Robert Napier’s Boats


F.C. [Free Church] Manse, Errol, October 12, 1897

Sir. – Would you permit me to supplement the excellent list of Clyde steamers which an ‘Old Coaster’ gives in the ‘Herald’ today? He has altogether omitted Napier’s boats on the Gareloch.

They were built – the Duchess of Argyle, 1849; the Victoria, 1850; and the Vulcan, 1854.

The name Vulcan does not come directly from Latin mythology, but from the Vulcan Foundry, Glasgow, which, at the time the Vulcan was built, belonged to Messrs Robert Napier & Sons. The Shandon and the Superb, also belonging to Napier, were running on the Gareloch before 1849, when the Duchess was built. The green boats on the Gareloch, which were owned by Henderson & McKellar, Renfrew, had down till 1854 in addition to those named by an ‘Old Coaster’ the Prince. She was the last passenger steamer built of wood that ran on the Clyde. She ended her days, rigged as a three-masted schooner, carrying cargo as a lighter.

The Emperor began as a Sunday steamer in June 1853, not 1855 as stated by an ‘Old Coaster’. She was run down and sank after a collision with the Duchess of Argyle off Shandon in September 1852, and after being lifted was bought by Mr Paton, and run as a Sunday boat. That collision also had another result. It was the occasion of Captain Stewart, who was master of the Duchess of Argyle, leaving the employment of Messrs Napier and becoming a steamboat owner himself. He ran the Baron in the Gareloch in the summer of 1853.

The Pioneer, which an ‘Old Coaster’ mentions as built for the Greenock Railway, should be added to the list of McBrayne’s boats. She had the daily run to Ardrishaig before the Mountaineer began in 1852, but the Pioneer left Glasgow at 6am because of her slower speed. Two boats somewhat famous in their day that ran to Rothesay are also omitted in the list of ‘Old Coaster’. The Rothesay Castle (No 2), built in 1861 for Mr Watson, the racing rival of the famous Ruby (No 3), and the Arran Castle, also belonging to Mr Watson, which was lost in March, 1865, on the passage from Clyde to London. Mr Watson himself being drowned in her.

In his list of Channel steamers the Stork is mentioned as one of Messrs Burns’ Liverpool boats. She was a Belfast boat, and ran in the Glasgow to Belfast service until 1856, when she was sold to David Hutcheson, and for some time after ran to Oban and Stornoway.

There are a few other notes I could give, but I have respect for your space; only I wish to add that I would be glad to place my own personal recollections of Clyde steamers, which I think are pretty accurate, between 1849 and 1871, when I came here, at the service of anyone who may be compiling a list of the Clyde boats – I am, etc.,

Archibald Campbell

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