Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Clyde-built Paddle Steamer Under Demolition

After many years of steady deterioration the former Portsmouth - Ryde paddle steamer Ryde, built by the famous William Denny & Brothers shipyard in Dumbarton, is under demolition. Initial pictures of the operation can be seen at


Thanks to Martin Longhurst (PSPS National Secretary) for the information.

Stuart Cameron

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Coasts of Clyde

The following embedded links take you to YouTube versions of the classic British Transport Films' promotional documentary 'The Coasts of Clyde'. It is loaded in three parts (presumably due file size, bandwidth or some other restrictions). If interested you can buy higher resolution copies of this film on DVD.

I think this film demonstrates why there is still a band of 'steamer enthusiasts' that have kept the last of the Clyde steamers, Waverley, going for the last 35 years (the ship has now been in operational preservation for significantly longer than it was in commercial service - 27 years). Those of us on the wrong side of 50 can still recall with some fondness the days when there was a fleet of steamers on the Firth of Clyde. Waverley has been the sole survivor of the breed since 1978. The film includes views of the Clyde paddle steamers Jeanie Deans, Caledonia, Jupiter and Waverley and a brief clip of Maid of the Loch, which is currently statically preserved at Balloch on Loch Lomond. There is a very brief glimpse of three passenger steamers alongside Rothesay pier at the same time, something that most certainly will not happen again (at 3 mins 35 seconds in part 2). (The nearest that you can get to the Clyde steamer fleet feeling nowadays is to visit the paddle steamer fleets of the Lakes of Geneva and Lucerne in Switzerland - but you don't get the open sea feel there). The Rothesay clip depicts part of the paddler Caledonia at the Craigmore (near) end of the pier, the turbine steamer Queen Mary II berthed at the middle berth (Berth2), on one of her regular 'Doon-the-Watter' sailings from Glasgow Bridge Wharf to the Kyles of Bute, and the Waverley berthing at the Ardbeg end of the pier, a berth that she has recently started to use again following the significant remodelling of Rothesay pier. There is some 'artistic licence' at work in the making of the film e.g. the sequence describing the passage through the famous 'Narrows' of the Kyles of Bute involves two different paddle steamers - the first part shows Jeanie Deans entering the narrow channel from the East Kyle (at 4:41), the Jupiter passing through it (at 4:50) and back to the Jeanie Deans exiting the Narrows and turning to port to head down the West Kyle to Tighnabruaich (at 5:04).

Incidentally, I think the Cunard Line vessel at the start of Part 1 is the liner Media, which was a product of the John Brown shipyard at Clydebank in 1947, the same year that the Waverley was built by A & J Inglis upstream at Pointhouse. The Media stayed with Cunard only to 1961 when she was sold to Italian interests. In 1989, by which time she was named Lavia, she was gutted by fire at Hong Kong (07/01/1989) while undergoing renovation (an uncanny repeat of the fate of the famous Clydebank-built Cunarder Queen Elizabeth in 1972). Lavia was towed to shallow water where she heeled over onto her side on a sandbank. She was righted and towed to Kaohsiung in Taiwan, arriving 17/06/1989 for demolition. This was around the time of my first visit to Hong Kong by I didn't see her there.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It was in those days that my enthusiasm for the Clyde and its ships and shipyards and particularly its excursion steamers was born. It was an advantage, undoubtedly, that my best pal at the old Burgh Primary School in Rutherglen at that time was Robert Dalgleish, whose grandparents lived in Dunoon. We became juvenile members of the Clyde River Steamer Club in the mid 1960s and I am still a member of the 78 year old club. The picture below shows Rab and myself enjoying a sail on the paddle steamer Caledonia, leaning back on the hatch covering the companionway down to the crew accommodation, right up near the bow of the steamer. The date was the 18th May 1968 and the Caledonia was on a special charter that day to the Rutherglen West Parish Church where Rab and I were members of the 38th Glasgow Scout Troop. The sailing had started at the Bridge Wharf in Glasgow and visited the Kyles of Bute and Loch Riddon. Many years later, as a final year undergraduate, Rab based his degree thesis on a study of the economics of operating steamers on the Clyde. Sadly, the Caledonia was withdrwn from service at the end of 1969, an event that encouraged the formation of the Scottish Branch of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. Although it proved impossible to keep the Caledonia operational theBranch members were successful in preventing her demolition and, in 1972 she began a new career as a static bar and restaurant on the River Thames at the former Savoy Pier just upstream of Waterloo Bridge. She continued in that role until badly damaged by a fire in 1981. Unfortunately the prospect of returning her to the Clyde for restoration as a possible running mate for Waverley could not be brought to fruition. She was replaced on the Thames by another Clyde Steamer, none other than the turbine steamer Queen Mary that also features in the film. She remained in the role until 2009. The vessel is currently being transferred to La Rochelle in western France for use as floating hotel.

Robert Dalgleish and me on PS Caledonia, 18th May 1968

Stuart Cameron

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Last Clyde-built Bosphorus Ferries

We often think of Waverley and Maid of the Loch as among the last of the many thousands of reciprocating engine passenger steamers built on the Clyde. Credit for the development of the compound and triple expansion versions of the engine, which finally enabled steam ships to win the battle with sailing vessels for long haul worldwide service, is usually given to John Elder of Randolph & Elder (later John Elder & Co then Fairfield SB & E Co) and Peter Ferguson while in the employ of the Meadowside shipyard. It is true that not many reciprocating engine ships were built after the Maid; notably there was a few imposing tugs for the South African ports but the long lasting era of Clyde-built reciprocating engined passenger ferries was brought to an anticipated end by an unanticipated order for nine such vessels. Appropriately enough the order was won by the Fairfield Company of Govan and the customer was the main operator of ferries across the Bosphorus, the famous 20 mile stretch of water that separates Europe from Asia in the beautiful city of Istanbul. Fairfield's had been supplying ferries for this route for almost 60 years. The yard built remarkable and memorable ships of all types from Clyde paddle steamers such as the Duchess of Fife (1903)and the famous, second Jeanie Deans (1931) to record breaking ocean liners such as the Cunarder Campania (1893) and Canadian Pacific's third Empress of Britain (1956) alongside mighty battleships such as HMS Valiant (1916) and HMS Howe (1942). However, even with such a pedigree of remarkable contracts, the order for the nine passenger steamers delivered in 1961 was specially notable. Sadly, however, not only did it mark the end of Clyde-built passenger steamers, it heralded a troubled period for Fairfield's which culminated in its going into receivership in the mid 1960s after a period of almost 80 years in which they built over 500 ships. Although Fairfield's is long gone its shipyard remains in operation, extensively modernised and currently involved in building the Royal Navy's six new Type 45 destroyers and the new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

All nine of the Bosphorus passenger steamers was built at Fairfield's Govan shipyard but only some of the vessels were fitted with Govan-built engines. The remainder were fitted with engines supplied by Christiansen & Meyer of Hamburg, an indication that, even by 1961, the Clyde had lost a significant part of its capability to build the very machinery that it had brought to the world in the first place - such innovation had enabled up to 30% of the world’s annual shipbuilding output to come from Clydeside, year after year for decades - but no empire lasts forever. By clicking one the individual original names of each vessel, below, you can access a brief summary of the career of each vessel










After around 40 years service the Clydebuilt ferries on the Bosphorus began to be replaced by new ships. At one point there was some speculation about trying to bring one of the ferries back to the Clyde for preservation rather like the large Glasgow-built steam locomotive that has recently been brought back to the city after 60 years in South Africa, which is undergoing restoration work prior to going on show at the new £80m Riverside Museum at Pointhouse Quay, Glasgow in 2011. Predictably nothing came of the plan.

By 2003 only four of the steamers remained in service: Inkilap, Kanlica, Tegmen Ali Ihsan Kalmaz (originally Ihsan Kalmaz) and Turan Emeksiz.
All of the ships had been taken out of service by 2005. The embedded YouTube film was recorded 8th Sep 2003 - it shows the Turan Emeksiz and the engineroom of the Tegmen Ali Ihsan Kalmaz.

The film on YouTube was taken by Carl Jesper whose videos of Waverley, the Swedish passenger steamers Norrskar, Storskar, Drottingholm, Saltsjon and Blidosund and the steam-powered icebreakers Sankt Erik and Bore can also be found on YouTube. My own pictures of these ships (except Bore) can be found at

Stockholm Views and Shipping

One of the older Fairfield-built Bosphorus ferries is still in operation, as a luxury cruise ship in the Med.

As Halas (above) she still has some of her Bosphorus ferry character - but this doesn't extend to the fares! There is a brief history of her on the Clydebuilt Ship Database:


Stuart Cameron

Friday, 1 January 2010

Waverley 1st January 2010 - First of How Many?

No doubt the first of many - my first picture of Waverley in 2010 - January 1st at just after 13:00 (click on picture for better sarpness)

It has been claimed, more than once, that Waverley is the most photographed ship in the World. Well that would probably be impossible to prove one way or other especially in these days of digital imaging when it seems almost obligatory to take many more images than are really needed. How many pictures of Waverley will be taken in 2010 - I can't even guess how many I may take but, for the first time, my first picture of the year of the Mighty Paddler was taken on the first day of the New Year and New Decade. Normally, family commitments have made it impossible for me to get anywhere near the Clyde on New Year's Day but this year my normal target for 'first footing' is currently mid way through a 14 day cruise in the Caribbean Sea. So it was all change today (and even the steak pie, the traditional Ne're'day fayre in Scotland was replaced by lamb steak!). I managed a quick diversion into the SECC car park and here is the first picture of Waverley in 2010, taken at just after 13:00 on Jan 1st. In Glasgow the first day of the New Year was very sunny (unfortunately the sun was shining on the wrong side of the ship for me and low temperatures / others not so keen on taking pictures of paddle steamers in mid winter discouraged me from loitering on Stobcross Quay; waiting for the sun to hide behind a wispy cloud).

In the last few days of 2009 some floating ice was noted on the surface of the Clyde in Glasgow harbour (see Charles McCrossan's posting below) but even then the ice was nothing like the thick solid layer of ice that stretched from the north bank to the south bank all the way from the weir at Glasgow Green to Govan in the early days of 1982 when temperatures in the city remained below -20 degrees celsius (centigrade if you prefer) for almost 3 weeks and the ice at the sides was over a foot (30cm) thick. The pictures below show Waverley frozen-in during that big freeze in January 1982. At this time her Glasgow base was No 52 Stobcross Quay - roughly where the Crowne Plaza Hotel now stands. In the middle picture her current base, then known as No 83 Plantation Quay, can be seen off her port side, long before Science Centres, Media Quarters, IMAX cinemas and Squinty or Squiggly bridges were ever thought of.

The other veseels in this view are Western Ferries mv Sound of Islay and the heavy lift ship Happy Pioneer, in to lift power station equiptment for the new Castle Peak Power Station in Hong Kong. The major changes in Clydeside are very obvious - about the only remaining landmarks are the North Rotunda of the Harbour Tunnel and the Stobcross Crane. The large black roofed building above Waverley was formerly part of the marine engine building works of David Rowan (workplace of my maternal grandfather and first big Clyde works that I was ever in - at the tender age of about six!), which built both steam and diesel engines, the latter being principally Doxfords under licence. It closed in the mid sixties but the facilities were used by the Scottish Machine Tool Corporation for manufacture of lathes. boring machines, etc for about 15 years. It was demolished not long after this picture was taken.

For other Clyde pictures of that 'era' go to

'Clyde Shipping in 1982'

Stuart Cameron

Very Best wishes for 2010 to All Our Readers

Hope everyone has had a good Christmas and are getting over the New Year celebrations. Thats two months gone bye already since Waverley finished her 2009 season and May 2010 is getting nearer.

A couple of photos of PS Waverley under her coat of snow at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, taken last week.

At least a boiler should be back on when work parties start up on 9th January!!

Charles McCrossan