Sailing Doon the Clyde.
Crossing the Clyde by ferry was an important part of earlier life in Glasgow, but the Clyde, was also the source of another of Glasgow's many enjoyable features. For many years I sailed down the Clyde on my way to holiday in Campbeltown, Argyll. Back in the early 'thirties Campbeltown was served by a daily sailing to and from the Broomielaw by the old steamers, Davaar and Dalriada, and I can still capture the joy and excitement of getting on a tramcar in Govan and going up to the Broomielaw for the steamer. In my young years I rated this sail down the Clyde as a very exciting experience.
I sailed up and down the Clyde to and from the Broomielaw in more recent years on many other steamers. I remember for example, the days when the Queen Mary II, a lovely looking "steamer", plied regularly on the Clyde. In 1963 I sailed down the Clyde on her and through the beautiful Kyles of Bute with a stopover in Rothesay , then back to the Broomielaw, and I sailed on her many times to and from Campbeltown. I still have a great picture of this steamer hanging in my house, taken from the quay at Campbeltown.
Back in these times kids weren't allowed to run around the bar lounge on the steamers and it was common practice, and a standing joke in Glasgow, for parents to take their kids down to look at the engines and leave them standing mesmerized watching the engines while the parents visited the lounge. Back in the 60's my father lived in Glasgow and we took him on the Duchess of Hamilton on a sail from Fairlie to Campbeltown. After the boat left Fairlie I said to my father, "Come on Pop, there's something on this boat I've always wanted to show you."... I took him down to the engines and said to him, "Now Pop, would you show your grandkids these bloody engines, and if you need us, you'll find us up in the lounge!".
As a boy I had a great passion for these Clyde steamers and at the height of the summer I spent a lot of time standing on the Govan pier at the foot of Holm Street watching the boats dock and let some passengers off. Only a few of the steamers stopped at the Govan pier, and only during the summer, but I still found it thrilling to see all the other passenger boats sailing to and fro. There were Burns Laird boats (never called them "steamers") sailing to or from Northern Ireland, as well as the Campbeltown steamers, which did "daily" sailings and were easily identified; most of the time one was unaware where the boats had come from or where they were going to.
It was quite a thrill too, sailing through Govan and seeing the other side of the shipyards with their skeletons of ships and all the hustle and bustle involved in their building. I use "other side" because as a resident of Govan I'd long been familiar with the front of the yards bordering on the Govan Road. The hammering of the riveters' hammers was the background noise with which I was brought up in Govan.
Despite living in Govan, I only ever saw two launchings. The first time was about 1940(?) during the Second World War when, from the Govan horse-ferry, I saw a battleship being launched from Fairfields'. At the time the ship's name was the Beatty, but this was changed to the Anson or Howe, after leaving the Clyde. I saw this ship sailing, multi-tug-assisted, past Linthouse later in the war (Doonunda posted an excellent picture of this occasion on the "Bombs over Glasgow" thread).
The second launching I saw was a 35,000 ton oil-tanker built by Harland and Wolff's at Govan Cross. This was at the end of 1959 (or beginning of '60) and I was in Glasgow on holiday. I heard about the launching and took my wife across the Clyde on the Govan ferry, and from the Partick side we had a perfect view of the launching. I recall speaking to one of the yard workers while going back over to Govan, and he told me that there wouldn't be many more ships getting launched from the Harland's Govan yard. He was right.
In more recent years I have been a passenger on the Waverley many times. Strange though, I never quite took to this paddle-steamer at all. I see her as a tourist gimmick; oh, a bit of an impostor, not really a Clyde steamer, not a boat that had to race the Duchess of Hamilton or the St Columba for a berthing space at Dunoon on Fair Saturday. Perhaps, for me, the Waverley is symbolic of the demise of the Clyde steamers' scheduled passenger sailings, that was once an important part of the Glasgow scene.