Members Night: Report + Video

Family history and shared heritage: Juno arrives at Rothesay, with the young Andrew Comrie in the foreground

You can always tell how well a presentation has gone down just by getting ‘a sense of the room’ in the immediate aftermath. Well, despite a train strike and freezing weather on Wednesday 14 December, Members Night attracted plenty of hardy souls, and our room at Jurys Inn, Glasgow, was buzzing: lots of smiling faces and effusive comments. There was a curious synergy between the three presentations, each homing in on family/personal experience and shared heritage on the Clyde. As you will see in our video further down the page, everything gelled together beautifully on the night. Report by Andrew Anderson.

I began to record the contents of each presentation in great detail (writes Andrew Anderson) but have opted here to précis elements of the evening from the ‘sea’ of wonderful images shown by each of our ‘volunteers’. What impressed most of all was the depth of feeling and enthusiasm displayed in shed loads by our three speakers during their respective presentations.

Allan Comrie
Allan’s presentation took as its theme ‘Through the Generations’. We were regaled with family album photos which had an uncanny habit of including a steamer, ‘Streaker’ or pier just to the side of or behind the family members pictured — not least Allan’s wife Margaret. Very creative photography! The thumbprint of Allan’s upbringing, and subsequently that of his children, shone through, so it is no surprise that son and daughter are now working for Waverley — Andrew as purser, Ailsa as a member of the shore staff. But Allan also evoked memories of Duchess of Hamilton at Keppel and Maid of Cumbrae at May weekend 1968. Despite the fact that, later on, he and the family ‘spent hours dotting around on Jupiter’, it was Saturn that found a special place in his heart. And who could resist Allan’s characterisation of Pioneer as ‘charismatic’?!

James Fisher
James, an Ayrshire sheep farmer, had chosen to base his talk on the format of the CRSC website’s ‘On the Spot’ interviews. They say one ‘learns something every day’ — well indeed: thanks to James, I am now aware that Arrochar primary school is actually next to Loch Lomond. From the playground on the loch side at Tarbet, James’s imagination was kindled as a child, watching Maid of the Loch pass by. So it was no surprise to hear him citing Ardlui as his choice of wished-for pier restoration. James had dug up a fascinating photo of the remains of the chain ferry at the head of the loch, and another of the pre-1939 target used for torpedo practice at the head of Loch Long (with the 1899 Waverley passing by). There were more surprises when James told of his family’s connections with Otter Ferry, and named his favourite steamer as the 1934 Mercury.

Gordon McNeil
A native of Kilmarnock, Gordon has been a member of CRSC for 54 years, but this was his first presentation: it was well worth the wait. His earliest steamer sightings were of ships plying their trade from Ayr Harbour, notably Marchioness of Graham in the early 1950s. But one of the most fetching photos he showed was of his mother standing next to a handsome crewman on Duchess of Hamilton in 1932, when — at the very start of the turbine’s career — the ‘Hamilton’ was Ayr excursion steamer. Gordon assured us that he was old enough to have sailed on King Edward in her final season (for which he brandished a pair of silver sugar tongs as evidence), averring that ‘she seemed sleeker than Queen Mary, but not quite as comfortable’. His recollections of the steam fleet era — including the ‘fascinating’ sight of ropehandling from Duchess of Fife’s open bows at Kilchattan Bay — brought to mind just what we no longer have.

This was a superb evening of nostalgic memories, each speaker revealing a deep-rooted love of the Clyde and its ships. The meeting was topped and tailed with his usual aplomb by your President Robin Copland.

As soon as you have started the video, please make use of the ‘full screen’ version by clicking on the small box in the bottom righthand corner.

Thanks to David Cherry, and Robert and John Newth for technical support.

Post-presentation euphoria: (left to right) CRSC President Robin Copland, Allan Comrie, Gordon McNeil and James Fisher


Members Night video – February 2022

Members Night video – July 2021

You can join CRSC here.

The next CRSC meeting is on Wednesday 11 January, when Gavin Stewart will give an illustrated presentation.

Published on 22 December 2022