I was raised on stories of the Clyde boats such as the Rockabill or the Tuskar. It wasn’t just because they passed the house on a regular basis, but they were major employers in the area, and were vital when it came to the export of cattle and other goods. We can’t ignore that there was also the connection to emigration and the loss that was felt when people went away, or the joy they felt on return, whether holiday or for longer. My father tended to take either of these ships as they sailed to Liverpool, where he was based sailing on English ships. My mother of course was more familiar with the Great Western. a rival company, that sailed to Fishguard and hence, for her at least, London.
|Rockabill at Waterford circa 1954
Via Andy Kelly (Shortall CQ 47)
The Clyde boats of my parents generation of course represented the last of the ships and a fine coasting tradition that spanned well over 100 years. The Clyde Shipping company
started out life, unsurprisingly I guess given the name, in Glasgow on the banks of the River Clyde in 1815. As the company prospered it entered the Irish market in 1856, initially to Cork but quickly to other ports such as Waterford. It was the backbone of the Irish goods trade, particularly in the South East, and Waterford as a result of its location was a pivotal hub. In 1912, the company bought the rival Waterford Steamship Company.
|Clyde Shipping poster from early 1900’s
featuring the SS Tuskar. Via Paul O’Farrell
To get a sense of the scale of the business here’s an advert from the Cork Examiner in 1878. (2)
CLYDE SHIPPING COMPANY
Regular Weekly Service between Cork, Skibereen, Schull, Bantry, Castletown-Berhaven, Valencia, Cahirciveen, Dingle &c., &c., by the Steamers “Rockabill” and “Fastnet”. For particulars of Sailings see separate Bills.
STEAM COMMUNICATION BETWEEN CORK, WATERFORD, DUBLIN, BELFAST
The Cheapest Route for Goods to and from the above Ports and Towns adjacent thereto.
The New and Powerful Screw Steamers
COPELAND, SANDA, ARKLOW, WICKLOW, TOWARD, PORTLAND,
RATHLIN, DUNMORE, FASTNET, ROCKABILL
or other First-class Vessels, are intended to sail without Pilots, and with liberty to tow vessels and to call at any Port or Ports in any order in or out of the customary course, to Receive and Discharge Cargo, or for any other purpose whatsoever.
FROM CORK TO WATERFORD
TUESDAYS, 3rd, 10th, 17th and 31st December and on MONDAY 23rd December
FROM CORK TO DUBLIN via WATERFORD
TUESDAYS, 10th and 31st December
Via WATERFORD & GLASGOW,
TUESDAYS, 3rd and 17th, and Monday 23rd December
FROM CORK TO BELFAST, DIRECT
MONDAYS 9th and 16th December, and SATURDAYS 21st and 28th December
FROM CORK TO GLASGOW
Tuesday, 3rd Dec., via Waterford…12 Noon
Friday, 6th (direct) …2pm
Monday, 9th via Belfast…2pm
Tuesday, 10th, via Waterford & Dublin …3pm
Friday, 13th (direct) …5pm
Monday, 16th via Belfast …9pm
Tuesday, 17th, via Waterford …10am
Friday, 20th, (direct) …1pm
Saturday, 21st, via Belfast …2pm
Monday, 23rd, via Waterford …3pm
Saturday, 28th, via Belfast …5pm
Tuesday, 31st, via Waterford and Dublin …9am
|Clyde Offices as they look today
|Company motif over the upper windows
FROM WATERFORD TO CORK
Wednesdays, 4th 11th, and 18th December …1pm
Thursday, 26th December …1pm
Fridays, 6th, 13th and 20th December …1pm
FROM DUBLIN TO CORK (Direct)
Saturday, 7th December …8pm
Saturday, 14th December …4pm
Saturday 21st December …7pm
Saturday, 28th December …4pm
FROM BELFAST TO CORK, via, GLASGOW
MONDAYS, 2nd, 23rd, and 30th December.
WEDNESDAYS, 11th and 18th December.
FROM GLASGOW TO CORK
Every Monday, via Waterford …1pm
Every Wednesday, via Waterford …1pm
Every Friday, via Dublin …1pm
Except during Christmas and New Year Holidays, when Sailings will be
Tuesday, 24th December, via Waterford …1pm
Friday, 27th December via Dublin …1pm
Tuesday, 31st December via Waterford …1pm
Caledonian Railway to Greenock, 6pm
Cabin. Return, Deck
Cork to Waterford … 9s … 14s … 5s?*
Cork to Dublin … 10s … 15s … 5s?
Cork to Belfast … 17s 6d … — … ?
Cork to Glasgow … 17s 6d … 25s …. ?
Children above (?two) and under twelve years of age half fare
Return Tickets, available for One Month, not Transferable
Note.- The Clyde Shipping Co. insure all goods shipped by this Line of Steamers at 3s 4d per (cont.?) to Traders having yearly agreements, and 5s, per (cont?) to occasional shippers. Values to be declared at time of shipment. Forms and information to be had at the offices.
For Rates of Freight , &c., apply to
Clyde Shipping Co., Queen Street Limerick;
Clyde Shipping Co., Custom House Quay, Waterford;
Clyde Shipping Co., 21, Eden Quay, Dublin;
James Maddock, Newport [Mon.];
J.C. Pinkerton. 10 Victoria Street, Belfast;
Clyde Shipping Co., Custom House Place Greenock;
Clyde Shipping Co., 2, Oswald Street, Glasgow;
CLYDE SHIPPING COMPANY
Patrick’s Quay, Cork
The above gives some sense of scale to the operation. On the list of ships it was noteworthy that the two ships most closely recognised with Waterford, the Coningbeg and Formby
did not feature. Their dual loss in 1917 would rock the city and harbour. I was interested to note that the company had the right to sail without pilotage into and out of ports, normally a good revenue for the port, and one that would not be lightly waived. Also intrigued to see how prevalent it was for steam ships to offer towing facilities. Obviously the golden age of sail was coming to an end, but the need for becalmed sailing ships to get to port or sea was a lucrative business. Perhaps the most interesting point I found was the willingness to call to any port to discharge or take cargo. It might explain why a ship of coasting size was at Cheekpoint in the photo below.
|Unidentified large ship at Cheekpoint circa 1900
NLI Poole Collection
It was also interesting to see so many familiar ships names in this very old notice. Needless to say, the Rockabill
mentioned in the ad was a different vessel. From the 1860s, there was a tradition of naming ships in the company after lighthouses, or lightships. In all 32 names were used, some on up to five different vessels(3). As can be seen the Waterford company offices were located on Customs House Quay.
The offices finally closed in 1967 and I believe the last sailing of a Clyde boat from the city, at least under the company flag was Rockabill
in 1968 (but I’m happy to be corrected on this point). Ending a very proud tradition indeed.
* Some parts of the paper were difficult to read, if not illegible. I’ve added a ? where I was unsure of the text, and left it blank where I was totally unsure.
(1) McElwee. R. The Last Voyage of the Waterford Steamers
(2) Cork Examiner, 13/12/1878, P.4
(3) Here’s a full list of the company ships
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