Friday, 25 December 2009

A Clyde Paddler - lost on Christmas Day

Add VideoThe Clyde paddler steamer Mercury, second of the name to serve in the LMS Railway Clyde fleet, was the first of a new breed of paddlers, being fitted with concealed paddleboxes, which when viewed from a distance, could result in the vessel being identified as a screw driven ship.

Mercury was delivered in 1934 from the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Glasgow, her quasi-sister ship, Caledonia, coming from the Denny yard at Dumbarton in the same year. Over the next 6 summers Mercury and Caledonia served the Coast resort in a post-Depression revival of the Clyde excursion trade. However, as the 1930s progressed the clouds of war gathered over Europe and, in common with other Clyde paddle steamers, she was requisitioned into the Royal Navy. HMS Mercury and the other paddlers served in many roles during the War but they were most commonly recognised in the dangerous business of sweeping vital sea areas for enemy deposited magnetic mines.

By late 1940 Mercury and Caledonia (renamed HMS Goatfell for wartime service) were based at the vast natural harbour at Milford Haven in south west Wales. From there they swept sea areas icluding the southern part of the Irish Sea, the Bristol Channel and the south coast of Ireland and it was while minesweeping in the latter area on Christmas Day, 1940 that Mercury was fatally damage when a mine exploded closeby. Although her Clyde sister tried to tow the damaged paddler back to the safety of Milford Haven it was to prove a futile exercise and Mercury sank in relatively deep water.
Stuart Cameron

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Caledonia Sounds

(Words & Pics by John Easton)

A few pics of the late Colin MacDonald (distinguishable, of course, by the bushy beard) and his Caledonia Sounds during their long associaton with Waverley on the Clyde.
Research has confirmed that Colin, in fact, first appeared on Waverley in 1990 as a substitute for another band, which must accredit him with one of the longest day and night stands in musical history!!

Apart from entertaining in the Jeanie Deans lounge on Fridays and Saturdays, Colin was always keen to preserve the tradition of strolling musicians on deck when the heavens allowed and as can be seen other well revered Waverley devotees such as fiddler Jim Clark were always welcome to join the band on the run.

Inevitably there were changes in the Caledonia Sounds line-up over the years and the most recent trio were Colin, crooner Alex and Colin's chief comrade George on drums. Collectively they recorded a CD "Waverley Party Time" which was what Colin was all about!!! His repertoire from Scottish dance music to standards, swing, pop and golden oldies was remarkable. His devotion to Waverley was legend.

John Easton

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Colin McDonald

Sadly one of the stalwarts of Waverley musician Colin McDonald has passed away after a brave fight against cancer.
Colin and his band Caledonia spent some 16 summer seasons entertaining Waverley passengers in the Jeannie Deans lounge and his devotion to the ship was legendary to all who knew him. Colin was not only the leader of the band but, unknown to some, he spent vast amounts of his own time at fund raising events for Waverley in and around Glasgow and much further afield.
Colin was a most talented musician and was always eager to help the Waverley cause. Even when suddenly hospitalised last summer he was on his mobile constantly to his comrade drummer George checking that everything was allright on "the boat." He made many friends and patiently dealt with the sometimes robust audience on Saturdays in the lounge and on occasions such as Millport Illuminations!! Some of his music is stll "alive" on a CD dedicated, of course, to Waverley.

The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Clydebank Crematorium on Friday December 18th.