Waverley – Lifeboat Day, the Founder and Glasgow River Festival

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

Waverley – Lifeboat Day, the Founder and Glasgow River Festival

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The middle weekend of Glasgow Fair, being also the weekend of the Glasgow River Festival and the annual Lifeboat Day at Tighnabruaich, turned out to be a very busy period for the paddler. On the Friday, the popular daytime cruise to Rothesay was followed by a very successful and enjoyable evening cruise with over 700 passengers aboard. Next day, the first day of the River Festival, Waverley departed from her base at the Glasgow Science Centre on her normal Saturday sailing to Tighnabruaich. The very low level of the tide was notable and it was amazing to see that the River Kelvin, where the paddler had first entered the water in 1946, was almost totally dried out. At Greenock the paddler met up with the huge modern cruise vessel Crown Princess which had arrived at the Ocean Terminal earlier that morning

Crown Princess at Greenock Ocean Terminal as viewed from Waverley on her outward sailing.

After further good passenger pick ups at Greenock and Helensburgh Waverley arrived at Dunoon with over 800 passengers on board. Even though there was a significant disembarkation of passengers at the popular resort there was also a very impressive queue of joining passengers including a big party of ‘Stone Age People’ such that the paddler left for Rothesay with around 790 on board.
Fred Flinstone and Barny Rubble join the paddler at Dunoon

Waverley arrived at Tighnabruaich when the annual Lifeboat Day was in full swing. An ever popular feature of the event, staged to raise funds for the local Royal National Lifeboat Institution, is the raft race from the lifeboat station to the pier, timed to conclude just as the paddler arrived. Captain Andy O’Brian of the Waverley presented the prizes to the winners of the various levels of the competition, a nice gesture much appreciated by the people of the Kyles of Bute communities.Waverley provides a fitting traditional backdrop for the Tighnabruaich Lifeboat Day raft race. The Duck Raft was winner of one of the categories. Waverley Steam and PSPS members are always keen to support this event and its quest to raise funds for the local RNLI station

The year 2009 marks the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (and coincidentally the 40th Anniversary of the Scottish Branch) so it was great to have the Founder of the Society, Professor Alan Robinson, aboard Waverley on the Clyde at this significant time in the Society’s proud history. In the picture below Professor Robinson is enjoying the summer sunshine at Tighnabruaich just prior to the paddler’s departure for the return voyage.

Two viewa of Waverley at Tighnabruaich on Lifeboat Day when the tide was very high – in stark contrast to the previous week when the the water’s edge was just behind the pierhead

Yhe heavy passenger loadings combined with both outbound and inbound passages on the river being against a strong tidal condition resulted in the paddler running slightly late on the run back up to Glasgow. This resulted in Waverley arriving back at Greenock just as the Crown Princess was due to depart and the two vessels exchanged salutes with blasts on their whistles.

Viewed from Waverley, Crown Princess departs from Greenock Ocean Terminal

A more distant view of the departing Crown Princess about to round Cloch Point, from Waverley off Port Glasgow
As Waverley departed Greenock, the ship enthusiasts aboard had a chance for a quick look at Clyde Marine’s new passenger catamaran Clyde Clipper, which had only arrived from her builders on the Bristol Channel earlier that day. Some reflected on the reversal of roles. In the heyday of passenger ship sailings on the Channel many of the steamers employed on the sailings between England and Wales and out to Lundy were built in some of the famous Clyde shipyards. Now the latest passenger vessel for service on the Clyde was built in the Bristol Channel. It is believed that Clyde Clipper will enter service on the Clyde in the near future. Her arrival also marks the departure of two venerable vessels from the Greenock-based fleet – mv Kenilworth (originally one of the ‘Hotspur’ ferries on Southampton Water) and mv The Second Snark, a notable vessel in maritime history being constructed by the world renowned Dumbarton shipbuilders William Denny & Bros. After serving as her builder’s yard tender and tug, The Second Snark had played a significant role in the development of the famous Denny Brown ships stabilisers. After the closure of Denny’s in the 1960s the vessel had spent several years on the Forth, owned by Brown Brothers of the Rosebank Foundry in Edinburgh. That firm’s founder, Andrew Brown, had been a pioneer in the development of the hydraulic ship steering system, a classic example of which can still be found in operation on Waverley. Although the Rosebank Foundry is no longer in existence, Brown Brothers still operate as part of Rolls Royce Marine’s division at Dunfermline in Fife. The products still include stabiliser systems and aircraft carrier steam catapults, another of the firm’s inventions.
The newest Clyde passenger vessel, Clyde Marine’s Clyde Clipper on her first day at her new ‘home’, Greenock Victoria Harbour.

A view from Waverley of Dunglass Castle, once the ancestral seat of a sept of the Clan Colquhoun. The obelisk monument was erected to the memory of the Helenburgh based hotelier and businessman Henry Bell, operator of the first Clyde paddle steamer, the Comet of 1812. Comet was also the first commercially operated steamship in Europe. Waverley, as the last Clyde paddle steamer is a direct descendant of the Comet and will, hopefully, form a central role in the significant anniversary – the bicentenary of European steamship operation – which willoccur in August 2012.
The fine view below, from the foredeck of the paddler as she came back upriver off Dalmuir shows the Clydebank Titan Crane, which would be the terminal point of her new River Festival Cruises the following day. Behind the crane can be seen the vast new building of the relocated Clydebank College campus which occupies the majority of the site of the the former east shipbuilding yard, originally set up by the firm of J & G Thomson when they moved down from their original Clyde Villa shipyard where the Glasgow Science Centre now stands. The most famous operators of the Clydebank shipyard was undoubtedly the John Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company. Latterly the yard was operated by the ill-fated Upper Clyde Shipbuilders before converting to an offshore structure construction site operated by Marathon Manufacturing and, ultimately, UIE (Scotland) td. The historic yard finally closed in the mid 1990s. From its 120 year history the list of ships built there almost reads as a list of the world’s most innovative and famous vessels – the Inman liners City of Paris and City of New York, the Cunarder’s Lusitania, Aquitania (surely the world’s most beautiful ship ever!), Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Coronia, Queen Elizabeth 2, the former Royal Yacht Britannia, the battlecruiser HMS Hood and Britain’s last battleship HMS Vanguard the beautiful (but financially ruinous) liner Kungsholm, (currently, as Mona Lisa, the last operational Clyde-built ocean liner – but not for much longer we suspect) – to name but a few!! On the right in the background, the large yellow doors mark the former Elderlie Dockyard, created by John Shearer in 1907 to replace his Kelvinhaugh Slipdock. Elderslie Dockyard was operated successively by Barclay Curle, Yarrows, GEC Marconi, BAE Systems and, currently, by BVT Surface Fleet. The superstructure of the second and third Type 45 destroyers, HMS Dauntless and HMS Diamond can just be made out in the Dockyard. The low lying farmland on the south bank of the river is Newshot Isle, which was a real island in the Clyde until the old south channel of the river silted up well over a century ago. At low water the remains of the burned out hulks of several ships that were destroyed in the Kingston Dock fire can be seen at west entrance to the old channel. The fire had started in the dock buildings and spread to the ships. The Kingston Dock (which was just upstream of the site of Glasgow’s Kingston Bridge was destroyed but subsequently rebuilt. The burning sailing ships were towed down river and sunk at Newshort to prevent the fire from spreading further – a hazardous but ultimately succesful operation. In the 1960s the John Brown company had a grandiose plan to re-open the south channel for River traffic and construct a vast down-river facing shipbuilding dock in the existing river course (aheead of Waverley in the picture below). Needless to state, the plan did not come to fruition.

Upriver, the state of the tide made the view of the fifth Type 45 destroyer, the future HMS Defender, on the building ways at BVT’s Govan shipyard, even more impressive than usual.

For the first time since its inception several years ago, Waverley played a more central role in the second day of the Glasgow River Festival, operating three short non-landing sailings (at 1100, 1400 and 1630) from the centre of the festival to the historic Titan Crane at the former John Brown shipyard at Clydebank. Despite some inclement weather in the morning, resulting in a ‘late start’ in terms of attendee numbers, these short sailings on the paddler proved to be very popular. attracting approximately 1200 passengers in total. The following pictures depict the paddler at Glasgow and Clydebank during the two afternoon sailings – the first three views show her departing from her base at Plantation Quay, adjacent to Glasgow Science Centre.

Above, viewed from the east bank of the River Cart, Waverley returning upriver after canting at the Clydebank Titan crane on the second of her three Glasgow River Festival. On this sailing she carried around 500 passengers. The new Clydebank College dominates the background.

Above, viewed from the former John Brown east shipyard, the paddler, on the final of her three Glasgow – Clydebank sailings approaches the mouth of Brown’s fitting out basin, which is now too silted up for ships to enter!

Above and below, Waverley cants in the river off the site of Brown’s West yard. She has probably never undertaken this manoeuvre before but it invoked some memories of a similar operation performed by her former fleetmate, the paddle steamer Caledonia, just a little further upriver at the Rothesay Dock entrance during her special sailing to view the launch of the liner QE2 inSeptember 1967.

Returning upriver on the final leg of her succesful festival sailings.

Stuart Cameron