Society learn history of Clyde steamers

Taken in 1946 this still image shows a vehicle driving onto a steamer.

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The Arran Historical Society welcomed 52 members, including four new members, to its January meeting in the Brodick golf clubhouse for the AGM and a talk about Clyde steamers and Arran piers, writes Hugh Brown.

The official business included a number of relevant subjects for discussion, including the success of last year’s syllabus – only one meeting was cancelled due to the ferry – and that 2020 has a full meeting schedule with nine speakers already secured to speak on a variety of subjects.

It was also noted that last year a founder member of their forerunner, The Arran Antiquarians, sadly passed away. Norval Murray served on the committee from 1994 to 2014 as treasurer for many years and finally as chairman. The death of Peter Emsley, another member of many years, was also announced.

After the official business Ed O’Donnelly showed the members a film on the history of  thje Clyde steamers and many of Arran’s piers from around 1933 up to the present day. The changes in the transportation of cars in the past and the situation today was most interesting and informative.

Back in the 1930’s up to the 60 cars went by cargo boat and were craned on to the boat. A few cars went onto the steamer by planks when the tide level suited. The first car ferry in the 1960’s was the Glen Sannox. This was side loading and cars were loaded onto a hydraulic ramp adjusted to suit the pier tide level. The ramp was lowered to the car deck level, turned to face the front of the boat and cars drove onto the car deck and round the semi-circular bow area to once again face the ramp. Once loading was complete the last cars were left on the lowered ramp if the boat was full and they were driven off after the journey.

The accompanying stills from The National Library of Scotland Screen Archive illustrate these methods. It was also noted that there are no films of Fairlie Pier and if anyone has any the historical society would be delighted to hear from you.

The next meeting of the society will be on Monday February 17, when local author Ian McMurdo will speak about his book Arran: Travels, Treasures and Tales which was published last year and which has gone to re-print. He will discuss how he involved many local people in his research for the book and the contribution they made in providing tales for it.

The meeting concluded with Colin MacKenzie thanking the Little Rock staff for the buffet, the clubhouse for the use of their facilities and Ed O’Donnelly for his film.

Photographs: The National Library of Scotland Screen Archive

A car makes its way on Brodick’s old pier towards the ferry. No_B07historical01

Taken in 1946 this still image shows a vehicle driving onto a steamer. No_B07historical02

Another vehicle is seen driving onto Arran’s first car ferry, Glen Sannox. No_B07historical03