Feuing at the Roseneath village of Cove began around 1850 and shortly thereafter a Mr M‘Ilroy, one of the early feuars approached the Duke of Argyll for permission to erect a pier. Permission was duly granted with the provision that the pier could be purchased by the Duke at any time at a fair market value. The pier was duly constructed and opened in 1852, attracting steamers from the Lochgoil and Holy Loch service and serving as a focal point to encourage additional feuing in the vicinity.
An early engraving from around 1870
Despite its close proximity to Kilcreggan, Cove pier continued to attract sufficient business through the collection of pier dues to sustain its annual lease. The main steamers calling on a regular service were the Holy Loch boats though there was also excursion traffic.
“Kilcreggan—An Alarming Occurrence at Cove Pier. —Two men narrowly escaped with their lives at Cove Pier on Wednesday night. They were the act of putting restive horse board the steamer Vesta, when the gangway capsized sideways, throwing Duncan Brown, coachman, and the pilot the Vesta, along with the horse, into the water, between the vessel and the pier. The greatest alarm was manifested amongst the passengers and spectators for the safety of the men, who providentially escaped with their lives, although considerably bruised on various parts of their bodies—Brown hiving been picked up, and the pilot succeeding in swimming ashore. The horse, which belonged to Mr Cumming, Cove, was severely cut, but managed to swim to the beach.”—Edinburgh Evening Courant August 17, 1866
Cove Pier around 1870 (Becket, Glasgow)
Cove Pier around 1880 (Washington Wilson)
A series of severe storms at the tail end of 1881 damaged the pier and it had to be rebuilt, prompting some anger from residents who were inconvenienced by the trek to Kilcreggan.
“Cove Pier Wrecked. All the piers the Kilcreggan locality have suffered severely, that at Cove being almost a total wreck. The shore road has been much broken up. Mr M‘Laren’s building yard is flooded, doing much damage to the yachts and boats lying there for the winter. The steamer Dandie Dinmont had to take shelter at Rosneath Pier, and from there the mail bags were conveyed to Kilcreggan and Cove.”—Greenock Telegraph, January 9, 1882
“Cove Pier. Cove, January 13. Sir, As very few of the proprietors of houses at Cove are resident here just now, will you allow me to call their attention to the present condition of Cove Pier. It has been in a very unsatisfactory condition for years past, and the last storm has rendered it entirely useless, and any tinkering it may get just now will in all probability perpetuate a state of matters worse than ever. In binding his feuars to pay pier dues, His Grace the Duke of Argyll surely puts himself under a moral obligation at least to maintain the pier in a proper state of efficiency, and it is very unfair on the part of His Grace to leave the pier at Cove in the hands of those who are either incompetent or unable to manage it respectably. The pier has stood untouched for a week now, when a very little effort could have thrown across a temporary gangway that would have allowed passengers to get on board or land in a calm day. I would earnestly urge on those interested in the matter to lose no time it laying it before his Grace, and asking him either to take the control of the pier into his own hands, or entertain proposals, which, we understand, were made some time ago, that the piers within the burgh should be made over to the Commissioners of the burgh or a company of the feuars.—I am, &c., A Feuar”—Glasgow Herald, January 14 1882
Improvements were made over the subsequent years, including the installation of a signal tower and shelter. With the rise of the railway companies, the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. and Glasgow and South Western Railway steamers on the Holy Loch service were the most frequent callers.
Viceroy at Cove (Valentine)
While the plea for the Duke to take over the pier in 1882 was ignored, in 1902 the Duke exercised his option to purchase the structure from the M‘Ilroy family and the Duke’s estate leased the pier on an annual basis.
“Purchase of Cove Pier by Duke of Argyll. A correspondent states; In 1850 Cove was slowly being built on as a “saut water” place. One of the then feuars, Mr M‘Ilroy, approached the late Duke Argyll, and offered to erect a pier at his own cost. The Duke gave the required permission, with this condition, that he could acquire the pier on payment of the value at the time he took it over. Mr M‘Ilroy accepted the conditions, and in the summer 1852 the present pier was opened, and has since continued the property of the M‘Ilroy family, being let to the pier-master at an annual rent about £l50. The present Duke Argyll has recently taken over the pier. Mr Allan M‘Donald, who has been pier-master for over twenty-five years, ceases next week to occupy that position in consequence of Mr M‘Ewan, a brother of Mr M‘Ewan, pier-master, Lochgoilhead, offering a higher rent. Mr M‘Ewan will enter into possession shortly.”—Greenock Telegraph, November 26, 1902
Caledonian Company Madge Wildfire at Cove around 1905
Glasgow & South Western Mars at Cove around 1905
Mars at Cove
Mars heading to Blairmore from Cove
After the first world war, the Caledonia was the regular caller until replaced by the Marchioness of Breadalbane in 1934. The Marchioness of Lorne took over until the second world war.
Marchioness of Breadalbane at Cove in 1934
A notice in the Daily Record of March 19, 1943, indicated that the L.M.S. Railway had suspended sailings to Cove while the Marchioness of Lorne was on other duties and her replacement, Marchioness of Graham, could not call.The pier finally closed in 1946.
“Clyde Piers,” Joy Monteith and Ian McCrorie, Inverclyde District Libraries, Greenock, 1982