WHEN Robin ‘Hurricane Hutch’ Hutchison first started work on the Clyde, the river was in its heyday.

The Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s ships were a busy part of life for dozens of communities and holidaymakers.

By the time Captain Hutchison retired from the company - then CalMac - in 1995, life on Glasgow’s mighty river was very different.

Hurricane Hutch’s Top 10 Ships of the Clyde is the author’s personal perspective on a fast-fading area. Scottish actor Bill Paterson, currently the voice of BBC One’s The Repair Shop, narrates the audio book version, which is released on Thursday (April 8).

Following a career in the Merchant Navy, Hutchison became one of the youngest captains to serve on the Firth of Clyde.

Captain Hutchison c1960 on the PS Caledonia

Captain Hutchison c1960 on the PS Caledonia

His lovely book is a wry look at life on the Clyde – a perspective on the river, its people and its ships, including iconic vessels such as PS Waverley, TS Queen Mary and MV Hebridean Princess.

In the book, Captain Hutchison – he got his nickname because the weather always seemed to take a turn for the worse whenever he set sail – reveals where his love of the water began.

“I first went to sea in 1942 as an enthusiastic deckhand aged nine – I was working the creels on small fishing boats out of Dunure on the Ayrshire coast whilst on my holidays,” he writes.

Captain Hutchison recounts the changing world of the Clyde in his 35 years on the river with warmth and humour.

Captain Hutchison on his 80th birthday

Captain Hutchison on his 80th birthday

“My time on the Clyde …bears witness to this transformation: on the one hand the gradual decline of the paddle steamer with its elegant dining saloons, linen tablecloths, silver cutlery and genteel tea rooms, offering lazy summer cruises through stunning scenery; and on the other, the emergence of a fleet of powerful roll-on, roll-off car ferries capable of carrying the largest possible numbers of cars and commercial vehicles in the shortest possible time,” he says.

“But don’t get me wrong, this is not simply a celebration of the past and a teary-eyed wallow in nostalgia…in many respects this was an exciting time of change.”

Captain Hutchison’s favourite ship was the Maid of Argyll, a passenger ferry commissioned in 1953 and built at A&J inglis of Glasgow.

It ran the 10am weekday service from Craigendoran to Rothesay, connecting with the train from Glasgow and calling at Gourock, Dunoon and Innellan.

“An unheralded but additional ‘ghost’ service was the eight o’clock Bun Run,” he recounts. “Every morning come rain or shine, thousands of sausage rolls, fondant fancies, empire biscuits, coconut slices, cream doughnuts and mini apple tarts were transported over from CalMac’s own bakery on Gourock pier.

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“The bakery was a major part of CalMac’s operation back then and at one stage it employed more than 100 people in its efforts to ‘feed the ships’. Perhaps only in the west of Scotland could you imagine a dedicated ‘bun boat’ being carefully timetabled as a vital element of a day’s maritime operations….”

Writing the book made Captain Hutchison reflect, he says, on why people have such fond memories of the Clyde and its ships.

“It’s simple – the Clyde was a world class holiday destination,” he says. “That’s surely as true today as it was then.”