Some Hebridean Jaunts: meeting report

‘The Oban air was filled with the smell of dozens of cooked breakfasts’: Eric Schofield surveys the morning scene as Lochboisdale-bound Claymore departs the Railway Pier in the early 1980s, with Glen Sannox to the left

Wednesday 9 March was an auspicious evening for CRSC. The relaxation of Covid restrictions allowed members and friends to return to Jurys Inn in Glasgow for the first time in two years. Club secretary Eric Schofield stepped forward to present our first ever ‘hybrid’ meeting, as Stuart Craig explains.

Andy Anderson got the show underway by pointing out that in his two-year tenure as President this was the first ‘live’ audience he had presided over. But just as importantly this was also a Zoom meeting, reassuring distant members that the success of our online presentations would continue. This was the first of our new ‘hybrid’ meetings, and it was a tremendous success.

No tacky modernism: Eric’s idea of what how Loch Seaforth might look if her paintwork at the stern was traditionally aligned

When the speaker planned for our March meeting unfortunately had to pull out, who better than Eric Schofield to conjure up a replacement presentation. This wasn’t the first time Eric had pulled something out of the hat in order to fulfil our programme of talks and, as in the past, Eric entertained us with visual delights that were pure magic. It was also a very big ‘hat’, as first out was the mighty 2014 Loch Seaforth, at the start of a spellbinding Hebridean journey that took us to every West Highland and island port, seemingly upon every vessel.

Eric first set sail, as an adult, in Hebridean waters in 1968 on the original Loch Seaforth, and he enjoyed it so much that two years later he was off again, weaving a complex route around much of the MacBrayne network. This was the genesis of many years of such journeys and, for the duration of his talk, we joined him in his peregrinations from Islay to Stornoway, and every port between, all illustrated in glorious red and black technicolour.

As MacBrayne became CalMac,  so Eric continued – spending so much time afloat that one wonders how he managed time to be our honorary secretary for 29 years!

Eric’s photography is well known and appreciated not only among club members, but much further afield. Two photographs stood out for me in particular: one showing all three Western Ferries ships (Sound of Jura, Sound of Islay and Sound of Gigha) at Port Askaig at the same time, and a stunning photo of CalMac’s Claymore at Lochboisdale.

Arran arriving at West Loch Tarbert in 1970

His ‘asides’ kept the audience enthralled. Eric doesn’t like the “tacky modernistic approach” to the livery of the latest Loch Seaforth, and so he showed us his doctored image of what the colour-scheme should look like! He then suggested that the residents of Lewis expect a new ship for the Stornoway-Ullapool route every 20 years, and that there hasn’t been a new CalMac ship for seven years now.

He was also able to put over positive viewpoints. The Islay route is a favourite due to the variety of ships that serve the island, and although I thought Pioneer was his best-loved ship, he made it apparent that the 1978 Claymore occupied that role. I also laughed at his early morning sensory recollection of Oban — “the Oban air was filled with the smell of dozens of cooked breakfasts.” He preferred ‘lift-loading’ of vehicles, as opposed to roll-on roll-off, as “it allowed more time to jump ashore for a photo.”

And he seemed slightly embarrassed to be recalling the time when, as a young adult, he was coerced into imbibing some illicit malt while on a clay-pigeon shooting evening on Islay!

In the course of Eric’s presentation it became apparent that he is a wizard at the use of public transport, at finding the perfect vantage point and in the use of a camera. He is undoubtedly one of the finest ship photographers around, and he has been around!

As the title of Eric’s presentation alluded, this was a West Highland jaunt for all of us on this fascinating evening. The Jurys audience of 30 was just as captivated as the 70-odd that watched on Zoom. Angus Ross gave a traditional vote of thanks and CRSC is very grateful for the help of Robert Newth, John Newth and Robin Copland in making this a technical triumph for the Club.

Paid-up members can watch the video of Eric’s presentation here. It contains 136 images. If you are not yet a member, you can join for £10 here and receive all the benefits of our association, including online access to an extensive library of ‘Members Only’ posts.

The 1947 Loch Seaforth at Greenock: commenting on the shape of her bow, Eric said she was well equipped to cleave the stormy waters of the Minch

Coruisk, one of the 1960s Skye ferries, viewed from the port side of Loch Seaforth’s promenade deck

Iona leaves Kyle of Lochalsh for Stornoway in 1972, viewed from Loch Arkaig

Waverley passes through the narrows at Kylerhea in the 1980s

Pioneer at Port Askaig, one of Eric’s favourite haunts

Clansman at Stornoway in 1973

Isle of Arran in the Sound of Islay

Claymore at Tiree — pier side scene with Eric’s favoured mode of vehicle loading (side ramp with hoist)

It’s great to be back! Members gather in our meeting room at Jurys Inn on 9 March for the first time in two years. Another 70 joined the meeting by Zoom video conferencing

Congrats to Eric! Robert Newth (far left) oversaw the technical coordination between meeting room and Zoom audience. Angus Ross (second left) gave a vote of thanks, and it was an unexpected pleasure to welcome expatriate Club member Alan Chalmers (third left) all the way from his home in Switzerland. Eric (centre) is flanked on the right by Club President Andrew Anderson, Carrie MacKinnon and Cameron Wilson

Published on 14 March 2022