Passage to Arran in the CalMac era

Glen Sannox leaving Brodick in April 1989, during her final spell on the Arran run. Copyright Eric Schofield

At our November 2017 meeting, CRSC Honorary Secretary Eric Schofield delivered the second part of his talk on ‘Taking Passage to Arran’, on this occasion concentrating on the CalMac era with special emphasis on the much loved car ferry Glen Sannox. It was a wide-ranging presentation, writes Robert Cleary, executed with Eric’s customary aplomb and attention to relevant detail, and much appreciated by the audience.

Eric started with a look at how the fleet adapted to the formation of CalMac in 1973, with a beautiful illustration of Glen Sannox, Queen Mary II and Waverley at Gourock Pier at Easter that year — the ‘Sannox’ still sporting a yellow funnel.

As the two former fleets of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and David MacBrayne Limited now operated as one unit, it became possible for different ships to serve the Arran route in a relief capacity, such as the 1964 Hebrides over the festive period at the end of 1972 and the beginning of 1973, and Arran in April 1973, with her stern ramp now fitted.

Eric introduces his talk at Jurys Inn on 8 November 2017. Copyright CRSC

Eric’s focus then shifted to the latter years of Glen Sannox, with a series of excellent shots of her on the Arran station and at many other locations around the Clyde and Western Isles, including her partnership in the early 1970s with Maid of Cumbrae on the Gourock-Dunoon route.

Many happy CRSC charters were remembered aboard the ‘Sannox’ — for example, the April 1975 trip when at short notice the ferry’s large capacity was utilised to pick up a coach from Brodick, so that the route for the day became Gourock-Wemyss Bay-Largs-Tighnabruaich-Tarbert-Inveraray-Brodick-Largs-Wemyss Bay-Dunoon-Gourock. As Eric remarked, the ‘Sannox’ was “surely the holder of the most unusual ‘Passage to Arran’”.

She was also recalled in her cruising role in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with shots of the car deck camouflaged to resemble a cruise ship. In 1987 the ‘Sannox’ celebrated her 30th anniversary with a special sailing to Troon and Stranraer. Her final periods of service to Islay and Arran were also covered, and there was a fine shot of her in Tobermory Bay on her last ‘special’ trip in the Western Isles.

Eric then returned to his theme of the main services to Arran via Brodick and Lochranza. As new ships came on to the route their arrival was celebrated in style — first the lengthened Clansman, then the purpose-built Isle of Arran in 1984, followed by Caledonian Isles some nine years later.

Car deck of Glen Sannox in 1978, camouflaged to resemble a cruise ship. Copyright Eric Schofield

These major ferries required relief ships for overhaul or busy summer traffic, and Eric was on hand to record a plethora of different vessels which have maintained the Ardrossan link — Pioneer, Iona, Jupiter and Saturn.

Isle of Arran herself became the secondary Arran ferry in the summer from 2012, and Eric recalled a stormy day when she was diverted to Wemyss Bay for her first call there.

A succession of larger units provided cover during Caledonian Isles’ overhaul, such as the new Clansman, Hebrides, Isle of Mull, Hebridean Isles and Lord of the Isles. The audience were wowed with a variety of classic poses of the different ferries.

As for Lochranza-Claonaig, Eric guided us through the development of this route as Kilbrannan and Rhum gave way to Loch Ranza and, as traffic increased, Loch Tarbert and Lochinvar.

Club charters on smaller vessels also featured in Eric’s talk, notably the successful charter of Rhum from Lochranza to Carradale in 1982, The Second Snark to Lochranza and Kames in 1993, and the no less enjoyable (though financially less successful) excursion to Lamlash on board Balmoral in 1994.

Among those congratulating Eric (third from left) after his talk were CRSC Vice-President Rob Beale, Club member Bernd Reichenecker from Frankfurt and former CalMac Managing Director John Whittle. Copyright CRSC

Eric has a fine eye for the telling photograph, and there were numerous examples of this during his presentation. I particularly enjoyed the shots of old Lochranza Pier and various illustrations of how Brodick Pier had been changed over the years.

His talk was further enhanced by some glorious views of Arran in two special sequences showing how Caledonian Isles and Waverley provide fine opportunities for travellers to enjoy the beauty of the island in its many aspects.

Arran buses also featured over the years, from the older vehicles of the separate companies which served different parts of the island, to the formation of Arran Coaches and, right up-to-date, the purpose-built vehicles of current operator Stagecoach.

Over the length of one and a quarter hours, which passed in the twinkling of an eye, we were royally entertained as Eric’s love of Arran and its ferries delighted and amazed us in equal measure.

In his vote of thanks, Club auditor Graeme Hogg paid tribute to Eric’s hard work in devising such an excellent evening, recalling in particular his own enjoyment of Balmoral to Lamlash and how a Club member had landed at the remains of Auchenlochan Pier in the Kyles of Bute in the course of the ‘Snark’ charter.

Next CRSC meeting: Members’ Night on Wednesday 13 December at Jurys Inn, Glasgow.

Click on Taking Passage to Arran — The CSP Years for the March 2017 instalment of Erics talk.

A fine eye for the telling photograph: Glen Sannox at Brodick c1978 with the old pier buildings. Copyright Eric Schofield

Eric’s ‘Passage to Arran’ theme took on an unusual dimension with the inclusion of this photo of Fair Isle at Holy Isle Lighthouse Jetty, which Eric and family visited during an Arran holiday in July 1983. Copyright Eric Schofield

Lunchtime: a passage to/from Arran that Eric himself organised when he was CRSC Cruise Convener was from Lochranza to Carradale and back on Rhum in May 1982. Copyright Eric Schofield

‘An impression of speed’: Caledonia approaching Brodick on 15 July 1973. Copyright Eric Schofield

Bird’s eye view of Rhum leaving her lunchtime berth inside Lochranza Pier on 12 July 1973. Copyright Eric Schofield

Balmoral at Lamlash Stone Quay in 1994: this unusual call was organised as part of a CRSC charter. Copyright Eric Schofield

Glen Sannox deck scene in Loch Fyne during the CRSC charter on 26 April 1975. The trip took in Tighnabruaich, Tarbert and Inveraray as well as an unscheduled stop at Brodick. Copyright Eric Schofield

Gobbling up the crowds: Clansman at Brodick Pier on 31 July 1976. Copyright Eric Schofield

The good old days: Bannatyne and Lennox buses at Brodick. Copyright Eric Schofield

Arran in all weathers: Loch Riddon nearing Lochranza in 2003. Copyright Eric Schofield

Arran reliefs: Pioneer (foreground, at Irish berth) and Iona at Ardrossan Harbour in February 1992. Copyright Eric Schofield

Caledonian Isles undergoes berthing trials at the new Brodick Pier on 26 June 2017. Copyright Eric Schofield

Waverley on 22 August 2017 — the final picture taken by Eric of a traditional steamer at the ‘old’ Brodick Pier

Much-loved ferry: Glen Sannox leaving Brodick in October 1986. Copyright Eric Schofield

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