In previous articles I described how in 1890 the Caledonian Railway established a rail-head at Montgomery Pier from which its luxurious and fast new paddle steamer Duchess of Hamilton sought to scoop up the Arran traffic.

In so doing, the Caley was all conquering.

Buchanan’s Scotia that then ran in connection with the rival, Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR), from Winton Pier was totally outclassed with a resultant loss of three quarters of its business.

The Sou’ West had to do something and quickly to regain as much of the Arran business as it could. That something was the splendid, sumptuous, fast paddle steamer Glen Sannox, the first of the name.

The Sannox and the Hamilton competed Hell-for-leather, but the Sannox had the edge, being a knot and a half faster. The 85-minute journey time between Glasgow and Brodick was no less than three quarters of an hour faster than today’s schedule.

In 1905, the Caley decided to even the score by ordering a fast turbine steamer from the yard of Wm Denny and Bros at Dumbarton. The new ship was launched on March 10, 1906 and named Duchess of Argyll.

The new steamer followed the innovative design pioneered by the Denny yard in the form of the very first steam turbine passenger ship King Edward of 1901.

Duchess of Argyll was powered by three direct drive steam turbines that gave her a speed of 21.65 knots on trial, making her one of the fastest of Clyde steamers and more than a match for the G&SWR Glen Sannox.

The new Caledonian Steam Packet (CSP) flier was 250 feet in length, by 30.1 feet beam, measured 593 gross registered tons and had a maximum capacity for 1,612 passengers.

As built she followed the fashion of the CSP paddle steamers with the promenade deck extended to the bow but un-plated above the main deck bulwarks for some 25 feet aft of the stem.

After a decade and a half of intense and glorious, but wasteful, competition, the Sou’ West and Caley entered to a co-operation pact whereby one steamer would provide the service from both Ardrossan railheads, the vessel to be provided in alternate years by the CSP and G&SWR. In accordance with this arrangement Duchess of Argyll was taken out of service for 1908.

For the 1910 season, when again she was not required for the Ardrossan – Arran station, her open main deck forward was plated in and port holes cut. It is in this condition that she is best remembered and which allowed her to sail on the more exposed services such as to Stranraer.

In 1912, when again not required at Ardrossan, she was employed on the Greenock/Gourock to Arran via the Kyles of Bute run.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, from February 11, 1915 Duchess of Argyll was requisitioned for use as a troopship, making 655 trips across the Channel, steaming for a total of 71,624 nautical miles and carrying 326,608 men.

In the course of these duties, she came alongside the sinking transport ship Archangel and saved 1,600 troops.

On another occasion, she took the transport ship, and in peacetime Clyde passenger steamer, Queen Empress in tow after that ship had collided with a destroyer.

On March 2, 1919, Duchess of Argyll was returned to the Caledonian Steam Packet Company.

Duchess of Argyll resumed her peacetime sailings for the 1919 season, again taking up the Arran via Kyles of Bute run with which she became closely identified for the next decade and a half.

In 1936, following the winding up of Williamson-Buchannan/Turbine Steamers, Duchess of Argyll took over the long cruises to Inveraray and Campbeltown formerly operated by that company.

During the Second World War she remained in service on the upper Firth of Clyde mainly on the Gourock-Dunoon run, but also Wemyss Bay-Rothesay and occasionally Fairlie-Arran. She also undertook tendering and troop transport duties for the Admiralty.

In the summer of 1945, with the cessation of hostilities and the removal of the anti-submarine boom at Dunoon, Duchess of Argyll sailed between Gourock, Dunoon and Rothesay and in 1946 took up the Gourock-Rothesay-Kyles of Bute run.

She did likewise in 1947, but in addition provided an extra Saturday Campbeltown sailing.

In 1950 the old ship provided railway connections in the upper firth and in 1951 sailed between Gourock and Arran after which she was withdrawn from service, and laid up in the Albert Harbour, Greenock.

In February 1952, she was sold to.the Admiralty and after conversion was used for experimental work with the Underwater Detection Establishment at Portland until scrapped at Newhaven in 1970.

All in all, while the Duchess of Argyll cut her teeth on the Ardrossan-Arran run, she spent most of her long and eventful 64 year career elsewhere.

However, her influence on the Ardrossan-Arran run was significant in another way, in that she was the model for the turbine Glen Sannox (the second of the name) that made the Ardrossan-Arran run her own.