On the Spot: Terry Sylvester

Balmoral on 28 May 1989 at Carrick Castle — a pier Terry Sylvester would like to see re-opened. Copyright CRSC Dr Joe McKendrick Collection

In the latest of our ‘On the Spot’ series, Terry Sylvester steps into the spotlight to answer our set questions. Terry has been a CRSC member since the mid 1960s and was recently awarded Honorary Membership in recognition of his pivotal role in saving Waverley for operational preservation in the 1970s. Over the following quarter-century and more, he worked tirelessly to keep her running.

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

Early memories: Troon-built Glen Usk on the Bristol Channel. Copyright CRSC Archive Collection

Ravenswood, P & A Campbell’s Clyde-built paddle steamer in 1946. Although I was only five, I know that I sailed with my aunt from Barry pier on a cruise ‘off Weston’. You couldn’t land at Weston-super-Mare at that time as the pier had not recovered from war-time use. I also sailed on exactly the same sailing the following day with my parents, on Glen Usk. On the Clyde I remember sailing aboard Caledonia in 1968.

What was the last sailing you took?

Last August — a Saturday sailing on Waverley from Glasgow to Tighnabruaich.

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

I never stayed on the Bristol Channel on holiday — it was always day trips — but, with my wife and children, we had holidays at Dunoon, Rothesay and Oban in the 1970s and 80s. 

What is your favourite steamer?

In boyhood it was P. & A. Campbell’s Britannia, which was Clyde built. My favourite Clyde steamer was Duchess of Hamilton. Now it’s Waverley.

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


Ready for business: Terry Sylvester outside the Waverley office in 1975, her first summer in operational preservation

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

None of these.

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

Waverley now. JD is history for older people.

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

The name should be memorable and attractive for marketing – not a name from the past for the sake of nostalgia. If Waverley was no longer sailing this name would be the most recognised for present generations.

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

In the 1950s Geoffrey Grimshaw criticised the CSP management, saying they would do well to sail on board their steamers, and if they listened to their passengers, they might hear something to their advantage. With Waverley, I did that as often as I could, and it was always a pleasure. I also learned a lot from liaising with the crew and enthusiasts — even if sometimes I didn’t agree with what they said. I’ve always tried to think as a passenger, and so I would urge present-day ship operators to do the same.

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

My Clyde sailings have been on all four of the steamers from 1968 onwards (Caledonia, Duchess of Hamilton, Queen Mary II and Waverley) and many trips incorporated point-to-point ferry routes. I do not recall having sailed on any Clyde passenger ship that could be designated as a ferry, as opposed to a pleasure steamer.

Terry in 2013, when he gave a talk to CRSC in Glasgow. Copyright CRSC

Which pier would you like to see re-open?

Carrick Castle.

What direction would you like to see CRSC take in the next few years?

Focus on the younger generations.

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

Promotion and marketing to increase membership of younger generations and include free tickets for under 21s to sail on Waverley.

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

News, information and contact with friends.

What could the Club do better?

Attract younger members.

Terry Sylvester and Douglas McGowan have accepted an invitation to attend the CRSC meeting on Wednesday 14 March at Jurys Inn, Glasgow, when they will be formally welcomed as Honorary Members of the Club. Please join us in celebrating them and their achievements.

First steamer: Ravenswood, built by McKnights of Ayr in 1891 for P & A Campbell’s Bristol Channel services. Copyright CRSC Archive Collection

Early favourite: P & A Campbell’s Britannia, pictured off Eastbourne Pier c 1950. Copyright CRSC Archive Collection

Duchess of Hamilton was Terry’s favourite Clyde steamer of all — pictured at Ardrishaig on a CRSC charter on 5 September 1970. Copyright CRSC C. Kennedy Mills

Waverley at Ardrishaig on 27 April 1991. Without Terry’s tireless energy, single-minded determination and gift for marketing, the paddler might not have survived into the 21st century — and might never have been saved in the first place. Copyright CRSC Dr Joe McKendrick Colletion

Previously ‘On the Spot’:

Robin Urie

Lawrence Macduff

Iain Dewar

Derek Crawford

Cameron Shaw

Graeme Dunlop

Andrew Anderson

Barbara Craig

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