On the Spot: Allan Smith

Allan Smith is one of CRSC’s younger members and a regular face at our meetings and excursions. The ships of current and past fleets have clearly influenced him, for Allan has now opted for a career at sea. Here, he steps ashore between ports to supply us with some fascinating answers to our regular searching questions.

In June 2017 CRSC member Allan Smith took a further step towards becoming a bridge officer, graduating in Professional Development in Marine Operations at City of Glasgow College

What is your earliest memory of sailing on a Clyde steamer?

I have a very vague memory of sailing on Clansman between Ardrossan and Brodick on Sunday 10th January 1999. I was only two years old but I can still remember quick images of Clansman’s funnel and Arran covered in snow.  My first sailing on a Clyde steamer’ was on Waverley before her rebuild. It was Sunday 29th August 1999 and she sailed from Largs to Rothesay and Dunoon and then a cruise of Loch Goil. I don’t have too many memories, but for some bizarre reason I do remember eating chips on the starboard paddle-box.

What was the last sailing you took?

Paddle steamer Waverley from Largs to Tarbert, 22nd August 2018.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

Arran hands down. Arran was always the destination for me to take trips after school on late night Friday evenings in summer. Living in Ardrossan means Caledonian Isles isn’t far away for a quick trip over to Arran.

What is your favourite steamer?

My favourite Clyde steamer’ is Waverley as she is the one I have the biggest connection with. I have not sailed on any other traditional Clyde steamer but I hope to be onboard Queen Mary many times in the future. My favourite Clyde vessel, however, is Caledonian Isles. I have spent so much time on her sailing to Arran that I will be very sad when she has to leave us. As a young boy I was down watching her come in and out of Ardrossan as much as my parents would allow and ended up being there so much that her master, Captain Ian Walker, noticed me out at the lighthouse each time. He would sometimes blow the ship’s whistle at me. I then ended up getting bridge visits when he was onboard. On Friday 2nd September 2005, I was on the bridge for the late night sailing to Ardrossan. I was allowed to change her course by a few degrees on the autopilot and talk to one of the deck crew on a handheld UHF. I was also allowed to sound both of her whistles. It’s a memory I will never forget and for that reason she is my favourite, and probably always will be.

Favourite streaker: Saturn’s open deck forward of the bridge made for a better layout than Juno and Jupiter. Copyright CRSC/Iain MacArthur

Which was Waverley’s best livery — LNER, CSP or CalMac?

Waverley’s current LNER colours are best for publicity and attracting passengers, but I personally quite like her CSP buff. I wouldn’t have her funnels any other way from her current livery just now though. White deck shelters might brighten her up, but her current scheme has an older feel to it.

What was your favourite ‘Maid’ (if old enough) or ‘streaker’ (if young enough)?

I have never set eyes on any of the ‘Maids’, although the chance is still available, if I were to travel. For the ‘streakers’ it has to be Saturn. Not only did I spend more time aboard her, but her layout seems better given the open deck forward. I was given the chance to steer her on several occasions. I do hope something will happen with her but her future looks bleak [in Orkney, where she has been lying unused since 2015].

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

Waverley hands down but there are things about ‘Jeanie’ that I do like. I particularly like her vertical stem on the bow. Her different stern is also rather interesting.

A new turbine has been built on the Clyde: what would you name her?

Atalanta because of my connection to Ardrossan. Atalanta was one of the Arran vessels and it’s a name I would like to see brought back. It just has a classic sound to it that I like.

Captain Ian Walker on the bridge of Isle of Arran c1992. Copyright CRSC/Ian Walker

What would you like to see happen on the Clyde ferry scene over the next few years?

As an Ardrossan resident, I would like to see the upgrade of Ardrossan go ahead and make the town even more versatile. I would also like to see more ships using the harbour — vessels such as Hebridean Princess and Waverley. If the upgrade of the harbour and town are successful, Ardrossan could become a very useful port again. I am looking forward to Glen Sannox entering service too. Further upriver I would like to see some form of vehicle ferry returning to the Gourock-Dunoon crossing.

The best point-to-point route you’ve sailed on?

Oban to Ardrossan on Clansman. The sailing lets you see many wonderful sights such as the Paps of Jura and the Mull of Kintyre. Not only that, but at the end of the day I am within walking distance of my home.

Which pier would you like to see re-open?

Personally I would like to see Dunoon old pier returned to service for specific vessels such as Waverley or Balmoral and any other vessels wishing to use it, such as future passenger-only vessels from Gourock. I would also like to see the pier at Inveraray being maintained to allow Waverley, or any chartered vessels, to visit upper Loch Fyne.

What inspired you to join CRSC?

The younger generation should always be encouraged to join. This is already happening, so I feel it should be continued. A good way of doing this is the outings the Club organises. By doing more of these, the younger generation will get to see what CRSC is about and spark an interest. The January 2018 charter of Isle of Arran was a success and a good way to bring in younger members from the general public.

Boyhood memory: Allan Smith on the bridge of Caledonian Isles when Ian Walker was Master

If CRSC had loads of money in the bank, what would you spend it on?

Support for Maid of the Loch, Queen Mary and Waverley would be my first thoughts. After that, support for Millport pier financially and any other arising issues with other piers on the Clyde. If we are talking stupid amounts of money, I would like to see a replica version of one of the other classic steamers. Not for operation but just as the Club’s own Clyde steamer; to open to the public and for meetings onboard berthed on the Clyde somewhere. It would help get the Club’s name out there. That is a lot of money though!

What makes you continue your membership of CRSC, year on year?

I continue membership for the winter meetings and organised excursions. It’s a good place to talk to people during the winter months when Waverley isn’t out and about. I do like looking at the photos at the stand before each meeting and sometimes adding to my collection, which I have been doing since I first attended Club meetings.

What could the Club do better?

Not much could be done better in my mind. Some more charters like the one on Isle of Arran would be nice and, as always, keep trying to bring in young members.

‘I would like to see more ships using Ardrossan’: Waverley arriving for the CRSC/PSPS charter on 8 August 2014. Copyright Andrew Clark

Allan Smith (right) in January 2013 with his uncle, David Stirling, on CRSC’s New Year excursion to Arran on Hebrides. Copyright CRSC

Allan Smith (right) in April 2018 with former CalMac managing director John Whittle, who is an honorary member of CRSC. Copyright CRSC

Allan with his father Eric and Lee Gallagher during Balmoral’s unique visit to Coll on 8 July 2017. Copyright CRSC

‘I would like to see Dunoon old pier returned to service’: Juno unloads on 3 January 1975. Copyright CRSC Robin Boyd Collection

Allan Smith (right) congratulates CalMac’s Captain Lewis Mackenzie (centre) after his talk to CRSC’s February 2018 meeting. On the left is Jim Stirling, non-executive director of David MacBrayne Ltd. Copyright CRSC

Favourite Clyde vessel: Caledonian Isles at Ardrossan in 2014 — three years before her lifeboats and davits were removed. Copyright CRSC

In April 2018 Allan Smith was elected as a member of CRSC’s management committee. His CalMac and Waverley Enthusiast videos on YouTube have been praised for their atmosphere and authenticity.

Read Allan’s report on Balmoral’s last visit to the Clyde in September 2017

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Published on 12 October 2018