Gavin Stewart’s ‘A Peep into the Past’: report + video

Where have they all gone? Gavin began his presentation with an early 1960s view of the River Clyde from Bridge Wharf, with the bow of Queen Mary II on the lower left and an array of Coast Lines/Burns Laird vessels at Anderston Quay

‘A Peep into the Past’ was the title of Gavin Stewart’s CRSC presentation at Jurys Inn on Wednesday 11 January. Good numbers were in attendance despite the dreadful weather and ongoing travel chaos. Using photographs from his own collection, and those of Bobby Sinclair and Brian Clymie, Gavin hinted that he was going to take us on a journey from Bridge Wharf to Greenock, and beyond.

Here Stuart Craig gives his impression of how the evening went. Below his report you can click on the video and watch the entire presentation.

Among the Clyde-built vessels whose history Gavin traced was the 1953 lighthouse ship Fingal….

Gavin is an electrical engineer to trade and from the beginning he induced much spark into his carefully crafted talk. The presentation was divided into two parts. First, he took us on a 1960s trip from Bridge Wharf in Glasgow to the ‘tail o’ the bank’, showing us the great variety of shipping that populated the river back then.

Some of his pictures were rare, such as Saint Columba being refitted at Lamonts after WW2 (this picture was rescued from a skip!). Equally unusual were the internal shots of the Jupiter’s ‘formica’d’ cafeteria — installed in the spring of 1957, only months before the 20-year old paddler was withdrawn from service.

It was an eclectic array of photographs, aptly punctuated by Gavin’s witty comments, such as when he described the workers’ hard hats of the day being the standard ‘bunnet’. Gavin didn’t just show us the ships berthed at various quays as we headed downstream – he named them all too!

Into the second part and by now his audience was hard-wired to the screen as they were conducted on a series of outings on our dear old Waverley.

The paddler is lucky to have had Gavin, and his equally enthusiastic wife Shelagh, among the volunteer work parties that have been so important in keeping the ship sailing. He showed us examples of these industrious enthusiasts at work, including a panning shot of toilet bowls being re-wired (why I still can’t work out).

…. on which Gavin and his wife Shelagh recently spent the night at Leith, where Fingal has been preserved as a hotel. A walkway has been created through the intact engine room

But all work and no play makes for a dull boy, and the presentation became further galvanised as Gavin took us on a Hebridean voyage aboard the paddler. His love of the ship, and his frequent sailings aboard her, were evidence that this man knows how to have a good day out on the water! His photograph taken aboard Waverley as she rounded Ardnamurchan Point into a setting sun brought back wonderful memories to the author of this piece, for as Gavin declared “not many people get a chance to do this”. How true!

We next saw launch day shots of his favourite ‘streakers’, Jupiter and Juno: how we all miss them! Then, still on the Clyde, he gave a detailed description of a ferry-hopping excursion in the summer of 2004, with the aim of getting from Ardrossan to Glasgow in one day using as many ferries or ships as possible. This had to involve Waverley of course, not once but twice, and we could all imagine the look on the face of purser Jim McFadzean when we waved goodbye to Gavin and his group at Dunoon, only to greet them back aboard at Greenock less than two hours later!

In his introduction CRSC president Robin Copland had described Gavin as  “the enthusiasts’ enthusiast”. How apt: Gavin’s passion for his hobby shone through as brightly as his photographs. We are lucky as a Club to have such talented photographers, speakers and ‘enthusiasts’ as Gavin. He fairly lit up a dark January evening.

Gavin Stewart has been a member of CRSC for 20 years. Are you a member of this friendly association of ship enthusiasts? Click here for your £10 introductory membership and you’ll get all the benefits, including the highly prized annual Review of west coast shipping, CRSC’s colour magazine and exclusive access to photo-rich ‘members only’ posts on this website.

Thanks to Robert Newth and John Newth for technical support.

A magnificent spread of formica in the cafeteria of the 1937 paddler Jupiter: It was installed in time for the 1957 season — after which she was withdrawn from service

Waverley winter work party of yesterear, with Gavin seated centre and his wife Shelagh behind. Others in the photo include Charles McCrossan and Margaret Skee

Gavin on The Second Snark, a vessel now out of commission but which he and others are intent on restoring

CRSC president Robin Copland (left) congratulates Gavin Stewart after his talk

Published on 15 January 2023