"By Steamer to the Ayrshire Coast" by Alistair Deayton provides a marvellous trip down memory lane, though to be fair there are fewer and fewer people around able to remember in any detail even the latter part of the period covered, from the middle of the 1800s to the middle of the 1900s. The book covers steamer operations to and from the southern and eastern shores of the Clyde Coast from Greenock down as far as Stranraer. Services to the islands of Bute, Cumbrae, Arran and Ailsa Craig are also covered.
The book has a brief introduction, but for the most part it comprises wonderfully evocative old images, many from contemporary postcards, of the settlements and islands served by the steamers, and of the ships themselves. Black and white, sepia and colour images are mixed together in an effective way, and the addition of posters advertising the services and handbills giving timetables and fares really help bring this increasingly distant era to life. Greenock to Ayr for 2 shillings and 3 pence return (about 11p) in 1895? And that was in the more expensive saloon. It was only 1 shilling and 6 pence (7.5p) in the cheaper fore-saloon. This was an age when class mattered, and it was also an age when 2s3d was probably a large amount of money to many who might have wanted to take advantage of the excursion.
As you browse through the images, it is easy to become transported to a very different world. In an era before package holidays to Spain became available, Clyde coast beaches tended to be much busier than they are on all but the warmest of summer days today. Villages and towns, on the other hand, could appear very empty in the days before wall-to-wall parked cars became the norm. And the steamers themselves appear at times to have been extremely busy, with decks all but invisible beneath the sea of be-hatted humanity. This is a companion volume to "By Steamer to the Argyllshire Coast" by the same author.