(Photograph copyright R.Whitelaw 1964)
Article Author – Duncan Beaton – Trustee Friends of the Inveraray Castle Archives – Copyright 2023
The stone-built quay at Inveraray was built at the point or headland called the “Gallowfarland”, at the east end of Front Street in the New Inveraray. It replaced the old harbour at the wide mouth of the River Aray. As the Old Town was swept away the ground running down from the new castle was landscaped and the sides of the river narrowed. In 1748 £8 sterling was collected from the inhabitants of the burgh for the new quay but nothing much in the way of construction seems to have happened. In May 1752 a Table of the Petty Customs and Anchorage of the Burgh of Inveraray was drawn up, the scale of dues ranged from 3/6d for a ship of over 60 tons, to 6d for a fishing boat for a season’s fishing. Although there were further proposals and budgets drawn up in 1754 the burgh had difficulty collecting funds. Harbour dues were bringing in some monies to the burgh, but the civic leaders were embarrassed by the financial prospect of the new quay. However, beyond the quarrying of some stone in 1755 no further progress had been made. (“Inveraray and the Dukes of Argyll”, Ian G Lindsay and Mary Cosh, Edinburgh, 1973, p158, hereafter referred to as L&C). A further source of readily available stone and rubble was identified: In 1756 the duke ordered that, before the next spring circuit, “the old houses standing before the Inn & the Town house should be erased & the old Stones put in baskets made use of for the new harbour”.
In 1758 James Potter, a local mason and recent part undertaker of work at the Creggans quarry, Inveraray, made representations to the Provost, that for every cubic foot of stone cut at the quarry, shipped, unloaded, dressed and built, the Town Council must pay one shilling sterling, and supply the mortar. At this time the proposal was laid before the 3rd Duke, who, between 1758 and 1759, allowed £30 sterling towards the cost. The Town Council then borrowed £13 sterling and other funds were provided. William McGibbon the ferrier committed to paying £2 sterling and, despite being budgeted for in 1754 “We began the building of our New Harbour about 10 days ago”, wrote Provost John Richardson to Lord Milton on 29 May 1759. Designed by young John Adam (also architect on the New Inn in 1750) the quay was built by James Potter but only extended out about 100 feet, ending well above the low water mark. (RCAHMS vol 7, No 208, p451. L&C p168.
“The Royal Burgh of Inveraray”, Alexander Fraser, 1977, pp36-7, hereafter referred to as AF). As the work continued the rough seas undid much of it from time to time. The minutes show that repair work was necessary in 1760, 1763 and 1765: on succeeding in 1761 the 4th Duke gave a further £30, and in 1763 Sir Adam Ferguson gave a present of £5 sterling. As Alexander Fraser writes: “no sum, however small, from whatever source, was refused”. In 1765 it was decided to increase the height and length, at a cost of £26 sterling, but by December 1771 it was once again described as ruinous, and work had to be done to clear it. Its height had been raised in 1765 but, despite its short length, it had silted up on the west side. The Town Council resolved “having taken into consideration the present ruinous state of the quay by its having been frequently overflowed by the sea in the repeated violent storms of last harvest, unanimously resolved that the same be forthwith repaired and heightened [again], particularly on the southeast side to prevent it being overflowed in the same manner in time coming and likewise to make and affix so many cruives as maybe found necessary at the end of the quay to prevent the sands being driven round the same to the west end thereof” (AF, pp36-7).
By the 1790s matters had deteriorated again. The Reverend Dr Paul Fraser, minister of Inveraray Parish commented when writing about the parish in the Old Statistical Account of 1792 “the quay scarcely deserves that name as it does not at present answer that intended purpose. Were there, however, a little addition made to it, it would be a safe and commodious harbour. There is one vessel belonging to the town, employed in foreign trade, and about half a dozen smaller vessels mostly employed in importing meal, coals, porter, and merchant goods, and exporting wool, oak-bark [for the leather tanning industry], and timber” (Old Statistical Account, vol V, Inverary, County of Argyle, pp298-9). This trade was very necessary. The OSA continues: “The grain raised in the parish is by no means sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants. The town and parish are chiefly supplied with meal from the Clyde, Dumfries, or Ireland; and there are annually imported between 8,000 and 10,000 bolls, part of which is carried to some of the neighbouring parishes” (ibid, p299). A boll is about 200 litres of dry measurement. In the 18th century, with the poor condition of roads, our little quay kept the locals from starvation.
One of the last improvements made during the long tenure of the 5th Duke was the extension of the quay and breastwork, which of course was the town’s own responsibility. John Adam’s quay had been more or less completed in 1762 but as stated earlier was only 100 feet long and could provide anchorage for only two small boats. It was wholly inadequate for a port which now served a herring fishing fleet of around 50 local boats and at least 100 others operating in Upper Loch Fyne. Many cargo ships could not put in at all; they had to unload their supplies by small boats (L&C pp289-90).
In 1795 the Duke of Argyll had ordered estimates for the extension of the quay and “some ornamental work”, but the architect Alexander Naysmith’s monumental Gothick lighthouse designed for the end of the extension was never built due to the expense. In the following year the Burgh Council decided to apply for a grant to the Convention of Royal Burghs for heightening and repair work. and the Provost wrote to the representatives of the Duke of Hamilton to request the right to quarry stone from the quarries on his land on Arran recently opened there by the Crinan Canal Company. Once again, the Council set about fundraising, and the Duke of Argyll offered £100 sterling. The Duke’s son-in-law, John Campbell MP, gave £50 (AF pp57-8).
Nothing ever seemed to happen in a hurry in Inveraray and it was 1800 before the Convention offered £200 Sterling, provided the magistrates found the remaining £435. Towards this shortfall the Duke offered £100, matched by the Commissioners of Supply and the Kirk Session with £100 each. This still left them short of funds, and it was 1805 before they sought an estimate from William Johns, mason, to restore the broken-down parts of the stonework, rebuild the stairway parallel with the masonry, and add another 116 feet to the quay length. For all this, with a blue flagstone foundation, dressed isle of Arran facing, and a causeway of granite setts, Johns’ quote came to £865. By this time the fund had risen to £681 -11/-. The town magistrates were apparently in some doubt about Johns’ quote and asked the Edinburgh-based James Gillespie Graham to inspect the proposals and the current state of the quay. After visiting the site he reported back on the 17th May 1805, recommending further strengthening, laying its foundations level instead of following the natural slope of the shoreline, and securing with iron batts or stays. Although the Council accepted the architect’s proposals, Johns’ was most unhappy, and “refused to receive the same, accompanying his refusal with some strong impressions” which sadly we no longer have recorded. A committee examined Johns’ work “with great displeasure” and ordered him on “pain of compulsion” to comply with the proposals (L&C pp289-90). So, the sum of £681 was remitted to the Ship Bank of Glasgow towards the repairs but the total cost estimated was £900. William Johns obtained the stone from local quarries at the Innkeeper Park, Bealachanuaran and Dalhenna (AF pp57-8).
In 1806 the project was complete, but the Council still owed Johns more than £260. He then had his revenge for the earlier coercion; after demanding his money with threats he issued a Letter of Horning for the debt (a civil action document in Scotland that publicly announces the recipient as an “outlaw”, being “put to the horn”). In a panic the Council had the begging bowl out again, returning with pleas to the Convention of Royal Burghs. Eventually, after long negotiations the money was raised, one of the ways agreed was the issue of burgess tickets. For the not insignificant sum of two and a half guineas the Council ruled that every person dealing in merchandise within Burgh limits must become a burgess (L&C pp289-90).
Thirty years later the breast wall between the quay and the jail once again required repair after damage wrought by the winter gales, followed by remedial work and extensions on the quay itself. By 1835 there were 55 fishing boats operating in the parish, 23 between Glen Shira and the burgh, 26 between the burgh south to Kenmore, and 5 from the townships of Auchindrain, Auchentiobart, and Furnace. The herring fishing then employed 118 fisherman, 54 boys, 115 labourers, 10 fish curers and 14 coopers in the parish. (New Statistical Account, vol VII, Renfrew- Argyle, pub Edinburgh 1845, p33). The New Statistical Accounting was also damning regarding the facilities available: “The harbour is not suited for ships of heavy burden. Previous to 1839 there was no pier worthy of the name; but it was then enlarged and improved; and in 1836 £1,200 were expended it, forming an outer slip ‘to suit every state of the tide ….’; £800 was supplied by the fishery board, and the remainder, partly by the [7th] Duke of Argyle, and partly by the Burgh” (Ibid, p36).
In fact, the further extension of the stonework of an oblique north pier head added in 1836 had costs variously estimated at between £1,200 and £1,435, most of which was paid by the Fishery Board (RCAHMS vol 7, No 208, p451). The writer of Pigot’s Commercial Directory 1837 edition was obviously impressed: “From a convenient part of town, and projecting from the shore, is a well-built quay, which it is intended to extend 100 feet further into the bay, with the addition of a slip”. He also remarks on “the richness of its herrings …. The value of herrings taken out of the loch in a single season often amounts to £30,000, and there are frequently from 300 to 400 boats engaged on [Loch Fyne].” (“Pigot and Co.’s national commercial directory for the whole of Scotland and of the Isle of Man, 1837”, pp225-6, NLS online index pages 211-2). Despite the herring fishing the coffers of the burgh were alarmingly empty, for its revenues were so miserably small. The OSA had recorded that only four other royal burghs had smaller incomes. As an example, Inveraray’s accounts for the year ending May 1814 appear in the appendix to “Report of Committee appointed to examine into state of gaols”:
Income, £136 6s 1d – from an Annuity from the Duke, £20; Petty Customs £36; rent of Town Common, £21 5s; rent of St Catherines ferry, £21 5s; school funds, £37 16s 1d.
Expenditure, £112 15s 7d – School salaries, Grammar School master £31 12s 8d; English School master £14 4s; mistress at the boarding school £4; but also included £13 1s 2d for interest on loans for building the quay (L&C, pp392-3, note 2).
The emerging tourist trade meant larger vessels required access, the first steamboat arrived in July 1815. However, the quay was still inaccessible at low tide and there was further development of its structure in 1821. This was to accommodate the regular calls by the steamers which made the trip to Inveraray from the Clyde and returned the next day. The regular steamers to Inveraray were the “Argyle”, and the two “Castle” steamers. “Dumbarton Castle” with Captain Thomson was advertised in the “Glasgow Herald” of June 10th, 1818, as sailing on Tuesday morning at five o’clock. In the same paper on July 20th, it was “Rothesay Castle” with Captain Johnston “sailing the following Tuesday at five o’clock for Inveraray, calling at Greenock, Gourock, Rothesay and Otter Ferry, and returning to Glasgow on Thursday”. One of the steamers sailed to Inveraray regularly each week. On 11th August 1818 – “The Rothesay Castle steamboat, Captain Johnston, will sail on Saturday morning at 3 o’clock for Greenock, Gourock, Rothesay, Otter Ferry, and Inveraray, and return to Glasgow on Monday”. The “Argyle”, or Argyll as she was advertised, was the main competitor that season and appears to have been experiencing some sabotage with her advertising. “Argyll – Captain McArthur – Will sail on Saturday the 27th June at five o’clock morning for Inveraray and return on Monday. Passengers are requested to send their luggage on Friday evening. The Argyll will sail on Tuesday for Inveraray and return on Thursday. The Argyll will continue to sail between Glasgow and Inveraray during the season and the public will find in her the best accommodation to be met with in a steam boat”. “The just celebrity and consequent success of the Argyll steam boat, having goaded some person or persons to the pitiful expedient of altering the days and hours of her sailing on the intimation boards, in different parts of the City, evidently with a view to defrauding the proprietors and disaffecting the public -Twenty Guineas of reward is hereby offered to any person whose information will convict the offender or offenders. Glasgow 23rd June 1818” (www.dalmadan.com website, Index run by Valeman).
Pigot’s 1837 Directory also lists sailings of steam packets from Inveraray’s quay: “To Glasgow, calling at Lochgilphead, Rothesay, Greenock, and all intermediate places, the Royal Mail Steamer, every Monday, Wednesday & Friday morning at four in summer, and every Monday morning in winter”.
“To Glasgow, every morning and afternoon (Sunday excepted) – takes passengers &c to Cairndow whence they are forwarded by coach and another direct to Glasgow – [another] one every forenoon (Sundays excepted) at eleven to Strachur, from whence passengers are forwarded by coach to Kilmun, and from thence by Steamer, to Glasgow –[another] steamer, every morning (Sunday excepted) at half past nine sails to St Catherines, from whence passengers are conveyed by coach to Lochgoilhead, and are immediately forwarded by Steamer to Glasgow.” (“Pigot and Co.’s national commercial directory for the whole of Scotland and of the Isle of Man, 1837”, pp225-6, NLS online index pages 211-2).
In 1865 Mr Walter Malcolm, who was based in Inveraray and managed the Inveraray Ferry and Coach Co, ordered a new iron paddle steamer for the Loch Fyne ferry. Named “Fairy”, she was built by Messrs J Patterson, Port Glasgow. At just 60 feet in length by 13¼ feet in breadth and powered by a 2-cylinder engine of 15 hp, manufactured by Messrs William Smith & Co., Greenock, she was a pretty vessel and a great improvement on the old “Argyle” which seems to have been then used as the ferry. It was recorded by Eoin MacArthur in his excellent booklet “The Return to Loch Fyne” that in 1828 the Lochgoil and Lochlong Steamboat Co had proposed running a steam ferry between Inveraray and St Catherines, and by 1856 the “Argyle” had been maintaining this service with a two-coach connection between St Catherines and Lochgoilhead, twice and day in summer and once a day in winter. The competition wasn’t welcomed by the owners of the “Argyle”, but after much discussion and some legal argument peace was restored. The old ferry remained in service for some time, taking the Strachur early morning connection from Inveraray, while the new ferry took the main tourist sailing, leaving at noon, and returning to Inveraray with passengers who had left the “Iona” at Dunoon and taken the coach to Strachur.
“New Ferry Steamer for Inveraray, &c – On Saturday Mr James Patterson, shipbuilder, Ladyburn, near Port-Glasgow, launched a fine little iron paddle-steamer of 30 tons, and 15 horse-power, which is specially built to ply on Lochfyne, at the ferries, between Inverary and Strachur and St Catherine’s. She was launched with the engines on board. These are diagonal in form and were made and put on board by Messrs William Smith & Co, Greenock. Steam is to be got up on board to-day; and the steamer, which is named the Fairy, is expected to be upon the station in the course of the present week. The Fairy was christened by Miss Malcolm, daughter of Mr Walter Malcolm, of Inverary, the managing owner. This fine little vessel will be a very decided improvement in the passenger conveyance in the delightful district in which she is to ply – a district which is gradually becoming more and more popular as a route for tourists. The Fairy is owned by a new company which has been formed with a view to facilitate and popularise the route direct from Glasgow via Dunoon, Sandbank, Loch Eck, and Strachur, a route which, in romantic beauty, presents great attraction to tourists. The Fairy is a beautiful model, and does credit to Mr Patterson, her builder, who has on the stocks three small screw-steamers for the Mexican trade.” (“North British Daily Mail”, 12 June 1865).
From the beginning the “Fairy” was a great success. In her first season, 1865-6, Eoin MacArthur records in his book impressive figures:
4,060 passengers at 1/-
28 horses at 1/6d
22 black cattle at 1/-
67 score sheep at 1/6
8 2-wheel carriages (no fee quoted)
The coach fare from St Catherines to Lochgoilhead was 2/- outside, 2/6d inside, with a gratuity to the coach man. “Coachie Jock” (see below) used this fund to contribute to the building of a new school to replace the old earthen-floored school at Pollachyline (Poll). As a result of his good work a grant of £600 was obtained and the new school was opened on 6th May 1857.
After this, advertising stepped up a pace: “Kilmun and Inveraray coach. – Quickest route to Inveraray. – On and after 1st July, the Kilmun and Inveraray coach, via Loch Eck and Strachur, will commence running for the season. – leaving Inveraray at 7.30 am., in connection with the steamer from Kilmun to Glasgow at 11 am. Leaving Glasgow per steamer at 2.50 pm., train to Greenock at 4, thence per swift steamer Vivid to Kilmun, thence per coach, arriving at Inveraray about 8 pm. Fare – Kilmun to Inveraray, 4s. 6d and 5s. Seats secured, and information given, at the offices of John E. Walker, Cambridge Street, and Andrew Menzies, 124 Argyll Street, Glasgow; and the Captain of the Vivid, and to Walter Malcolm. Inveraray, 1st June 1867”.
“Inveraray Ferry and Coach Co (Limited). Inveraray & Lochgoilhead. – On and after 1st July the steamer Fairy leaves Inveraray for St Catherine’s at 10.30 am in connection with coach Rover, to Lochgoilhead; coach returning on arrival of Lochgoil Boat from Glasgow. The steamer from St Catherine’s to Inveraray carries the passengers of this coach only. Fares – Lochgoilhead to Inveraray -coach and steamer: – 2s. 6d Out; 3s In. Tickets at Lochgoilhead, to be had from the coachman only, and at Inveraray from Captain of the Fairy, and W. Malcolm, Manager, Inveraray, June 1867” (Both advertisements, “Glasgow Herald”, 28 June 1867).
The year 1867 was a significant one, when Cowal man M T (Malcolm Turner) Clark brought his energy to the management of the Lochgoil and Lochlong Steamboat Company. A coach from Strachur to Lochgoilhead was put on, supplementing the existing service from St Catherines to Lochgoilhead.
“Glasgow, Lochgoilhead and Inveraray – Additional Accommodation: John Campbell is now running a coach from Lochgoilhead to St Catherine’s (and Strachur) then per ferry to Inveraray, on arrival of the Ardencaple which leaves Glasgow at half-past 8; train 9; leaving Strachur at 10:00 am. and Inveraray at 11 am via Ardencaple from Lochgoilhead about a quarter-past 1 pm; train half-past 3 pm” (“Glasgow Herald”, 31 August 1868). John Campbell was the well-known and respected coachman on the route to and from St Catherines through Hell’s Glen to Lochgoilhead. Known as “Jock a’ Choachie”, he was famous for regaling his passengers with tales of his encounters with Palmerston, Tennyson, and other notable persons of the Victorian era, as well as local rural events. Among his school acquaintances, he was reported as saying, was the explorer Dr David Livingstone. “Coachie Jock” was not a locally born man although the family had moved to Lochfyneside when he was aged about 8. Born in Glasgow around 1815-6, his father Duncan Campbell had been a coachman when he had arrived in the area by 1823, and Jock had succeeded him. In the grounds of Thistle House at St Catherines there is an older building which was at onetime the coach house and stables for the St Catherines – Lochgoilhead coach, horses, and coachman with his family.
By the time of the 1841 census Jock was the coachman, and in 1843 he married Ann McCallum. In the 1851 census he was still the coachman in St Catherines, but in the 1861 census he was innkeeper at St Catherines before taking over the Old Inn at the Clachan, Strachur, by the time of the 1871 census. He died on the 3rd April 1873 at the Strachur Inn. This was the main inn at Strachur until the Creggans opened at the site of the old ferry in 1879. The writing was on the wall for the Old Inn when it was refused a licence in 1886. In the 1891 census Jock’s son Donald was listed as hotelkeeper and farmer at Creggans. Another son, Peter, retired as manager of a print works in England in 1912 and built Thistle House in St Catherines, near his old home. He died there in 1930.
The Steamer Trade Steps Up
The age of the paddle steamer excursions soon followed, and the Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Company had launched the first “Lord of the Isles” paddle steamer from D & W (Paddy) Henderson’s yard in Partick on 30th May 1877. Unlike the “Dumbarton Castle” and the “Inverary Castle” the “Lord” was capable of daily return sailings from Glasgow to Inveraray.
In preparation for the steamer’s arrival the Council approved plans for the wooden pier extension to the stone quay in January 1877. The new part was to be 60 feet out from the quay and tee-shaped, the “tee” section to be 80 feet long by 26 feet wide, with 19 feet of free water even at low tide. Work started in March and the new pier was formally opened on the 5th June 1877. The press gave the event full coverage, and on Saturday 30th July the newly registered “Lord of the Isles” arrived with a large crowd of passengers and tied up at the new pier (McCrorie and Monteith: “Clyde Piers”, 1982).
“Inveraray New Pier: The Magistrates and Town Council opened the new pier for traffic on Tuesday evening. The Steamer Fairy was engaged for the opening, and the Town Council stepped on board, along with the principal inhabitants of the burgh, and sailed round the Otter Buoy of the Newton, and then came back and landed at the new pier. On landing they were met by Mr Thomson of Gourock, the contractor, who formally conveyed the pier to the Provost, on behalf of the Town Council, in appropriate terms. Provost Macfarlan made a suitable reply. The “Health and happiness of the Magistrates and Town Council,” was then drunk on the pier. The Town Council adjourned to the Argyll Hotel to a sumptuous dinner. Provost Macfarlan was chairman, and Bailie Macpherson croupier. The Provost read letters of apology for absence from Sir George Home, Bart., Mr Wyllie, chamberlain, Dr Touch, and other gentlemen. The usual loyal and patriotic toasts were cordially pledged. Other toasts followed. The new pier reflects great credit on the contractors, Messrs Thomson & Co”, (“Glasgow Herald”, 7 June 1877).
“Inveraray, opening of new wharf: On Tuesday evening of last week this important addition to the harbour accommodation of Inveraray was formally opened for traffic by Provost Macfarlane, in presence of a large assemblage. Shortly after 7 pm the Provost, Magistrates, and other members of the Town Council, accompanied by most of the leading inhabitants, including number of ladies, proceeded on board the steamer Fairy, which, as well the new pier, was gay with bright coloured bunting. Having made the circuit of the bay the steamer landed her passengers on the wharf, which was crowded with spectators. The contractor (Mr Thomson of Gourock), who was accompanied by his indefatigable foreman on the work (Mr Bain), and Mr Ferguson, Clerk of Works to the Duke of Argyll, who had acted inspector, received the party on the pier. Mr Thomson then, addressing the representatives of the Corporation in a few pithy sentences, handed over the work as completed, and after acknowledging the uniform kindness and courtesy he had experienced at the hands of the municipal bodies, expressed the hope that the prosperity of the place would be greatly advanced by the new erection. The Provost, amid much cheering, declared the pier open for traffic, and congratulated the community on the increased facilities now given to the travelling public, the new wharf of Inveraray being, he believed, one of the best and strongest on the coast. He hoped it would be well patronised, and that thousands would be landed and embarked on it during the present season, and many seasons to come. (Loud applause) Bumpers were then handed round, and success drunk to the pier and the district. The Magistrates and a large party of gentlemen afterwards dined together in the Argyll Hotel, when a very pleasant evening was spent. The event has excited a great deal of interest in the town of Inveraray, and over a large district of the county; and with the greatly improved means now to be employed for the accommodation of parties visiting Lochfyneside, there seems every prospect of satisfactory results” (“Oban Times”, 16 June 1877).
The rival railway companies in Scotland, the Caledonian Railway (the “Caley”), North British Railway (“NB Loco”) and the Glasgow & South Western Railway (G&SWR, formed by a merger of two smaller railways and providing services as far south as Carlisle) started to get into the act. At first, they used the services of the early private operators of steamers on the Clyde. The G&SWR had a railhead at the Prince’s Pier, Greenock and the Caley had purchased the harbour at the fishing village of Gourock. This should have given the Caley a competitive advantage, using their own faster rail line from Glasgow, bypassing Greenock. It was when they failed to attract private ship owners to their new extension that they began operating steamers on their own account. The Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSP) was formed as a “packet company” in May 1889. (“Packet boats” was the description of medium-sized ships designed for domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation in European countries).
Operating as an independent company, the CSP bought the ships needed to operate steamer services to and from Gourock, with Captain James Williamson as secretary and manager. Captain Williamson was a member of perhaps the most important family in the early history of Clyde steamers. His father, Alexander, founded the family shipping company, which focused primarily on services to Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute, and James was his eldest son. He had foreseen that the development of railway connections to the coast would lead to the erosion of “all the way” sailings from Glasgow. He was also unhappy with the drunkenness associated with the “doon the watter” trade. In 1879 he formed a syndicate called the Firth of Clyde Steam Packet Company to run a cruise steamer on teetotal lines. The paddle steamer “Ivanhoe” plied the river trade from 1880 to 1920, “attracting a respectable clientele”. Captain James Williamson’s book “Clyde Passenger Steamers from 1812 to 1901” is now much sought after, either in the original edition or the facsimile reprint produced in 1987 (“Williamson & McQueen, Pioneers of Clyde Steamer Literature”: Clyde River Steamer Club website).
At the beginning of the 1890s the general standard of facilities offered by the new railway steamers meant that the existing privately owned ships were largely outclassed. Now under the management of MT Clark who had so energised the Lochgoil and Lochlong Steamboat Company in 1867, and with offices in Oswald Street, Glasgow, the Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Co was prompted to return to Paddy Henderson’s shipyard in Partick to replace the now ageing “Lord of the Isles”. The old steamer had opened up the tourist traffic to Inveraray, allowing coach connections to Oban and steamer connections on Loch Awe. It had also popularised the better-known Loch Eck Tour, connecting Strachur and onwards to Dunoon by a combination of horse-drawn coaches and the small steamer “Fairy Queen” on Loch Eck (also owned by the Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Company). This had provided the round trip via the Kyles of Bute and up Loch Fyne, then from Strachur through scenic Cowal back to Dunoon, and the steamers of the Clyde (www.dalmadan.com website, Index run by Valeman).
The old “Lord of the Isles” was sold in late 1890 to an operator on the Thames and the new “Lord of the Isles II” was launched on 25th April 1891 by Miss Mary Maclean, daughter of the chairman of the Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Co. Displacing 450 tons she was described as the same model as the old steamer but longer and broader, the most obvious difference was in the larger and more luxurious saloons. Her first sailing to Inveraray was in May 1891, advertised as “new” in that and the 1892 season, she carried the mails for Inveraray and district and had a post office on board.
In 1909 the Glasgow & Inveraray Steamboat Company and the jointly owned Lochgoil & Loch Long Steamboat Company went into liquidation and a new company, the Lochgoil & Inveraray Steamboat Co Ltd was formed. They ran the iconic “Lord” for a further three years, but in 1912 after competition from the faster screw steamer “King Edward” she was sold. The “King Edward”, built by Dennys of Dumbarton in 1901 for the Turbine Steamers Syndicate (later Turbine Steamers Ltd), was the world’s first commercial passenger-carrying turbine steamer and replaced the “Lord” on the Inveraray route. About the same time Turbine Steamers Ltd took over the Lochgoil & Inveraray Steamboat Co Ltd.
By the beginning of the 20th century the relentless waves had again necessitated repairs to the stonework of the pier and breast wall, part of which had fallen down near The Coffee House. However, the main pier repair work focused on the small ferry jetty at St Catherines. At that time the much lover steamer “Fairy”, with crew of four, still ran a regular service across the loch, and was also subsidised by carrying the Royal Mail (AF pp63-4).
After the end of the First World War tourist traffic returned to Inveraray and until the onset of the motor car most of them arrived by steamer. This was very lucrative for the burgh. Petty Customs and Weighing Machine dues were doubled. Steamer docking charges were raised to £1 per day of £100 for the season, cargo or luggage steamers, typically sailing 2-3 times per week, paid £1.11.6d. In 1919 two turnstiles were erected and passengers landing or embarking at the pier were charged 1d. It was recorded that this “pier duty” yielded a surplus of £80 for the season (AF pp71-2)
The steady influx of tourists was becoming increasingly important to Inveraray, and it was minuted that every encouragement should be given to support the trade. Unfortunately, the steamer “Queen Alexandra” owned by John Williamson & Co grounded on the approach to the pier in August 1922, and the remedial work included a proposed extension of the pier length to 110 feet. Williamsons replied that, although the extension was desirable the “Queen Alexandra” was 270 feet long. Her captain also requested that a marker buoy should be placed on the sand bar off the pier. Other portents of things to come that would affect pier use were remarks about the increasing numbers of omnibuses, motorcycles and motor cars being seen in the town.
The Second World War saw the pier pressed into use, and for six years 1940-46 the Town Council could only look on in dismay as heavy ships were moored there for long periods, serviced by trucks driving on the wooden structure, causing the crossbeams and piles to loosen and become less secure. The Admiralty had agreed to pay an annual rent, paid up until January 1946 when the pier was released back to the Council. The Royal Navy continued to use the pier regularly up to the 1970s, the Council always insisting on rental charges being paid (AF pp80-1).
At the present time, in all the masonry section measures about 26 feet in width and 225 feet in length to the pier head, which in return measures about 65 feet x 33 feet. The stonework is squared and coursed granite blocks, the pier head has, in addition to the slip, two pawls recessed into the wall, and a small stairway. Two other flights of steps are built into the west face of the pier, at the east and west ends. The west stairway was probably rebuilt parallel to the quay by Johns in 1805 (RCAHMS vol 7, No 208, p451).
Article Author – Duncan Beaton – Trustee Friends of the Inveraray Castle Archives – Copyright 2023
Inveraray Pier is, however, perhaps best known as the place where visitors came ashore in droves from the famous Clyde steamers for most of the 20th century for business and pleasure in the royal burgh. Adults and children fished from the pier and many a folk enjoyed a leisurely stroll along it.
An interesting link to read information on Inveraray Pier during World War 2.
For the history about the Vital Spark berthed at Inveraray Pier, please visit National Historic Ships.
Robert McCulloch, of Fynestfish Inveraray, sent this lovely photograph from the family album.
George Barker from Tarbert Argyll sent this photograph via Donald John MacDonald. This was taken in 1905. It would be lovely to see, over 100 years later, the crowds arriving at Inveraray at the pier.
This photograph sent in by Wilma Wood of the crowds heading down the pier circa 1930s. “We hopefully will see the like again” (Wilma’s words.)
If you have any old family photos of Inveraray Pier we would be very pleased, with your permission, to display them in the history section. Dig out those old ‘photaes’ of your Granny, or Great Granny, down by the pier! (Send a scanned image, off your printer, or a .jpg from your smart phone by email and we will include your family photo.)