Last Paddle Steamer at the Broomielaw

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

Last Paddle Steamer at the Broomielaw


Stuart and Waverley just over 40 years ago at Lamont's in Port Glasgow.

Stuart and Waverley just over 40 years ago at Lamont’s in Port Glasgow.

Stuart Cameron requires little in the way of introduction to Scottish Branch members having joined the Society in 1971, and served on the Branch Committee in various roles since 1998. Stuart has also been a regular contributor to the PSPS Scottish Branch blog, indeed his many posts can still be read on this website.

Earlier this year, Stuart chose to stand down from the Scottish Branch Committee for personal reasons but, he continues to share his extensive collection of photographs and encyclopaedic knowledge on Facebook.

With the kind permission of Stuart, digests of his Facebook posts will appear occasionally on the PSPS website, starting with this feature on the Last Paddle Steamer at the Broomielaw.


The old harbour quay at the Broomielaw on the north side of the River Clyde just downstream of Glasgow Bridge was the city’s first port area on the River. Even before the birth of passenger steam ship on the river in 1812, sailing vessels used the quay. At the time the size of vessels accessing the Broomielaw was significantly affected by the depth of the river at several places down to the Tail of the Bank off Greenock. This picture shows the Broomielaw in 1810, two years before the coming of Henry Bell’s paddle steamer Comet, the first commercial passenger steamship in Europe.


Bell’s Comet was the first of many – by 1825 the number of sailing ships at Broomielaw was on the wain as the number of steam propelled ship grew. With the deepening of the navigable channel the time to traverse the stretch of the river from Greenock to the Broomielaw was reduced from two to three days (depending on tide and wind) to less than two hours.


The Broomielaw in 1843.


Looking across the Clyde from the south side at Glasgow Bridge to the Broomielaw in 1850.


Almost certainly the most famous, and possibly the first ever real picture of steamers at the Broomielaw. It dates from 1852.


By the 1880s the Broomielaw quay was extend downriver, terminating just upstream of where the Kingston Bridge now stands. The extension of berthage from there was named Anderston Quay. This is an 1880s view looking upriver from the tower of the Sailors Home. Clyde Place Quay on the opposite bank of the river was used at off-peak times by vessels awaiting the busy peak periods.

By this time the Caledonian Railway had extended their line across the river from their original terminal station at Bridge Street to the altogether grander Central Station. The picture shows the first Central Station Railway Bridge, of which only the stone piers now exist.


From the 1850s until the railway network was extended down to the Clyde coast the Broomielaw was a hive of activity with packed paddle steamers heading ‘doon the watter’ to the Clyde coast resorts.


PS Chancellor heads for the coast – the Clyde Trust’s York Street passenger ferry can be seen in the distance ready for a mad dash across the river in between passing paddle steamers.


Captain Bob Campbell’s Benmore, built upriver at Thomas Seath’s Broomloan shipyard in Rutherglen, departs the Broomielaw.


Broomielaw 1890.


A quiet period at the Broomielaw – one of the Clyde Trust ‘river bus’ ferries, the famous Cluthas, is heading up to there most upriver berth at Glasgow Bridge.


PS Brodick Castle at the Broomielaw.


The old fashioned PS Edinburgh Castle departing the Broomielaw. Note how her galley stove pipe on her port side forward sponson is painted in the same style as her funnel.


Captain Buchanan’s PS Eagle III departing Broomielaw for the coast – one of the larger steamships associated with the routes to Ireland already on the scene…. things were changing.


In the 1920s the river steamer embarkation berths were shifted across the river to Clyde Place Quay where the new facilities were named ‘Bridge Wharf (South Side)’ The Broomielaw, Anderston Quay and Lancefield Quay were then used mainly by vessels of the Burns and Laird lines for the all-the-way by sea services to Ireland. This shows the Broomielaw (viewed from the Clyde Navigation Trust offices in Robertson Street) in 1947 with the two Burns Laird cranes (owned by the shipping company, not the Clyde Trust) utilised for the loading of the Royal Mail and other light cargo items.


A Clyde Trust dredger working off the Broomielaw with the imposing dome of the Trust’s magnificent head office beyond.


One of the well known Glasgow – Belfast service twins Royal Ulsterman and Royal Scotsman at the Broomielaw in the 1960s.


Waverley passing the old Babcock & Wilcox crane on Windmillcroft Quay which she had used on a few occasions in previous years to load the Bristol Channel flit boat Westward Ho!


Although it was not really planned to do so, Waverley’s stern was carried towards the north bank by the tide and she gently touched the quay wall at the Broomielaw – the last time a Clyde steamer was ‘at’ the Broomielaw.


At 11:00 (QM departure time) Waverley saluted her old fleet with a long blast on her steam whistle and set off back down river. Never again would we see a Clyde steamer in this historic part of the river (from The Glasgow Herald).


Waverley departs from the old inner harbour of Glasgow for the last time.

The Waverley photos in this group were a joint effort of my father Jimmy Cameron, my friend Tom Dunlop and myself).

[signature name=”Stuart Cameron”]