Lewis Girls on the boats

August 8, 2013

This article, I think from 1961, is under the title “As the World’s Press Sees Us” looks like a reprinting in the local paper of a story from the Glasgow Herald.  My mother, Catherin Macleod, was from the village of North Tolsta and according to this she was 18 with her sister Anna working on the boats on the Clyde. . .


“Lewis Girls Have Graceful Carriage,” Says Alison Downie In The “Glasgow Herald.”

Four Lewis girls who are stewardesses on the “Glen Sannox” are highly praised by Alison Downie of the Glasgow Herald in an article on “The Girls Who Serve on the Clyde Ships.”

“On board the Glen Sanox. the largest and most modern of the motor vessel fleet, which goes to and from Ardrosan, or Fairlie, and Arran.  I recently met the stewardesses for whom this is the busiest time of the year,” she writes.

“I had always vaguely supposed that all the Clyde ships were entirely staffed by day workers, who arrived on board each morning, and returned home when the shops docked each evening.  This, however, is not true of the Glen Sannox.  The girls who work on board live on board, too.  Furthermore, they are attached to the ship all the year round, except for six weeks or so in mid-winter, when she goes into dry-dock.

All From Lewis

“The four permanent stewardesses all come from the Island of Lewis – another surprise to me, since I thought the staffs for the Clyde shops would come mainly, if not exclusively, from the towns around the CLyde coast.

“Christine Murray, the senior stewardess, is a good-looking young woman of 25, with the beautiful colouring and graceful carriage with which so many island girls are endowed.  Why had she chosen life at sea?

“‘Perhaps it’s because my five brothers are all in the Merchant Navy,’  Christine suggested.  Her home is in North Tolsta, and before joining the “Glen Sannox” early last year she had tried various jobs, from bus conductress in Stornoway to hotel work in Oban, Strathpeffer and Helensburg.

“She much prefers her present job to any of the others – ‘It’s hard work, but it’s a happy life,’ was how she put it.

Two of the assistant stewardesses are sisters: Anna [left in photo] and Catherin Macleod [my mum – second from left in photo], also of Tolsta.  Anne, aged 23, started at the same time as Christine, and this year brought along her 18-year-old sister.  Their three brothers, too, are at sea.  The fourth member of this all-Hebridean team is Catherine Graham of Borve.

news-article-photo“All four girls have the soft, lilting voices of the Gaelic speaker, and one English tourist is said to have spent two entire days of his holidays sailing to and from Arran just for the pleasure of listening to them.  Difficult to check up on this tale perhaps, but it makes a good story.

“The girls are all good sailors (though Anna admitted to having felt a bit queer for the first few days).

“The stewardesses are on duty from 6am, helping to prepare and serve the breakfast on the first trip of the day, until the ship ties up at Fairlie pier about 8.30pm.

“The “Glen Sannox” sails to and from Arran four times per day in the summer season, and with a dining room which holds 70 and a tea-bar which seats many more, there is plenty to be done in the way of serving meals, setting tables, and washing up.

“When the ship is carrying the maximum number of passengers – 1,100 – during the peak holiday periods, then life on board is hectic, and the girls lose all count of the numbers of cups of tea served and the quantities scones and cakes scoffed by their customers.

“But in the autumn and winter life is less of a rush, and there is more time to chat to the regular travelers, and to explore Arran when the ship lies there over the weekends – a very different Arran from the ones seen by the summer crowds.”