On the Spot: Avril de Fou

In the latest of our popular ‘On the Spot’ series, club member Avril de Fou takes her turn to reply to the usual set of searching questions. Avril has been a member of CRSC for many years and claims to have an extensive knowledge of the steamers. Let’s put her to the test!

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

It was the Caledonia of 1934, a beautiful ship. I sailed over to Brodick on her in 1974. She was a bit cramped and she leaned over scarily when we swung into Brodick Bay, but at least I could get my car aboard.

What was the last sailing you took?

Three weeks ago: Lord of the Isles to Colonsay – it was cancelled.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran, where would you choose?

Why did you miss out Millport? Love it there. But we went to Saltcoats?

What is your favourite steamer or ferry?

I loved the car-ferry Portree. She looked so stylish at Kyle of Lochalsh but really came into her own when she relocated to Colintraive. I loved the minimalist superstructure and the way you couldn’t tell whether she was coming or going. Such an original name too.

Which was Waverley’s best livery?

Probably the navy blue of the second hardback edition. I always thought Walter Scott’s original 1814 print looked a bit dull.

Avril (seen with headscarf holding the hand of a future ferry-nutter) aboard PIONEER at West Loch Tarbert in 1974.

If old enough what was your favourite ‘Maid’,  or if older, your favourite ‘streaker’?

Maid of Ashton, because nobody ever picks her. ‘Streaker’? Probably Miss Primm our music teacher, when she dashed across the school playground in 1972 thinking that nobody was looking. Music lessons took on a new interest after that, but she never sang in the choir again.

What name would you give the second of the ferries being built at Ferguson’s just now? You can be imaginative!

Well I’m half French so how about mv Plus Tard?

Looking back, what is the perfect example of the Clyde steamer, or car ferry?

I’m sure most would agree it has to be the Keppel. That sleek bow, her aristocratic funnel and her turn of speed. You know, once when I was aboard with my family, she raced across from Largs to Millport in just over an hour and a half!

Avril (clearly seen in the middle of the foredeck) aboard KEPPEL at Glasgow in 1988. Note the “aristocratic funnel.


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

A few bridges, or even a tunnel or two; it would certainly cut down on the number of cancellations. I would start with a tunnel between McInroy’s Point and Hunter’s Quay. You could paint the inside red and white so that you could imagine that you were still aboard the Sound of Shira. You could still keep all the ferries, and send them off on cruises – just like the old days.

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

McInroy’s Point to Hunter’s Quay. The scenery is lovely, especially at night when it’s dark, and if you’re aboard the Sound of Seil you’ll get a cup of tea thrown in.

Apart from Millport, which pier would you like to see re-open?

Whiting Bay. It’ll take a bit of work but perhaps if there’s any stone left over, it could be stretched all the way to Ardrossan. Or why not Troon? When the breeze picks up the ferry could then just hug the breakwater all the way to Arran.

What inspired you to join CRSC?

I attended my first meeting in 1987. I thought I was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but when I looked around me I realised I couldn’t possibly be. At one point I raised my hand to ask if I could go to the toilet and found myself on the committee! I was dismissed a few months later because I wanted to be Treasurer.

Would you like to see Zoom meetings become a permanent feature of the Club’s year, even once normal meetings are allowed again?

Yes. I love those ice-lollies, such nice colours, like the ‘tartan lums’. They should be handed out free to everyone at every meeting.

What makes you continue your membership of CRSC?

The Membership Secretary. He cajoles and threatens me every November to stump up.

What could the Club do better?

Sack the Membership Secretary.

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Published on 1 April 2022