Rough Scan
 

 

 

 



 
        
       
        THE PENNY STEAMERS
         
         
        FOR years an’ 
          years the cheapest sail in Glasgow, BAILIE, wis the crossing the ferry 
          for a bawbee, but as ye were nae suner in that ye were oot again, it 
          wis hardly worth coonting.  Noo 
          we can get no a bad sail for a penny; an' last week Betty an' me took 
          advantage o't.
        I hae had mony 
          a quiet lauch tae mysel' this last six months aboot thae up an' doon 
          ferry boats.  I don’t know why 
          they ca’ them “up and doon” boats, for the ane we were in went as smooth 
          as the “Columba,” an’ she’s as smooth as a railway train.  
          For the last 20 years the makin' o' thae boats had been urged 
          on the Clyde Trustees.  Mr
        Seath, 
          the builder, advocated them first; ithers took up the cry, an’ everybody 
          said the experiment should at least be tried.  
          The Clyde Trust, hooever, werena going tae bother their heids 
          aboot ony sic notion.  If the public liked tae agitate, let them agitate 
          — it wis gude for them to hae something tae agitate aboot.  At lang an’ last, the Trustees condescended 
          tae try the experiment, bit they made mair work about their energy, 
          an’ their foresight, an’ their solicitude for the folks’ wants, an’ 
          talked mair aboot building fower wee steamers at a total cost a’ ten 
          thoosan’ pounds, than the Anchor Line — a private firm — wid mak’ aboot 
          building an American Liner costing twa hundred thoosan’.  
          Ye wid hae thocht, BAILIE, that the idea cam’ oot o’ their ain
        heids, an’ that they expected the hale o’ our swarmin’ population tae 
          fa’ doon on their knees an’ cry oot, “Great is Diana o’ the Ephesians!  
          Long live the Clyde Trust!!“
        But I’m wan’ening, 
          my Magistrate, excuse me.
        Tae resume.  
          Betty an’ me gaed awa’ up tae Stockwell Brig, an’ efter creeping 
          through between chains — that look’t for a’ the worl’ as if the Trustees 
          wanted to keep passengers oot — we stood on the Quay, and, as the boat 
          wis hauf an ‘oor an’ ten minutes late, we had time tae look at the awfu’ 
          bungled landing place.  This 
          said landin’ place had spaces between the original stane quay an’ the 
          new wudden ane, big enough tae let thro’ a guid-sized bairn.  Jist as I wis telling the polisman that I hoped 
          ane o’ the Clyde Trust wid put his leg thro’ some day an’ then it wid 
          be made mair secure, up comes our gallant craft.  
          Man, BAILIE, it wis a rale nate wee thing.  It had a wee funnel, pented like a yacht’s, an’ a wee wheel, an’ 
          lifebuoys an’ a’ thegither, an’ it was jist the verra size an’ shape 
          for the purpose.  In fac’ I don’t 
          think I could hae built a better boat mysel’!  
          We scrambled doon the unsafe stairs, an’, peying oor penny, we 
          walked on board an’ sat doon tae admire the scenery.  
          Tae the richt wis the imposing raw o’ herring carts opposite 
          the Fish Market, wi’ pownies o' a' colours in the rainbow — except, 
          maybe, green; tae the left great bings of causeway stanes, waitin’ for 
          Councillor Martin tae inspect.  Behin’ us wis the Gorbals; before us wis the
        Briggate; above us the blue firmament; an’ ablow us an’ roon aboot us 
          wis — man I can hardly say what it wis — it wis for a’ the worl’ like 
          the soapy sapples mixed wi’ blue ye see the servant lassies poorin’ 
          oot the bynes efter a hard day’s washin’.
        Oor gallant 
          Captain having put his spy gless tae his eye an’ seen there wis nae 
          mair passengers coming doon the Stockwell, ordered the bow-line tae 
          be thrown aff, an’ the engineer to tak’ “two turns ahead,” an’ amid 
          a waving o’ pocket nepkins, an’ kind adieus frae the polisman, wha seemed 
          visibly affected, we steamed oot intae the deep.  
          I got up beside the funnel an’ struck up wi’ my fine deep,
        roon, 
          base voice—
         
        Fareweel! 
          fareweel my native hame,
        Thy 
          heath-clad hill an’-
         
        A’ the rest 
          were beginning tae jine in when the mate cam' ower an’ said they didna 
          alloo ony party sangs!  I suppose 
          he thocht I wis a Home Ruler.
        On we careered, 
          cleaving the blue waves asunder, an’ sending up tae the heavens an incense 
          that made mony a strong man tremble.  
          (This being my first sail this year I got quite poetical, ye’ll 
          notice.)  A gentleman sitting next me compleened aboot 
          the perfume, but I explained tae him that it was the saline particles, 
          and that there wis nae pleasing some folk.  
          Plenty gaed a’ the way tae Gourock or the Lergs, I said, tae 
          enjoy it, an’ here we had it brocht tae oor vera doors.  
          Anither ane said it was ozone, but I declared that it didna matter 
          what German name they gaed it, there it wis. As I hate arguing,
        hooever, 
          I gaed awa’ ower tae the Captain, and says I, “Hoo’s her heid
        noo, Captain?“ 
          — “North by South, sir."
        "Ah weel, 
          jist keep it that way.  Engines 
          working smoothly?" - "Fine," says he.
        "Hoo many 
          revolutions?" - "I never counted them, sir."
        "But ye 
          should coont the,!  Great criftens; 
          sich carelessness!  I'm sure 
          at a' the trial trips that's the principal thing.  
          Tae think that we hae come a' the way frae Strathbungo, an' put 
          oor lives in yer haun, as it were, an' ye don't ken hoo mony revolutions 
          ye mak'.  Hae ye the full equipment o' life buoys, etcetra, 
          etcetra?" - "We have, sir"
        "Board 
          o’ Trade certificate for the Home Trade hung up in a conspicuous place 
          according tae law — at the heid o’ the cabin stairs?”  “Yes, sir.”  “Imphm! jist 
          so.  Ye’ve a screw at baith en’s, 
          I notice.  Man, it wid be a grannl’ 
          joke for ye tae work the any forrit an' the ither back, an' see which 
          wis strongest.  We wid get a fine lang sail for oor money then.” 
        The Captain said if I cam’ doon some day efter the thrang was 
          ower he micht dae that, “but the noo,” says he, “we’re ower heid and 
          ears.  Ye wid think a’ the mill 
          lassies an’ rag merchants in the toon were rinning tae get a sail wi’ 
          us.”
        "Ah! it’s 
          a gran’ thing,” says I; “it’ll save mony a doctor’s bill tae them.  When they get a snuff o’ that ozone intae their 
          nostrils it’ll mak’ them go hame wi’ their cheeks like yellow roses 
          — if they manage tae get hame at a’.  
          There’s naething like a sea voyage for onybody that’s confined 
          in a toon.  If we canna a’ go awa’ tae the Mediterranean, 
          we can at least sail doon Glasgow harbour.  Ony stowaways this voyage, Captain?“ — “Aye; 
          I think I saw a wee fellow squeezin' in between twa men withoot paying 
          his penny.”
        "Ach,
        weel, 
          say naethin’ aboot it; if he canna muster up the penny, he maun be poor 
          indeed!  I mysel’ am ane o’ the 
          part owners of this boat, an’ if I’m content tae let him go, ye needna 
          fash yen thoom aboot him.  Very 
          likely he’ll be awa' up at the bow the noo, wi’ his heid ower the side, 
          the same as ye see them at the Fair — an’ he’ll be as prood as the Prince 
          o' Wales.  Whare’s your compasses?“ — “Oh, we never need 
          compasses; we’re never oot o’ sicht o’ lan’.”
        “Ah, wait a 
          wee!  When November comes you’ll 
          maybe be oot o’ sicht o’ land often.  
          It’s whiles gey thick up here.”
        We noo arrived 
          opposite the Custom hoose—a standing monument to the niggardly way Government 
          — baith Liberal an’ Conservative — deals oot money tae Scotland.  
          Then we anchored a wee at anither specimen o' the Clyde Trustees' 
          ideas o’ a landing stage, and took in a wheen mair passengers, an’ then 
          steamed oot frae below Jamaica Brig.  Emergin’ into the open, there burst on oor 
          delighted view the noble Bridge Wharf, wi’ its elegant waiting-rooms, 
          an’ its wudden steeple — the look o’ which, as the showmen say, “must 
          be seen tae be believed.”  The 
          hauf o’ the wharf wis covered wi turnips jist discharged frae some Heelan’
        gabbart.  Noo, turnips are no’ a bad thing in their ain 
          place, but I don’t think the passengers’ wharf is that exac’ place.  A stranger sitting beside me says — ”What ruin 
          an’ desolation is this?”  “That, 
          sir,” replies I, “is oor wharf — the wharf for the steamboat accommodation 
          o’ six hundred thoosan’ folk.  Ye’ll 
          notice the steeple hisna got its annual spring coat o’ paint yet.  But time enough.  This is only April, an’ the Clyde Trustees'll no hae met tae see 
          if they can afford the fifteen shillings needed.  Man, it’s a gran’ thing tae hae an easy mind — the Clyde Trust hae 
          that -' moons may wax an' wane,' as the poet says, but the Trustees 
          go on in their ain sleepy-heided way.  
          What’s your next port, Captain?”
        “Springfield 
          sheds, sir.”
        “Jist so.  
          Noo,” I resumed, “we’re a’ agreed that some crossing is needed 
          doon aboot here.  In fac’, a 
          subway has been talked aboot, an’ the Clyde Trustees have discussed 
          the question for years, looked at it upside doon, an’ back, an
        fornit, 
          an’ turned it sideways, bit it seems as faur aff as ever.  Here we’re coming tae Govan noo.  D’ye no stop here. Captain?“ — “No, sir.”
        “An’ hoo’s that?  
          A toon a’ fifty thoosand inhabitants, a' engaged in shipping, 
          an’ yet ye don’t stop.”  “Weel, ye see, sir, the Clyde Trust ha’ena 
          made up their minds yet whether tae hae a floating wharf like at Liverpool, 
          or a stane quay like at Greenock, or a wudden ane like at Dumbarton, 
          or whether they’ll jist let the folk soom oot tae us; but it’s expected 
          they’ll hae it a’ settled aboot the New Year.”
        “Oh dear! oh 
          dear!” aa~s I; “tae think they couldna build a’ the bits o’ wharfs that 
          wis needed as quick as Mr Seath could build the steamers.”
        Here a gentleman 
          jined in an’ said, “Oh, but ye ken the Clyde Trust are never up tae 
          the times; they don’t anticipate public wants; they follow up behin’."
        “Ay, an’ geyan 
          faur behin’," says I: as I looked at the jiners working awa’ at 
          the Finnieston wharf—the only decent ane they hae got — I thocht I wid 
          gie a guess:  “If a shipbuilder 
          tak’s sax months tae build four harbour steamers, hoo lang should the 
          Clyde Trust tak’ tae nail a wheen planks thegither — we’ll no speak 
          about the pentin’, or providin’ sates, or aa waiting-room?” 
        At this a wee laddie wi’ a red heid that been listening tae us 
          cries cot, “A year.”  An’ I gied 
          a penny and a clap on the back for  
          being sae smart.
        Then we a' gaed 
          doon below intae the natest wee cabin ever saw, wi’ wee windows tae 
          keek oot at, an’ sates, an’ waxcloth, an’ a’.  
          They hae anither cabin at a penny extra for the gentry, but as 
          I didna like that “penny plain — tuppence coloured” kin’ o’
        wark, I 
          didna patronise it, an’ I didna see ony ither body patronisin’t.  
          Next we cam’ tae Partick wharf - where the illegal penny was 
          exacted for sae mony years — the cross-river ferry boats, much in need 
          o’ a coat o’ pent; and then awa’ tae Sawmill Road, the extent o’ oor 
          pennyworth; and a brave pennyworth it wis.  
          Betty an’ me were exhilarated wi’t; and if a wheen extra boats 
          were built, so as tae rin ane every ten on fifteen minutes — for folk’ll 
          no wait half—an-hour — I’ve nae doot the steamers wid be a success.
        The boats are 
          extr’ornar swift wee things; an’, BAILIE, Mattie and you should tak’ 
          a trip.