One Man’s Vision of Dunoon—Edward McGeachie

By on Dec 28, 2014 in Clyde River and Firth, Clyde Steamers, Dunoon, Places | 6 comments

From the 1900s to the early 1930s a photographer, Edward McGeachie, opened for business in Pier Road, Dunoon, N.B., and among his subjects were the steamers frequenting the Cowal coast. McGeachie’s studio was located on the Pier Esplanade and many local families used him for portraits. He also did commercial work with publicity materials for local hotels and produced a number of fine postcards of Dunoon and its immediate surroundings. He was particularly adept in selecting excellent compositions and his negatives were used extensively by other postcard manufacturers.

 Pier Dunoon

Dunoon Pier around 1927 with Kenilworth and Kylemore 

Edward was born in Newton, Ayr in 1877 where his father, Peter, was manager of the Ayr Chemical Works. His mother Betsy (Galloway) came from Limekilns in Fife. Edward was educated at Newton Academy where he won the due medal for Mathematics and French. By 1901, he had moved to Dunoon where he lodged with a family called Reid in Fairfield Cottage on Wellington Street and is described at that point as a photographer. Four years later, he married Agnes Hay and they had two children, (Agnes McDonald McGeachie, born in 1905 but died in infancy and Agnes Hay McGeachie, born in 1908). His wife died in 1930 and he remarried to a widow named Henderson who had two children. He died in 1945 and is buried in Dunoon. (For these details and the following two photographs, I am indebted to Suzanne Thompson)

Edward G McGeachie

McGeachie’s Studio in Dunoon

This evening shot of the north end of Dunoon Pier captures the reflection of the setting sun on the clouds and the first lights appearing in the gloaming. The steamer is the Benmore and is seen in Williamson livery with white funnel and black top. This was adopted by Williamson in 1898 and the Williamson-Buchanan company in 1919 when it was formed. Benmore was on charter to the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. Ltd. until late in 1920 and in November of that year she was damaged by fire and was laid up until she was scrapped. This dates the photograph to the years before the first world war.

Benmore Dunoon BW486

Benmore at Dunoon Pier

Most of the Clyde steamer postcards issued by McGeachie date from the 1920s.  This photograph of the lovely Duchess of Fife dates from the period after 1912 and before the railway grouping in 1923. It is interesting that she carries a motor car amidships on her way back to Gourock from Rothesay.

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Duchess of Fife around 1921

The Duchess of Rothesay is capture here at Dunoon around 1922.

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Duchess of Rothesay around 1922

A fine view of the Iona approaching Dunoon Pier shows her classic lines.   This is likely taken around 1923 as part of a series of postcards produced by McGeachie at this time.

 Iona McGeachie Dunoon 2

Iona

By the 1920s when this shot of Lord of the Isles was taken, she was owned by Turbine Steamers Ltd., and carried on excursions. A favourite excursion was round the Island of Bute. She was scrapped in 1927.

 MG Lord Isles230

Lord of the Isles

The premier tourist steamer on the Clyde was Columba and in this study she is returning from Ardrishaig in the afternoon around 1923.  The Gantocks light is visible near her stern.

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Columba 

Williamson’s Kylemore had her bridge moved forward of the funnel after World War 1 in 1920. She lasted with Williamson until 1935 when she was taken over as one of the L.M.S. Railway steamers.

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Kylemore

Dandie Dinmont remained on the Clyde during World War 1 and after transfer to the L.N.E.R. was laid up in 1926 before sale to the Humber.  She is seen here approaching the end berth at Dunoon Pier with Kirn in the background.

 MG Dandie Dinmont

Dandie Dinmont

Waverley as she appeared after World War 1 and before she received the observation saloon on her main deck in 1933.

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Waverley

Talisman had her bridge moved forward of the funnel after World War 1. She is seen here around the time of the railway grouping in 1923.

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Talisman

Kenilworth approaches Dunoon as Duchess of Fife passes in her 1923 livery, allowing a fairly accurate date of the photograph.

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Kenilworth and Duchess of Fife

The short-lived colors of the Caledonian Steamers from 1923 to 1924 featured a black-topped yellow funnel with a red band.  This was referred to as the “tartan lum”.  They are shown here on Duchess of Fife as she approaches Dunoon from Inellan and Rothesay on her return to Gourock.

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Duchess of Fife in 1923 approaching Dunoon Pier

The Isle of Arran underwent a major transformation when she returned from Word War 1 to join the combined fleet of Williamson-Buchanan. Her bridge was move forward of the, now, white funnel.  The Isle of Arran is on her way to Rothesay.

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Isle of Arran

McGeachie issued some attractive postcards of the beauty spots around Dunoon and Cowal, again in the 1920s. These show the excellence of his composition.

 

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Glen Massan

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Dunloskin Bridge in winter

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Loch Eck

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 Loch Striven

Views around the town of Dunoon were also represented. Alexandria Terrace in William Street is behind West Bay and was built in the 1880s.  Here it is shown around 1920.

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Alexandria Terrace, Dunoon

Glencove Cottage is in Hill Street.

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Glencove Cottage, Dunoon

Notable events were also recorded. On the 26th November 1912, a great storm hit the West of Scotland.  Although the wind gusts recorded were in the region of 70-80 mph, certainly not the worst ever experienced, the height of the storm coincided with high tide and caused extensive damage and flooding in the Clyde resorts.  Dunoon was no exception.  Dunoon Pier was underwater and sailings were cancelled.  The Iona turned back to Gourock after reaching the Gantocks.

Storm Dunoon 1912    Storm Dunoon 1912 A Nov

Waves at Dunoon Pier on November 26th 1912

The esplanade was also submerged.

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Storm at Dunoon

The aftermath of the storm revealed extensive damage, recorded by McGeachie.

Storm Damage Dunoon 1912 174   Storm McGeachie Dunoon338

Storm Dunoon McGeachie337

Other more pleasant events were also recorded. The town of Dunoon became a Royal Burgh in 1868 and a celebration in the Jubilee Year of 1918 was considered out of step with the mood of the country still engaged in the final months of the First World War. Accordingly, in 1928, the Dunoon Town Council chose to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the burgh and plans were made for a week-long celebration from Sunday, 9th to Saturday, 15th September that included a historical pageant. The pageant began on Wednesday afternoon and recounted the history of Dunoon as narrated to Mary Queen of Scots who had visited the town on 27th July, 1563. Festivities were inaugurated with Queen Mary’s arrival, accompanied by her retinue and guard.

Dunoon Civic Week 1928 Queen Mary arrivingA348

Arrival of Mary, Queen of Scots, at the Dunoon Pageant in 1928

Cowal Games provided opportunities for memorable achievements.  On 28th August, 1933, Jackie Muir of Denny broke the pole-vault record at the Games.

McGeachie Jackie Muir Flying Scotsman Cowal 1933 179

Jackie Muir breaking the pole-vault record at Cowal Games in 1933

Messes Aspin’s 8 metre yacht Thamar was a contender in the 1927 season.  The weather that summer was bleak and wintry with lots of rain and little sun and the Thamar, built by Anker in Norway, had a disappointing performance although she did win the Tarbert Cup. Mr. W. F. Robertson’s Caryl, built at Fairlie by Fife, took the honours, while Mr. F. J. Stephens Linthouse built yacht, Coila IV, was runner up. The other contender was another Fife built product, Mr. Betts Donaldson’s Cluaran.

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Thamar

McGeachie also produced advertising and commercial work.  Here are tow advertising cards produced for Lee and Ardens Entertainers.

Lee Arden McGeachie 1904 178

Lee Arden McGeachie 1907 177

McGeachie’s output ceased in the early 1930s. This tribute to his work ends with a view across the Firth of Clyde from Dunoon.

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The gloaming on the Clyde.

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Bullwood by Moonlight

6 Comments

  1. Lorraine Cameron

    December 13, 2016

    Post a Reply

    I am wondering if you have a photo of Edward, himself, and a biography (birth, marriage, children, death).

    • valeman

      January 27, 2017

      Post a Reply

      Lorraine: I’ve not found out much detail of the man himself. Even narrowing his dates from the photography has been a problem. Graham

      • Suzanne

        March 19, 2017

        Post a Reply

        If you would like to get in contact I would be very happy to provide more information and pictures. Mr McGeachie was my husband’s great grandfather.

        • valeman

          March 20, 2017

          Post a Reply

          Suzanne: Thank you for getting in touch. I am most interested. I have sent you an email with my details. Graham

  2. Richard Ogden

    September 28, 2017

    Post a Reply

    My Great Grandfather and Grandfather (as a young man) had pictures taken by McGeachie in Dunoon circa 1923. Would any records have been kept of pictures taken, to confirm names and dates of subjects?

    • valeman

      September 28, 2017

      Post a Reply

      Richard: From my contact with some of McGeachie’s family, I’m pretty sure the records are long gone. Graham

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