Not a Watson in sight here. But the story of G.L. Watson’s rise to fame as a designer of superb yachts of all types is very much part of the 19th Century development of the Firth of Clyde as a leisure playground – when all levels of society were benefitting from the almost unique combination of Glasgow’s immense industrial power and wealth generation happening within a short train ride from an aquatic paradise.
As the Ballast Trust’s excellent blog shows, the train and steamer companies were key to the plan: encouraging riparian summer-house villa feus in previously relatively remote parts of the Firth, and enticing trippers “doon the watter” from the grime of Glasgow.
In the case of the fabulously wealthy civil engineer, George Stephenson, nephew of the great locomotive pioneer, George – of Rocket fame – he could pretty much pick his spot. So he chose perhaps the best of all, Glencaladh, at the northern meeting of the west and east Kyles of Bute. And he didn’t need to depend on the “public” paddle steamers as his mode of transport. George had his very own paddler, the George Crow, built on Tyneside in 1867, to serve as transport, tug and tender to his fleet of sailing and steam yachts.
Now this most beautiful of havens, which recently witnessed the sail past of the 2013 Fife Regatta fleet, is for sale* minus the Scots Baronial style mansion of Stephenson’s day which was demolished after WWII.
It is the dream home of most Firth of Clyde sailors.
Martin Black’s profusely illustrated biography, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, includes a wonderful early 1880s Thomas Annan image of Glencaladh with George Stephenson’s fleet of yachts crowding the anchorage, including the paddle tug George Crow. It can be purchased online here.
*[Update 8 December, 2013: presumably there is now a new caretaker for this very special piece of Firth of Clyde real estate as it can no longer be found at Savills web site.]
~ Iain McAllister ~