This article highlights some of the opposition to the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Joint Stock Company’s near monopoly of the Campbeltown route in the latter half of the 1800s. In the earlier part of the century, Campbeltown was served by this locally owned company from 1826 and the centenary history is presented in another article. In addition, in those early years, the Londonderry steamers regularly called at Campbeltown and picked up some of the trade, but gradually this connection was withdrawn.
It was in the aftermath of the American Civil War with Clyde shipyards, now expert in building fast, sturdy coastal craft, that excess capacity meant prices for new ships began to drop and Messrs Little & Co., with a long history in coastal trading, began a new enterprise in 1866, placing a fast paddle steamer, Herald, on the route from Glasgow and Greenock to Campbeltown.
“Launch of a new Glasgow, Greenock, and Campbeltown steamer.—There was launched from Messrs Caird & Co.’s East building yard, Greenock, this forenoon, a very handsome paddle steamer named Herald, intended for the above trade. Her dimensions are, length 200 feet, breadth 22½ feet, depth 11 feet, with oscillating engines of 150 horse power, fitted with Caird’s patent expansion valves, and feathered floats. From the high character of her builders, and her beautiful model, she is expected to attain a high rate of speed and will no doubt be welcome acquisition to the travelling public, and to the trade of Campbeltown.”—Greenock Telegraph, March 3, 1866
“The Campbelton Trade.—The new paddle steamer Herald, built and engined Messrs Caird Co., for a new Company in the Glasgow and trade, made her preliminary trip yesterday, with a party of forty gentlemen on board. She ran from Greenock against wind and tide without stoppages in 3¾ hours, and accomplished the return distance from Campbelton against the tide, and with stoppage at Carradale, in the same period. She will be put on the station upon Monday.”—Greenock Advertiser, May 5, 1866
“Trial trip of the steamer Herald.—Yesterday forenoon, the beautiful and commodious steamer Herald, recently built and engined by Messrs Caird & Co., Greenock, sailed on a trial trip to Campbeltown. The Herald, which is 220 feet in length, 23 feet in breadth, 11 feet in depth, 350 tons burden, and propelled by engines of 150 horse-power, appears admirably suited for the traffic between Glasgow and Campbeltown. She is fitted with oscillating engines, feathering floats, and Caird’s patent expansion valves. She has a large fore deck for cattle, and her stowage room for cargo is extensive. The cabins are most handsomely furnished, and everything has been done by the owners to make the vessel a comfortable passenger steamer. A select party of ladies and gentlemen joined the vessel at Greenock, amongst whom we observed—Captain Kincaid, of Greenock; Meesrs William Birrell, underwriter; Thomas Henderson (of Messrs Handyside & Henderson); Robert Little; H. J. Neill, of Rockport; John Neill of Belfast; James Wilson, Robert Morrison, Greenock; M. M. Fraser, John Young, Andrew Erskine, John Erskine, Edward Blackmore, Greenock, &c., &c. Amongst the ladies present were the Misses Kincaid, Greenock; Miss Melville, Campbeltown; Miss Macgregor, Mrs. Fraser, Miss Sheriff, Miss Skinner, &c. The Herald, which it under the command of Capt. Robert Young, a gentleman who is well known on the Clyde for his ability and courtesy, accomplished the distance on her homeward trip between Campbeltown and Greenock in about three hours and three-quarters, including a stoppage at Carradale, and this speed, we may mention, was attained not under the most favourable circumstances. The machinery worked with remarkable smoothness; and, although there was a stiffish breeze blowing, the vessel steamed in a very steady manner—the vibration being scarcely perceptible on board. On the voyage home, the company sat down in the saloon to an excellent dinner, served up in excellent style by Mr Joseph Henderson, the steward. After the tables had been cleared, Mr. Blackmore (of Blackmore & Rankine, engineers) proposed “Success to the Steamer Herald,” and referred to the necessity of having a crack boat placed upon such an important route. The toast was duly responded to. Mr. Erskine proposed the “Health of the Owners,” who (he said) deserved credit for their enterprise in putting such a excellent boat on the Campbeltown station. This toast was heartily responded to, as was also the toast of “Captain Young,” the commander. The weather was delightful, and the day was spent in a most pleasant manner.”—Glasgow Herald, May 5, 1866
At this time, the Campbeltown Company had two older paddle steamers, Celt of 1848 and Druid of 1857 on the trade and there is little doubt that some modernization was required.
Glasgow Herald, June 7, 1866
Glasgow Herald, July 12, 1866
The Campbeltown Company responded with an announcement of a fast paddle steamer of their own and the situation for the Herald was such that she was laid up before the end of her first season. The reference to the old Isle of Man steamer Tynwald is a curious one that will be addressed in a following article.
“New steamer for Campbeltown.—We understand that the new firm about to begin business in the East Yard, lately occupied by Messrs Caird & Co., have completed terms, and will shortly lay down the keel of a steamer for the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steamboat Company, to ply in conjunction with the Celt and Druid, and as a rival to the swift steamer Herald.”—Glasgow Herald, June 16, 1866
“The Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company have contracted with Messrs Robertson & Co., Greenock, for a new steamer of large dimensions, to be named the Gael, which will be placed on the station between Glasgow and Campbeltown, in connection with the steamers Druid and Celt, early next spring. The Gael will be constructed with all the recent improvements, with a view to great speed, and to secure elegance and comfort for passengers. The proprietors have in contemplation the building of another steamer next summer, should the trade require further development. It is expected that Campbeltown will be reached with the Gael, via Wemyss Bay, in 3½ to 4 hours.”—Greenock Advertiser, August 4, 1866
“Campbeltown steamers.—In order to meet the yearly increasing traffic to and from Campbeltown, we understand that the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company have contracted with Messrs. Robertson & Co., Greenock, for a new steamer of large dimensions, to be named the Gael, which will be placed on the station between Glasgow and Campbeltown, in connection with the steamers Druid and Celt, early next spring. The Gael will be constructed with all the recent improvements, with a view to great speed, and to secure elegance and comfort for passengers. The proprietors have also in contemplation the building of another steamer of the same class next summer, should the trade require further development. It is expected that Campbeltown will be reached with the Gael, via Wemyss Bay, in 3½ to 4 hours, so that this and other fine watering-places on the north of Arran and coast of Kintyre will likely, with increased accommodation, become favourite summer residences for our citizens.”—Glasgow Herald, August 2, 1866
The Herald did continue to make some headlines in the latter part of the 1866 season. However, it was clear that the competition was stiff and a fare war ensued.
“Determined suicide.—Last night, about nine o’clock, while the Campbeltown steamer Herald was steaming up the river, a hand on board, named Daniel O’Donnell, committed self-destruction by leaping overboard. From the information we have received, it appears that O’Donnell had been indulging in liquor during the day; and when he was observed to be somewhat affected by it instructions were given by the steward that he should not be supplied with any drink. This order was strictly enforced; but O’Donnell seems to have succeeded in procuring more liquor by getting some of the passengers to purchase it for him, and the result was that he became very disorderly, and made use of abusive lan- guage to the captain and mate. While the steamer was passing Whiteinch, and when O’Donnell seemed to have become calm, he suddenly rushed upon the paddle-box of the vessel, and, exclaiming “Here goes; success to Danie,” leaped into the river. Captain Young, on observing the occurrence, instantly caused the engines of the steamer to be stopped and the small boat lowered and manned, but after a dilgent search for nearly half an hour no trace of the unfortunate man could be got. He was a good swimmer, and, after leaping into the river, he was observed to swim down the stream.”—Glasgow Herald, August 2, 1866
“Collision on the river—Derdger sunk.—On Wednesday evening about half-past seven o’clock, while the Campbeltown steamer Herald was sailing up the river she came into collision with a dredging machine which was anchored near the Garmoyle Light, off Langbank. The dredger was so much damaged that she sank in a short time afterwards. Fortunately however, no lives were lost, the crew having saved themselves by means of their small boat. The bow of the Herald was considerably damaged. It is said that the Herald had touched the ground, and so refused to answer her helm, and hence the collision. The case is being investigated.”—Glasgow Herald, August 24, 1866
Glasgow Herald, September 10, 1866
“The Steamer Herald.—It was rumoured in town yesterday that the charterer of the steamer Tynwald, which we noticed on Thursday as having gone ashore at Skye, has offered terms for chartering the steamer Herald, employed on the Campbelton route. It is said if the offer is accepted, she will likely proceed to Iceland at once for the purpose of bringing cattle thence. The Herald was off her usual station yesterday.”—Greenock Advertiser, Sept 22, 1866
“Steamer Herald.—The report that this favourite steamer was about to be dispatched to Iceland is incorrect. Today she was laid up in the East Harbour for the season.”—Greenock Telegraph, September 22, 1866.
Local ownership and support made competition with the Campbeltown Company a daunting proposition and the following year Herald was transferred to another route, sailing from Barrow to the Isle of Man.
Derbyshire Advertiser, June 1868
The appearance of Gael in 1867, and a screw steamer, Kinloch, the following year maintained the monopoly of the Campbeltown Company and it attempted to build up excursion traffic to Kintyre and the west coast of Arran.
Glasgow Herald, January 22, 1867
“Messrs Robertson & Co.—This firm recently commenced shipbuilding in the yard formerly occupied by Caird & Co., who, in the course the year 1865, removed from their Eastern shipbuilding yard to a yard west (formerly Messrs John Scott & Sons), and though Messrs Caird Co. retained their East-end engineering shop, they sold their East-end yard to Messrs Robertson and others for £14,000. Messrs Robertson & Co. have on the stocks and iron paddle wheel steamer, to be named the Gael, and employed by the Glasgow and Campbeltown Steamboat Co. for the goods and passenger traffic between Glasgow, Greenock, and Campbeltown. She will be of 550 tons, and furnished with engines of 150 h.p, and is expected to attain a high rate speed, at or over 18 miles hour.”—Greenock Telegraph, January 1, 1867
“Launch of the new Campbeltown steamer Gael.— Yesterday, Messrs Robertson & Co. launched a very fine looking paddle steamer named the Gael of the following dimensions:— Length of keel and forerake, 210 feet; breadth of beam, moulded, 23 feet; depth, moulded, 11 feet; tonnage, old measurement, 550 tons. The Gael is to be propelled by pair of oscillating engines of 150 horse power, by Messrs Rankin & Blackmore, fitted with all the latest improvements, such as feathering paddle wheels, expansion valves, steam winch, boiler, &c. She is for the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company, to trade between Campbeltown, Greenock, and Glasgow, and is to be fitted up for first class and steerage passengers; will have a saloon 52 feet long, with ladies’ and gentlemen’s cabins; the saloon to be decorated with views of the principal places of interest on the Clyde between Glasgow and Campbeltown, with a fore cabin for dining in, apart from the steerage. There will be a steam winch to each cargo hold. The Gael is really a fine-looking steamer.
“Being the first vessel launched by this new firm, an unusually large number of ladies and gentlemen were present. There was an elevated platform erected at the prow, decked with evergreens and other foliage, on which were a number of ladies and gentlemen. The vessel herself showed large display of bunting. About 4 p.m., the tide being at its height, orders were given—“Out daggers, down triggers,” which being instantly implemented, away glided the ship into the bay in fine style, amidst the huzzas of the crowd—the ceremony of naming the vessel being preformed by Miss Galbraith, daughter ex-Lord Provost Galbraith, of Glasgow, who broke a bottle of sterling old Campbeltown whisky on the prow. Thus the launch proved highly successful, and the vessel was taken over to the East India Harbour to proceed to ship her machinery and boilers.
“The launch being over, a large company of ladies and gentleman proceeded to the drawing hall attached to the works to partake of cake and wine. The deputation present from Campbeltown representing the owners of the vessel were John Galbraith, Esq., ex-Provost of the burgh; James Stewart, Esq., Dean of Guild of the burgh; Matthew Andrew, Esq., Thos. Brown, Esq., Charles M‘Eachran, Esq., Alex. Giffan, Esq., Duncan Colvin, Esq.,with Mr Murray, the agent for the company, and Captain Kerr, who is to command the new steamer.
“Thos. Kincaid, Esq., craved a bumper to the toast, “Success to the Gael.” (Applause.) This was the first vessel built by Messrs Robertson Co.; the launch had been highly successful, and the vessel which looked so handsome while on the stocks was now riding safely and nobly on her future element. (Cheers.) From all he could see there was every prospect of the most sanguine anticipations for the success of the Gael being realised, more especially when she was to have Captain Kerr her commander. (Cheers.)
“Captain Kerr thanked the company for their good wishes. If Mr Robertson’s firm continued to turn off such fine vessels the Gael promised to be, there could be little doubt of their future success. He wished every success to the new firm. (Cheers.)
“Ex Provost Galbraith, on behalf the owners, returned thanks. The first steamer the company owned was the Duke of Lancaster. They then got the St Kiaran, which was built in Greenock. They next got the Duke of Cornwall, in 1842. Then the Celt, which was built of iron, in 1848, by Mr Denny, of Dumbarton—the first his firm built, and whose firm continued to build right on till they had made a fortune. He hoped Mr Robertson’s firm would go on to do the same. (Cheers.) The next steamer the company got was the Druid, about ten years ago, while the vessel which had been launched that day was the largest of the whole fleet. Though the Campbeltown and Glasgow Company was perhaps the smallest in point of number, it was perhaps the oldest company on the Clyde. (Cheers.) He had no doubt their new vessel would give them every satisfaction.
“Mr John Robertson, on behalf of the builders, briefly returned thanks. He had no doubt that the Gael would be a crack steamer. She was of the make of a man of about five feet 8 or 9 inches—(cheers and laughter)—with a good chest; and they all knew that a man of this size, if he has good lungs, was fit to do his work with any man. (Cheers and laughter.) He was hopeful that this, the first steamer of the firm, would give the owners complete satisfaction, and induce other companies to come the same shop with their orders. (Cheers.)
“Robt. Morison, Esq., H.M. Customs, gave “The Ladies,” which was pledged with all the honours. The party then separated.”—Greenock Telegraph, February 12, 1867
“Launch. —Yesterday, Messrs Robertson Co., shipbuilders, Cartsdyke, launched their first vessel, a paddle steamer, which was named Gael by Miss Minnie Galbraith, daughter of Audrew Galbraith, Esq., Johnstone Castle, ex-Provost of Glasgow. The Gael, which is the property of the Glasgow and Campbelton Steam-Packet Co., is of 550 tons, and of the following dimensions : —length of keel and fore-rake, 210 feet; breadth of beam (moulded), 23 feet; depth (moulded), 11 feet. She will be fitted by Messrs Rankine Blackmore with oscillating engines of 150 h.p., furnished with the latest improvements, and will be provided with feathering paddle floats. The cabin accommodation will be large and commodious, and will include a saloon 52 feet in length, which will be adorned by views of the principal places on the route between Glasgow and Campbeltown. The Gael will be supplied with steam winches, and every other facility for loading and discharging cargo. After the launch a large company sat down to lunch, —Ex-Provost Galbraith in the chair.”—Greenock Advertiser, February 12, 1867
Gael as built (Campbeltown Courier)
“Trial trip of the steamer Gael.— Yesterday afternoon, the commodious steamer Gael, which was recently launched from the ship-building yard of Messrs Robertson & Co., Cartsdyke, sailed on a trial trip to Campbeltown. The Gael, which is the property of the Campbeltown Steam-boat Company, was engined by Messrs Rankine & Blackmore, Greenock, and her trial trip yesterday proved a complete success—the distance from Greenock to Campbeltown having been accomplished in 3 hours 35 minutes. This shows a speed of 18 miles an hour; and the passage is, we are informed, the fastest on record. A select company joined the vessel at Greenock, amongst whom we observed from Camnpbeltown—Ex-Provost Galbraith, Messrs Charles M‘Taggart, Samuel Greenlees, Charles C. Greenlees, Alexander Giffen, Matthew Andrew, James Stewart, Dean of Guild, John Greenlees, &c.; from Glasgow—Dr Greenlees, Captain John Coulthard, Messrs M‘Vicar, James Nalpier, Arch. Colville, James Thompson, Lisburne, John Wordie, Stewart, Manford, &c.; from Greenock—Captain Kincaid, Messrs Robert Morrison, Robert Thorne, John Black, Dr Fox, &c. While the Gael was “running the Lights” a stiffish breeze blew from the north, but the vessel seemed in nowise affected by it, and sailed as steadily as if there had scarcely been a breath of wind. Her machinery worked with remarkable smoothness, and all on board were delighted at the success of the trip. In the afternoon the company sat down in the saloon to an excellent dinner served up in capital style by Mr George Henderson, the steward. Ex-Provost Galbraith occupied the chair, and Captain Kerr, the commander of the Gael, officiated as croupier. After ample justice had been done to the repast, the Chairman proposed the health of her Majesty the Queen, which was heartily responded to. He then proposed a bumper to the health of the builders—Messrs Robertson & Company—who, he said, had provided them with such a fine vessel. Mr Robertson, the senior partner, acknowledged the compliment. Mr Blackmore returned thanks on behalf of the engineers, and observed that the engines of the Gael were showing great speed, the indicated power being fully 6½ over the nominal power. Mr Blackmore then proposed success to the Campbeltown Steamboat Company, coupled with the name of the Chairman, who responded. Mr Robertson, in complimentary terms, proposed the health of Captain Kerr, who replied, remarking that they (the Steamboat Company) had been spoken of as being behind the age, but he thought that with their new steamer they were now up to the mark. (Applause.) The Chairman gave the health of the strangers, coupled with the name of Dr Greenlees, who responded. On approaching Campbeltown Quay a salute was fired from the Volunteer Artillery Battery; and when the Gael reached her destination she was heartily cheered by an enthusiastic crowd. After remaining an hour at Campbeltown, during which time the vessel was inspected by a concourse of people, she started on her inward trip, reaching Greenock after a splendid passage—the running of the Lights having been accomplished in 52 minutes.
“The passenger accommodation on board the Gael is of the most ample description; her cabins are beautifully fitted up, and tastefully decorated; her stowage room for cargo is extensive, and there are excellent arrangements on deck for cattle. Now that the Campbeltown Steamboat Company have put a fast steamer on the route, there is little doubt that large numbers will take advantage of her and visit the Kintyre Coast.”—Glasgow Herald, April 18, 1867
Gael proceeded to trials in April.
“Trial trip of the new Campbeltown steamer Gael.—This splendid new paddle steamer, having just been completed by Messrs Robertson & Co., her builders, and Rankin. Blackmore, her engineers, for the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company, went upon her trial trip yesterday, with a large party of gentlemen board.
“The trial took place under the happiest auspices as regarded weather, which was everything that could be desired throughout the entire day. The customary test of speed, that of “running the lights,” proved eminently satisfactory, the distance between Cloch and Cumbrae having been gone over at the average speed of 18 miles per hour. The highest rate of speed attained “’tween the lights” was while passing the mile, when the Gael steamed over 18½ miles per hour. The vessel laboured under the disadvantage of being freighted with an extra quantity of fuel greatly exceeding the amount usually carried by steam vessels on their trial trips. After passing the north end of Arran, the company went below and partook of dinner. The chair was occupied ex-Provost Galbraith, of Campbeltown; and among the gentlemen present were Messrs Charles M‘Taggart, S. Greenlees, James Stewart, Matthew Andrew, Alex. Giffen, Alex. Love, John Greenlees, all of Campbeltown; Dr Greenlees, Messrs James Napier, Archibald Colville, James Thompson, John Wordie, and Stewart Manford, of Glasgow; Dr. Fox, Messrs Robert Morison, Robert Thorne, Councillor Orr, Edward Blackmore, Daniel Rankin, John Robertson, Wm. Hastie, John Black, F. D. Morrison, and James Gilchrist, of Greenock. The usual loyal toasts having been duly responded to, the Chairman purposed, “Success the Builders and Engineers of the Gael,” complimenting them in his speech on the very superior character of their workmanship in turning out one of the handsomest and swiftest vessels on Clyde. The toast was drunk with much enthusiasm, and Mr John Robertson replied for the builders, and Mr Blackmore for the engineers. Mr Blackmore gave “Success to the Campbelton Steamboat Co., the Owners of the Gael,” which was replied to by the Chairman, who gave resumé of the various steamers which the company owned since their formation. Mr John Robertson gave the “Health of Capt. Kerr, the commander of the vessel,” which was acknowledged by that gentleman. Some other toasts followed, after which the company reappeared deck, and in a short time thereafter the vessel reached Campbeltown, where her arrival was welcomed by salute of cannon from the battery, a grand display of flags, and the cheers of hundreds of spectators on the quay. The time occupied from quay to quay was three hours thirty-five minutes, which is the fastest passage ever made. The inhabitants in large numbers visited the stemmer, and all expressed great satisfaction with her has appearance. She left on the return trip after five o’clock, and again ran the lights on the passage home, and being in better working trim, the distance was accomplished in 52 minutes, or at the rate of 18¼ miles per hour, showing increased speed from the downward trip. The Gael reached Greenock quay at 8.45, being 3½ hours only on the passage up, a result quite unprecedented for rapid steaming. The Gael will be placed on the regular station on Saturday first.”—Greenock Telegraph, April 18, 1867
“New Campbeltown Steamer Gael.—This splendid new paddle steamer, just completing by Messrs Robertson and Co. (their first vessel), the engines by Messrs Rankin and Blackmore, for the Campbeltown Steam Packet Company for their Glasgow and Campbeltown station, was out on her first trial on Saturday. The river was rough and not very well fitted for testing the mere speed of a steamer, but we understand that the Gael darted away with remarkable rapidity. She ran over to Gareloch, and there ran the measured mile at a rate speed equal to twenty miles hour. She was shortly afterwards reberthed in the East India Harbour, there to be rapidly completed for her station. Gael is admired by every judge as quite a model paddle steamer, and she is expected to be second to none afloat of her class.”—Greenock Telegraph, April 1, 1867
“Steamer Gael.—This splendid steamer arrived at the quay here yesterday at half-past twelve o’clock from Campbeltown, where she left at 8.30 in the morning. She made three stoppages at ports on the passage up, the detention at these places being 32 minutes, so that the run was made in 3 hours 43 minutes. The Gael was drawing 12 inches more water than what it is intended she should sail at. When it is taken into account that this is her first trip, that she was deeply laden, and that the engineer was a stranger to the engine, there can be no doubt her builders, Messrs Robertson & Co., Greenock, have turned out one of the fastest steamer in British waters.”—Greenock Telegraph, April 24, 1867
“Campbeltown Steam Packet Company.—On Wednesday first the sailings of the Campbeltown steamers will be altered. The Gael will now leave Campbeltown every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, during the month, at nine o’clock morning, instead of at eight as formerly; and from Greenock every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at half-past 11 morning.”—Greenock Telegraph, April 30, 1867
“The Steamer Gael.—This fine steamer made her first regular voyage from Glasgow to Campbeltown on Saturday, returning on Tuesday. She was heavily loaded with goods, and made excellent runs. The owners, the Campbeltown Steamboat Company, expect that under favourable circumstances she will easily steam from Greenock to Campbeltown in three and a half hours.”—Greenock Advertiser, April 25, 1867
Greenock Telegraph, May 22, 1867
The enthusiasm for the new steamer at Campbeltown is palpable in these snippets from the Greenock and Glasgow papers. The prospect of a tourist trade in addition to the transport of herring and cattle was a welcome addition. It seems that every facet of the new steamer’s movements was reported, with a benefit to the paper of the advertising revenue generated by the Campbeltown company.
“Campbeltown. Progress in Cantyre.—There is every prospect of Campbeltown becoming a favourite resort this season of parties in search of few days’ real enjoyment. The enterprise that has characterised the directors of the steamboat company in providing a steamer like the Gael for conveying visitors to and from Campbelton has been most infective, especially in the coasting line, and some of our more conservative residenters are sagely declaring that we are going “rather fast” There are now an abundance of coaches running in different directions almost daily. There is a coach starting in the morning at six o’clock for Tarbert, and returning again in the evening. This is a splendid drive of forty miles along the shores Lochfine. A second coach starts three days in the week, ten o’clock, to Glen Barr, about fourteen miles distant. A third coach runs on three days in the week to the Salt Pans or Machrihanish Bay, near where the unfortunate steamer Falcon was wrecked. This bay is six miles from Campbelton, and the bay itself is four miles in length. It has a fine sandy beach, and the Atlantic comes rolling in here with its full and majestic force. A fourth coach leaves for Southend, ten miles off, where such places as Dunaverty Rock and Sands are to seen. A worthy flesher has started a town omnibus.”—Greenock Telegraph, May 23, 1867
A year after the addition of Gael, the screw steamer Kintyre was built and Celt and Druid were sold.
Glasgow Herald, July 5, 1872
Glasgow Herald, June 26, 1876
The addition of a further screw steamer, Kinloch in 1878, to maintain the year-round Kilbrannan route to Campbeltown, freed Gael to extend passenger traffic, and arrangements were made with the Wemyss Bay Railway to provide connections to Edinburgh and Glasgow so that day excursions were made possible. Gael underwent a substantial renovation in 1879 to include improvements to the saloon and dining accommodation. Her hull was strengthened, new boilers were provided and the engines were rebuilt. Unfortunately, the renovations did not result in improved performance in speed and coal consumption and the Company began to view her replacement.
Glasgow Herald, June 10, 1879
“Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company—The Gael and the daily route.—One of the oldest—if not the oldest—steam packet companies sailing from the Clyde is the Campbeltown and Glasgow Steam Packet Company. Established about the year 1825, the enterprise of the company has been most marked, and at present the fleet of steamers possessed by them is at least equal, if not superior, to any other district company sailing from the river. Last year the company, recognising the importance of providing a steamer to accommodate the travelling public desirous of viewing the beauties some the lovliest scenery the West Coast, and returning their homes on the same day, resolved to place their favourite paddle-steamer Gael the route, and the enterprise proving so successful, it was determined that still better provision should be made this and succeeding years so far as passengers’ comfort was concerned, and after considerable discussion whether a new boat should built or the Gael improved, it was resolved that the Gael only required such alterations as were suggested to fit her to the work most efficiently. Accordingly, this steamer was placed in the hands of Messrs A. J. Inglis, the well-known shipbuilders and engineers, and yesterday the vessel having been refitted at a cost of something like £14,000, a preliminary trial of the vessel was made previous to commencing her daily sailings Tuesday first. The alterations and additions have resulted in making the vessel as complete in respect of comfort as it is possible to imagine, and have been carried out in such thorough manner and first-class style to win for the company most deserved praise. A large deck saloon has been built upon the quarterdeck, and fitted most luxuriously. Here perfect shelter and enjoyment can had in the roughest weather, while in good weather, the deck of this saloon being in line with an extensive and enlarged hurricane deck, affords a splendid promenade, on which seats are placed continuously all fore and aft. The former saloon has been converted into a dining-saloon pure and simple, and considerably enlarged. It has been wholly and luxuriously refurnished, and entirely decorated afresh and elaborately ornamented. At the entrance to the dining-saloon are adjuncts in the shape of lavatories and side cabins. Forward the fore cabin and steerage have also been altered and fitted out anew, and provided with separate entrances. Bars and pantries with all requisites have been provided both forward and aft; and taken in connection with a first-class galley and other kindred necessaries will enable the steward cater for the public advantage. The engines have been removed from the vessel into Messrs Inglis’s shop and rebuilt. New paddle-wheels have also been supplied, and two new large boilers to supply steam at a constant and uniform working pressure of 35 lb. per square inch have been constructed, put on board and connected in place to the engines in a thorough manner. Both engines and boilers have been provided with every appliance for economical working, and giving forth great power. The vessel has been wholly renewed in respect of decks, steering gear, boats, and all deck work throughout.
“On the company’s invitation, a select party of gentlemen were invited to accompany the steamer yesterday, among others being Sheriff Gardner, Campbeltown; Provost Greenlees, Campbeltown; ex-Provost Galbraith, Campbeltown; Rev. Charles M‘Ewan, Tollcross; Mr Inglis, Glasgow; Messrs John Muir, James Campbell, John Murray (the courteous manager), Campbeltown; R. M. Dunlop, Glasgow; Hastie, Greenock; Dr Greenlees, Edinburgh; Messrs A. Chrystal, Glasgow; J. W. Greenlees, Campbeltown; John Mitchell, Campbeltown; J. Rennie, Glasgow and South-Western Railway; J. Montgomerie, Caledonian Railway; B. Dickson, London and North-Western Railway Company; Duncan Robertson, surveyor of Liverpool Registry; James H. Henderson, Bridge of Allan; Alex. Fleming of Kilmahoe, Archibald Colville, Glasgow; Captain Hall, Messrs W. D. Murray, J. Tannahill, Duncan, &c. The party went on board the steamer at Prince’s Pier, Greenock, about eleven o’clock, the weather being most unpropitious, a “summer gale” blowing, accompanied with drenching rain. It was early predicted that the sea-going qualities not only of the steamer but the pleasure seekers on board, would be fully tested ere the Cock of Arran was reached, and this was fully proved, for no sooner had the steamer reached the Garroch Head than the sea was found in a state of disturbance rarely witnessed on the waters of the Firth of Clyde at midsummer. This was accepted by Captain Kerr and the owners as a fortunate circumstance, as it enabled them to test the sea-going qualities of the Gael under the altered conditions of carrying her deck saloon, a condition never contemplated by her builder—the late Mr Robertson, Greenock. The sea ran very high, and the gale blew with great fury, but the Gael remained “stiff as a church,” and only occasionally when a big wave dashed against her side did the spray break on board. As the steamer neared Arran the sea was occasionally alarming to look at, but while the spindrift was flying before the storm the steamer pursued the even tenor of her way almost undisturbed. After reaching Lochranza, the vessel was headed for the Kyles of Bute, and after Ardlamont Point was reached, the celebrated Iona was seen approaching. Here her speed was tested, and while both steamers had a “feather” from their steam pipes, and both were apparently doing their “level best,” the Iona was not able leave the Gael any material distance behind. Having reached smooth water the dinner bell was rung, and the company adjourned to the dining saloon, where, under the presidency of Provost Greenlees, ex-Provost Galbraith, and Mr Murray a capital dinner was partaken, purveyed by Mr Geo. Henderson, chief steward the company, in a manner which reflected on the cuisine department of the steamer the greatest credit. Several appropriate toasts were proposed. The Chairman, in giving “Success to the Gael,” gave an interesting resume of the history and prosperity the company, and felt assured that their internally-remodelled steamer would prove as hitherto one of the most successful pleasure steamers sailing from the Clyde. (Applause.) By the Gael Campbeltown can be reached in little over four hours from Glasgow, and after allowing about an hour on shore pleasure seekers can return to their homes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Carlisle the same night. A connection has also been established with the Wemyss Bay steamers, whereby passengers from Rothesay, Largs, Millport, &c., connect at Wemyss Bay. The steamer will leave Greenock each morning, calling at Kirn, Dunoon, and Wemyss Bay. The sail via the Garroch Head and the Sound of Kilbrannan to Campbeltown is perhaps one of the finest on the West Coast. Passengers landing at Carradale will have about four hours ashore, plenty of time being afforded for visiting the magnificent glen in the neighbourhood.
“The sail yesterday was one of a most enjoyable character, and the after dinner proceedings afforded several gentlemen connected with various commercial interests an opportunity of expressing how much the public were indebted to the enterprise the Campbeltown people had displayed in providing such admirable accommodation for their wants. The Gael will be under command of Captain Kerr, the commodore of the company.”—Glasgow Herald, June 28, 1879
Glasgow Herald, July 26, 1879
Glasgow Herald, July 26, 1880
“The Gael—This fine paddle steamer, which has during past summers satisfactorily performed a daily service between Greenock and Campbeltown via Wemyss Bay, again resumes her station on Friday first, sailing from Greenock as hitherto at 8.15 a.m. This year the Gael proceeds direct to Dunoon from Princes Pier, thence to Wemyss Bay, in connection with trains leaving Edinburgh at 6.40 and Glasgow at 8.10 a.m. Going from thence direct to Rothesav and round the Garroch Head, the Gael crosses the mouth of Lochfyne through the Sound of Kilbranan, calling at Lochranza and Carradale, reaching Campeltown about one o’clock. Pleasure-seekers are allowed upwards of four hours ashore at Lochranza, three hours at Carradale, and about an hour at Campbeltown. The Gael is one of the most comfortable and well-appointed steamers on the coasting trade, her saloon on deck being luxuriously fitted up, while the dining-cabin is not to be surpassed. Yesterday, on the invitation of the directors of the Campbeltown Steam Packet Company, a number of gentlemen were invited to accompany the steamer on a preliminary run to see that everything was in order. Among others present were Provost Greenlees (chairman), Bailie Colville, Messrs Jas. Campbell, John Muir, Aitken (Dromore), John Murray (manager), &c., from Campbeltown; Messrs K. M‘Caskill, Captain M‘Kinnon, and Mr John M‘Millan, Greenock; Captain Kerr, Mr Dunlop (agent), Glasgow, and other gentlemen. The weather being fine, the sail to Carradale was greatly enjoyed, the steamer travelling fast. At Carradale dinner was served on board in capital style by Mr George Henderson, steward of the company. Provost Greenlees presided, Captain Thos. Kerr, commodore in the service, discharging the duties of croupier. After spending an agreeable hour socially the directors proceeded to Campbeltown per steamer Kintyre, the Gael returning to Greenock during the evening. The Gael this summer will be commanded by Captain Muir.”—Glasgow Herald, June 28, 1881
Gael with her new saloon (Robertson)
When the Glasgow & South Western Railway Company opened a new pier at Fairlie in 1882, there was an attempt by the railway company to induce the Campbeltown Company to place Gael on a route from Fairlie to Campbeltown.
“Proposed Connection between Fairlie and Campbeltown, —An arrangement has been come to between the Glasgow and S.W. Railway Co. and the Campbeltown Steam Packet Co., whereby Campbeltown will be brought very much closer to Glasgow. It is proposed that the steamer Gael should make two trips daily between Fairlie and Campbeltown, the new service commence on 2nd July.”—Rothesay Chronicle, June 2, 1883
“Kilbrannan Route to Campbeltown.—The proposal to have special connection the steamer Gael between Campbeltown and Fairlie is not to be carried out in the meantime at least, and the arrangements will be pretty much the same last year.”—Rothesay Chronicle, June 9, 1883
The Campbeltown Company went through a reorganization, becoming a Limited Company in 1883. The attempt to run Gael from Fairlie fell through, and the steamer was sold in 1884 to the Great Western Railway. Her replacement, Davaar, appeared in 1885, and, like Kinloch and Kintyre, was a screw steamer.
“Sale of the paddle steamer Gael.—We understand that the paddle steamer Gael, so long and favourably known on the Glasgow and Campbeltown route, has been sold to the Great Western Railway Company, and she will hence-forth ply in connection with that railway between Weymouth and Cherbourg. The steamer left the river on Saturday. The Gael was built by Messrs Robertson & Co., Greenock, in 1867, and several years ago an additional saloon was added to her. Since that time she has been chiefly employed during the summer months performing a daily service between Greenock and Campbeltown—a route which has yearly increased in popularity. It is expected that during the forthcoming season the company’s fine steamer Kinloch will maintain the daily service, a boat being mean-while chartered to overtake her usual work. The growing importance of Campbeltown and district, and the increasing interest which the route is attracting, necessitates that a modern and fast steamer be placed on that station, and in order to meet the wants of pleasure seekers and the travelling public we understand the directors are contemplating the building of a new boat, which will favourably compare with many of the finest tourist steamers sailing from the Clyde.”—Glasgow Herald, April 14, 1884
Greenock Telegraph, May 29, 1885
It was Messrs Little & Co., already engaged in the Millport traffic from Fairlie, that began the Fairlie Route to Campbeltown with a chartered steamer, the Paisley built Norseman, and then, in 1886, by a new steamer, Argyll.
“Launch of a screw steamer, today.—Messrs Robert Duncan & Co. high water to-day an iron screw steamer of 300 tons for the Argyll Steamship Coy. (Limited), Glasgow. Her dimensions are as follow:—Length, 140 feet; breadth, 23 feet; and depth, 9 feet 6 inches. On leaving the ways the vessel will be named the Argyll, and after the launch will be taken in tow for Glasgow, where she will have her machinery fitted in by Messrs Muir & Houston, engineers. The Argyll is to trade between Glasgow and Campbeltown.”—Greenock Telegraph, May 5, 1886
“Launch by Messrs Robert Duncan & Co., yesterday.—Messrs Robert Duncan & Co. launched yesterday a handsome screw steamer to the order of Messrs James Little & Co., Glasgow, for the Argyll Steamship Company (Limited), Campbeltown, of the dimensions stated in our yesterday’s issue. On leaving the ways she was gracefully named the Argyll by Miss Ella Corry, of Croydon, niece of Sir James P. Corry, Bart., M.P. The Argyll is to trade between Glasgow, Greenock, Arran, and Campbeltown, and has ample accommodation for cabin and steerage passengers. She has two holds for cargo, and is also fitted for the conveyance of cattle. The engines, which have been constructed by Messrs Muir & Houston, Harbour Engine Works, Glasgow, are of great power, and are expected give a high rate speed. The Argyll will be placed on the station on the 1st of June.”—Greenock Telegraph, May 6, 1886
Argyll (Clyde River Steamer Club)
“Trial trip of S.S. Argyll.—This new steel screw steamer, built by Messrs Robert Duncan & Co., Port-Glasgow, for the Argyll Steamship Company, Limited (Messrs James Little & Co., agents), Glasgow, went on her trial trip yesterday. The weather, which was little boisterous, tested the merits of the Argyll, with a most satisfactory result to all concerned. This vessel is to placed on the Campbeltown route, and will have daily connection with Glasgow via Fairlie. Her dimensions are 140 feet in length, 83 feet in breadth, and 10 feet (moulded) in depth, with 232 gross tonnage. She will accommodate about 250 first and second class passengers, for whom every comfort is provided, the dining saloon especially, which can seat about 60 persons, being an exceedingly well appointed portion of the steamer. There is also a pleasant cabin for ladies. For the carrying of cargo, the Argyll is exceptionally well constructed, possessing two holds, while there are cattle fittings on the maindeck. Messrs Muir & Houston, Glasgow, have supplied the engines, which are compound surface-condensing, the cylinders 22 inches and 44 inches in diameter, with a 30-inch stroke. The boiler is extra large, and is made to come up to working pressure of 100 pounds per square inch. She is fitted with the steering gear of Messrs Hastie, Greenock, and with Messrs Napier Brothers’ steam capstan. The Argyll, which has been built to the highest requirements of Lloyd’s, yesterday attained mean speed of 12¼ knots, with 645 indicated horse-power. After running beyond the Cumbraes, the steamer was headed home, during which luncheon was served in the saloon by Mr John Brown, Broomielaw, Glasgow. Mr Robert Duncan, jun., oocupied the chair, while Councillor Thomson (Campbeltown) and Colin Houston (of Muir & Houston) officiated as croupiers; and amongst the other gentlemen present were Messrs H. W. Little, F. L. Wrede, Greenock; John Duncan, Port-Glasgow; ex- Provost Lang, Port-Glasgow; James H. Williams; Councillor Gilles, Campbeltown; Donald Mackay, shipbuilder, Campbeltown; Messrs Dawkins and hindmarsh, Lloyd’s-surveyors; James Paul, Campbeltown; R. L. M‘Alpine, Ardrossan; D. M‘Lean, Glasgow; D. Darroch, James Shearer (goods manager, G. & S.-W. Railway), E. Wilson, jun., R. R. Mill, Captain Baillie, harbourmaster, A. G. A. Campbell, Greenock, &c. The Chairman, in proposing “Success to the Argyll,” said that his firm had done everything to make her good ship, there being nothing wanting that they knew of, and he believed they would find her able to compete with anything of the kind afloat. (Applause.) In coupling the toast with the name of Councillor Thomson, representing the directors, and Mr Little as managing owner, the Chairman said that Messrs Robert Duncan & Co. had done business with them for some time, and that his grandfather had built a steamer for the Campbeltown trade 50 years ago. (Applause.) Mr Thomson, in replying, said that the Chairman might feel well satisfied that the Argyll would keep up the name of Duncan & Co. (Applause.) She would, he believed, prove in every way suitable for her trade, and he did not think the company could desire more than they were getting. (Hear, hear.) Mr Little also briefly responded, referring to the long and pleasant connection they had had with Messrs Robert Duncan & Co. He was quite certain that the Argyll would turn out well. Indeed, it was beyond the wit of man to conceive anything finer on the lines on which she was built. (Applause.) He stated that it was meant to run the Argyll three times a week between Glasgow and Campbeltown, twice between Campbeltown and Fairlie, and once a week between Campbeltown and Greenock. Mr Little then proposed the toast of “The Builders and Engineers,” to which the Chairman replied for Mr Houston and himself. The steamer arrived at the Steamboat Quay before five o’clock, and afterwards went on her maiden voyage to Campbeltown, under the command of Captain M‘Allister.”—Greenock Telegraph, May 29, 1886
Greenock Telegraph, June 30, 1886
By sailing to the west of Arran destinations such as Machrie and Blackwaterfoot, the new enterprise hoped to generate additional loyalties.
Ferry at Blackwaterfoot
Glasgow Herald, July 27, 1886
Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, August 7, 1886
A reduced service was offered in the winter months.
Glasgow Herald, November 19, 1887
Visits to Stranraer were added to the roster in 1888. This competed with the M‘Callum steamer Telephone that was introduced a year or so previously.
Glasgow Herald, May 1, 1888
Glasgow Herald, August 23, 1888
The Fairlie route, with the Argyll, proved popular with patrons, particularly those on the west coast of Arran where the service to Blackwaterfoot and Machrie Bay had opened new opportunities. It was sustained for a number of years but did not run to profit.
Glasgow Herald, July 11, 1889
Glasgow Herald, September 2, 1889
Glasgow Herald, July 15, 1890
Glasgow Herald, July 15, 1890
When the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company began the Parliamentary process to begin the own and operate their own steamboats in 1891, Messrs Little sent Argyll to new duties on the east coast and replaced her with the veteran Herald. The outcome was predictable and unfortunate.
Glasgow Herald, July 18, 1891
Glasgow Herald, August 1, 1891
In 1892, Messrs Little left Fairlie, not only with Herald, which returned to the Isle of Man service from Workington, but also the steamers on the Millport station. The railway company did not have powers to sail to Campbeltown and the west of Arran and the owners of the former Wemyss Bay Company steamer Victoria were persuaded to run on the Campbeltown sailing.
Glasgow Herald, July 5, 1892
Victoria at Campbeltown
“Communication to the north and west of Arran—Glasgow, August 18, 1892. Sir,—The correspondence in your issue this morning opens up the question of communication to the Kilbrannan Sound side of the island. The route via Fairlie, opened some years ago by the Argyll, is the natural way for the passenger traffic, and in the beginning of this summer, when rumours of an agreement between the South Western Railway Company and the Victoria company reached the ears of old travellers, there was great jubilation over the prospect of at last having a smart paddle-boat to convey us. How we have is been disappointed. The steamer was worked in a manner that made it impossible for her to be a success on the Arran route; and now we are back again to the position of seven or eight years ago—viz, no direct, communication with the Blackwaterfoot district; and from Pirnmill and Lochranza on Mondays it is a matter of getting “in the middle of the night” that you may reach Glasgow by 9.30 a.m. No one can accuse the Campbeltown Steam Packet Company of an excess of enterprise. In all humility, and bearing in mind the unapproachableness of the autocratic managers of this concern, I venture to mention the following problems that are ever tormenting the otherwise tranquil passengers to the north of Arran by their down steamers on Saturday, viz.—why cannot the steamer on Saturday afternoon and Monday morning be run in connection with a Fairlie train, and why cannot the Friday steamer leave just a little later and connect by Fairlie? These sailings are arranged, it is supposed, to suit the Arran trade, but are no concessions to be made at present to its necessities? By going to Fairlie the Campbeltown Company, without conceding anything further, would be conferring a boon on victims of their service to Arran, and by so doing might stave off further opposition for years. At present there is simply one unceasing moan from the people who go to this side of Arran, and it takes the form of “How long! oh, how long? Who shall deliver us!” &c. If they cannot see their way into Macbrie, they can surely stretch the points indicated to quieten the discontent of the visitors to the northern portion of the island. The contrast between the services to the east and west sides is simply ludicrous.—I am, &c., Rhu Bhan.”—Glasgow Herald, August 20, 1892.
The west of Arran. Glasgow, August 22, 1892. Sir,—With your kind indulgence I desire to draw attention to the steamboat service to and from the west side of Arran which is in force this month. I have been an occasional traveller there, and I am sure that I am giving expression to the feelings of many when I say that the monopoly of the Campbeltown Steamboat Company is a source of great inconvenience both in service and fares. Blackwaterfoot and Machrie Bay are beyond the pale of regular daily service, and the houses in these neighbourhoods stand empty of visitors. One leaves Pirnmill at 5.45 a.m. on a Monday morning for Wemyss Bay (why not Ardrossan?) to reach Glasgow at 8.55 a.m. Three years ago I travelled to Blackwaterfoot and back for 4s 6d; this year I pay 6s 6d to Lochranza. The Campbeltown Company managed to protect themselves from G. and S.-W. opposition when the latter company’s Steamboat Bill was in Parliamentary Committee. They are making use of their monopoly with a vengeance. I trust the G. and S.-W. will by another year charter a steamer to serve the west side of Arrain via Fairlie, the natural route, at the fares which obtained three years ago, and will invade Campbeltown itself.—I am, &c., Fair Play,”—Glasgow Herald, August 24, 1892.
“The west of Arran—Glasgow, August 25, 1892. Sir,—Would you kindly allow me a few words in reply to your correspondents, “Rhu Bhan” and “Fair Play” on this subject. According to “Rhu Bhan,” the Victoria has not been a success on the Arran route, simply, I suppose, because she has not been run at an hour suitable for “Rhu Bhan;” but he forgets that last year he had the Herald, and for several years before that the Argyll, both managed by an enterprising firm of Glasgow shipowners, who did everything that was possible to meet the wants and wishes of the visitors to the west side of Arran, but with unprofitable results.
“Apparently the Campbeltown Company do not yet feel it to be a duty imposed on them to carry passengers at such a low figure as would entail this sacrifice, and perhaps “Rhu Bhan” would remember that neither Lochranza nor yet Pirnmill is the steamers’ destination, but that the bulk of the passengers are for Campbeltown; and it is reasonable to suppose they are quite as much entitled as he is to be at home before darkness sets in. I have always found the managers of this company ever ready—sometimes too ready—to do what they can to oblige their patrons.
“In closing, I would suggest that “Rhu Bhan” and “Fair Play” combine and start a steamer of their own; for the first evidently thinks he could arrange the sailings (of course, to suit himself specially), and the second is quite as adept at giving low fares. He forgets that three years ago he only travelled steerage when he paid 4s 6d; and futher, at the end of the season that they divide their profits with their customers. As for to semi-circular tour via Fairlie to Glasgow, it is simply not in the running with the Wemyss Bay route. All that is wanted is for the Caledonian to extend the pier and double the line, so as to be able to run more express trains to and from the Central, and this would be a great advantage to passengers from Largs and Rothesay.—I am, &. Justitia.
P.S.—For “Fair Play’s” information I may add that the fares by the Campbeltown Company are just what they have been for years past, and that he may even get to Campbeltown and back for 4s 6d.”—Glasgow Herald, August 26, 1892
Glasgow Herald, June 28, 1893
As a stop-gap measure, Victoria sufficed with the summer excursion traffic but a steamer dedicated to the Campbeltown route remained a difficult proposition. The service continued for a year or two, but degenerated into incorporation of Campbeltown into a roster of cruising destinations and a more permanent steamer for the Fairlie station was required. In 1895, the Culzean Castle took over the Fairlie Route to Campbeltown, and the history of the Culzean Castle and her replacement by the steamers of John Williamson is detailed in another article.
McCrorie, Ian; “The Campbeltown Route,” Clyde River Steamer Club, Glasgow, 1972.