Three really good speakers…..

The latter half of CRSC’s winter session of meetings at Jurys Inn, Glasgow, was exceptionally rewarding, thanks to three really good speakers. In January Lawrence Macduff expounded on CalMac’s design evolution. In February Robin Copland entertained us with a nostalgic and humorous memoir of Largs pier down the decades. In March David Scott illuminated steamer history through the lens of Sir Walter Scott’s literature. Fascinating!

Lawrence MacduffLawrence’s survey of ferry design over the past 50 years benefited not only from his renowned colour photography, but also from his expert knowledge of ship interiors and engine rooms — starting with the wood-panelled dining rooms and old-fashioned bridge design of the trio of 1964 MacBrayne car ferries, and continuing with the Scandinavian trademarks of Caledonia and Suilven. Then came the flat, purposeful look and ‘cheap and cheerful’ interiors of Pioneer, the plastic tables and bright yellow seats of the 1980s drive-through generation, the ‘clean air’ policy of the 1990s, leading to better ventilated and more comfortable accommodation on Caledonian Isles and Isle of Lewis, and finally the limited deck space — and massive power requirement — of Clansman and Hebrides. Lawrence made us look at these ferries with fresh eyes.

Robin CoplandRobin’s affectionate tribute to Largs — its changing face as a seaside resort, its pivotal place in steamer timetables, its modern role as a ferry terminal — was framed on one hand by a brief history of the pier from the earliest days of steam, and on the other by vivid overhead shots of the pier’s 2007-8 reconstruction. But the heart of the talk lay in Robin’s evocation of boyhood summers there in the 1960s. The family would spill out of their holiday villa and onto the pier, there to board Duchess of Hamilton, Caledonia or Jeanie Deans for a day’s excursion to the farther reaches of the Firth. We were reminded of some of Largs’s more exotic visitors, from the 1960s hovercraft to Balmoral and Hebridean Princess. Robin has ‘the gift of the gab’, and his talk was one to brighten spirits and evoke fond memories.

David ScottDavid’s survey of ‘Scott’s Scottish Steamers’ extended far beyond the well-known link between the Waverley novels and North British nomenclature. Alongside vintage photographs and John Nicholson portraits of Craigendoran-based paddlers, we were reminded that the figure adorning Waverley’s paddle-box is actually an Englishman (Sir Edward Waverley being the young soldier who joins the Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans); that the oft-quoted ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave/When first we practise to deceive!’ comes not from Shakespeare but from Scott’s epic poem Marmion; that the Victorian Loch Tay steamer Lady of the Lake has an identically named successor on Loch Katrine (formerly the Glasgow water bus Pride O’ The Clyde); that Meg Merrilies is the name of a witch; that the Fair Maid (of Perth) was entrusted to the protection of the Duchess of Rothesay; and when the fictional Jeanie Deans visited London, she was introduced to the Duchess of Argyll. Cue a fabulous succession of steamer photographs, from the NB’s Lucy Ashton to the hybrid ferry Lochinvar. David had clearly done his homework: his ‘quick canter through the Waverley novels’ — full of lightly worn erudition — would surely have delighted Sir Walter.



Largs pier under reconstruction in 2007

Largs pier under reconstruction in 2007 — CRSC copyright photo


Cowal at Largs in 1971 from Queen Mary II -- CRSC copyright photo

Cowal at Largs in 1971 from Queen Mary II — CRSC copyright photo


Pioneer lounge

Pioneer’s lounge — Copyright Lawrence Macduff


Isle of Arran approaching Ardrossan in 1984

Isle of Arran approaching Ardrossan in 1984 — Copyright Lawrence Macduff


Lochinvar at Largs on 1 February 2015

Lochinvar at Largs on 1 February 2015 — CRSC copyright photo


Lucy Ashton c1937

Lucy Ashton c1937 — CRSC copyright photo