On the Spot: Ken Mills

Forever a favourite: King George V at Inveraray on the CRSC charter of 19 May 1973. This is one of a collection of images Ken recently donated to the CRSC digital archive, all taken by him and many of them featuring well-loved steamers and ferries from the early 1960s onwards

Kennedy (Ken) Mills has been a well-kent presence around all matters connected with CRSC for more years than he may care to admit. President during the 1995-96 session and one of the Club’s auditors from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s, Ken has indeed been an ‘active member’ — and still is, rarely missing an excursion or meeting. His memories and thoughts are fascinating.

Ken Mills on the CRSC Round Arran charter of MV Isle of Arran in January 2018. Photo by Robin Copland

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

I think that would be 1939 on TS Glen Sannox, sitting in the lower saloon on the mottled grey seating. Apparently as a babe in arms I travelled on TS Atalanta to Arran, but I have no memory of this!

What was the most recent sailing you took?

Apart from Arran on Caledonian Isles, during the summer I sailed to Mull outwards on Isle of Mull and returned on Coruisk, connecting with Turus Mara sailing to Lunga and Staffa.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

Arran, initially to Machrie and after marriage to Brodick where we now have a house.

What is your favourite steamer?

Duchess of Montrose, followed closely by King George V.

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


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

Maid of Skelmorlie, probably for the diversity of her cruise programme and the friendliness of her crew.

Ken on board Waverley. Photo courtesy of Ken Mills

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

Jeanie Deans, a fine vessel on which to sail. Well laid out, comfortable and with a great turn of speed when needed.

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


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

A separate freight ferry introduced to the Arran service to ease present pressure on vehicle bookings, coupled with an overnight freight service to Belfast instead of the ferry lying idle.

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

Undoubtedly Leverburgh to Hirta (St Kilda), on the Sea Harris-owned vessel Enchanted Isle.

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

Fairlie, using the adjacent former NATO pier which could be used by Rothesay and Arran vessels in inclement weather. Even with the proposed spend at Ardrossan, it is still going to cause difficulties in the now more frequent strong winds. The former arrangement of Fairlie in winter and Ardrossan in summer for Arran sailings would have been a good solution.

On MV Bute during the CRSC lunch excursion from Gourock to Rothesay with CalMac MD Martin Dorchester on 9 January 2016. Photo by Andrew Clark

What inspired you to join CRSC?

My introduction to the Club as a very young teenager was instigated by the late Ian Muir (former engineer on Waverley). My real interest goes back to the war years and holidays spent on Arran and several Easter weeks in Rothesay. Ian was my corporal in the BB, and I soon discovered he was a member of CRSC. He invited me to a meeting — then in the City Halls in Bath Street — and shortly afterwards I joined the Club. That would be 1949. Apart from interruptions when a student and then National Service, I have been an active member ever since.

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

Advertising in the Press, TV and internet, though we are doing very well with the latter. We have a great product to sell and, with the enhanced passenger carryings on CalMac, there must be considerable untapped interest available for capture.

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

Friendliness of the Club and the sharing of common interests with others. Excellent monthly meetings in winter and the opportunity for organised outings whether by charter or on nominated excursions.

What could the Club do better?

1. We need to see if there is any way the meeting venue can be improved. Although Jurys Inn is central for parking and public transport, and has the benefit of the extra room, it is sometimes difficult to hear the speaker, and even to see the picture projections if you are sitting more than half way down the room. A speaker system is necessary.
2. Negotiate with CalMac for a discounted fare for members on, say, three nominated sailings per year on a turn-up-and-go basis — in addition to any special sailings or charters organised by the Club.
3. Bring our annual Reviews up to date.

● Ken Mills has been a valuable supporter of CRSC’s website since its inception, contributing articles on his memories of Duchess of Montrose, his trip on the preserved puffer VIC32, his 2012 visit to St Kilda, his excursions on lesser known Scottish lochs, and Isle of Arran Heritage Museum’s recent exhibition devoted to the history of Brodick pier.

Earliest memory: TS Glen Sannox passing Holy Isle’s ‘Wee Donald’ lighthouse in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Graeme MacKenzie

Ken’s vintage photo of the old Rothesay pier building, which was destroyed by fire in 1962

‘A fine vessel on which to sail’: Ken’s 1961 portrait of Jeanie Deans at Rothesay

As a longstanding Arran weekender, Ken takes advantage of all the opportunities at his disposal to photograph rare visitors — in this case Balmoral during her unique call at the Lamlash stone pier in May 1994

Ken travelled on Iona whenever she deputised on the Ardrossan-Brodick run — here in February 1992

Like many Arranites, Ken has fond memories of sailing to Brodick on Glen Sannox: he took this picture from her aft deck in May 1961, looking back at an ‘ABC’ ferry manoeuvring at Ardrossan’s Winton Pier

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Published on 20 December 2018