A year of anniversaries
Following the extensive coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster it would appear that another significant, but more joyful anniversary is on the horizon.
Recent coverage in the Scottish press showed the classic coastal cruise ship Balmoral and the much loved paddle steamer Waverley together in Garvel dry dock on the Clyde at Greenock – being prepared for a busy summer season when both vessels will help celebrate the 200th anniversary of commercial steam navigation.
In August 1812 Henry Bell’s Comet began a service between Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh “to ply upon the River Clyde and to sail by the power of air, wind and steam”. This was truly a momentous moment in maritime history, and following the construction of the Comet at Port Glasgow, the River Clyde would became world renowned for its shipbuilding industry.
By 1900 there were 300 Clyde steamers although Henry Bell gained no wealth from his pioneering achievements. Bell, distressed by the tragedies involving the Comet (shipwrecked near Oban) and its successor Comet 2 (which sank after a collision near Gourock), abandoned his involvement with steam navigation and spent much of his later life in poverty. There are monuments to Henry Bell at Dunglass (near Dumbarton) and Helensburgh on the north shore of the Clyde, but it is very pleasing that the 200th anniversary will be marked; and how appropriate it seems for the Waverley to be involved in these celebrations.
As the last paddle steamer on the Clyde, the Waverley notches up her 65th anniversary this year and continues to make her own distinguished contribution to maritime history. Sea Breezes sends its best wishes to all involved in the celebrations.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR