Friday, 13 July 2012

Late Victorian & Edwardian Era Scottish Passenger Steamers (Part One)

An unidentified but crowded paddle steamer leaving "The Broomielaw"
Quay in Glasgow for a sail down the Clyde, c. 1890 - 1900 [GWW Slide]

This gallery which is in four parts features a series of views of late Victorian to Edwardian era Scottish passenger paddle and screw steamers. Sadly few examples of this type of transport remain, let alone in operation. The most well known vessels still in active use are the PS Waverley, being the last ocean going paddle steamer in the world, and the SS Sir Walter Scott on Lake Katrine, being the last screw steamer in regular passenger service in Scotland.

The above unidentified paddle steamer aptly illustrates the great Scottish tradition of a Sunday sail "doon the watter" [down the Clyde River], "The Broomielaw" quay in Central Glasgow being the busy embarkation point. But with a main deck jam-packed with passengers (many with umbrellas) and only one small row boat to be seen - let alone any life belts - one would have hoped for a safe journey.

The Clyde remained for many years a busy and fascinating waterway for all types of shipping and of course included the great Scottish ship building yards, marine engineering industries, Prince's and Queen's docks (among many others), many goods cranes, the Stobcross ferry, provisioners, the pedestrian tunnel under the Clyde, and the Yoker coal fired power Station where my own Grandfather worked for some years as an Engineer. "The Broomielaw" quay pictured here, including the views of shipping and industry down the Clyde River itself, are unrecognisable today.

The wash created as the "PS Benmore" pulls away from the Broomielaw,
Taken circa pre 1892

The Paddle Steamer "Benmore", viewed here pulling away from "The Broomielaw" while a crowd of men watch from the quay, had been built by TB Seath at Rutherglen in 1876 for Robert Campbell and Hugh Keith of Glasgow. She initially sailed on the Glasgow to Kilmun run until being sold to Captain Campbell who maintained her on this run until being transferred to the Broomielaw to Rothesay run with occasional excursions to Ayr. Being reboilered in 1887 she briefly sported two funnels but this proved unsuccessful and she was again reboilered and reverted to one funnel the following year. In 1892 she became principally a cargo vessel under John Williamson's ownership. In 1915, no doubt due to a shortage of vessels at a time of wartime requisitioning of seaworthy vessels, she was chartered by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company but in 1920 came under the ownership of a new company, Williamson - Buchanan Steamers Ltd which had been formed in 1919.
Unfortunately, she was badly damaged by fire on the 11th November 1920 and then laid up in West Harbour Greenock. Not being repaired she was broken up at Dumbarton in October 1923.

Glasgow & South Western Railway Company Paddle Steamer "Juno"

The Glasgow and South Western Railway Company had the paddle steamer "Juno" built by the Clyde Engineering and Shipbuilding Company, being launched on Friday the 17th June 1898. The "P.S. Juno" is believed to have been based at Ayr (replacing the "P.S. Neptune") but may have regularly connected with the companies stations on the coast from Glasgow and the Clyde south. Requisitioned by the Admiralty from 1915 to 1919 and being temporarily renamed "HMS Junior" she then came under the ownership of the London, Midland and Scottish railway at the 'grouping' of 1923. "P.S. Juno" was finally broken up at Alloa in 1932. This postcard dates from 1909.

Steamers at Rothesay Pier

Our final postcard, which dates from 1909, illustrates the very busy scene at Rothesay Pier on the Isle of Bute. The paddle steamer in the foreground at right is the "P.S. Lord of the Isles" built in 1891 and not to be confused with the "Lord of the Isles" of the same name built in 1877 and featured above. By the late Victorian era Rothesay had became a popular tourist destination for trips "doon the watter" from Glasgow. Rothesay boasted a large hydropathic establishment and even an electric tramway which connected the town with a popular beach across the island.

Bibliography :

- Internet Sources 
- All images are from my own personal collections and may be freely copied for non-commercial use provided a link is given back to this page.


  1. Hi Don001,
    Stumbled across your excellent blog by accident while looking for general information on Edwardian Paddle steamers just for my own curiosity more than anything else. I'm from Glasgow, Scotland and have an amateur interest in a variety of Scottish history as I'm into cycling and walking here. Didn't think I'd find the relevant info in a blog from New Zealand though.
    Very interesting and well researched blog which I'll look though properly when I have some more time. Cheers.

    1. Thank you, very much appreciated

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I think this is wonderful blog about paddle steamer. I already have collect some information form here. Also all of images are so nice and clear. Thank to blog write. I have some experience to travel by paddle steamer in Bangladesh.

    We have a fleet of century old paddle steamers in Bangladesh which are still in operation. They were built in the colonial period and still serving as a passenger boat. An overnight journey on those boats is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You can check it here if you are interested: Paddle steamers in Bangladesh

  3. The SS KEEWATIN at 350 feet, 3800 tons is alive and well and living in Port McNicoll Canada. Built in 1907 at Fairfields in Govan she served the Great Lakes until 1965. Sold to Americans in Michigan in June 1967 but was purchased by Canadian interests and returned to Canada in June 2012. She is on display with engine still functioning and all rooms and public lounges decorated to period with authentic relics. 1 hour north of Toronto Airport.

    1. How fascinating, thank you so much Eric


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