Duchess of Hamilton
Current / Last Route
Caledonian Steam Packet Co.
HM The Queen
Harland & Wolff Ltd, Govan
Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast
3 x steam turbine, Direct drive, Triple screw. 20.65knots on trials 24/06/1932. Converted to Oil Firing 1956
Hoist & Lifts:
She had two lounges – an observation lounge on the promenade deck complete with basket chairs, and a luxurious saloon below that, forward on the main deck. Initially both ships had a small ladies' lounge on the lower deck – this later became officers' accommodation; and there was, besides, the dining saloon on the main deck aft. Additional facilities included a smoke-room bar in Old English style, and a tearoom.
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Such was the success of the new ship on the block, KING GEORGE V (1926) that as the Twenties shimmied to their end assorted Clyde shipping concerns were urgently pondering how to counter her success. The LMS Railway – owners of the CSP – considered enclosing the promenade decks of its own turbine steamers, as the biggest selling point of KING GEORGE was all that sheltered accommodation. But this was fiercely resisted by sturdy Caley skippers and others. After great hesitation the LMS Board in London finally agreed, in November 1929, to the construction of a new and rather splendid ship.
DUCHESS OF MONTROSE (1930) was, as far as hull-form and shelters went, closely modelled on KING GEORGE V and was a radical departure in other directions besides: she was a one-class cruise steamer and had an all-electric galley. Wisely, the LMS did not risk a repetition of the GEORGE's excessively exciting machinery and DUCHESS OF MONTROSE was fitted with old and proven technology: triple direct-drive turbines and a double-ended cylindrical boiler working at ordinary pressure.
She cost £77,000, breezed through her trials in June 1930 and was handed over to the CWSP in June for a schedule of Gourock-based cruises, venturing as far as Stranraer - and their first new vessel for over twenty years.
DUCHESS OF MONTROSE became a huge favourite – largely because her one-class design made her accommodation wonderfully spacious by the standards of the day - and, with other Clyde greats like JEANIE DEANS (1931) is still fondly remembered. Her impact was such that in the autumn of 2001 the delighted LMS Board decided to build another and almost identical cruise turbine for the CSP.
DUCHESS OF HAMILTON cost only £60,000 and was launched, by the great lady herself, at the Govan yard of Harland & Wolff on 5th May 1932. On her trails on 24th June her turbines drove her at a very respectable top speed of 20.65 knots. Closely modelled on her elder sister, she had two lounges – an observation lounge on the promenade deck complete with basket chairs, and a luxurious saloon below that, forward on the main deck. Initially both ships had a small ladies' lounge on the lower deck – this later became officers' accommodation; and there was, besides, the dining saloon on the main deck aft. Additional facilities included a smoke-room bar in Old English style, and a tearoom.
Wisely, however, the new DUCHESS OF HAMILTON (her 1890 predecessor was a most elegant paddler lost in 1915 on Great War service) was not an exact replica of DUCHESS OF MONTROSE.
Her hull form was rather less modelled on the KING GEORGE V; the windows were somewhat different in arrangement and the woodwork of her bridge (at this time, all CSP bridges were open and their luckless occupants exposed to the elements!) of a different colour. She had shorter, more slender funnels than the MONTROSE, with shallower black tops – and, most striking of all, DUCHESS OF HAMILTON had wonderfully high, full-sized masts, “like an ocean liner”, Richard N W Smikth fondly remembers in Iain McArthur's history of the CSP.
“The spaciousness,” write Robin Boyd and Iain Quinn, “was particularly apparent in the observation saloon at the forward end of the superstructure, within which attractive twin stairs from port and starboard sides joined into a single central stairway down to the main deck, leading to a very comfortably furnished lounge with armchairs and tables and small curtained windows – a most welcoming room if the weather were cold or raining! The observation saloon was furnished with Lloyd Loom chairs, and abaft the twin stairways was a space which housed a piano and was a favourite venue for the steamer's band to entertain the passengers...'
She was built to take the place of the old paddle-steamer JUNO (I) of 1898 on the Ayr excursion operations of the CSP, and DUCHESS OF HAMILTON became a huge favourite with travellers on those pre-war cruises from the ports of Ayr, Troon and Ardrossan.
Because she was directly owned by the CSP, too, the DUCHESS could make calls to ports like Inveraray and Campbeltown that were prohibited to the JUNO, - the Byzantine laws and deals of Clyde sailing dictated no-go zones for certain companies. Other destinations included trips round Ailsa Craig or a longer voyage to Lochgoilhead.
In 1939 DUCHESS OF HAMILTON was requisitioned by the Admiralty for service in the Second World War. She was, however, retained in Scotland and largely engaged in the transport of troops - mostly from Stranraer to Larne as there were massive movements of soldiers from Northern Ireland to Scotland, and it was this run she had the worst mishap of her career – grounding in December 1945, in thick mist, on Carsewell Point and badly damaging her bow. Towards the war's end, however, she spent more time on the Upper Clyde tendering to ships moored at the “Tail of the Bank”.
At hostilities' end she was refitted by D & W Henderson's yard and returned to Clyde service – based at Gourock and chiefly on the Campbeltown run, four days a week and in succession to the old but very fast turbine DUCHESS OF ARGYLL (1906) – finally sold in 1952 and who endured a long, nightmarish twilight as an experimental vessel for the Royal Navy at Portland till her final demise in 1970. DUCHESS OF HAMILTON. She made the first passenger sailing to Campbeltown since 1939 on 1 June 1946 – and was met by a civic reception.
Otherwise, DUCHESS OF HAMILTON had cruises to Ayr on Fridays (including a spin round Holy Isle) and, on Tuesdays, to Inveraray. Later, too, she performed weekly a weekly cruise to Arran via the Kyles of Bute. But it was Friday sailings to Ayr that witnessed her celebrated weekly races with DUCHESS OF MONTROSE, usually between Rothesay and Largs.
On 1st January 1948, in common with her likewise nationalised sisters, she passed into the formal ownership of the British Transport Commission; after assorted vicissitudes the CSP name was restored in 1957.
She enjoyed eight masters in her long career, of whom the best remembered is Captain Fergus “Fergie” Murdoch – who presided at her helm through twenty-one seasons, from 1947 to 1967, and took his favourite ship to her last lay-up berth in 1970.
In her spring overhaul of 1956, DUCHESS OF HAMILTON was converted to burn oil rather than coal. She acquired radar in 1960. In the last and most unwelcome modification her beautiful masts were in 1969 truncated to permit her passage under the new Kingston Bridge to Bridge Wharf. It quite ruined her profile and, as Bridge Wharf was closed shortly afterwards and she was in any event seldom deployed on “doon the watter” runs, the operation was entirely pointless.
The DUCHESS OF HAMILTON survived several bouts of Caley retrenchment and the purging of steam tonnage – the most spectacular falling after the 1964 season, when JEANIE DEANS and DUCHESS OF MONTROSE were among the casualties. But she was only granted two summers in STG service.
At the end of the 1970 season she was withdrawn and laid up at Greenock as an “economy measure”. Her retirement was bitterly recorded by Iain McArthur. “The STG and Caley officials let this fine Caley turbine steamer make her last sailing to Lochranza and Campbeltown on Monday 28th September without any farewell celebration, as if ashamed to divulge their real intention. In December 1970 the CSP. Co. Announced that the HAMILTON, which had received expensive remedial repairs to her propeller shafts early in 1970, was just in 'mothballs' and if traffic justified she would be recommissioned in 1972 in place of WAVERLEY.”
It was, of course, utter tosh and DUCHESS OF HAMILTON never sailed again.
Late in 1971 she was sold to J Symo of Glasgow; and shortly resold to the Reo Stakis Organisation Ltd, a Glasgow-based concern famous for their cheap-and-cheerful restaurants. The inevitable plans for static use were announced and, as usual in Scotland, they fell through. The liability of a moored steamer for business rates, or otherwise, proved one insoluble issue; the practical and safety issues of a tide-adjustable gangway, according to G E Langmuir, was another matter of difficulty and expense that could not be overcome.
Despite the best endeavours of Reo Stakis Ltd and the frantic lobbying of her many admirers, the scheme duly folded and, in April 1974 DUCHESS OF HAMILTON was towed to Troon for breaking up.