FROM the Glasgow shipyards to the paddle steamers going ‘doon the watter’ on high days and holidays, the River Clyde has a fascinating history.

Some of that golden era is captured in an interesting photography exhibition which recently opened at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine.

Window on the Clyde: Family Photos of the River’s Golden Age brings together photographs taken by three generations of the Paterson family, between the late 1800s up to the end of World War II.

Together, the pictures tell the Clyde’s story through the unique perspective of one Scottish family.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Glasgow-born amateur photographer Robert Beatty Paterson was the last generation to capture the maritime scenes.

The exhibition also tells the story of his near fatal experience aboard a torpedoed Merchant Navy boat during WW2.

Also on show are sketches Robert drew of paddlesteamers and yachts as a hobby; additional family photos on loan; and a 1940 Merchant Navy uniform and historic objects from the heyday of the pleasure steamer from the Museum’s own collection.

Born in the city in 1917, Robert moved to the family home, Beach House in Dunoon’s West Bay, as a small child and there began his life-long personal and professional maritime connection. He went to school at Glasgow Academy and studied at Glasgow University.

When a commission to join the Royal Navy in 1941 was rescinded due to discovery of his acute colour blindness, Robert became a radio officer in the Merchant Navy.

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When his vessel, SS Chumleigh, was torpedoed on November 5 1942 while serving on a Russian convoy, Robert Beatty Paterson found himself navigating his lifeboat towards the Arctic island of Spitsbergen.

After weeks in an open boat in freezing conditions, the exhausted and injured crew took refuge in a trapper’s hut. Over the coming days, shipmates passed away and the health of the survivors weakened, until they were finally discovered by the Norwegian Resistance. Robert, who weighed only four and half stones, nevertheless recovered and provided a communications network for the Resistance Movement on the island.

After the war, he joined the Sandbank yachtbuilding firm of Morris & Lorimer Limited, becoming managing director until his retirement in 1978. Many significant yachts were built under his experienced eye, including the yacht Stornoway, which at 67 feet remains the largest wood sailing yacht built on the Clyde since the Second World War.

In 1989 Robert loaned 60,000 images to the Scottish Maritime Museum which now form the Paterson Photography Collection, on view to the public for the first time.

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Some of the fantastic images on display include pictures of Clyde puffers unloading at Dunoon coal pier and PS Gael berthing at Dunoon as people watch on from the rocks, taken around 1900; PS Laguna Belle berthed on the south quay of the James Watt Dock in Greenock around 1930; and SB Archibald Russell being towed by the Steel & Bennie Limited tug Warrior on the Firth of Clyde around 1920.

Window on the Clyde: Family Photos of the River’s Golden Age runs until November 3. Entry to the exhibition is included in general museum admission. For more information, visit

*Do you recall happy holidays doon the watter? Did your family have connections to the shipyards?

Email your memories and photographs to or write to Ann Fotheringham, Features Desk, Evening Times, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 3QB.