Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

City of Adelaide – Arrival, September 25, 2013

Stage 1 arrival at Chatham on Thursday, September 25, 2013.

First video I found of the event:

And pics to go with it:

City of Adelaide at Chatham | Thames Pics


September 26, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

City of Adelaide – departure Friday, September 20, 2013

Since Channel 5 and ‘Monster Moves’ appear to have shown no interest in a fairly unique and large-scale move – how many other clipper hulls are likely to be move from Scotland to Australia this century? – I was pleased to come across this video which shares a look at events on the day.

City of Adelaide – September 2013 from Dougie Coull on Vimeo.

If you’re not familiar with the long story behind this day:

Clipper Ship ‘City of Adelaide’

September 24, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

City of Adelaide (The Carrick) could (and did) sail from Irvine, September 20, 2013 (18th, 19th CANCELLED due to weather)

Update: Departed, Friday, September 20, 2013.

Underway at lunchtime, around 1:30 pm local time.

Destination: CHATHAM ETA: 2013-09-26

Follow progress here Live Ships Map – AIS – Vessel Traffic and Positions

Just input/select Dutch Pioneer in the ‘Go To Vessel’ box near the top left of the screen.

Revised plan now 11:00am-1:00pm BST on Friday 20 September 2013

UPDATED Thursday 19 SEPT at 5:15pm: Strike Two! Thursday’s attempt was abandoned. The weather prediction was for the wind and swell to decrease, but as the high tide was approaching the wind was strengthening. The tug master had taken the decision to leave two hours ahead of the scheduled time, but the swell and wind were too great even by that earlier time. The forecast is for improving weather tomorrow (Friday) when the next (third) attempt will be made to leave the river. Departure from Irvine is now scheduled for 11:00am-1:00pm BST on Friday 20 September 2013.

Revised plan now 12:00pm-2:00pm BST on Thursday 19 September 2013

UPDATED wednesday 18 SEPT at 11:30am:  Disappointingly, a storm has developed overnight in the Irish Sea of Beaufort wind scale 7-8 (gale force) winds. The barge voyage is very sensitive to such conditions and so the departure has been delayed another 24 hours. If the forecasts in next 12-24 hours show the storm has passed, the departure from Irvine will be 12:00pm-2:00pm BST on Thursday 19 September 2013.

Via Final Departure of World’s Oldest Clipper Ship from Scotland – 19 September 2013

Scottish weather, don’t you love it?

My saying to anyone who asks is “Give it another 10 minutes… something you like will be along soon.” 🙂

Original plan (18th)

There has been little news on the final stage of moving City of Adelaide from Irvine harbour after the remains were successfully loaded onto a barge and floated in the harbour area last week.

This morning, I spotted a news item which informed us as follows:

IT brought thousands of settlers to Australia in the 19th century, now, the world’s oldest surviving clipper ship will itself be brought thousands of kilometres across the sea to a new life in Adelaide.

The only surviving sailing ship to bring migrants from Europe to Australia, the City of Adelaide will depart from Scotland on Wednesday’s high tide, about 9pm (AEST).

It first heads to London for a formal farewell at Greenwich, on the River Thames, where it will moor for several days alongside its sister ship, the world famous Cutty Sark.

It will then travel on top of a large barge after being fixed to a steel cradle designed to protect the fragile timbers of the hull on the journey to Australia and is expected to arrive at Port Adelaide between February and April next year.

Via Clipper begins final voyage to SA | The Australian

Of course, this still depends on the circumstances prevailing at the planned time, and tide, weather, and other circumstances could see this change at any time.

Pic below shows the remains shortly have being transferred to the barge (thank Brian) and if it looks a little top-heavy and maybe not too secure, don’t worry, the Dutch engineers in charge seemed to know what they were doing (I notice a lot of commenters in forums discussing this complimented their work), and a number of steel braces were welded into place around the hull, in order to stabilise it.

September 18, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Clydebank Titan crane designated Engineering Landmark

One of my regrets is the fact that there were no digital cameras when I was doing my first ‘real’ job. Because my education bridged what I might describe as ‘old and new’ electronics, I was always ending up inside dying Scottish factories, patching up their ancient electronics if possible, or replacing them with something newer in order to gain a few more years production at minimum cost – nobody could afford new plant (except whisky, which seemed immune for a time.)

Nowadays, it would be easy to pocket a small camera and record the places where I worked, but when I was wandering around those factories that did not realise just how little borrowed time they were on, taking pics with film gear would not really have been practical, and I’d probably have thrown out on my ear.

Today, I think the factories I have in mind are all gone, literally razed to the ground in most cases, so no chance of even going back for exterior pics.

One such place is/was John Brown Engineering in Clydebank, birthplace of ships such as the QE2 (I used to walk through the sheds there, where the patterns were stored in case a part had to be re-manufactured), and latterly a manufacturer of odd things such as floating power plants driven by jet engines. Apparently these were popular in the Middle East, and floated on rivers.

I really wish I had pics of these now, because places like Brown’s and the Rothesay Docks on the Clyde have been cleared of almost all evidence of their past.

One exception is the last Titan crane standing in Clydebank.

It has survived the now obligatory clearing and tidying that means we have little industrial heritage, since anything that might upset a sensitive eye, or a tourist, gets obliterated nowadays.

I have to confess to never having noticed the Titan crane when I was in the yard, but it was probably at the end I didn’t get to.

The Titan was built in 1907, by Sir William Arrol & Co, and cost £24,600.

Used in the construction of many of the largest ships ever built on the Clyde, such as the Cunard liners, it was also used for many of the Navy’s battleships, and survived the Clydebank Blitz undamaged, as the enemy’s raids missed it completely.

In 2007, the listed structure was refurbished as part of a £3 million tourism project, and became a museum dedicated to the history of shipbuilding in Clydebank. Fortunately for visitors, the works included the installation of a lift, since the Titan’s platform is some 150 feet (46 m) above ground. So visitors can see some spectacular views as well.

International Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark

The crane has now been recognised as an International Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark, an award given by the American Society of Civil Engineers Board of Direction and endorsed by the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineers, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Last year (2012),  it received the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage award.

It becomes  the fifth “engineering landmark” in Scotland along with the Forth Rail Bridge, Forth and Clyde Canal, Caledonian Canal, and Craigellachie Bridge in Aberlour.

Via Titan Crane joins Eiffel Tower on list of world engineering landmarks | Glasgow & West | News | STV

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

Go to St Kilda from Skye

St Kilda isn’t the easiest archipelago to get to – you can read some of the items we’ve come across here: Secret Scotland – St Kilda

The distance (about 40 miles) means the journey takes some four hours, assuming the weather doesn’t delay you, and even if you set out in good weather, there’s a chance that things won’t be so good when you get there, and you might have to turn back with your goal in sight. Cancellation is a real possibility.

So, the arrival of a second regular service sailing there has to be good news.

Sailing from Uig on the Isle of Skye, the new service will compete with existing services operating from Harris.

Although described as a “new” service, it seems that the route is a historic one that operated many years ago.

Day trips

The service allows for day trips:

At the time of writing, these are on offer during May, June, July, August, and September, and other dates by arrangement. The cost is given as £230.

Departure at 7:30am, and return time 8-9pm, allowing approximately 4 hours on Hirta, main Island of the St Kilda archipelago.

World Heritage Site

St Kilda is a World Heritage Site (dual, both natural and cultural), managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), and the potential increase in visitor numbers may be a cause for concern.

Paul Sharman, a ranger with NTS, said: “I think it is a good thing that people are coming to experience this unique world heritage site.

“But most people stay in the village area, which does cause some wear and tear.”

Via Historic St Kilda link to Skye restored

Further details of the service and other trips can be found here:

Go to St Kilda from Skye

Go to St Kilda brochure.pdf

The Good Old Days

I had a look for some recent pics of trips to Hirta, but I chose the pic below (from 1965) as a better example of ‘Compare and Contrast’ between then and now.

The owner’s original caption probably sums things up far better than anything I might add:

We had had an uncomfortable 17 hour journey from Mallaig in the fishing boat with only a National Trust for Scotland tea-towel displaying a map of Scotland and the NTS Properties for finding the route. It was good to be on the land although it seemed to be rocking and rolling for half a day.


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

Scotland/Stornoway plans to profit from Climate Change

I’ve been through more than my fair share of battles after being accused of nor believing in, or denying, the existence of Climate Change or AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). (Anthropogenic – man-made.) That’s because I’ve made no secret that I’m a Climate Change or Global Warming Sceptic.

Unfortunately, one of the tactics used by the genuine deniers, who seem to have some sort of politically motivated agenda, is to include sceptics in their numbers, and further confuse the subject.

I hope I don’t need to define ‘denier’ for you, but that to the deniers I do have clarify ‘sceptic’:

  1. Someone who is undecided as to what is true and enquires after facts.
  2. Someone who habitually doubts accepted beliefs and claims presented by others, requiring strong evidence before accepting any belief or claim.

For what it’s worth, in reality I’m no longer a sceptic, as I’ve seen so much tripe come from the denier’s camp as they distort and misrepresent the data now available (and  repeatedly attempt capitalise on mistakes and errors made in early work on the subject, repeating it today as if it was still valid, or had never been publicised) that I see little point in even giving them the time to hear their nonsense.

Deniers will deny the following, of course, but the rest of us who still have a brain cell or two left to rub together like having a look at this, it’s a handy summary:

119 One-Liners to Respond to Climate Science Myths | PlanetSave

Stornoway Port Authority considers Arctic port hub

Another nail in the denier’s coffin was driven in by Stornoway Port Authority (SPA) last month, when it announced plans to make its harbour a key destination for freighters, which it suggest could be stopping there to refuel:

Chief executive Jane MacIver said new jobs could be created for people living in the Western Isles.

She said: “The vision long-term is for Stornoway to become a European Arctic gateway hub for shipping.

“We are bang in the path of any ship that is coming from China or the Far East across the Arctic.”

Via Stornoway Port Authority in Arctic hub plan

The idea comes after a Russian tanker made the first commercial sailing direct from Norway to Japan via the Arctic Ocean.

The route is normally frozen for most of the year, and although it melts in during the summer and autumn, this is not usually sufficient to allow the passage of large ships.

Of course, if the deniers (NOT the sceptics! – remember the wardens on parade in Dad’s Army) are right, this plan will never come to pass.

Modern Antarctic Convoy

Modern Antarctic Convoy via SXC

Found an interesting pic for this one – wrong end of the World, but then again, for the moment at least, I’m hardly likely to come up with a pic something that is not happening… yet?: Ships positioning to make approach through 70 miles of Antarctic ice to deliver supplies to McMurdo Station, while refueling (sic) tanker is finding a place to sit in the ice.

Well, no refuelling tanker will be needed in the Arctic if the good folk of Stornoway get their way 🙂

August 5, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bullet holed boat found off Muck set to be another unfinished news story

Bullet hole

While I have to be fair, and note that some stories seen in the news will never have a conclusion, it’s still unfortunate that many of them are never seen again or followed up.

One such story provides an example which I doubt will ever be heard of again, even if an answer is found, as the folk who though the original story will have forgotten all about by the time it is solved.

Last month, there was a story which was almost headline-grabbing, as it announced the discovery of a bullet-riddled boat somewhere off the island of Muck – the discovery was actually made back on July 3.

The RNLI said that the crew of the Tobermory has found the upturned 14-foot dinghy, and that it appeared to have bullet holes in it, and that an attached sticker indicated it was  a US Coastguard-certified boat.

In a statement, the MCA said: “It appears that the dinghy has a US Coastguard sticker on it and the level of marine growth suggests that it has been in the water for some time.

Via Owner sought for Muck’s ‘US boat with bullet holes’

I’m not complaining.

Rather, I’m seeking to make the point that it would nice if reporters were obliged to follow up all such stories, and find out if they were resolved in a reasonable time, or were closed out, and would never be heard of.

I read a lot of news articles, and over time, find it disappointing that I never learn of the outcome of most of them, even if they are vaguely intriguing, as in this case.

I could, and do, follow some of them up, but even with the capabilities of the various web search tools now available, all I usually come up with is confirmation that the most recent story on the subject is the original one, and nothing appears later, as a follow-up or answer.

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Maritime | , , , | 2 Comments

Over-active imaginations see Nazi links in new Northlink Viking logo

Northlink Logo to 2013

Northlink Ferries logo up to 2013

Sometime I have to recover from the effects of seeing some stories that make it into the news, either through having to wait for the fits of laughter to subside, or for the bandages to come off if I fell off my seat and landed badly.

I think both came into play when I looked in disbelief at stories of some really ludicrous suggestions made by  people who must have had some agenda or grievance against Northlink Ferries – this could surely be the only motivation, unless they are deluded and need to be locked away for their, and our, safety.

Seen below is the recently introduced Northlink Ferries logo.

To anyone reasonably same and rational, and still in possession of most of their marbles, this probably looks something like the popular vision of bearded Viking in his horned helmet, pointing the way… somewhere.

But according to some, that would be wrong.

What you are actually looking at (to them at least) is some sort of homage to, and symbolism of, Nazi beliefs.

Well, if ‘they’ say so, ‘they’ being Dr Victoria Whitworth from the University of the Highlands and Islands, a lecturer in Nordic Studies based in Orkney, and Gareth Crichton, chairman of the Orkney Tourism Group.

Me? I’d keep a careful eye on that pair if that’s what they see in the new logo.

I’m surprised they didn’t publish an analysis of the former logo, explaining how the ‘N’ follows from stylised ‘SS’ formed by the sig runes in the organisation’s insignia (I’m better at this lunacy that the professional). It wouldn’t take much effort to morph the stylised ‘S’ into the ‘N’ of the logo. And that has been around for years, yet not a cheep from anyone who has been offended, or any tales of people refusing to travel on a ferry sailing under that symbol:

SS Insignia

There’s probably little to be gained in explaining to either of them that the Nazi salute was carried out using the RIGHT arm (Magnus is pointing with his LEFT arm), and that anyone issuing such a salute by pointing rather than holding their hand flat with all the fingers straight and in line would have been shot. Well, maybe not shot, but probably disciplined for making such a sloppy salute which would have been considered an insult to the Fuhrer.

Via Northlink defends Viking ‘Nazi’ salute logo – Transport – The Scotsman

As you’ll see from the Scotsman article reference, Northlink have little or no time for the claims of this pair, and have brushed off their comments, pointing at their own research into acceptance of the new logo by people who actually matter – their customers.

I also let this story lie for a while, to mature and either have a follow-up, or never be heard of again. Looks as if the latter option has prevailed.

It also gave the Comments section which follows the story in The Scotsman to build up a decent number of responses.

It’s pretty clear that the general opinion of the Nazi link connection is one of ridicule and disbelief.

The Viking image myth

What is actually more interesting here is the continuation of the horned helmet myth, and how little interest that generated.

Although it was pointed out that this is a “schoolboy howler” in the original text, nobody has complained about it, such is the extent to which this image has been carried on through the years. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that people started drawing Vikings wearing horned helmets because the villains in a popular Wagner opera wore such helmets.

In fact, having taken a quick look at the background to the horned helmet (which can be traced even further back than I indicated above), it seems much of our concept of the Vikings, their habits, and their appearance is flawed, based more on imaginative writing an, more recently, Holywood, than on facts and reality.

Northlink Magnus

July 3, 2013 Posted by | Maritime, Transport | , | Leave a comment

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:


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


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.


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

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