Celebrating the romantic era of steamships on the Clyde

They were once a common sight on the Clyde and brought a romantic dash of colour to the scenic firth as they steamed to and fro.

The Caledonian steam ships took tourists ‘doon the watter’ and took coal and other goods to and from the harbours of the firth including Ayr, Girvan, Troon and Ardrossan, as well as islands and ports up and down the west coast of Scotland.

The Maid of the Loch

The Maid of the Loch

Now a colourful new book, The Caledonian Steam packet Company - An Illustrated History by Alistair Deayton, celebrates these wonderful evocative ships.

The Caledonian Steam Packet Co. was founded in 1889 by the Caledonian Railway and in 2014 was 125 years old.

It originally sailed from Gourock but came to encompass many of the Clyde coast piers and resorts, from Girvan to Argyll.

At one time in competition with the Glasgow & South Western steamers and those of the North British Railway, by 1948 and the nationalisation of the railway companies, the steamers of these companies had all come under the auspices of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co.

By 1973, the fleets of David MacBrayne and the CSP were amalgamated. The CalMac fleet comprises the third volume in this series on Clyde and West Coast steamers. This follow-up to Alistair Deayton’s David MacBrayne history tells the story of the other constituent company of CalMac, whose vessels, with their blacktipped yellow funnels, once flourished on the Clyde, sailing to Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Argyll.

The book, which is wonderfully illustrated throughout, takes us from the beginnings of the company in the 1880s operating steamer services on the Clyde through the building of its early fleet and the advent of the First World War.

During the conflict the entire fleet was taken over by the Admiralty, mainly for minesweeping duties, with two of the steamers lost to enemy action.

There is a tremendous amount of local history in this book with the story taking us through the railway company amalgamations of the 1920s - the steamers were closely associated with the railways services - the Second World War, where the fleet again served the nation, and on into the nationalisation of the railways in 1948.

There then followed the advent of the car ferries and the eventual amalgamation of services to form Caledonian MacBrayne which continues to operate ferry services to this day.

The book, which is available from all good bookshops is priced £19.99 and available in paperback, kindle, Kobo and ibook formats, you can also look at www.amberley-books.com, includes histories and descriptions of each vessel and wonderful illustrations.

The author Alistair Deayton is an acknowledged expert on West Coast steamers. He has written numerous books on the subject including the hugely important Directory of Clyde Paddle Steamers. He lives in Paisley.

n All photographs used by kind permission of Amberley Publishing and The Caledonian Steam Packet Company - An Illustrated History.