Robert Cleary, a former Purser on Loch Lomond, reflects on a beautiful photograph of a beautiful loch steamer.
This photograph is something of a mystery. On the back it states quite clearly ‘Date Taken Feb ’34’. It was taken as an official photograph for the Advertising Manager, LNER, Edinburgh.
Why would Prince Edward be sailing in February 1934 with such a large crowd aboard? The twice-weekly winter service on Loch Lomond ended at the end of March 1933 and so, if the date of February 1934 is correct, this must be a special sailing out of the normal pattern of summer sailings. Did the Loch Lomond steamers not put up flags if they were on charter?
So many questions but no obvious answers. My own view is that the date on the photograph is wrong: someone in the Advertising Manager’s office simply made a mistake. I prefer to believe that it was taken on a summer’s day when Prince Edward was on her way from Inversnaid to Tarbet. She has a good crowd on board, all of them enjoying their trip on the most beautiful of Scottish lochs.
By 1934 the old steamer Empress had been sold for scrapping, leaving Prince Edward and Prince George operating the main schedule, while Prince George’s twin sister, Princess May, acted as spare vessel and the small Princess Patricia provided short ‘round the islands’ cruises from Balloch.
From 1933 the Loch Lomond steamers were operated jointly by the London Midland and Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway, with the fleet being managed in effect by a Superintendent Engineer and Superintendent Steward based at Craigendoran.
The operation was doing good business too, with weekday sailings in 1934 showing a profit of £46 19s 1d and the Sunday trips even more lucrative, turning in a surplus of £90 19s 6d.
Prince Edward sailed from her base at Balloch Pier the whole length of the loch to Ardlui, with calls at Balmaha, Luss, Rowardennan, Tarbet and Inversnaid.
In this striking image she is seen in a beautiful livery of red funnel with black top and light grey hull. The saloons and paddle-boxes were also done out in grey with pink panelling. Varnished wood was much in evidence, and the whole visual effect was delightful when viewed against the scenery of the loch.
Prince Edward began sailing on Loch Lomond in 1912. Like her predecessors she had been built on the Clyde at the yard of A. & J. Inglis. After launching she sailed up the River Leven. Due to the dry summer of 1911, however, the level of water in the river was low and so she grounded and remained stuck until the wet weather that autumn.
The dining saloon on Prince Edward was on the main deck forward, just like Maid of the Loch. On the deck below it, there was a small bar. The main saloon was aft, with fixed seating arranged in bays on each side. Her main engines were compound diagonal with two cylinders and two cranks.
On deck the bridge was behind the funnel, with only a canvas dodger to protect the Captain, the Mate and the steersman.
In the photograph you can quite clearly see passengers out on the open part of the starboard forward sponson.
Prince Edward was 175ft in length and had a passenger certificate for 958.
For further reading: Loch Lomond Passenger Steamers 1818-1989 by Alan Brown.
Published on 25 April 2020