Arran’s Russian ship connection

A full hull ship model of the steam yacht Livadia is currently housed at the Riverside Museum in Govan, Glasgow. Photograph: Glasgow Museums Collection.

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Arran Banner reader James Jack of Lochranza was clearing out some of his belongings when he came across a newspaper cutting from The Glasgow Herald dated August 18, 1938.

Written by a distant relative, named only as Ishbel, the clipping is a letter to the editor in which Ishbel recalls the launching of the Russian Czar Alexander II’s new yacht – Livadia – which was built and launched by John Elder and Co in Govan in 1880, and the many Arran connections associated with it.

Although Livadia was written off in 1926 and later scrapped, the model of the ship, built in 1880 by Mr James Cameron, is still kept at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. Alexander II was assassinated on March 13, 1881 and never sailed on the imperial yacht.


I remember the day the Livadia was launched. The excitement was intense. Some prophets said she would turn turtle, but she slipped beautifully into the water. Captain J Cumming, father of Dr J B Cumming, The Creagan, Bellahouston, was in command. He ran her trials and took her to Brest to hand her over to the Russian Government.

Arran folks were keenly interested, as the Duchess of Hamilton (mother of the Duchess of Montrose) entertained the Russian Princes at Brodick Castle, and Captain Cumming was an Arran man. The Duchess named the yacht.

When crossing the Channel a man was electrocuted by touching a live wire. I remember being told of the great beauty of the Russian funeral service as the body was committed to the deep. The yacht hove to during the solemn hour.

I have noticed many elderly men looking at the model of the Livadia and recalling the sunny day when the Russians were in Govan and the name Livadia was in everyone’s mouth.

I am, etc.,



The Riverside Museum in Glasgow.