A Weekend to Remember – 30 years of WSN

Words & Pictures (except where otherwise credited) by Gavin Stewart

Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd May 2005 represented another milestone in Paddle Steamer Waverley’s illustrious and varied career as this was the anniversary of her 30th year sailing under the flag of Waverley Steam Navigation Co.

To celebrate this the paddler undertook two cruises – Saturday’s taking her to Ardrishaig, Loch Fyne and on Sunday to her old haunt of Loch Long & Arrochar, with the reopening of Blairmore Pier en-route. The pier is celebrating it’s 150th anniversary this year but at a mere 57 Waverley has some way to go to catch up!

The following pics were taken during the aforementioned cruises:

Saturday 21st May: The following shot shows The Paddler, dressed overall for the occasion approaching the berth at Customhouse Quay, Greenock to embark passengers.

A regular calling point for Waverley has undergone significant change for the 2005 season. The breakwater and linkspan which were under construction during most of 2004 have now been completed. The end of the breakwater has been constructed to provide a berth for Waverley across the end of the structure. This next shot was taken as we approached the berth which is being unofficially referred to as “Dunoon South”:

The Gentlemen in the next picture need no introduction! Peter Reid (left), Douglas McGowan (centre) & Terry Sylvester are infamous amongst Waverley aficionados. Without the dedication of these men along with countless others the Waverley wouldn’t be with us today. The picture below shows them on the paddler’s port paddle box whilst she cruises the West Kyle en-route to Tarbert, Loch Fyne.

Contrary to the unfavourable weather forecasted for Saturday conditions were very pleasant as we approached Tarbert Pier.

The still waters of Loch Fyne are stirred by Waverley’s starboard paddlewheel as she manoeuvres onto the berth at Tarbert Pier. Those who wished could have time ashore while the remaining passengers enjoyed a cruise up Loch Fyne to Ardrishaig.

The next shot may look familiar to some. This is Ardrishaig Harbour – the berth which Waverley used in 1975 is on the right of the picture.
The story of that first day is well told – float breakages are very uncommon these days but then everything is a learning process – even if that one was a baptism of fire!
Unfortunately due to the commercial nature of operations at Ardrishaig these days the paddler was unable to call but we sailed close enough to view inside the harbour.

After a very pleasant cruise back to Tarbert and then onto Rothesay via the Narrows we arrived at “Dunoon South” once again. One emerging problem is that the same rope handlers tend to Waverley and the Gourock – Dunoon Ferry. This was not an issue when the vessels called at adjacent berths but with the introduction of the new berth the guys have a bit of a trek!
Having assisted Waverley’s berthing they then had to leave to tend to the mv Saturn, who was arriving at the Old Pier. This left the paddler either to wait on their return or untie herself. The wind direction was favourable on this occasion so the ropes were tended by Waverley’s own deck crew to allow the paddler to maintain her timetable.
The following shot shows mv Saturn (Alisa Shipbuilders 1977) approaching the old pier.

As we approached Greenock we viewed tugs Shannon and Flying Phantom making their way out to assist an inbound vessel. This shot shows Shannon (McTay Marine 1981) in the background with Flying Phantom (Ferguson Shipbuilders 1981) outbound from James Watt Dock to join her. Flying Phantom was the last tug built on The Clyde to serve on the river of her birth. Rumour has it she will be replaced by a new build early 2006 – this will be the end an era.

This was the end of the cruise for Shelagh & I. This next picture shows Waverley’s stern as she sits alongside Greenock CHQ amidst the setting sun.

After a great day which I’m sure evoked many memories Waverley heads upriver to Glasgow. This shot shows her leaving Greenock,

Finally, the day ended with a fine sunset over The Tail O the Bank. (Taken from Gourock Esplanade)

Sunday 22nd May saw the second 30th Anniversary Cruise start at Glasgow 10am calling at Greenock, Helensburgh & Dunoon before heading for Blairmore Pier where another historic event was to take place.

After her customary calls at Greenock and Helensburgh the paddler is shown in this next shot by John Crae, approaching Dunoon.

After passenger transfer she headed past Strone Point, into the mouth of Loch Long and to Blairmore.

This next shot was taken as the first ropes went ashore at the pier.

As Waverley berthed it became apparent that the whole community had turned out to support this historic event – cheers were exchanged between Ship and Shore – the atmosphere was special.

This next shot taken by Alasdair MacKenzie, shows the ribbons being cut to open the pier. The women in the left of the shot holding a bag as she claps is Agnes Harvey, from Wokingham who bought a run down building in Blairmore to renovate as a holiday home. To her surprise she found out it came with a pier! At this point the pier was unusable but due to the vision and drive of Agnes and others we now have another pier on the Clyde at which Waverley can call.

The view from the aft boat deck looking forward towards our cruising area for the afternoon.

A beautiful shot taken by John Crae, of Waverley alongside Blairmore Pier, embarking passengers for her afternoon cruise to Arrochar.

With her Blairmore passengers on board, Waverley heads off up Loch Long.

As Waverley makes her turn at the head of Loch Long we view what remains of Arrochar Pier. The paddler knows this Loch well, having been built for this route in 1947 and sailing it often since 1975. Her last call at Arrochar Pier was in 1972 whilst still under CSP ownership. It would be nice to see this pier being restored so she could once again call. After today, nothing seems impossible!!

During our cruise back down Loch Long the sun finally broke through.

At points during the cruise we were entertained by pipers from the Dunoon Grammar Pipe Band who had piped us into Blairmore Pier earlier that day.

With the festivities over for another day Waverley lies alongside at Greenock after return calls at Blairmore, Dunoon & Helensburgh.

A final salute from the World’s Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer as she casts off on her upriver leg to Glasgow. After disembarking passengers she will take on bunkers, water and stores before making for the Bristol Channel. The next Clyde cruise will be the annual PSPS Evening Charter on Wed 22nd June which will once again see her calling at Blairmore and heading up beautiful Loch Long. Thereafter she will settle into her traditional Clyde Summer Season as she has under WSN for the past 30 years.

Well it was a great weekend – the weather, for once, was with us and let’s hope this continues for the summer season also.
I’m sure that many memories of days gone by were evoked by these cruises. For people like Shelagh and I who are relatively new to Waverley we will have our memories to reflect on in years to come. If it wasn’t for the foresight and sheer will of those in the early days memories would be all that would be left.

To Douglas, Terry, Peter et al

Thank you.

Gavin Stewart
25th May 2005

Return to Home Page