Robin Copland gives an ‘inside view’ of Members’ Night on 13 December 2017, when one fellow-participant recounted how he was suddenly handed the controls of a Thames tug mid river, and another how he was given the run of CMAL’s boardroom on the morning of the recent Glen Sannox launch.
Now I suppose that if you were a purist, you might feel rather sniffy about the CRSC Members’ Night. The presentations will, by definition, be less detailed than a full hour’s study of a particular subject. On the other hand, the occasion gives a platform to members who have something to share with the Club, and the night invariably ends up being broad and inclusive. I have always enjoyed the variety of the evening: you are often listening to first-time speakers talking about their own particular passion, as well as more established enthusiasts.
For this latest Members’ Night, I was one of a nine-strong team of contributors, all of whom brought something completely different to the occasion. We were orchestrated by ‘choirmaster’ Roy Paterson, who ruled with a light but firm touch. We were each given a date by which to get our presentations to him. About a week away from the evening, we were told just how long we had (10 minutes) to keep things flowing. In truth, Roy deserves huge credit for keeping us all focused on the task in hand. He worked hard on the night, of course, but not half as hard as he would have, had he not instilled discipline to the proceedings early on.
On to the presentations themselves.
We travelled the Norwegian fjords with Donald Stirling, who took us from Bergen to Alesund, Loen and Balestrand. Donald has a marvellous compositional eye and we were treated to some fabulous and varied shots, all with stunning backdrops.
One photograph in particular sticks in the mind of a ferry with an open almost shark-like mouth, approaching a linkspan. Another lovely picture showed Hebridean Princess heading up a fjord.
Next at the lectern was CRSC Honorary Treasurer Billy Tomlinson, and it was a treat for us to hear Billy talk about his passion for coastal steamers rather than Club finances. He had picked as his theme the slides of a long-defunct commercial photography shop in Oban, Laird Parker. What wonderful and evocative shots these were, full of 1950s and 60s colour.
Billy showed us the old favourites – Claymore, King George V, Columba, Loch Ard, Loch Carron, Loch Seaforth — and some less well known. Each slide was accompanied by a few historical notes on the steamer on screen – where and when they served, size and speed; the kind of thing that interests us dreamers.
Past President Douglas Brown had been lucky enough to win a VIP day at the recent launch of Glen Sannox – and what a day he seems to have had as a guest of CMAL, which owns all the ships that sail on CalMac’s various routes. In truth, it was Douglas’s wife Mairi who had won the trip; he was just her guest! They were both treated like royalty and Douglas shared some pictures he took of the various models of ships that are placed around and about the company’s headquarters at Port Glasgow. Douglas also showed a picture of Yoker Swan, the former Renfrew ferry, now serving in County Cork, Ireland, before finishing with three lovely studies of MV Balmoral, taken from Douglas and Mairi’s yacht during the white funnelled vessel’s September visit to the Clyde.
Richard Orr will always entertain an audience with his breadth and depth of knowledge on all things maritime. This time, in a presentation called ‘Two Duchesses’, he teased his audience with a wonderful study of the ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Montrose’ sitting together at Bridge Wharf before a charter. He admitted early on in his presentation that the subjects of his talk were in fact the ‘Fife’ (1903) and the ‘Argyll’ (1906). He showed us pictures of the lovely Duchess of Fife throughout her career before telling us how, as a youngster on Bute, he would see the ‘wee Fife’ on a daily basis as she passed his holiday home. He particularly drew attention to her wonderfully ornate paddle boxes.
Duchess of Argyll had also been a favourite and again, we were treated to views throughout her career, including her original condition with the marvellous large viewing windows forward, then in her post-1910 ‘plated in’ condition. For me, the highlight of his presentation was the sequence of pictures taken from the deck of the then-new PS Waverley in 1948. On leaving Rothesay, the ‘Argyll’ comes pounding up on Waverley’s port side, sailing very close to her competitor. She never quite makes it and sportingly hangs back at the end to let Waverley take Innellan pier.
Talking of Bute, Deryk Docherty has a shore-front house round the corner from Rothesay Bay on the way to Port Bannatyne. His theme was the ships that pass his front door, and it was more varied than you might imagine – largely because of the proximity of Ardmaleish shipyard. Thus he showed us pictures of various ‘Loch’ class ships, as well as Argyll Flyer, the most interesting one for me being the Iona ferry Loch Buie – a long way from home.
But, as Deryk went on to explain, it was not just the Clyde steamers that visited. Various NATO warships have refuelled at the depot in Loch Striven and of course Waverley is a regular summertime visitor, but the strangest one? There was an audible gasp when he showed us a picture of Holland-America’s Prinsendam. He shared his thought that a “certain Clyde pilot with Waverley connections” may well have been on the bridge on the day that the Clydeport terminal was shut to visitors, obliging the cruise ship to entertain her passengers with a tour of the upper Firth.
Alistair Deayton took as his theme the four Clyde steamers with the name Glen Sannox. Alistair has a wonderful collection of vintage photographs as well as old handbills and marketing literature, a selection of which he showed us. One of the most memorable was the superb colour representation of the first Glen Sannox early in her illustrious career. I was particularly taken by his pictures of the turbine Glen Sannox, built only a year before King George V but nearer her pre-war fleet-mate Duchess of Argyll in style and design.
He showed us pictures of the 1957 car ferry in her various colour schemes and designs, including the rather forlorn sight of her lying stranded bow-down in her final resting place on the Red Sea. Alistair finished with his own pictures of the launch of the latest Glen Sannox on 21 November this year. All the pictures were accompanied by stories and observations.
Charles McCrossan is, like Donald Stirling, a wonderful photographer and has a broad range of interest in the field of public transport. His theme for Members’ Night was ‘Steaming Steamships’, and he shared pictures that he had taken on various trips around Europe, where the conservation scene is vibrant. Memorably, he described a sail on Merseyside’s Daniel Adamson — on a choppy wet day protected only by plastic sheeting — as a “wee bit different” (to say the least, I would have thought).
He also told us of an intriguing Scottish link with a lovely wee preserved former Hamburg Harbour Authority vessel called Schaarhörn – owned for a while by the former laird of the Isle of Eigg. His most unusual story concerned a visit to London’s West India Dock and a sail on the preserved tug Portwey. Cutting a long story short, he was allowed onto the bridge and was invited to take the wheel. “Where am I going?” Charles asked. “Oh, just steer between those buoys in the distance,” came the reply!
Unlike Charles and Donald, I was not such a wonderful photographer in 1969, so we should draw a veil over the photographs that I took. The theme was my cycling trip that year. It included a couple of sails (on Lochnevis and Columba) to and from Oban, then an hour or two spent travelling between Dunoon and Gourock and capturing as many of the steamers as I could on my old Brownie camera. Fortunately, Roy Paterson was able to supplement my meagre photographic efforts with some wonderful pictures from CRSC’s digital archive.
Finally, Iain Quinn introduced a film taken by and in tribute to Bert Scott featuring Queen Mary II and Waverley in the years 1973-6, including shots of their contemporaries in the 1960s and early 70s.
All in all, a wonderful evening’s entertainment, unusually well attended for a mid December meeting, and the Club’s thanks should go to Roy who orchestrated things so seamlessly.
CRSC President Iain Morgan closed the meeting by wishing all members, far and near, a very Happy Christmas. At CRSC’s next meeting (10 January 2018), Robert Cleary and John Beveridge will give an illustrated talk on the past, present and future of Loch Lomond paddler Maid of the Loch. All welcome.
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