The name of it thrills me and fills me with pride
And I'm satisfied whate'er may betide
The sweetest of songs is the song of the Clyde
I was born in Glasgow, through which the Clyde flows and I spent from age three to fifteen living in Dunoon and Hunter's Quay, both of which are seaside towns on the Clyde Estuary. The river holds many memories of playing on its shores and sailing on the "Clyde steamers", both as a necessary means of transportation in all seasons, but particularly as a form of pleasure in the summer when a day at Rothesey or a sail to Tighnabruich, once even as a special treat, all the way to Campbelltown were real sources of pleasure. To see the big pistons revolving in the paddle steamers or see the smoky bars deep in the bowels of the ship were exotic sights not seen every day, not to mention being able to visit the exotic towns which were really nearby, but separated by water and lack of vehicular transportation to those that were not on islands.
Today Nan and I revisited these, and Christine saw places she had only seen, perhaps once. We set off from Bo'ness by car to Largs, not too far from where Christine and I had lived in Kilmarnock when we were first married. There we boarded the Waverley, the last of the Clyde steamers, now operated by a preservation society as a tourist attraction. At one time the epitome of a Glaswegian's holiday was to go "doon the watter" to Dunoon, Rothesey, Largs. Ayr or any number of other holiday/seaside resorts. In recent years this had given way to the more exotic Costa Brava, Costa Del Sol, Provence or even further destinations. It was apparent today that the economic downturn had made the appeal of more local holidays attractive once again. The voices were almost all Scottish, most distinctly Glaswegian, or at least West Coast Scotland. A very small sprinkling of English tones could be heard, but the only "foreign" voices came from some of the crew on the Waverley which we boarded at Largs just before lunch time.
The Waverley has another claim to fame in our family. Our cousin, Angus, who lives in Perth has always bee an Clyde steamer fanatic and since he has retired he has volunteered on it. Yesterday, however, he was not on duty.
We set off in sunshine, which lasted all day, but the breeze off the water was, at times, cool. We left Largs and crossed the Clyde to pass Toward with Inellan beyond it. Inellan once had as its parish minister George Matheson who wrote the hymn, "O Love that wilt not let me go". We arrived at Rothesey on the Isle of Bute where some of the passengers were spending the afternoon. We ate the picnic lunch we had brought with us and proceeded to Tighnabruich (Gaelic for "House on the Hill") through "The Narrows" a very tight channel which it is interesting to see being navigated as one is almost convinced the ship will not make it. We passed Loch Striven which was once used for torpedo practice by the Royal Navy submarines and Loch Ridden where a post-war merchant fleet was mothballed for many years, "just in case". We pointed out the Maids of Bute - two rocks which had been painted to resemble girls. They used to be red and white and really stood out. Now they are yellow and white and it is hard to see the resemblance to human form.
After Tighnabruich we rounded the north end of Bute and entered Loch Fyne where we stopped at Tarbert. These "Lochs" are sea lochs, arms of the sea, or the Clyde Estuary, similar, though apparently geographically distance from, the Norwegian fjords. They were used extensively during the war for hiding ships, safe harbours, commando practice, and even an area strung with many lights to fool the Luftwaffe into thinking they had reached Glasgow and would drop their bombs prematurely.
After Tarbert we sailed along the coast of Arran to Lochranza, but did not stop there. We returned by all the towns we had stopped at on the way out and got to Largs about 7:30 p.m. We got back to the car and set off for Gourock - directly across from Dunoon - where we visited Nan's brother-in-law, Jim, and his wife, Sandra where we had dinner. We spoke for quite a while before returning to Bo'ness, somewhat late, and "tired but happy". Graeme was still up and we talked for a while before retiring.
Tomorrow we are off to York till Saturday.