Erskine Ferry

The Clyde was originally a shallow river which could be forded at low tides and was strategically important to the Romans, who placed stepping stones to make crossings easier. In the 1770s a deep channel was cut to allow bigger vessels upstream to Glasgow.

A slipway for the new ferry was constructed which commenced operation in 1777. Initially the ferry was a punt. From 1832 to 1860 it was a hand-pulled chain and 1860 saw the first steam powered ferry boat.
Until 1904 it was maintained by Lord Blantyre when Clyde Navigation trust took over.

The Erskine Bridge opened in 1971 and the ferry ceased at midnight on 2nd July that year.

Cross the ferry for a penny

John Hood

You could cross on the Ferry for a penny (several times back and forth if you could avoid the ticket collector). At the foot of Ferry Road on the stone cobbled wet slipway was the little wooden ticket office for the ferry with its two-way turnstile system which segregated the foot passengers from the vehicle traffic. In the early evening the newspaper vendors would stand here selling papers. Waiting ferry passengers had to watch that they avoided the moving chains that whipped up and down. The ferry was also used by ‘tattie howkers’ (such as myself) crossing over to the farms in Bishopton.

Chain ferry

Jim McCall

I think people were sad to see the ferry go. We knew the people who worked on the ferry and it was gainful employment and people who were employed had worked on the ferry for many, many years. So it was kind of sad to see it... I think it was only about a penny or tuppence to get across. But it was a marvellous mode of travel... chain ferry – just to watch the chains pulling through the water and then the water drenching from these huge large chains. And of course as it got nearer the slipway the chains would tension so they always warned you to stay away from the chain because as it got to the slipway the chain would rise from the water and it would be quite a thump – exciting!

Busy ferry

Ken Miller

And of course, the ferry was very, very busy, particularly on hot summer days. There were lots and lots of cars. They queued right along the middle of the road, past the café, and then down Ferry Road. So, the café did remarkably well. The petrol station must have been ok because people wouldn’t judge the correct amount of fuel for the length of time in the queue. At the other side, they had marker posts, like milestones, and they would say 40 minutes, 30 minutes, 20 minutes and so on but you had no knowledge here. Bert in the café did very well because you would send the kids in and out.

Rowing to work

Elma Robertson

My grandmother used to live on the other side […] my father always said he was an incomer [to Old Kilpatrick] because he didn’t come to live here until he was two but my granny lived on the other side of the Clyde and my grandfather used to work in the sewage works: he drove the engine there, the train. And my granny was telling us one of the times she used to row him across to his work in the morning. And one of the times she was rowing across or rowing back and this fishing boat was coming along and they kept blowing the klaxon at her and she was getting madder and madder and signalling to them and then she realised they were calling to her. So it was a herring boat and when they came close to her they said ‘have you got a bucket or anything in there?’ and she said ‘yes’ and they said ‘well give me it over’ and he filled her bucket with herring. But when we thought on it… imagine, rowing your father across to work and back. But she was another tough one, the two grannies were tough ladies.

Going to another world

Steve Woods

The ferry was fascinating, it was like going to another world, not because Erskine and the countryside on the other side of the river was really different, but it just seemed to have a mystery to it since we could only look at it and not touch it.

Tattie howking

Jim Kirkpatrick

We all had done tattie howking, at tattie season, we used to go along to Erskine Ferry and line up and a farmer would come across from the other side of the river and pick his boys, going across on the ferry first thing in the morning and you got taken out to the fields and you lifted potatoes, got taken to the family yard at lunchtime and you could boil potatoes and milk and back. Then they brought you back to the ferry at 5 o’clock, all for the princely sum of 2 shilling and a sixpence per day.

Oil in the river

Lucinda McGinty

I don’t know whether it was a halfpenny or a penny, you went across on the ferry and it was a picnic – that was a great place for Sunday school trips, not for our church but a lot of Sunday school trips used to go there and there was a bit of beach and then there was beach further along. We all used to play in the water but when we got home we were covered in oil because the ships were still going up and down, the shipyards were busy, and there was oil and you had oil on your feet and oil on your legs and you had to get scrubbed. It was a nicer beach but when you went in the water it was still oily.

Last ferry tickets

Hector and Jessie Stewart

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