s first female President, who died last month.

Our next meeting is on 14 November. Everyone is welcome, including non-members.

Saint Columba made a fleeting appearance on the big screen — and yes, we did see her third funnel

Jeanie Deans leaving Rothesay

The old Renfrew ferry crossing the River Clyde

At the end of the meeting, some of CRSC’s new members chatted to CRSC President Roy Paterson (second from right), Vice-President Andy Anderson (far left) and the evening’s speaker Stuart Craig (third from right). Among those pictured here (left to right) are Lee Haddow, Arthur Sales, Neil Haddow, Jim Gibson and Alasdair Hay

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Published on 11 October 2018