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:

Dates for winter 2017/2018  season are:

October  Monday 16th    Ian Quinn ‘A JOURNEY DOWN THE CLYDE’ Slide show

November Monday  20th  Maurice Napier  ’ Peru to Argentina’

December  Monday 18th  David Fleming-Miller ‘The Merchant Navy in WWII’
January    Monday 15th    Peter Gifford  “Southampton and the Solent”

February   Monday 19th   Robert Warnock ‘The Lure of the Red Funnel -  MacBrayne’

March     Monday 19th      AGM  and  Members Night

April         Monday 16th     John Ives  ‘ Rosyth’

For Firth of Clyde Meetings  2016 -17 see Firth of Clyde page

Reports of our current meetings 2017 - 18:

November 2017

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.

October 2017

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. 

Notes for 2016 -17

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  16 members attended the Branch AGM on 20 March 2017 at which all officers were re-elected. Following the AGM John Ives presented his slideshow covering a trip to Dresden and Lake Lucerne. Firstly, on the paddle steamers on the River Elbe, he then moved on to Lake Lucerne to take in the parade of paddle steamers where the whole fleet cruise around the Lake to thank the local people for contributing to the refit of one steamer each year. This is the only time the five steamers are seen together on the Lake. Everyone thanked John for an excellent presentation.

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.


Due to illness our original talk was replaced with an annotated power point presentation by Iain McGeachy entitled ‘Ships of the Forth (2010 – 13)’.  Iain took us from Leith on the south bank, passed 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.  Our chairman thanked Iain for a show which was very well received.

2016 December

Our December meeting took the traditional format of Members’ photographs, with the 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 Dowie.  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.

Reports of our 2015 - 16 meetings

April saw a slideshow by Graeme Dunlop which detailed the revolution that took place with the amalgamation of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and David MacBrayne’s in 1973, to form Cal-Mac.  He focussed on the first seven years of the company which saw rapid change to meet the growth in car ownership.  The development of Ro-Ro ferries throughout the Clyde and Western Isles meant new ships, conversions of earlier vessels and the building of linkspan terminals.  Graeme gave a vivid account of the changes with excellent photographs of the new and of the last of the turbine steamers which had dominated since the start of the century.

March. It was a pleasure to welcome Maurice Napier back with a talk entitled ’What was her name?’ A fascinating set of photographs of vessels from all around the world of ships which had either undergone reincarnation, or as in some cases dramatic metamorphose: from war-time Escort Carrier to freighter, container ship to cruise liner or pusher tug to multipurpose work boat. What gave the talk an added dimension was that many of the vessels had been built locally or elsewhere in Scotland or been regular visitors.  As can be imagined there was much audience participation.

February.  A good turnout was present for our AGM which had been brought forward from March. The current Committee and Office Bearers were reselected and thanked for their work; next year’s programme was presented. We moved into cinema for the WSS Power Point ‘Ships of the Sixties and Seventies’ by Sid Belham of the Bedford Branch. This show took as round the coast of England from Littlehampton, via Tilbury, Southampton to Preston, illustrating a wide range of shipping, including liners of companies that were once household names.  As one member remarked ‘How good to see real ships!’

January.  Our first presentation of 2016 was by Iain Quinn with a show entitled 'Doon the Water Nostalgia' .  Iain is the co-author of a number of books on Clyde steamers and has a fine collection photographs.  He used these to give a most excellent evening covering the period 1958 – 75: the final years of the pre-war fleets, the new post war vessels and included many of the other vessels to be seen on the journey down the river from Glasgow to the sea. The photographs were enhanced by his knowledge, humour and fund of anecdotes.  We finished, appropriately, with some fine steamer sunset shots


In December Robert Warnock took us on a trip on Fred Olsen’s Venus from Aberdeen to Newcastle in 1975, while Douglas Yuill took us on a similar trip from Granton in 1998. We sailed up the Tyne, observed a range of shipping and changes over time. During the break we enjoyed homemade mince pies from our Chairman who made the long trip from Fife to ensure our traditional fare.  We enjoyed slides from Donald Macdonald.  Douglas took us back to 1965 Methil when it was a lively coal port. We finished with a number of film clips from John Ives

October: Our year opened with a well presented and researched talk by Tom Martin and Frank Hay entitled ‘The Briggers - the story of the men who built the Forth Rail Bridge’. Tom lead with a fascinating account of the Briggers, recruited from across Europe, the skills and jobs, the health and safety record, including the first medical recording of ‘cassions disease’ - ‘the bends’. 



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