Tuesday, 28 October 2008


We are in the process of switching to a custom domain. When this is complete the existing address will still work but viewers will be able to access the site using the following addresses:

pspsscotland.com, pspsscotland.net

Whilst this transition takes place access to the blog will be limited and some posts will not display.

Apologies for this - we hope it will not take too long so don't go away!!


PSPS Scottish Branch

Thursday, 23 October 2008

MedEvac Exercise with Waverley.

Whilst enjoying a cruise round the Isle of Wight in September we were aware of a helicopter approaching. This turned out to be a MedEvac exercise of which Waverley would be the focal point.

The following videos (shot from my mobile phone hence the quality) were taken during the exercise.

(May take a while to load depending on internet connection speed)

(1) The Helicopter lowers the stretcher onto Waverley's Aft Deck.

(2) The Helicopter returns to remove the "patient".

(3) The "patient" and Winchman are returned to the helicopter.

(4) Helicopter with "patient" and winchman now safely onboard, returns to base.

Gavin Stewart

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Waverley Fund Raising Concert

A Fund Raising Concert has been arranged for Friday 28th November at
St Andrews in the Square - just down from Glasgow Cross.

Details of the venue and the event can be found at St Andrews in the Square
Select Events and scroll down to 28th November on the "Upcoming Events"

Tickets cost £15.00 and can be purchased at the SECC booking office in the St Enoch Centre;
at on-line booking
or by phoning 0870 013 4060

Please come along and support this event as Waverley needs your support, particularly during this winter.

Waverley arrived back in Glasgow at approx 09:30 this morning (Wed15th) after her trip from the south coast. The above photo is Waverley arriving back from the same trip in 2007, just passing under the Erskine Bridge with only a few miles to go (or should that be knots!).

Charles McCrossan

Monday, 13 October 2008

More "firsts" for MV Balmoral

I have already recorded MV Balmoral's unusual calls on Sunday 28th September 2008 and related the sad story of being taken unawares when she berthed at a different point to that expected, resulting in disappointing photographs of the special occasion.
However, one of the River Clyde's prolific shipping photographers, John Newth, was in the right place at the right time on the opposite river bank and has very kindly provided several of his photographs of the event for use on the blog.

Balmoral arriving at Clydebank

Balmoral alongside at Clydebank with the entrance to Rothesay Dock immediately behind her stern and the storage tanks at the dock can be seen in the background

Balmoral prepares to depart Clydebank - this shot gives some impression of just how little berth frontage Captain O'Brian had to work with when coming alongside. The fence section at right angles to the river came right to the edge and proved a particular challenge.

Balmoral heading off down river past the new Clydebank College Building

As has already been reported on here, Balmoral moved from Greenock to berth overnight at Gourock on 1st October. Some nightime sleuths captured her there in the dark (already posted)and another intrepid reporter arrived just as she was moving away in the morning. Luckily another of the Clyde's shipping photographers who lets very little get past him (except three south coast chain ferries - private joke!) was up bright and early and caught Balmoral at Gourock in the daylight.

John Crae has also kindly allowed his photos to be used for the PSPS blog

Balmoral alongside at Gourock with Jupiter at the linkspan on the Dunoon service

Balmoral alongside at Gourock

Sunday 5th October was MV Balmoral's last operating day of the 2008 season - and what a day she had, compared to others throughout the season. 3 full round trips in one day - one from Greenock and two from Glasgow. Over 500 passengers each trip - 1500+ over the day. I am no expert on her sailings and loadings but surely there must some some firsts in there somewhere. All I know is that we had a most enjoyable trip meeting QE2 and escorting her to berth on Sunday morning and her crew are to be congratulated on delivering a great experience to all her passengers on what must have been a really gruelling day for them.

A view on board Balmoral during the morning cruise

Balmoral dashes off from Greenock at the end of her 1st cruise of the day, heading for Glasgow with a few stalwarts on board - some of whom, I think, probably stayed aboard for all three cruises. Dedication, dedication....!

Balmoral is now at her winter lay up berth in Bristol - she may not have had the best of seasons, weatherwise, but her last day in service was one of the best days for sailing for a long, long time.

Many thanks again to John Newth and John Crae for allowing me to use their photographs on the PSPS Blog

More of John Newth's photos can be seen at http://clydesights.com/ and

John Crae's at http://jcrae.smugmug.com/

Charles McCrossan

Saturday, 11 October 2008

New Masts for a Maid

After period of over a quarter of a century the statically-preserved paddle steamer Maid of the Loch has had her original profile restored with the addition of two new masts. As built in 1953 the ship had two full masts as was typical on the latter paddle steamers sailing on the nearby Firth of Clyde.

In the 1970s deterioration of the vessel's wooden mainmast (the aft mast) necessitated its removal on grounds of safety. For the remainder of her sailing days, up to her withdrawal from service in 1981, the loch paddler sailed with only her foremast. After her last sailing the ship suffered many years of dereliction and vandalism but from 1995 a gradual restoration has taken place under the direction of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a registered Scottish charity. As with the mainmast the ship's foremast had deteriorated and it had to be removed. For several years the Maid of the Loch has lain mastless at her berth by Balloch pier at the south end of Loch Lomond.

In 2007 the LLSC approached the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, a UK national charity, for a grant to restore the ship's original profile. Instead of fitting new wooden masts it was decided too follow the example of the restored paddle steamers of the Vierwaldstattersee (the Lake of Lucerne) in Switzerland. Therefore, two aluminium masts of suitable colour and size were ordered and fitted to the ship by a long reach 80 ton mobile crane on 9th July 2008 . The improvement in the ship's appearance was immediately apparent as seen in the pictures below. (Click on picture for higher resolution view)

PS Maid of the Loch at Balloch in January 2003 with no masts
(Picture: Stuart Cameron)

PS Maid of the Loch at Balloch in 2008 with two new masts
(Picture: Helen Strachan)

Maid of the Loch currently operates as a static restaurant and heritage visitor centre. However, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company has plans to restore the vessel to operational service. Her original Compound expansion reciprocating steam engine is in good condition but her original Scotch boiler was removed several years ago so new boiler will be required before she can sail again. Some other modifications will also be required to comply with modern safety regulations.

In 2007 a major hindrance to the paddler's return to service was removed when the the steam-powered patent slip at Balloch, which is required to enable the ship to be taken out of the water for inspections and repairs, was restored to operational condition, thanks to a major grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Maid of the Loch was built by A & J Inglis at their Pointhouse shipyard in Glasgow in 1953. As the ship was too large to access Loch Lomond via the River Leven the parts were dispatched by rail to Balloch and reassembled on the patent slipway adjacent to Balloch pier. The Balloch Patent Slip is believed to be the only remaining steam-operated ship repair slipway in Europe. The following video shows the restored steam engine that hauls the vessels out of the Loch.

The following YouTube video is a computer simulation of how the Maid of the Loch would look if restored to operation on the Loch

and this video is a simulation of the ship's steam engine, which was constructed by the firm of Rankin & Blackmore at their Eagle Foundry in Greenock:

Stuart Cameron

Monday, 6 October 2008

Balmoral Salutes a Retiring Legend

(Clicking on most of the new pictures below will open a larger high resolution view)

On Sunday 5th October the veteran Waverley Excursions motor ship Balmoral played a significant part in the final visit of one of the greatest ships that the world has ever known to the river of her birth . The celebrity was, of course, RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 the last of the great Clydebuilt passenger liners. The QE2 was built at the former John Brown shipyard in Clydebank and was to be the last of many fine passenger liners built on the river. In fact, the majority of the ships built for the famous Cunard Line were built on the Clyde (122 in total) and, when the QE2 is handed over to her new owners in Dubai in December 2008, it will be the first time in its near 170-year history that the Cunard fleet has not had at least one Clydebuilt ship in its number.

The first four Cunard liners were paddle steamers designed according to the advice of the renowned Clyde engineer and shipbuilder Robert Napier. The first of the four was the PS Britannia. At the time of her construction in 1839 Napier had yet to establish his shipyard at Govan near Glasgow, so the hull of Britannia an her sisters where built by several shipyards on the lower Clyde and towed up river to Napier’s Dock to have all of their machinery installed. Napier's Dock was at the eastern end of what is now Lancefield Quay, now Waverley Steam Navigation's office and workshop. His marine engine building works was in the adjacent Hydepark Street.

The first Cunard paddler Britannia
(Cunard Archives)

Although the Cunard Line (founded by Canadian Samuel Cunard) was long associated with the port of Liverpool, its headquarters, a lot of the capital raised to finance the Company and its early fleet of vessels was raised on Clydeside, principally by the established shipowner George Burns. The partnership regaled under the impressive title of the ‘ Glasgow Propriety in the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’. Details of the Burns family's influential position in the development of steam navigation can be found here. In fact, the Company did not change its name to the Cunard Steamship Company until after the death of its founder in the 1880s. Again, while most of the Line’s ships, prior to the QE2, were registered in the port of Liverpool, the early fleet of ships were registered in Glasgow. After Napier established his new shipyard in the 1850s one of the first ships that he built there was the huge paddle steamer Persia for Cunard. She was the largest merchant ship in the World at the time of her construction.

PS Persia under construction at Robert Napier's Clyde shipyard
(source unknown)

The last ocean-going paddle steamer built by Napier for Cunard was the PS Scotia, launched at Govan on the 25th June 1861.

Model of PS Scotia, Cunard's largest and last ocean going paddle steamer
(Model at the Science Musuem, South Kensington, London)

As the Cunard ships became bigger the principal builder became the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company, set up by the brilliant shipbuilder and engineer John Elder, a pupil of Napier. John Elder’s father David Elder was Napier’s highly regarded foreman for many years. The huge screw steamers Campania and Lucania represented the peak of Fairfield’s contribution to Cunard.

RMS Campania, Cunard's Record Breaker
(Model at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London)

As the 19th Century drew to a close, and Cunard’s liners became so large that the main production of liners for Cunard moved yet further down the Clyde to Clydebank where the shipbuilders J & G Thomson had established a sizable state-of-the art shipyard directly opposite the location where the River Cart flows into the Clyde. That location was to become more important as the 20th Century progressed.

Early in the 20th Century the Cunard Line, by then under the chairmanship of Baron Inverclyde of Wemyss Bay, was facing a substantial threat from large American concerns,. Lord Inverclyde negotiated assistance from the British Government for the construction of two huge new liners to fend off the American challenge. The sister ships were Mauritania (built on Tyneside) and Lusitania, which was built at Clydebank, by then under the ownership of John Brown & Co.. The relationship between Cunard and Brown’s lasted for over sixty years with many of its finest and largest ships built at Clydebank. The building of the progressively larger Cunarders was only possible at Clydebank due to the River Cart opposite , which eliminated the restriction imposed by the relatively narrow River Clyde. The decision to locate the yard there was an inspired choice by those that could not have known of the giant liners that were to be built in the next century. Consequently, world renowned Cunarders such as Aquitania, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Caronia were all created at Clydebank and the association continued with the order for Yard No 736, which became QE2 on her launch in Sept 1967. Sadly, she was to be the last prestige Cunarder to be built at Clydebank, or anywhere else on the Clyde.

Yard No 736 at Clydebank Shipyard in Sept 1967
(picture by the late William Davies)

In 2007, when the announcement came that QE2 was to retire to Dubai as a floating hotel (just as her illustrious predecessor, Queen Mary, done at Long Beach, California in 1967) there was some considerable regret that the strong link between Clydebuilt vessels and the Cunard fleet, dating back to the very founding of the Company, was finally to end. The final visit of the ship to Clydeside, on 5th October 2008, was going to be filled with an emotion that only shipbuilding and maritime communities can fully appreciate.

The Balmoral was rostered to participate in that great event. In fact, though not a Clydebuilt ship, Balmoral had a significant association with QE2 as the liner was to be the first Cunarder to be registered in the port of Southampton, which had replaced Liverpool as the Line’s main base port many years earlier. Balmoral was also registered in Southampton as she served the Isle of Wight from the city in her first life (subsequently, when she was acquired by Balmoral Excursions Ltd in 1986, her registry was switched to Bristol).

QE2 first returned to the river of her birth in 1990 when she was escorted by PS Waverley and the paddler had greeted the liner 'home' on subsequent visits in the 1990s. Balmoral had assumed the role in 2007 when she accompanied the departing Cunarder almost as far as Toward after her visit to the Clyde for the 40th anniversary of her launch in 1967. See pictures of the launch and the 40th anniversary visit here.

Due to different timings for the liner’s last ever return to Clydeside, the Balmoral was able to join a large flotilla of craft including the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Manchester that escorted the liner on her arrival. So at the early time (for a Sunday) of 0900 an almost capacity quota of passengers joined the 59-year old motor ship at Greenock’s Customhouse Quay to go and meet the liner. After a unprecedentedly poor summer (even the previous day was horrible), the 5th October 2008 dawned with an almost cloudless blue sky. It was almost like a dream that the weather could be so good and undoubtedly it added immensely to the enjoyment of the tens of thousands of people who came to see the Clyde’s last great liner for the last time.

Balmoral, dressed fore and aft for the special day at Greenock about 0900.

Queen Elizabeth 2 had served, like her predecessors, as a troopship in time of conflict (Falklands War 1982) and as a mark of that the Royal Navy honoured ‘our old friend’ by assigning the Type 42 destroyer HMS Manchester to escort the liner from the lower Firth of Clyde to the famous ‘Tail of the Bank’ anchorage off Greenock .

The magnificent QE2 arrives back on the Clyde for the last time

HMS Manchester escorted QE2 from the lower Firth of Clyde to the Tail of the Bank

After the extremely successful escort sailing Balmoral left Greenock for Glasgow to bring another near capacity crowd of passengers to view the liner at the Ocean Terminal at Greenock. As an added bonus Balmoral cruised around a number of large naval vessels that were at anchor off Greenock in preparation for extensive naval exercises off the West Coast.

Balmoral heading upriver to Glasgow

Balmoral passing QE2 on her second special sailing

Balmoral passing the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal
(with the classic motor cruiser Fenella in the foreground)

Balmoral ‘threading the needle ‘ between HMS Ark Royal and the destroyer HMS Manchester.
Waverley's original base, the derelect remains of Craigendoran pier, can be seen in the Background

Within the next decade both of these vessels may be replaced by new tonnage under construction on the Clyde and elsewhere, Manchester by one of the six Type 45 destroyers currently under construction at Scotstoun and Govan and Ark Royal by the new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales (the largest sections of which will be constructed at Govan)

Balmoral having a brief look at the RFA Mounts Bay (built upriver at Govan) and HMS Bulwark, constructed at Barrow-in-Furness. Bulwark's landing craft were also built at Govan.

Balmoral headed back upriver to Glasgow to embark yet another near capacity crowd before setting sail to join the flotilla that escorted magnificent QE2 away from the Clyde – all in darkness so no pictures I’m afraid.

Capt Andy O'Brian, Waverley Excursions senior master takes Balmoral away from Greenock.

Balmoral’s season is over and it is no secret that it has been a most disappointing one. Therefore, it was good to see her so busy on that most unforgettable of days. Next year is her Diamond Jubilee. Let us hope it will bring her the passengers that she deserves to have.

Balmoral's 2008 season ended on a high with three full load sailings in an unforgetable day

QE2 has gone from the Clyde and we know that we will never see her likes again here.
(More General pictures of the QE2 visit on alternative website - links to follow)
All pictures by Stuart Cameron except where indicated

Saturday, 4 October 2008

ps Waverley - Final Call at Tarbert, Loch Fyne 2008

(Words G Stewart, Video Footage S McKechnie)

The branch are always keen to involve it's members where ever possible. I first met Stephen a couple of years back when he partcipated in our Voluntary Assistance survey and he has been very active helping out every since.

Stephen can be seen throughout the sailing season camera in hand taking photos and also short video clips. He has been kind enough to put them on a DVD and the video below is a series of clips of Waverley leaving Tarbert Pier, Loch Fyne for what could her last time. The pier is in urgent need of repairs and to date there has been no money available from the powers that be to do it. This is a real pity as Tarbert was always a favourite destination of mine!

Anyway - on with the show - it lasts a couple of minutes and may take a little time to load depending on your internet connection speed.
Viewers with Dial Up may experience problems for which we apologise!

Hope you enjoy this one - more to come from Stephen soon!!


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Strange Bedfellows!!

(Words by Gavin Stewart, Photographs by Alistair Black)

I think it would be fair to say that Balmoral has visited a good few unusual places during her 20+ years under the Waverley Steam Navigation flag. One such place was Gourock – headquarters of Caledonian Macbrayne – former owners of her fleetmate Waverley.

After completing her September weekend programme of sailings Balmoral had remained alongside Customhouse Quay, Greenock until yesterday (Wednesday) when she moved to Gourock presumably to free the Greenock berth for Northern Lighthouse vessel Pharos – which is now alongside.

The photos below show Balmoral with Dunoon – Gourock ferry mv Jupiter (built Port Glasgow 1974) moored astern of her and another view of her alongside last night.

Balmoral has now left Gourock and is at Waverley’s berth at Glasgow Science Centre. She is due to undertake special sailings to view QE2 as the Clydebuilt liner makes her way up the West Coast of the UK visiting ports as part of her farewell cruise. Balmoral will leave Greenock CHQ at 0930 on Sunday 5th October to escort the famous liner up river to her berth at Greenock Ocean Terminal. There is an afternoon cruise to view QE2 leaving Glasgow at 1400 returning at 1800. Balmoral will depart Glasgow at 1930 bound for Greenock (arr 2100) to escort QE2 down the river of her birth for the very last time - returning to Greenock at 2330.

After de-storing etc Balmoral will then leave Greenock for the light sailing to her home port of Bristol for winter layup.

Gavin Stewart