On the Spot: Graeme Phanco

Duchess of Hamilton to Lochranza was a favourite trip’: the CSP turbine impressed Graeme Phanco with her silence and lack of vibration forward of the bridge. He also remembers sailing on her to Campbeltown

In the latest in our ‘On the Spot’ series, longstanding CRSC member Graeme Phanco takes the hot seat. The questions are the same — but what about the answers? Well, here they are…

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

I remember being dragged screaming past a black steam locomotive belching smoke and steam at Wemyss Bay Station when I was three or four, then onto the Talisman for a trip to our holiday home in Millport.

Graeme Phanco at Millport

What was the last sailing you took?

Loch Shira, Cumbrae Slip to Largs last week. Last trip on a major unit was on Hebrides from Lochmaddy to Uig on the return trip from our summer holiday on Eriskay in 2018.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

Always Millport, from the age of three to 16. I’m still a regular visitor. We always went on excursions — Duchess of Hamilton to Lochranza or Campbeltown was a favourite trip. I remember standing below the bridge watching out for porpoises and being amazed at the silence and lack of vibration. The turbine steamers really were in a different class.

What is your favourite steamer?

Duchess of Hamilton. More recently I had a soft spot for Pioneer. She always looked very purposeful and proved to be extremely versatile, serving on many routes.

Always Millport: the young Graeme Phanco (left) on Newton Sands in the 1960s, with a ‘Maid’ arriving at the Old Pier

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

LNER. I didn’t like the CSP white paddleboxes or CalMac funnels.

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

My favourite was the ‘Skelmorlie’. As for the ‘streakers’, I liked Saturn best. Her forward looking area below the bridge was a great improvement over her sisters. I didn’t like the tripod masts on Jupiter and Juno.

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

It really has to be Waverley, as she is the great survivor. I only sailed on Jeanie Deans once on a very short trip between Millport Old Pier and Fairlie, so I don’t have many memories of her.

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

The great survivor: Graeme’s beautiful portrait of Waverley shows her passing Glasgow’s Riverside Museum. He prefers the current livery to her CSP colours, and was not a fan of her white-painted paddle-boxes

Duchess of Hamilton.

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

The introduction of a passenger-only summer service between the Clyde resorts — perhaps with a vessel the size of Keppel. I am sure if it was properly marketed it could be successful.

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

That is a hard one. Probably from Tiree to Oban down the Sound of Mull: great scenery and usually plenty shipping activity.

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

It would be nice to see Dunoon’s Victorian Pier restored. I don’t understand the logic in carrying out a major refurbishment of the buildings while leaving the structure of the pier to rot. Helensburgh also requires major work but the outlook is not very promising. Let’s hope funds become available.

Graeme had a soft spot for Pioneer: this is one of his more unusual photos of her, awaiting the flit-boat at Eigg while on the Small Isles run

What inspired you to join CRSC?

I was always interested in the steamers. A work colleague, John Robertson, told me about the Club, and so I joined.

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

Digitising and cataloguing as much of the archive as possible.

What makes you continue your membership of the Club, year on year?

The subscription is good value. You get excellent talks and publications, especially the magazine.

What could the Club do better?

The Club has a wonderful archive of photographs and other material, which members get only occasional glimpses of. It would be good if members could access the digitised holdings online.

Pioneer looks at her best in Graeme’s magnificent shot of her at speed

The forward viewing area in front of Saturn’s bridge gave her an advantage over Jupiter and Juno. Graeme’s vivid ‘action’ photo profiles her manoeuvrability and shows her dressed overall for a special sailing

The sight of Talisman arriving at Millport on a summer’s morning left an indelible mark on Graeme’s memory in the mid 1960s

More like this please: Graeme says CRSC members should have greater access to archive photos such as Margaret Skee’s portrait of Duchess of Hamilton at Campbeltown in 1966. Graeme remembers family excursions to the Kintyre port from Keppel around this time

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Published on 2 March 2019