WORLD SHIP SOCIETY ~ Firth of Forth Branch WSS logo

Branch Secretary

W. Iain H. McGeachy

30 Clerwood Terrace


EH12 8PG


The Firth of Forth Branch of the World Ship Society, meet on the third MONDAY evening of each month, October to April inclusive at the Edinburgh Cine & Video Society, 23A Fettes Row, (off Dundas St.) Edinburgh EH3 6RH. at 7.30 p.m.

If you have ever stood at Ocean Terminal watching the activity, photographed a ship, bought a shipping magazine then this is for you!   New members welcome –  so come along and enjoy a slide show or power-point and a mid interval cup of tea or coffee.

Contact: email: (see form at foot of page)

Firth of Forth Branch Programme 2019/2020

 October 21st  ‘The Life and Times of HMS Unicorn’  – Billy Rough

 November 18th Sixty Years of the Paddle Preservation Society – Iain Quinn

 December 16th ‘Seven Working Days’ – Maurice Napier:


January 20th  Rotterdam / Europort –  Peter Gifford: 

February 17th   Paddle Steamers of Lake Lucerne DVDs  showing Parade of Steamers and the Transport Museum. John Ives. 

March 16th      AGM  and Members Night

APRIL 20th The Blue Funnel Line WSS Slide Show by Bert Novelli  



Recent evenings:



It was a pleasure to welcome Alan Dowie back to give us ‘The VIC 32 – Cruising on a steam-fired puffer’.  He started with an outline of the history of the puffer from the Charlotte Dundas of 1812, through the 19th and 20th Centuries with particular reference to the WWII ‘VICs’ (Victualling Inshore Craft).  He then took us on two cruises, the first to the Southern Hebrides from Crinan and the second from Inverness through the Caledonian Canal to Fort William. Both were illustrated with fine photographs of the interior, the locks and places visited, all accompanied by a fund of stories.


Our AGM in March saw the current Committee and Office Bearers re-elected and thanked for their work. A draft of next year’s programme was presented. There then followed a slide show by Ian Somerville entitled ‘Ferries to Ireland and the Isle of Man’. Most slides were from the 1970’s onwards concentrating on the Scottish links, by British Rail, through Sealink to the Stena fleets to Ireland and those of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company to Douglas. Apart from the Scottish ports and their destinations we saw others at a wide range of locations including Llandudno, Fleetwood and Portsmouth.


Our February meeting saw Iain McGeachy give an extensive power point presentation covering shipping in the ports in the Forth during 2013-16.  We saw a full range of vessels from cruise ships, (complete with a breakdown of locations), general cargo, bulk carriers, container ships, tankers ranging from the small product/gas ones to VLCCs, warships and many others. For offshore vessels and rigs there was also information on those laid up over the period and their eventual fates.  Included was a section on the vessels involved in the building of the Queensferry Crossing and photographs of key stages of the latter’s construction.


The New Year opened with an engrossing talk by Douglas Yuill on East Coast Steam Coasters, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of their demise.  His well researched talk, backed by contemporary photographs, showed the fleets of owners from Leith to Shetland.  The vessels, often bought second hand, carried coal south, returning with cement; north for bunkering the sizeable fishing fleets; and all manner of other goods.  What was of note was the longevity of many of the vessels shown – some reaching sixty years service. The end of steam came due to the rising cost of coal and the upkeep of an aging fleet.



Our Members’ Night in December saw three fascinating short presentations.  Iain Quinn started with pre-war colour slides of Clyde steamers. Included were rare colour examples – the grey LNER livery of the late 30s and war losses.  In contrast Maurice Napier showed photographs taken this year from Singapore, Norway and the Danube.  We viewed a wide variety of vessels but also the 1872 river monitor SMS Leitha at Budapest.  Peter Gifford, took us from Skye across to the Outer Hebrides, back to the mainland and across to the Inner islands. The evening was complete with homemade mince pies from our Chairman.

November saw a well researched and illustrated talk by Paul Strathdee entitled ‘Fairfield Cargo Ships 1957-1999’.  A fascinating account moving from the  Ore-Oil carrier CUYAHOGA, through refrigerated cargo vessels for Blue Star, tankers for Irish Shipping and BP,  bulk carriers for Reardon Smith and fitting out basins showing ships three abreast. The yard became UCS,  Govan Shipbuilders and finally Kvaerner Govan, producing over forty standard ‘Kuwaiti’ and ‘Cardiff’ class cargo vessels. Paul gave full ship histories with a number still being in service. The numbers involved served as reminder of just how active merchant shipbuilding on the Clyde was right upto the end of the 1990’s.


Entitled ‘Don’t go to sea, be an accountant’ Ian Henderson vividly illustrated just how wrong that would have been.  Following in his father’s footsteps we saw him from age two upwards at the helm of a range of vessels from his father’s dinghy, through minesweepers, product tankers, VLCCs, to captain Irish Sea and Clyde ferries; piloting naval vessels on the Clyde, as Marine Rep, Towmaster and Warranty Surveyor for rig moves and other offshore work.  All illustrated with scenes from around the world – tropical beaches, golden sunsets, and bridges and foredecks disappearing under torrents of water.  Thank you for an excellent and most enjoyable evening.


February 2018

Entitled “The Lure of the Red Funnel” saw Robert Warnock tell of his first experiences of sailing first as a young child down the Clyde on the Queen Mary ll, followed by many holidays sailing to the Hebrides. With these, the lure was laid. Illustrated by many photographs covering the MacBrayne’s fleet from the pre war classics to the latest additions to the fleet we were enchanted by both the ships and scenery, enhanced with many panoramic shots of both taken at various ports. Supported by Iain Quinn we were entertained to many stories of these west Highland steamers.

January 2018

We welcomed Peter Gifford, Secretary of the Firth of Clyde Branch with an account of the trips made during the Coastal Cruising Association’s AGM in January 2015 at Southampton.  We sailed around the Solent and to Portsmouth, viewing both merchant and naval vessels. We saw  the vessels from the various ferry fleets which operate to the Isle of Wight and a wide range of car carriers (including details of the grounding of the Hoegh Osaka), containerships and the tankers at the Esso Fawley oil terminal.  Of interest was the Shieldhall, former River Clyde effluent carrier, the largest working steam ship in Northern Europe.

December 2018

Our December meeting took the form of a well researched digital presentation of photographs and video entitled ‘The Merchant Navy in WWII’ by David Fleming-Miller. These were enhanced by his circulated notes on Living Conditions; Captain Walker’s Second Support Group and on MAC ships. David was a Captain with the Palm Line and his account bore all wealth of knowledge and feeling, not only as a Merchant Mariner, but as one who knew from those involved what the merchant seamen endured during the conflict.  We also enjoyed traditional, excellent homemade mince pies from our Chairman, John Ives, at the break. 


When one sees that Maurice Napier is the speaker one can be ensured of a fascinating talk combining interesting ships, excellent photography, and amusing anecdotes.  So it was with ‘Peru to Argentina’, our November talk.  It combined not just travels along the coast of South America, but trips to Machu Picchu, Easter Island, inland to Lake Titicaca, 3,812 metres above sea level, and a flight to Puerto Williams south of Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly town in the world.  Gaining entry to the three 19th Century vessels that form the breakwater at Punta Arenas, his interior photographs enhanced those of the already wide range of shipping.


There can be no better opening to a season than to have a talk by Ian Quinn on the Clyde. His theme  ‘In the Wake of the Queen Mary’ was a celebration of the Clyde’s last turbine excursion steamer and her return home.  Sailing from Bridge Wharf in the city centre she carried an average of 13,500 passengers a week, some half a million a year from 1933 to the late 50’s down river to Dunoon, Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute. She resumed these sailings after being reboilered and fitted with a single funnel in 1957 to become the last operational Clyde Steamer until her withdrawal in 1977.   We sailed past the hailing stations, made our way between all manner of river craft from chain dredgers, hopper barges, cross river ferries, and tugs out to the pilot cutters off Greenock.    Looking back, I for one, did not appreciate how transient the scene of Blue Funnel, Clan Line and other vessels moored end to end in George V, Rothesay docks and along the quays was.  His photographs encaptured the spirit of the period, not just the ships but the docks, cranes, shipyards and associated buildings all now vanished.  A thoroughly enjoyable evening enhanced by a knowledgeable and in depth commentary. 


2016 -2017

April 2017

It is always a pleasure to listen to a speaker who has both mastery and enthusiasm for his subject.  Such was our April talk when Colin Tucker gave us ‘’Steamers to Stornoway’ –  Shipping Services to Lewis from the 1820s to the present day”.  Colin gave us a full account of the development of steamer services to the Island, laced with many contemporary anecdotes gleaned from papers of the time.  One theme which has remained constant was the delight when a new steamer was announced only to be dashed over the following years.  Colin included the loss of HMY Iolaire on New Year 1919 with the loss of 200 men, one of the worst maritime disasters in UK waters.

March 2017 AGM

February 2017

It was a delight to welcome Tom Carreyette with ‘To Europe by Cargo Ship’,  an account of six trips taken between 1993–2003:

  • 1993 Grimsby – Esbjerg & Esbjerg – Grimsby by DANA MAXIMA
  • Grangemouth – Antwerp – Felixstowe – Grangemouth by PASSAT
  • 1997 Hull – Gdynia – Felixstowe by INOWRACŁAW
  • 2000 Greenock – Bilbao – Dublin – Liverpool – Greenock by CERVANTES
  • 2003 Lerwick – Frindsbury (River Medway) – Lowestoft – Port Ellen by SHETLAND TRADER
  • Hamburg – Hamina/Kotka (Finland) – Hamburg – Grangemouth by OOCL NARVA

His presentation differed from the norm, as travelling as a passenger on small cargo and feeder container ships, he gave us an ‘up close and personal’ view of their work.  We got excellent shots of the ships themselves, layout, crew and cargoes, giving a real insight to their world.  These along with well researched photographs of other vessels and views from the bridge of the seas, locks and landmarks of the harbours visited, resulted in a most excellent and much appreciated show.

January 2017  Due to illness our original talk was replaced with an annotated power point presentation from Iain McGeachy entitled ‘ROUND THE FORTH 2010– 2013’; moving from Leith, past Hound Point to Grangemouth, returning via Rosyth, Braefoot, to Burntisland.  We saw nearly 300 ships ranging from Cunard’s Queens to small expedition ships, 330,000 dwt VLCCs to small bunkering tankers, offshore vessels from the pipelayer Solitaire to SAR ships, ‘Leith-max’ bulk carriers to river cargo vessels, there were shots of HMS Queen Elizabeth modules arriving and some winter scenes including the tug Oxcar undertaking ice-breaking.  The chairman thanked Iain for a show which was very well received.

Our December meeting took the traditional format of Members’ photographs, with most excellent homemade mince pies from the Chairman, John Ives, at the break.  We started with photographs from Donald Macdonald of both shipping and steam engines including rail and Victorian tractors.  This was followed by Douglas Yuill with Scottish ferries starting in the Forth, moving north to focus on those serving to and in the Orkneys and Shetland.  Peter Gifford continued the ferry theme with shots of ferries from Ardrossan to Arran and Campbeltown and those of the Inner Hebrides.  Iain McGeachy presented shots from Aberdeen and the Tyne.

November saw an excellent presentation on Coastal Shipping by Alan Downie.  Alan’s enthusiasm as a keen observer of the coastal shipping scene in Scotland was evident as he took as through the recent history of coasters in Leith and the Firth of Forth before giving us an overview round Scotland. Concentrating on the present day, it was fascinating to learn not just of the ships and the shipping companies, but of their cargoes and patterns of trade, giving a real insight into the current position.  We finished with a brief look at the recent developments in the use of temporary piers.  

Our Season started, with a fascinating ‘RMS Queen Mary, an 80th Celebration’, presented by Paul Strathdee.  Paul’s research took us through planning, construction and eventual completion using John Brown’s meticulous photographic record.  His selection gave a real insight into working practices of the vast work force.  We followed her launch, entering service, into the war years, carrying up to 15,000 troops at a time, her return to peace time trade and final years including cruising.  We finished with comparative photographs of her interior now and as she was; plus an update on the original Queen Mary, now back on the Clyde.

Last yea’s Meetings

In December 2014 Robert Warnock gave a highly entertaining and eclectic presentation titled “Bucket, spade and coastal cruising” covering shipping taken on his honeymoon, and subsequent family holidays, embracing, the Clyde, Scottish West Coast, Isle of Man, Scarborough and excursions therefrom. Additionally Calmac, Llandudno, Heysham, Mersey, (river) Wear, and York vessels of yore were featured comprehensively, in great variety, with several transport shots for good measure. The presentation obviously found its mark as the craic was flowing throughout, no doubt influenced by John Ives’ brandy mince pies from the Galley. Many thanks to Robert and John. [Ian Duff]

Our first presentation of 2015 was from member, Dane Murdoch, with “Sydney International Fleet Review” which took place in September 2013. The first day detailed the arrival of the Tall Ships, which neatly coincided, plus a huge amount of shots of all types of smaller vessels plying the harbour. The second day Dane was up very early to take an array of photographs, mainly taken from a harbour ferry, of the arrival of all the various navies’ ships participating. The third day’s pictures provided the actual parade of naval vessels passing the reviewing vessel. Great show Dane, many thanks. [Ian Duff]

February: Iain McGeachy gave another excellent digital show – “Round the Forth – 2004 to 2010”, – to an attentive audience, 2004 being the year Iain went digital. There was a plethora of every type of vessel imaginable visiting the ports on both sides of the lower estuary from Leith, up to just beyond the road bridge at Rosyth/Crombie and back via Inverkeithing to Braefoot & Burntisland. In addition, while at South Queensferry, Iain illustrated a comprehensive and varied selection of passing vessels plying mainly continental feeder services to/from Grangemouth. A professionally illustrated presentation with comprehensively detailed vessel histories. [Ian Duff]

March was our AGM with Ian Duff standing down and being replaced as Secretary, by Iain McGeachy, with all other main office bearers unchanged. Members’ Night followed with Peter Gifford, Firth of Clyde secretary, presenting slides of his childhood trips to Tiree, followed by some of his late father’s slides from the 1960s of a variety of shipping in, and near, the then brand new Inchgreen drydock and adjacent repair facilities at Greenock/Port Glasgow. Douglas Yuill rounded the evening off with a history of shipping at Methil, Fife, in the early part of last century. Thanks to both speakers. {Ian Duff]

April: The evening commenced with a warm vote of thanks in appreciation of the work undertaken by Ian Duff our out-going Secretary.

We were then entertained by Colin Smith with a fine presentation of photographs of cruise ships, passenger ferries and tall ships:  an evening of great photographs taken in excellent conditions with even the Scottish island ones being described as having ‘Caribbean’ skies.  We moved from Scotland, to Canada, through the Mediterranean all in brilliant sunshine; journeyed on the QM2 and Boudicca.  Accompanied by a full and humorous commentary, it was an evening which was much enjoyed by all present. [Iain McGeachy]


Although the Branch does not meet over the summer months we had a successful presence at Bernard McCall’s Scottish Ship Show in June. .July saw us at the North Queensferry Hotel where a good turnout of members and friends enjoyed fellowship at our Summer Lunch, overlooking the Forth. We recommence for 2015 -16 on Monday,19th October.



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World Ship Society Firth of Clyde 2015-2016 Programme






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