On the Spot – Iain Dewar

Iain Dewar with his wife Helen at Kyle of Lochalsh during Waverley’s West Highland week in June 2016. Copyright CRSC

Iain Dewar, Chairman of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, becomes the latest subject of our regular feature On the Spot. Born and brought up in Glasgow, Iain has been a London resident for most of his adult life — and a member of CRSC for over 50 years. I cannot remember a time when I was not interested in Clyde steamers, Iain says. I was fascinated by the different types, characterful individuals and routes. I remember steering Countess of Breadalbane through the Narrows (albeit with a large seaman standing behind me) at the age of ten. I learned how to identify an approaching ship from a small detail. I realised that I was witnessing the end of an era.

Now he takes his turn at answering the questions posed by Stuart Craig.

Iain, please tell us, what is your earliest memory of sailing on a Clyde steamer?  

Favourite steamer: a youthful Iain Dewar on the ‘Hamilton’. Copyright Iain Dewar

PS Talisman to Millport.

What was the last sailing you took?

Yesterday [24 August 2017] — Waverley from Largs to Brodick and Round Holy Isle. It was the last of six days sailing on the Clyde, including a trip on Isle of Arran to Campbeltown.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

Rothesay: my father spent part of his boyhood there.

What is your favourite steamer?

Duchess of Hamilton.

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

North British (LNER).

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

I despised them all equally! By the time she was the last survivor I had developed some affection for the Cumbrae for want of anything CalMac had better.

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

Jeanie then; Waverley now.

Waverley at Arrochar in 1968. Copyright Iain Dewar

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

Duchess of Hamilton.

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

Ships built, like Isle of Arran, Argyle  and Bute, with good open deck space allowing all round visibility. And smoking banned or confined to somewhere remote.

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

Rothesay to Tighnabruaich. If you want a car ferry route as opposed to a steamer route, then Ardrossan to Campbeltown on the Clyde, and Oban to Barra in the Western Isles. Outside the country Svolvaer to Stokmarknes (Norway).

Which pier would you like to see re-open?


What direction would you like to see CRSC take in the next few years?

Donations, please: Waverley leaves Largs in August 2016. Copyright Iain Dewar

Keeping existing successful formula of meetings and mags for as long as there is demand whilst developing electronic communication, partly for efficiency, partly to attract younger people for whom the great days are not even a memory. Important for repute and to attract the right sort of members is the need to continue to produce well researched articles and talks. Whilst always having friendly relations, maintain a critical distance from any one shipping company.

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

Well…come 2020 it will be 20 years since Waverleys last major rebuild. So help with funding the next to ensure there is still a proper Clyde steamer in the Clubs centenary year would be an entirely appropriate use of the Clyde River STEAMER Clubs new-found fortune.

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

The combination of interesting, often scholarly, articles on the history, traditions and personalities of Clyde/West Coast shipping with current news and the (for me) occasional opportunity to take advantage of an unusual excursion. My father was also one of the very early members so theres a family tradition.

What could the Club do better?

Promote near constant sunshine on the Clyde followed by building a fine fleet of turbines and paddlers……one can dream! Otherwise not much.

Iain Dewar speaks at a start-of-season reception on Waverley in May 2015, with Jean McGowan and Olive McCrorie (right) among the audience. Copyright CRSC

Helen and Iain Dewar at CRSC’s 80th anniversary dinner in November 2012. Copyright CRSC

Caledonia at Campbeltown on a CRSC charter on 13 September 1969, with Queen Mary II behind. Copyright Iain Dewar

Childhood holidays: Gay Queen at Rothesay. Copyright Iain Dewar

…and the band played on: onboard scene from the late 1960s. Copyright Iain Dewar

Engine room of Queen Mary. Copyright Iain Dewar

Halcyon days on the Firth: deck crew relaxing on Queen Mary. Copyright Iain Dewar

‘I realised I was witnessing the end of an era’: Queen Mary at Tarbert in 1976. Copyright Iain Dewar

‘I was fascinated by the characterful individuals’: feeding the seagulls on Queen Mary. Copyright Iain Dewar

On the Spot: Lawrence Macduff

On the Spot: Robin Urie

Click here to join CRSC and further your interest in Scottish shipping.