Waverley’s Trafalgar Day on the Clyde

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

Waverley’s Trafalgar Day on the Clyde

(Apologies for the ‘greyness’ of some of these images – the north bank of the Clyde is not ideal for southfacing shots in October – the sun was not enough to improve the situation but enough to cause frustration)

Usually on Trafalgar day each year Waverley’s crew are busy putting the vessel into winter hibernation but in 2009 the paddler’s lay-up was delayed as she was chartered by the UK’s naval shipbuilder BVT Surface Fleet Solutions Ltd to convey their guests from the Ministry of Defence, sub-contractors and Glasgow City Council for a short sailing down the Clyde to Clydebank prior to the launch of the fifth and penultimate Type 45 destroyer at the BVT shipyard in Govan, Glasgow on Trafalgar Day, 19th October, 2009. This involved the paddler in berthing at three Clyde locations where she has not called for many years, if ever – firstly Stobcross Quay opposite her current base, then the Govan shipyard’s fitting out dock (known locally as ‘Fairfield’s Basin’) and finally at Meadowside Quay where the massive Meadowside Granary had been sited until the early years of the 21st Century.

Above, Waverley displays her charterer’s banner carrying the logos and crests of the Type 45 Destroyer Design Team (left), HMS Defender (middle), and BVT (right). The BVT name is still a new one on the shipbuilding scene. It was formed in 2008 to amalgamate the surface ship building activities of VT Shipbuilding at Portsmouth and BAE Systems’ shipyards at Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde. Initially the new company was owned by the two pre-existing companies but more recently the VT Group have exercised an option to sell their holding to BAE Systems. Therefore, BVT is now a wholely owned subsidiary of BAE Systems which also owns the submarine building complex at Barrow-in-Furness. Most of these shipyards have long and proud histories. BVT’s Govan yard, scene of the day’s activities, was started in 1865 under the auspices of John Elder. In its 144 year hitory the Govan yard has been owned by at least 9 different companies but the longest lasting name, from 1886 to 1964, was the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd and, although it is now approaching half a century since that name officially disappeared, the yard is still known by many Clydesider’s as ‘Fairfields’. BVT’s Scotstoun shipyard on the north bank of the Clyde was originally set up by the renowned naval builder Yarrow & Co when they moved from their Poplar shipyard on the Thames to a green field site at Scotstoun in 1906. In aggregate BVT’s two Clyde shipyards have constructed over 1000 ships since 1865, approximately 75% coming from the Govan yard. Despite that impressive heritage it is amazing to reflect that their total only represents about 4% of the total of over 23,000 ships built on the Clyde in the last two centuries.

Over 350 guests of BVT Surface Fleet Solutions, including a large number of senior naval staff congregated in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Stobcross Quay, Glasgow at midday on Trafalgar Day, 2009. To meet the requirements of the charterers, and with the cooperation of Glasgow City Council and Clydeport, the paddler moved to Stobcross Quay at a berth directly opposite her normal base at Plantation Quay. This was the first time that Waverley had berthed at Stobcross Quay in 28 years. She had operated from No 52 Stobcross Quay from 1977 to 1981 after demolition of her Anderston Quay base in the former year. She moved back upriver to No 36 Lancefield Quay in 1981 when her Stobcross base was removed to make way for the SECC and the Forum Hotel (now the Crowne Plaza). The picture above, from the base of the Glasgow Tower on Plantation Quay shows Waverley in place and awaiting her guests at Stobcross Quay with her normal berth, at Plantation in the right, foreground. However, this is not the berth that she occupied in the late 70s – No 52 was further upriver near the location of Bells Bridge. Under the old Clyde Navigation Trust numbering system all berths on the north bank from the Broomielaw to Stobcross had even numbers while south bank berths from Clyde Place Quay to Plantation Quay had odd numbered berths. The berth at which Waverley is seen above is probably No 66 or No 68 – it is so difficult to determine nowadays since so many of the old points of reference, when these quay were lined with ships, have disappeared.The Kingston, Queens and Princes Docks together with Yorkhill Quay and Basin, Meadowside Quay, Merklands Lairage, Shieldhall Quay and the King George V and Rothesay Docks all had their own individual berth numbering systems. At its peak commercial ship movements to and from these berths numbered around 16,000 per year.

The view above shows Waverley at Stobcross Quay with the tall spire of the University of Glasgow on Gilmorehill in the background. The University is the location of the oldest Professorship of Naval Architecture in the world – the Elder Chair of Naval Architecture was founded to commemorate John Elder, the creator of the Govan shipyard where HMS Defender was assembled. It was set up under a bequest from his wife, Isabella Elder, after the pioneering shipbuilder died at the age of 49 while on a business trip to London. Beneath the University can be seen the two red sandstone towers of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, home of one of the largest municipally owned art collections in Europe. It includes the world renowned ‘Christ of St John on the Cross’ by Salvidor Dali. Kelvingrove has recently undergone a £28m refurbishment and expansion. After the launch of HMS Defender, which will be affiliated to the City of Glasgow when commisssioned, a post-launch dinner was hosted at Kelvingrove for all guests at the launch.

Some additional views of Waverley at Stobcross Quay follow.

In the view above, the tall apartment buildings are the results of the regeneration of the site of the former Meadowside Granary, which was Europe’s largest brick building – the Granary occupied the site of Partick Thistle F C’c original football ground. The silver clad building is the new Riverside Museum, the replacement for the highly popular Glasgow Transport Museum at Kelvin Hall. The new £80m museum will also commemorate the Clyde’s shipbuilding and industrial heritage. It is being built on the east bank of the River Kelvin where it enters the Clyde. From 1862 to 1963 the site of the new museum was that of the Pointhouse Shipyard of A & J Inglis Ltd. In their century at Pointhouse Inglis built over 500 ships, including two Royal yachts and foreign-going liners but one ship has become better known than any of the others – the paddle steamer Waverley of 1947, the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world and one of the vessels entered in the UK National Historic Ship Register’s Core Collection of ‘ships of pre-eminent national importance’.

Time and tide wait for no man – below, one of BVT’s splendidly dressed ushers awaits the ‘procession’ of guests from the hotel to the steamer while the paddler enjoys the sunshine of her temporary re-affiliation with the north bank!

Below, the guests start to arrive and encounter a splendid selection of food and refreshments amidships – fortunately, the threatened rain did not appear!

Below, has Stobcross Quay ever seen the likes of it? A procession of admirals, provosts and captains of industry (about 350 in total) head for the paddler.

Almost at the end of another long hard season – who said the Purser was ‘demob happy’! Chief Purser Jim MacFadzean on the paddle box, Waverley’s longest service crew member. Wherever you’re off to this winter Jim, enjoy your travels.

Below, in the distance, the doors of the covered building berths at BVT’s Scotstoun shipyard were opened so that the guests aboard Waverley could see progress on the two patrol ships for the navy of Trinidad & Tobago. The two ships were originally to be built at BVT’s Portsmouth shipyard but assembly was switched to Scotstoun early in 2009. The first vessel will be launched in November 2009.

Below, the paddler passing Renfrew – never seen so many white hats aboard

Below, with the assistance of two(!) Clyde Marine tugs Waverley performed a remarkably fast 180 degree turn off the mouth of the River Cart and headed up river for her second unusual berth of the day – Fairfield’s Basin.

And below, Waverley sailing into Fairfield’s Basin – for first time ever? I can’t think of any reason that she would have gone in there before.

After disembarking her party of VIPs Waverley came out of the basin and headed over to Meadowside Quay, her third unusual berth of the day – in the view below, after a helpful nudge from one of the tugs, Waverley heads purposefully towards Meadowside Quay.

Below, Waverley berths at Meadowside Quay – I’ve only seen her berth there 3 times before – one to take on late delivered stores, once to allow a large cargo vessel under tow to pass and once to witness the launch of one of the chemical tankers built in the 1990s during Kvaerner’s tenure of the Govan yard.

See Stephen Lipton’s excellent views of Waverey on this unique visit to Meadowside quay at Waverley at Meadowside Quay 1 and Waverley at Meadowside Quay 2.

Heralded by a burst of pyrotechnics and release of baloons, the newly named HMS Defender makes her first (and hopefully only) overland journey to enter her natural element.

A final blast on her steam whistle as the paddler leaves Meadowside Quay (see picture of her from one of the rise rise flats here).

And finally, her last wee jaunt of 2009 from Meadowside to Plantation Quay where she canted and berthed port side to the quay – her bows pointing downriver for the winter. May she winter well and we hope to see her graceful lines enhance the beautiful waters of the Firth of Clyde in 2010.

A Gerry Ward video of the paddler at the launch of Defender 2009 Finale – heading home for winter hibernation.

[signature name=”Stuart Cameron”]