Jane Liston lives in St Andrews where, as a longstanding Fife councillor, she has kept up a tireless campaign for a railway line to the east coast university town. Her immersion in local issues has never stopped her heading west for any CRSC excursion that is going. A keen supporter of Waverley (and an equally keen cyclist), she is the latest focus of our ‘On the Spot’ series, in which Stuart Craig asks questions designed to reveal what ‘floats the boat’ for different Club members.
What is your earliest memory of sailing on a ferry?
Probably on one of the Firth of Forth ferries: Queen Margaret, Mary Queen of Scots, Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, at the end of the 1950s. I remember seeing the Forth Road Bridge under construction, the two towers and then the deck gradually extending out from them.
Mum said that soon we wouldn’t need to take a ferry because we would be able to drive right across the bridge. I was very upset because I looked at the Forth Bridge and thought we would crash into a train!
At that time we were going on holiday every year to Blackwaterfoot, and that could only mean the Glen Sannox: that big light orange (to my mind) funnel, the two passenger lounges, blue on the lower deck and red on the upper, and running around on deck, feeding the seagulls on stale bread. I can remember watching her sailing into Ardrossan or Fairlie from far off, gradually getting nearer and nearer.
Then boarding in our Morris Minor, driving on to what I thought of as a wee lift with other cars, down into the very noisy car deck where crewmen pushed us round on a turntable, and once out the car, being able to look through some opening at the engines; I have an impression of blazing lights and a terrific banging, so loud one had to shout. When Dad said let’s go and see the engines, that is actually what he meant!
What was the most recent sailing you took?
On MV Isle of Arran last month, the sailing from Kennacraig to Port Askaig and back on the CRSC coach and cruise excursion to Islay. Highlight for me was the bridge visit, when I got to turn her six degrees to starboard!
Holidays: which island would you choose?
Arran – I usually visit three times a year now. Funny how one reverts to where one went as a child.
What is your favourite steamer or ferry?
Current fleet – probably Isle of Arran. Former vessels — Glen Sannox. I was delighted to come across her cruising from Arran when I started to go there under my own steam, as it were, and did the round Holy Isle and Campbeltown cruises on her.
Which was Waverley’s best livery?
I’ve only ever seen her in the LNER/WSN one, but that seems to suit her fine.
If young enough, what was your favourite ‘streaker’, or if older, your favourite ‘Maid’?
As previous answers have revealed, I am certainly old enough but don’t remember the ‘Maids’. On family holidays we only got the ferry over to Brodick and back, and never went for excursion sailings – I suspect they were deemed too expensive.
I do remember seeing PS Caledonia and TS Duchess of Hamilton in the late 1960s, and in 1972 Queen Mary II. As for the ‘streakers’, I was only on two of them, as part of a ‘saintly odyssey’ round Scotland back in 2000 — Saturn one way and Juno back. Seeing as Saturn served on the Arran run, though, I will plump for her.
What name would you give the second of the ferries being built at Fergusons just now? You can be imaginative!
If it’s now destined for Arran, Glen Rosa, though I understand there is a clamour for Claymore. If someone else has pinched the name Glen Rosa, how about Glen Catacol?
Looking back, what is the perfect example of the Clyde steamer, or car ferry?
Considering my childhood trips to Arran, Glen Sannox was fine as far as I was concerned. After her, MV Caledonia was a bit of a let-down, though I was only on her for one holiday in 1972. By then the family was spreading its wings and we had begun to holiday mainly in the south of England, interspersed with foreign holidays. With only one passenger lounge I thought MV Caledonia a ‘pokey wee boat’. The 1964 Clansman was better: my abiding memory of her is the holders attached to the tables in the bar so that your drink didn’t go skiting off the table when a big wave struck! Isle of Arran was a great improvement.
What would you like to see happen on the Clyde or Hebridean ferry scene over the next few years?
A greater emphasis on two things: foot passengers and integration. With the climate emergency, the foot passenger option has to be made more attractive, not just to those without cars but also to those who do have them. Too often, it seems to me, the needs of foot passengers are an afterthought or are completely forgotten. An example: the closure of Ardrossan Winton Pier station and the opening of the so-called Ardrossan Harbour station — actually further away from the boat, leading to these huge passenger walkways. I can tell you it is not much fun carrying a folding bike, pannier, back-pack and sometimes also a golf-bag along the Brodick . Whoever thought it would be OK to make accessing a boat like boarding an aeroplane forgot that when flying you do not have to carry all your luggage on board! I sincerely hope the error is not repeated at Ardrossan. As far as I can see, although the ‘Maritime Hub’ there will be nearer the station, the distance passengers have to walk will be much longer. That is also why Troon must be only a temporary terminal for the Arran ferry, because although ‘Ardrossan Harbour’ station is not ideally placed, Troon railway station is even further away from the ferry.
Then you have the Islay ferry going from Kennacraig and the second Arran ferry operating out of Claonaig — both in the middle of nowhere. Even the Mull ferry only goes to Craignure, although most people are going to Tobermory. No wonder people with the option choose to take a car instead! And by integration I don’t just mean ensuring that railway stations are as close to the ferries as possible, and timed to connect, but also that all major ferry ports should have a rail connection. Ullapool is the obvious candidate here; time to revive the Garve-Ullapool project, and also Cairnryan. Possibly not Kennacraig, or even Tarbert, but one can get to Islay via Oban, albeit infrequently.
It would also be good to reintroduce services between the Clyde islands rather than just mainland to island. What happened to the plans for the Campbeltown service, which should be at least daily if not all year, to make more stops at Brodick?
For visitors who like the idea of visiting Arran, Bute and Cumbrae, unless they can arrange the visits around Waverley’s timetable, this means going back to a different mainland port for each island, and for Bute, either a bus trip from Ardrossan or Largs to Wemyss Bay, or a rail journey all the way to Paisley to change for another train all the way back to the coast!
The best point-to-point route you’ve sailed on?
On Waverley from Glasgow to Oban. Just over three weeks to go till the next one – I am very excited! I’ll soon be checking the supply of red, white and black nail varnish and looking out all my OS maps. I am looking forward to spotting as many CalMac ferries as possible on the trip.
Which new west coast route would you like to see open up?
Not new but a revival – Mallaig/Kyle of Lochalsh to Stornoway, because Ullapool is some considerable distance from a railway station. There might also be an attraction in a service direct to Jura rather than having to go via Port Askaig and then transfer to the wee ferry.
What inspired you to join CRSC?
Going on the excursions. The west coast scenery is just beautiful. It’s quite an expedition for someone living in St Andrews to reach the west coast in the first place, so an organised trip makes things easier.
What makes you continue your membership of CRSC?
More excursions, and I have also enjoyed seeing some of the presentations online. I am happily learning more about those wonderful vessels, past and present, in the hope that I can look at an old photograph and sagely say which vessel it is. By the way, I would very much like to know how one distinguishes between the Duchesses of Hamilton and Montrose!
How would you like the Club to evolve over the next few years?
The online presentations should attract more members from all over the country, without those living east of Shotts and Harthill having to spend a significant time travelling, so I would hope those will be retained. As for excursions, I hope that whenever the likes of the Maid of the Loch (which is nearly on the Clyde!) and Queen Mary resume sailing, the Club will be able to include these. If rumours of Arrochar pier come to pass and Tarbet can be restored, then I hope CRSC could organise a Three Lochs excursion: that would be super.
● Jane Liston has agreed to be one of three presenters at our next ‘Members Night’ on 10 January 2024.
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PREVIOUSLY ‘ON THE SPOT’:
Rob Beale, Mark Nicolson, Lawrence Macduff, Carrie MacKinnon, Allan Smith, Paul Semple, Stuart McMahon, Barbara Craig, Graeme Roy, Charles McCrossan, Andrew Anderson, Fraser MacHaffie, Gavin Stewart, Graeme Phanco, Walter Bowie, Robin Urie, Kay Hutchison, Graham Lappin, Jim Stirling, Duncan Wilson, Susan Forrest, Derek Peters, Anne Mitchell, Ken Mills, John Beveridge, Terry Sylvester, David Scott, Graeme Dunlop, Iain Dewar, Derek Crawford.
Published on 3 May 2023