On the Spot: Gavin Stewart

‘What introduced me to CRSC was the charters. I have been on quite a few over the years but the most memorable are the big boat charters’: Gavin Stewart (centre) in conversation with fellow CRSC members David Edwards (left) and Paul Semple (right) during the Club’s charter of MV Isle of Arran round Ailsa Craig on 19 January 2019. Gavin says he has made many friends through CRSC

Gavin Stewart is a well-kent face in the enthusiast community and a CRSC member of 20 years’ standing. Stuart Craig asked him the questions that help to define our interest in the west of Scotland shipping scene — and here are Gavin’s answers.

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

I was late to the scene – it was 1983. A mate won two tickets for Waverley in an art competition so we went to Tarbert from Largs. Great wee day!

What was the last sailing you took?

St Margaret’s Hope to Gills Bay in September 2020 on board Pentland Ferries’ MV Alfred.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

Arran! Coming from Ayrshire I visited Arran often when growing up and that hasn’t changed now I am older.

Favourite steamer — Talisman, usually seen on the Millport run but captured by Eric Schofield at Blairmore on 21 June 1966 on her return from the Arrochar excursion

What is your favourite steamer?

The pioneering DEPV Talisman – yes, I know some don’t regard her as a steamer, but she looked like one (even if she didn’t sound like it). She gave sterling service to the river into which she was launched in 1935 and also to her country. One wonders if Waverley would have been steam propelled had the diesel-electric Talisman been more successful initially?

Which was Waverley’s best livery?

LNER livery (1947) is the best by a long shot.

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

Define ‘older’! For me it is MV Jupiter, first of the three ‘streakers’. I loved those vessels – they did exactly what they said on the tin for nearly 40 years. The ‘J Turn’ when departing Dunoon was a class manoeuvre!

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

Jeanie Deans, especially post WWII rebuild. Nice proportions and nice stern too!

A new turbine has been built on the Clyde. What would you call her?

TSS Lord Kelvin.

Uig triangle: Gavin Stewart (left) and Stuart Craig aboard MV Hebrides in 2007 — wearing identical jackets! (Click on image to enlarge)

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

I would like to see the fleet renewal programme properly managed with the provision of new vessels which are fit for purpose and not political ‘environmental show boats’ like 801 & 802. Ardrossan-Brodick just needed a modified Clansman design with outdoor space forward and up to date efficient Wärtsillä diesels. Disband CMAL and get back to the pre 2006 setup where it is ‘one singer one song’.

I also miss the car service on the Gourock-Dunoon route, but I think that’s only because it was a ‘streaker’ and you could sit with a coffee (and a fly cemetery) on a car deck mooring bollard and watch the world ‘voith’ past!

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

Oh here!! I would put it this way:

  • Uig Triangle (not strictly point to point but great!) on MV Hebrides
  • Glasgow-Oban on PS Waverley
  • Southampton-New York on RMS Queen Mary 2

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

Inveraray Pier – who doesn’t enjoy a sailing up Loch Fyne?

What inspired you to join CRSC?

In the early 2000s I was a member of a web forum called Clydesite. I met loads of enthusiasts online. Through a post on this forum I went on a CRSC charter of a newly rebuilt (Phase 1) Waverley in 2001 and started to get a flavour for the whole Clyde scene. Becoming a Waverley winter volunteer in 2003-04 led to me joining CRSC at that point and attending most if not all the meetings. Due to work and other commitments, I haven’t always been able to maintain that attendance in subsequent years.

Favourite ‘streaker’: MV Jupiter at Blairmore during the CRSC charter of 3 January 1976. Click on image to enlarge

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

Zoom has allowed the Club to continue to meet through these very challenging and different times. Moving forward with a Zoom format would allow members who cannot otherwise attend meetings to feel part of the Club. So there may be scope for a couple Zoom format meetings every winter session. The fact that you can “watch again” is a bonus!

What makes you continue your membership of CRSC?

The meetings are one thing, but as I said previously the thing that introduced me to CRSC was the charters. I have been on quite a few over the years but the most memorable are the big boat charters – in recent years on MV Isle of Arran.  Meeting other like-minded enthusiasts is another good reason for maintaining membership. I have made many friends through CRSC.

What could the Club do better?

This is a tough one as there have been a lot of changes over the years since I first became a member. I think CRSC have embraced digital media quicker and better than other clubs, and also made good use of a website.

I guess the only thing I can say is keep moving with the times! Young blood is essential to keep a club like CRSC going. Younger members may suggest things that to older members may seem alien, but it is important not to adopt the ‘not invented here’ attitude, which would make the Club unattractive to the younger generation. Look at what makes younger people ‘tick’ and try to adopt a strategy that pulls them in.

Gavin Stewart has extolled the merits of CRSC membership. Click here to join for £10 and take advantage of the benefits, including the encyclopaedic annual Review of west coast shipping, the magazine Clyde Steamers, photo offers, special excursions and access to ‘Members Only’ posts, encompassing hundreds of rare archive images.

‘Who doesn’t enjoy a sail up Loch Fyne?’: Waverley on Friday 20 April 2001 at Inveraray, a pier Gavin would like to see reopened

Gavin Stewart (right) enjoying CalMac cuisine on MV Isle of Arran in company with Al Black (left) and David Edwards (centre), during the CRSC Round Arran charter of MV Isle of Arran on 18 January 2020

Despite Gavin’s commitment to Waverley, initially expressed through his onboard volunteer work in the 2000s, his preference is for Jeanie Deans, a ship whose proportions and stern he has long admired, even though he never sailed on her. She is pictured heading out from Gourock for Craigendoran in 1963, the year before she was withdrawn from Clyde service

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Published on 27 April 2021