Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Where did Boyd’s Tide Marker Tower model go?

(We’ve been informed, see Comment below also, that the model referred to in this appeal has actually turned up in the museum. Sadly, it’s reported to be a little bit the worse for wear after its years in storage, and has suffered from the damp, but it seems to be recoverable, and the builder has indicated its restoration will be a forthcoming project.

We wish both well.)

It’s been some years since we were first made aware of the significance of a white tower which stand on the southern approach to Irvine harbour, and how it was once vital to the town’s seaborne trade.

The tower is the last standing part of Boyd’s Automatic Tide Signalling Apparatus (not counting the associated float chamber in the nearby water), and is also referred to as the Pilot’s House. There is a more detailed description on the page given, but here’s a summary:

History

At the turn of the 20th century, Irvine was losing trade to the other Ayrshire ports. Unlike the competition, it had no railway pier, and the approach to its harbour was complicated by the presence of numerous sandbanks, necessitating careful navigation, use of tide tables, and careful timing to avoid grounding a heavily laden cargo vessel on the approach. The harbour master at the time, Martin Boyd, believed there was a better way navigate the approach and, in 1903, he was granted a patent for his design for an Automatic Tide Marker Station.

It took Boyd a further three years to finance and build his apparatus, which was officially commissioned on May 23, 1906, with the issue of a Notice to Mariners which informed them of its presence. At the same time, announcements were made in the local newspapers, and charts were issued to explain how the signals presented from the tower were to be read in order to determine the level of the tide at any given time.

In recognition of the value of his work, the sum of £60 was refunded to Boyd by the Harbour Commissioners.

Boyd's Signal Tower

Boyd’s Signal Tower Irvine Harbour © Brian Goodwin

Description

During the day, the signal was displayed using a series of balls raised on a mast mounted atop a tower. At night, the same information was conveyed using a series of lights visible in apertures located in the seaward face of the tower. The lights were hidden, or eclipsed, in different patterns (and colours) to indicate the level of the tide.

The mast signal and the light signal were interconnected by cables, ensuring that both would always match, and were changed automatically by the level of the tide itself.

Their position was controlled by the movement of a float mounted in a chamber, located in the water and near the tower. Underground cables connected the float to the signals in the tower, thereby transmitting the level of the float to the signals directly, and setting them without requiring an operator to manually read the tide and set the signals by hand.

Only the tower building remains on the site, as the mast and signal mounted on the roof were removed after becoming unsafe after the signal fell into disuse in the 1970s.

Pilot’s House model

Purely by chance, we came across a picture of the tower, or Pilot’s House, online (while reviewing some other pics added to out Flickr pool), only it was not the original item, but a rather well executed model of the structure, complete with the mast, rigging, and signals which would have sat atop the original, as shown below:

Pilot's House Model

Pilot’s House Model © Brian Goodwin

We’re grateful to the model maker (Brian Goodwin) who provided the pics, and additional information regarding the history of the appratus, which we were able to add to our page (as mentioned above.)

However, when we enquired after the model itself, the news was not so good.

Having been donated to the Scottish Maritime Museum some years earlier, it seems a later request regarding its location brought only news that the model appeared to have been lost while in the museum’s care.

Appeal

So, the bottom line is that this posting is really an appeal to anyone that may have information regarding the fate of the Pilot’s House model.

If you know anything about it, or can shed any light on its fate, you can leave a note in the Comments section below (which I might add is effectively anonymous.)

It would be shame if it really had been lost, or worse, destroyed.

And better still if it turned up under a dust sheet in some a dark and seldom visited corner.

Here’s a last look at the tower, as it would have appeared just after completion, as probably indicated by the presence of the crane to its right:

Boyd Tower

Boyd Tower courtesy of Brian Goodwin from a period photograph

June 29, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

MV Balmoral Fund appeal 2013

At the tail end of 2012, Waverley Excursions Ltd  – which operates both the paddle steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral – announce that Balmoral would not be sailing during the 2013 season.

In a letter to Waverley and Balmoral stakeholders, Kathleen O’Neill, chief executive of Waverley Excursions Ltd, said:

Balmoral’s operation has been hampered increasingly in recent years by extreme weather conditions. This has led to many cancelled or disrupted sailings, which has had a significant impact on that ship’s contribution to operating results. Waverley’s timetable is less susceptible to such disruptions.

Clearly, we are unable to predict the weather for 2013, but none of the forecasters is predicting a significant improvement over recent years. After taking a wide range of considerations into account, we have decided, reluctantly, that it would be too great a risk to operate Balmoral next year and that doing so would increase the threat to the future of both ships.

Via Waverley fleetmate ‘won’t sail in 2013’ – Local Headlines – The Buteman

Balmoral was built in 1949, near Southampton, and is being looked after on a care and maintenance basis during 2013 by volunteers in Bristol.

Appeal web site

In order to return to her job of providing pleasure cruises in 2014, some £350,000 is needed to fund essential survey and refit work.

Those concerned have raised further fears. Since there are few vessels using their facilities, there are concerns that if Balmoral does not return to service in 2014, then pier owners will have little incentive to maintain them, and if they and Balmoral lose their certification,  the chances this ever being restored could be slim.

An appeal web site has been set up, with further information and donation details:

MV Balmoral Fund Ltd

 

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, Transport | | Leave a comment

Marine Biological Research Station Millport closure threat alleviated

Although it has taken a few months, news regarding the future of the University Marine Biological Station Millport has appeared, and the news is good, confirming that the station’s closure is no longer an option, following the withdrawal of its funding from the University of London.

Ownership of the station, its building, and the surrounding land have been transferred to the Field Studies Council (FSC):

Field Studies Council, FSC, is the only environmental education charity dedicated solely to providing informative and enjoyable opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to discover, explore, be inspired by, and understand the natural environment.

Established in 1943, FSC has become internationally respected for its national network of learning locations, international outreach training projects, research programmes, information and publication services,  and wide range of professional training and leisure courses.

Via Field Studies Council (FSC)

Regarding the transfer, FSC Chief Executive Rob Lucas said:

This is an exciting opportunity for the FSC. Our vision for Millport field centre is for it to become a flagship for field studies in Scotland, building on its reputation for high quality field research and university teaching.

The marine location will provide the perfect complement to the field studies we have been developing at our FSC Kindrogan field centre in the Highlands over the past 10 years.

According to Education Secretary Mike Russell, the agreement will ensure the long-term future of the station, which he said has suffered years of under investment while in the hands of the University of London.

Via Agreement reached over Marine Biological Station on Cumbrae

Millport biological marine station

Millport biological marine station © Richard Webb via geograph

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Info sought on 1972 exercise to repair Rockall beacon

The site has received a request for help in location information relating to a small military exercise which took place on Rockall some years ago.

In 1972,  a group of marines were taken to Rockall on board RFA Engerdine, and tasked with repairing/rebuilding the damaged beacon which had been placed on the islet.

One of those involved would now like to find any information relating to this operation, to pass on to his grandchildren.

As ever, any information would be greatly appreciated, and passed on to the originator.

Rockall is not the best environment for any sort of beacon to be expected to survive in, and it seems the beacon referred to was one of four which have been established there over the years.

The last attempt seems to have been in 1998, but that too had failed by 2005, and current information is that no further attempts to mark the rock with a beacon have followed.

Via Michael’s List of Scottish Lighthouses: Section T

The picture of Rockall, dating from 2008, actually shows the latter beacon, just visible on the summit of the islet.

Rockall

Rockall © Andy Strangeway via geograph

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, military | , | Leave a comment

Arctic Convoy exhibition opens at Edinburgh Castle

A reminder that the War Museum at Edinburgh Castle is hosting a special exhibition about the Arctic Convoys – admission is included with admission to the castle.

The date seems to have changed slightly compared to the advance news of the exhibition, when the opening date was given as May 24, 2013, and the date given now is today, May 29.

The museum’s web page does not indicate when the exhibition ends, but it was previously given as March 2014, so you don’t have to rush.

Then prime minister Winston Churchill admitted the mission to keep the supply lines of munitions, tanks, lorries, fuel and food open was “the worst journey in the world”, and they were dubbed the “suicide missions” by many of those who served on them, as the convoys had to run the gauntlet of submarine, air, and battleship attacks in harsh sub-zero conditions through the Arctic Ocean.

Arctic Convoys: 1941-45

Open daily 9:45–17:45

Material has been gathered from numerous sources, including private collections, loans from the Imperial War Museum, and museums in Russia. The exhibition will also include recordings of personal testimonies from surviving veterans of the convoys. It is often forgotten that many of those who took part in the convoys were not actually in the Royal Navy, but were simply merchant seamen or fisherman who had been called up for duty.

Those involved with efforts to establish a permanent museum to the Arctic Convoys, to be located at Loch Ewe, where many of the convoys formed and departed from, have also helped with contributions to the Edinburgh exhibition.

Jacky Brookes, manager of the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum Project in Loch Ewe, said: “We’re delighted the exhibition is happening and hope it will help raise the profile of getting a permanent museum”

We have had occasion to mention the museum project at Loch Ewe before:

Ross-shire museum call for Arctic Convoy veterans

HMS Scylla, a Dido-class cruiser of the Royal Navy, served with the Home Fleet on Arctic convoy duties, and is seen below while anchored on the Clyde:

HMS Scylla on the Clyde

HMS Scylla on the Clyde

Click on the image below to see a British Pathé short, shot in Scandinavian waters, and showing various shots of ships in a large convoy en route to Russia where:

Aboard the cruiser ‘Scylla’ Lieutenant-Commander McKean in a fur hat keeps a running commentary on the battle for the benefit of the ship’s company.

A column of black smoke rises into the sky after one of the ships is hit. The Scylla draws alongside the minesweeper ‘Harrier’. The two ships are lashed together while travelling at speed as the Scylla and takes on survivors of a torpedoed freighter.

The escort Commander, Rear Admiral Burnett, is put in breeches buoy and slung across to a destroyer so the Scylla can go ahead with survivors. C/U of Burnett on a ship, smiling and looking through binoculars.

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, Transport, World War II | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local brewery backs Maid of the Loch

Back in March, we mentioned the renewed funding campaign for the restoration of the Maid of the Loch, and her 60th anniversary which lands in 2013.

Sad to say that the campaign is seeking to raise some £4.9 million to complete the restoration of the much-loved paddle steamer, which means she is unlikely to return to steam in time to mark that 60th anniversary with a sail on the loch, which would have been nice.

We went into more detail in March and you can read that post here.

Almost £5 million is a big goal, and according to the Maid’s own web site, the work completed to date, which has been carried out by volunteers, has cost less than £2 million, which makes the current target look even tougher to meet.

One of the thinks that has been apparent in past years has been the lack of any backers – in terms of a corporate name.

That has now changed, with a local brewery having given its name to the effort:

Loch Lomond Brewery has produced a 60th anniversary Maid of the Loch beer, and owner Fiona MacEachern has pledged a percentage of sales of the drink towards restoring the ship.

She said: “We live in the area and the business is on the loch, so we’re keen to see the Maid run again. It’s a big part of Loch Lomond’s heritage and hopefully its future, so any way we could help we were keen to.”

Loch Lomond Brewery
Block 1, Unit 5
Lomond Industrial Estate
Alexandria
Scotland
G83 0TL

P: 01389 755698
email us: info@lochlomondbrewery.com

Via Maid of the Loch campaign backed by Lomond brewery – Heritage – Scotsman.com

While it may seem that the project has taken a long to get to this stage, it must be remembered that the Maid lay derelict and vandalised for many years after being withdrawn from service, while no-one had any idea what could be done with her. During that time, her interior was gutted for scrap and souvenirs. In part, this turned out to be helpful, as the souvenir hunters (the good ones at least) responded to appeals, and returned original parts to help with the restoration work.

See also Maid Of The Loch, Loch Lomond, Scotland,

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Arctic convoy veterans return to Loch Ewe once more – but short of one member

It’s become something of a tradition to mention the annual journey of the surviving veterans of the Arctic Convoys of World War II, who meet at Loch Ewe, the gathering point for many of the convoys just before they departed for the freezing waters on their way to deliver their cargoes to Murmansk. Between 1941 and 1945,  crews kept supplies, weapons, and ammunition flowing and through German blockades to their Russian allies in Operation Dervish, the first of the convoys in 1941.

Five years ago, it looked as if the gathering was set to end, as numbers had fallen from 70 in 2002, to 13 in 2008, and the journey to Loch Ewe was becoming a strain for some of the survivors.

This year, the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum, Aultbea, has organised the reunion as part of its Arctic Convoys Week, which run until Saturday, May 11, 2013.

View Programme in PDF HERE

Russian Arctic Convoy Museum Aultbea

It seems that more than 40 veterans, all of whom are about 90 years old, are set to gather at Loch Ewe, some of whom have not been back to the  Wester Ross sea loch since the end of the war.

Via Arctic Convoy veterans to gather at Loch Ewe – Top stories – Scotsman.com

Arctic Convoys campaign veteran Jock Dempster dies

There will be one significant absence from the gathering this years, as Jack Dempster passed away last Sunday,  just days before he had been due wear his Arctic Star medal at a public ceremony for the first time. He had also planned to wear the medal during the traditional remembrance commemorations in November, at the Cenotaph.

Mr Dempster, from Dunbar in East Lothian, had fought for decades to win official recognition for those who had taken part in the Arctic Convoys, who were considered to have been forgotten.

They had been given awards from the Russians, but the rules on such things meant they were not able to wear them at official events.

His campaign ended in success when Prime Minister David Cameron presented the newly created Arctic Star to a group of 40 veterans in March of 2013.

Via Arctic Convoys veteran who campaigned for recognition dies aged 85 | News | Edinburgh | STV

Also Arctic Convoys campaign veteran Jock Dempster dies

The funeral, in Dunbar, of Mr Dempster was also reported:

Arctic convoy veteran Jock Dempster who campaigned for medals laid to rest | News | Edinburgh | STV

A memorial lies at the north west corner of Loch Ewe, near Cove, overlooking the entrance into this sea loch, where many of the convoys gathered and departed from.

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, Naval, Transport, World War II | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Genuine ‘Whisky Galore’ bottles are going to auction

Whisky bottles

There’s not many around, and in terms of authentication, only 8 bottle survive from a total of some 28,000 cases of malt whisky where were on board the 8000-ton cargo ship SS Politician, sailing from Liverpool to the Jamaican capital of Kingston and New Orleans, struck rocks and sank off the shores of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1941, spawning the book and the  film Whisky Galore.

The islander efforts to salvage the cargo, and keep the whisky, are now legend, as are the lengths the revenue men went to in order to get it back, since the export had not paid any tax.

The last time such bottles of whisky were sold was in 1987, when eight bottles recovered then by a diver were sold at Christie’s for £4,000.

Two went to a gentleman in Fraserburgh, who has since died:

He died recently and his widow decided to sell them along with the neck tags from Christie’s and letters of authentication.

The official documents from Christie’s state: “Two bottles bottled by W & A Gilbey with original cork and wax sealed by Christie’s in plain glass with shoulder embossing stating, ‘Federal law forbids sale or re-use of this bottle’.”

Via Bottles from Whisky Galore wreck SS Politician to go under hammer | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Also Bottles from wreck that inspired Whisky Galore auctioned

The auction house estimates the value of the two bottles to be around £2,000, but I have a suspicion the hammer will fall on a larger number (hopefully not to near the bottles!)

A number of small collectible and rare items have been in auctions recently, and if the right people are there on the day, and one really wants the lot, then the number have been getting silly in some cases.

We’ll see – the result should make the news, and I will add the final figure to complete the story.

(Before anyone gripes – No, the bottles shown above are just illustrative stock imagery.)

Update

The auction has taken place and the numbers are in. And it seems that two determined bidders were after this lot, so the original estimate of £2,ooo was left far behind. Perhaps not silly money, but I was right for once.

The bottles made £12,050.

Although it’s unlikely anyone would ever have opened the bottle to have a wee dram, it’s now being suggested that it’s very likely the seals would not have prevented sea water getting into the bottle, and rendering the contents unfit for human consumption.

It seems the auction has led to the news of some more bottles from the wreck, but as has been pointed out, before anyone gets interested, or thinks of another sale, the provenance of these bottles would need to be verified.

Via Whisky bottles from SS Politician fetch more than £12,000 at auction | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Maritime | , , , , | Leave a comment

Second CalMac hybrid ferry to be named Lochinvar

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

We previously noted the imminent arrival of hybrid ferries to the Clyde, and the completion of the first of a pair pioneered by CalMac when the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00, which marked the start of  new era. The hybrids are able to carry up to 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, and travel at 9 knots.

The second of the pair has had its name of MV Lochinvar released by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and like Hallaig, was built at Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd in Port Glasgow and is due to be launched in May. Lochinvar’s route will service Tarbert and Portavadie.

The names of all ships in the new hybrid fleet will follow the first vessel, the MV Hallaig, and be named after Scottish literature.

Hundreds of people voted for the new name and Lochinvar received over 55% of the votes cast.

The name comes from an excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion written in 1808. The stanzas telling the story of “young Lochinvar” particularly caught the public imagination and were widely published in anthologies, and learned as a recitation piece by many school children.

Via New hybrid ferry named MV Lochinvar after Sir Walter Scott poem | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Sir Walter Scott, “Young Lochinvar”

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exercise Joint Warrior JW 131 2013 starts soon

The twice yearly military exercises of Joint Warrior are due to begin in various area in and around Scotland, on land and sea, are due to begin soon, and always generate interest in those keen to pop out and grab some pics of the participants, usually as they gather in the Firth of Clyde, but also as they move around the country.

The exercises usually start with the maritime element in April, and the notification is given below.

The second part of the exercise will take place in October.

Joint Warrior (JW) 131, will take place from 15 until 29 April 2013 and will comprise of a programme of exercises conducted by land forces, warships, submarines and aircraft across the UK. The maritime element (15 until 25 April) is focussed in the offshore and coastal waters to the north east, north and north west of Scotland.

See the note issued by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff…

JTEPS JW131 18 March 2013 JOINT WARRIOR 131 SUBMARINE, MINEWARFARE, LIVE FIRING AND DENIAL OF GPS TRAINING ACTIVITY:

JW112 Brief to FV Ferry – 20130301-JW131-Brief-for-fishing-vessels-and-ferries-U-SOSM.pdf  

The fun could be deemed to have started already, as Loch Striven has just seen some exercises have just taken place off the Isle of Bute:

Zak caught HMS Brocklesby on Wednesday, one of eight Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels based in Portsmouth (launched in 1982 and commissioned 13 months later), which had been joined by  HMS Pembroke, a Sandown-class minehunter based at HMNB Clyde at Faslane, for an exercise with a Dassault jet in the area off Ardbeg and Port Bannatyne, where the sound of gunfire caught folk’s attention (seems the local paper went for a look, but was way behind ‘our’ favourite photographer):

Rafale vs minesweepers

Dassault Falcon 20E – G-FRAD vs minesweepers – © Zak – Click image for original

Smoky minesweeper

Smoky minesweeper – HMS Brocklesby – © Zak – Click image for original

Best part of a week behind SeSco, the media has finally woken up and mentioned JW!

More than 5,000 UK personnel are to take part in the largest military exercise in Europe this year, the MoD has said.

Exercise Joint Warrior will test their ability to work together with the forces of nine other countries.

It will take place across Scotland from 15 to 29 April and will involve 5,250 UK military personnel.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the exercise will ensure the forces are prepared “to meet any challenge”.

“They give us the chance to test the way the different services and different nations work together, something that is vital in a multilateral world,” he added.

The exercise will involve 13,000 military personnel in total, including forces from Sweden, Germany, Brazil and the US.

There will be an airborne assault and amphibious landings as well as training in counter-insurgency, counter-piracy and interstate war.

49 ships from various navies as well as up to 40 aircraft will be involved, including RAF Tornados and Typhoons.

The Royal Marine Commandos will make a landing at Barry Buddon training camp in Angus, near Dundee.

Further activities will take place near Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, where all nearby residents have been informed and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expects it will cause “no real disruption”.

Live ammunition will be used in certain exercises, on cleared ranges where it poses no risk.

Via UK deploying 5,250 personnel for Exercise Joint Warrior (April 11, 2013.)

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, military | , , , , , | 4 Comments

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