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
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: