Any map of the West Coast of Scotland emphasizes the intricate chain of small islands that run from Arran northwards and the complicated network of sea lochs that help form the estuary of the River Clyde. With the dawn of the railway age it became possible to provide links between the coastal ports and harbours, such as Ardrossan, Falrlie and Helensburgh, with central Glasgow and, for the railway companies, a logical extension of the land-based competition was to provide these outlying islands and lochs with regular ferry services to link with their train services. Thus the North British, the Caledonian and Glasgow & South Western railways all operated routes, often in competition, between rall-heads on the mainland and numerous harbours on Arran, Bute and elsewhere. For generations of those living on the West Coast of Scotland, as well as for the countless visitors to the area, travel by Clyde steamer was a regular part of their everyday existence. Today, the experience enjoyed by these travellers can still be found courtesy of the preserved paddle-steamer, the Waverley.
In his very first book for Ian Allan Publishing, Brian Patton examines the history of the Clyde steamers from the earliest days, through to their final demise. Starting the story in 1877, when the first vessels designed to provide passengers with an increased level of comfort (to encourage an interest in pleasure trips), the author narrates the history of Clyde steamers, and associated vessels, for 100 years, until the mid-1970s, when the last of the traditional Clyde steamers, the Queen Mary, was taken out of service. During that period the steamers endeared themselves to thousands - to the commuters glad to be safely home again in Dunoon or Rothesay on a winter's night, to the tourists from outside of Scotland marveling in the scenery, or countless Glaswegians escaping down river at the Fair, to all those for whom a day trip to Inverary on board Duchess of Montrose is still a cherished memory, and to all those who still depend on Clyde ferries to take them about their daily business.
Brian Patton lives in Berwickshire. He is the author of, or contributor to, a number of transport books, most recently a highly detailed account of double-deck trams used outside the British Isles, although this is his first book for Ian Allan Publishing.