THE ENTERTAINING ACCOUNT OF THE STRANDING of the paddle steamer Caledonia in the Kyles of Bute in 1957, (Sea Breezes, June 2010) occasions some surprise at the apparent lack of professionalism by the crew.
During that time I was employed as a humble student purser in the Clyde fleet. Passenger safety was always stressed. I can still recite the mantra; “The safety of the passengers under his command is at all times the overriding consideration of the Master”. At that time the Caledonian Steam Packet Company was carrying over 4 million passengers annually without fatality and had a fleet of 18 vessels making frequent calls at two dozen piers, which must have required seamanship of the highest order. In five summers, I never saw careless navigation of any kind. Modern Paddle steamers with high superstructure are difficult to handle in confined spaces and Caledonia was certainly no exception, so that the days mishaps perhaps with a less experienced crew were not completely surprising, though the lack of response was.
I would not like Sea Breezes readers to think that such conduct was typical of probably the finest fleet of pleasure steamers in the world.
DR GILLON FERGUSON
39 Vicarage lane
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