Doon the Watter #Nostalgia on the Clyde

Leaving the Broomielaw about 1900

The pictures in this post come from “Clyde Water” by Maurice Lindsay published in 1958. 
Dunoon in the 1840s
Mansions and marine villas in Dunoon and other seaside villages in the firth of Clyde were built by merchants, self-made men who dealt in tea, tobacco, soap, coal, iron and steel, ships and railway engines.  During the 1930s houses on the west coast of Scotland were still being taken for the summer as they had been at Bournemouth in Edwardian times.

In his book, Maurice reminisces on his childhood memories of trips, “Doon the watter,” in the 1930s.
He describes his first voyage on RMS Columba from Broomielaw in Glasgow thus,

‘We set out on the first of July; mother and father, nurse, four children, dog, cat and goldfish.  A great deal of luggage had to be taken.  We got up at five in the morning and a horse-drawn cart arrived at six to carry the luggage down to the quay.  I was given the job of guarding the cat while the luggage was being grunted and manoeuvred round the bends of the staircase.  The cat had the idea that if he managed to escape he would not have to undergo his ordeal of transportation by basket.

The Columba had two red and black funnels and huge gilded paddle-boxes.  She smelt of heated engine oil, good galley cooking and well-scrubbed cleanliness.  We established ourselves in the saloon where there were a number of seated bays lined with dark red velvet plush, richly draped with similar hangings.  The cat remained obligingly silent, but at the entrance a liveried steward looked at me with an air of hostility. “What’s in that basket?” he demanded.  “Provisions,” I answered.  He grunted and let us past.

Up on deck the Captain took a final look at his watch, another at the quay, then pulled the clanging brass levers by his side.  The paddles began to thresh the water, nosing the ship’s bow towards the centre of the river and we slid slowly forward, past miles of shipyards, resounding with the racket of the riveters welding the rusty hulks of the ships, past towering ocean-going liners and rusty old dredgers squatting in the middle of the river."

The Lord of the Isles arriving at Rothesay in 1900
After a morning’s sail to Dunoon past Greenock and Gourock, the sail to Innellan took 20 minutes.  A taxi hurled us along the shore road to the house, which stood at the foot of a terraced hill garden 200 yards from the shore. A horse and cart bearing our heavy luggage crunched its patient way up the garden path.  Once unpacked, it was time for High tea and then for the garden.”

The Waverley arriving at Rothesay about 1950


  1. Lovely. I sailed 'doon the watter' on the Waverley a few years ago. Did you ever do it?

  2. From about 1955 till 1962 when we went up to the Gareloch for our annual holiday, I was taken out from Craigendorran pier to Rothesay, Dunoon or Millport where we had relations. I loved arriving at our destination but often felt sick! I don't know which boats we were on and sadly I can no longer ask my parents.