Waverley – a Very Busy Easter 2004

Part 1 – Good Friday

Report by Stuart Cameron


As the clocked ticked away towards the start of the paddle steamer Waverley’s 57th season of sailings on the River and Firth of Clyde, her dedicated crew and the shore staff of Waverley Excursions Ltd. worked away frantically to ensure that the Mighty Paddler would be ready for her first passengers of 2004 on a traditional Good Friday ‘Doon the watter’ sailing from Glasgow to Rothesay. The following pictures were taken by a variety of people and were initially posted on the highly popular Clydesite website (www.clydesite.co.uk). The pictures are reproduced here by kind permission of all of the copyright owners and are individually accredited.


Waverley’s first sailing from Glasgow was delayed somewhat by extremely low tides at her intended departure time. Despite this and the rather indifferent Good Friday weather, Waverley had over 600 passenger aboard as she steamed away from Anderston quay. In the following picture, by Stuart McMahon, Waverley’s departure is recorded from the novel location of the Glasgow Moat House Hotel. To the left of her is the famous Finnieston Crane, built to serve the Glasgow locomotive building industry which, at one time provided over 70% of the world’s steam driven locomotives. The massive locos were lifted aboard ships by this crane and taken to all parts of the globe.



Another fine picture by Stuart shows Waverley making passage through the Bell’s Bridge, which was built to serve the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival. The bridge is swung open to all her passage.



A minute or so later, a ‘single-funnelled’ Waverley is passing through another bridge – the Millennium Bridge – built in 2000 to serve the new Glasgow Science Centre which can be seen in the background on the former Plantation Quay. Adjacent to the Science Centre is the Glasgow Tower, currently the highest structure in the city. The Centre, which cost £75m and was opened by HM the Queen, on the site of the City’s former Princes Dock, huge 3-basin complex from which ships sailed to many locations around the world. Above the Science Centre, the white topped structure is the roof of  the main stand of Ibrox Football Stadium, home of Glasgow Rangers F.C.



In this picture, also by Stuart McMahon, the now derelict Govan Drydocks can be seen above Waverley. The three dry-docks here were built over a century ago by the former Clyde Navigation Trust for the general use of shipping in the port of Glasgow. At its peak Glasgow’s shipyards numbered over 40, building up to 370 ships per year and the annual number of shipping movements on the River Clyde exceeded 16,000. Waverley’s annual refits were performed in these drydocks until 1986 and the complex was closed shortly thereafter. The site is scheduled for redeveloped in the near future.



Further down the Clyde Gavin Stewart captured Waverley cracking along



There was another attraction in Glasgow on Good Friday 2004, namely the launch of the 16,000 ton Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Mounts Bay from the Govan shipyard of BAE Systems plc. Stuart Cameron’s picture below shows the Mounts Bay on the main building berth at Govan shortly before her launch. Behind at the door of the vast prefabrication shop, can be seen the bow section of Mounts Bay’s sister ship, Cardigan Bay. This first section of the second ship will be moved onto the building berth shortly after launch and she will be launched in 2005. BAE Systems claim that Mounts Bay is the 750th ship to be launched from this shipyard (possibly an underestimate), which was set up by the renowned and highly talented engineer John Elder in 1865. For most of its long history the yard was operated by the world famous Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company. Over the years they produced every kind of ship including ocean passenger liners such as the Empress of Britain for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, battleships such as HMS Howe (also launched on the 9th day of April – sixty two years earlier) for the Royal Navy and paddle steamers such as the Bristol Channel’s Cardiff Queen and the 1937-built Jupiter for the Clyde – yet another vessel launch on the 9th day of April.



The launch of the Mounts Bay was the largest on the Clyde in terms of onlookers since the launch of the famous Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2 in September 1967. It is estimated that about 10,000 people watched Mounts Bay slide into the water, the latest of almost 25,000 ships to built on this once un-navigable river.  The next picture, by Jamie Shorthouse, shows a party from the Clydesite website aboard the Clyde waterbus Pride o’ the Clyde, which normally operates a ferry service between Glasgow’s historic Broomielaw quay and the Braehead shopping centre. Jamie also captured the moment as Mounts Bay’s stern slid into the water for the first time




The following pictures by Frank Parsons shows the Mounts Bay afloat for the first time in the River Clyde a few minutes after her launch.



Not everyone on Clydeside was watching the launch of Mounts Bay and Ian Montgomery captured the next two fine shots of Waverley off Greenock on her way to Rothesay.



As Waverley returned up the Clyde to Glasgow in the late afternoon John Crae captured the paddler in the river near Clydebank. With almost 700 passengers aboard and thundering along to make up time the Inglis-built paddler made an impressive sight.



After disembarking her day trip passengers at Anderston Quay Waverley embarked others for her first evening showboat of 2004 and Gavin Stewart, returning up to Broomielaw on Pride o’ the Clyde, took this impressive picture of the Waverley setting off towards the sunset in the west






The photographs accompanying this report have been kindly donated by several subscribers to the Clydesite website. Clydesite is a superb maritime resource created by webmaster Bruce Biddulph and is dedicated to the promotion of the River Clyde – its past, present and future. You can access two parts of Clydesite free of charge, one being the unique Clydebuilt Ships Database that lists details of over 22,000 ships built on the Clyde in the past 200 years. The other free section gives a highly informative description of the leisure and recreation facilities of the Clyde including a database of available ferry and excursion sailings. The third section of Clydesite is accessible by subscription, currently set at a very modest £12 per annum. Clydeshipping.co.uk is an extremely lively maritime forum contributed to by members throughout the UK, North America and elsewhere. Note: although primarily a Clyde forum, Clydeshipping.co.uk also has subsidiary forum on General Shipping, Bristol Channel Shipping and Warships. Clydeshipping.co.uk has attracted over 70,000 forum contributions in the short period of 3 years and regularly received an amazingly wide base of photographic contributions, some of significant historic interest. My thanks to Clydesite members for contributing photographs to this Waverley report. I recommend a visit to anyone that hasn’t been there before



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