Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cruising from Ayr, Troon and Ardrossan

That's the cover of a fold out brochure I bought off eBay recently for 99p.

The fact that 1964 was the last year the splendidly named Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSP) offered a programme of cruises from Ayr, Troon and Ardrossan is just the start of the history involved here.

For a start, the CSP was the shipping subsidiary operating on the Clyde of the nationalised British Railways. Due to a quirk of history, it managed to retain its identity and livery of yellow funnel embossed with red lion when the identities of the other pre-nationalisation railway shipping subsidiaries to Ireland and across the Channel were suppressed and BR imposed their standard red funnel with their "double arrow" logo. The CSP also became the "Caledonian" which gave its name to Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) when, divorced from railway control, it merged with David MacBrayne in 1973.

The ships pictured on the brochure next to the Cloch Lighthouse just south of Gourock on the east bank of the Clyde are, in the foreground, the SS Queen Mary II (1933). She ended up being the last dedicated cruising steamer in the CSP/Calmac fleet in 1977 and until very recently she was a floating restaurant on the Thames. The vessel in the background is one of the three "ABC" (because they were called Arran, Bute and Cowal) class of car ferries which operated to Dunoon and Rothesay from 1954. These were the first car ferries in Scotland (apart from the short crossings like Queensferry etc, now replaced by bridges).

The map on the back of the brochure - Ayr and Troon off the bottom!

The ship stationed at Ayr to give the cruise programme advertised in the brochure was the paddle steamer Caledonia built in 1934. During the summer of 1964, she sailed from Ayr every day at around 10.00am and called at Troon and Ardrossan before sailing to a variety of destinations around the Firth of Clyde including Largs, Rothesay, Loch Riddon, Millport, Dunoon, Loch Goil, Arran, Campbeltown, Tighnabraich and the Kyles of Bute.

The Caledonia was withdrawn from service in 1969 - she too later spent time on the Thames as a floating restaurant before being destroyed by fire in 1980. Calmac finally ceased all cruise sailings - since 1977 operated by diesel car ferries in their "spare time" - in 1996. (I think that was the year because I went on a sail on either the Jupiter, Juno or Saturn from Rothesay to Tarbert in 96 and I don't think there were cruise sailings in later years but correct me if I'm wrong.)

Finally, note that the brochure (top picture) has a date stamp 2 Sep 1964 saying "Caledonia". I think that means the brochure was picked up on the ship and stamped with the ship's own stamp kept on board in her ticket office. So that gives it a bit of extra "provenance" as they say on the Antiques Roadshow!

I leave you with two pictures of the Caledonia in her heyday in the 60s

Picture credit Mona's Isle
Picture credit Phil Wilson

1 comment:

  1. My recollection is that when young enthusiasts (like me!) asked for their leaflets to be stamped they got a rather friendlier reception from the assistant pursers than from the chief purser. Perhaps the assistants remembered the days when that was the sort of thing that was important to them!