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Issue 40 - Going down the toilet?

Whisky Magazine Issue 40
June 2004


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Going down the toilet?

Dave Broom gets all nostalgic while visiting the gents

So there I was in Rothesay, gazing at Zavaroni's (as in Lena) fish and chip bar. For those of you who haven't heard of the town, Rothesay is the capital of the Isle of Bute, though like most Glaswegians it was years before I discovered that it wasn't the name of the whole island. As far as we were concerned it, like most of the Clyde Coast, had one function – as a summer holiday destination.
“We're aff tae Rothesay furr the Ferr.” (*)

Actually, that's a slight exaggeration on my part. The family Broom usually preferred to sail from Wemyss Bay to Bute's neighbour, the island of Great Cumbrae (aka Millport) on the Jeannie Deans, the finest of the Clyde paddle steamers.

The same reassuring ritual was repeated every year. The shriek of the gulls, the briny metallic aroma of the steamer. Jokes, laughter. As soon as we set sail, my father would take me down to see the engines.

For years I thought this was to try and instil an understanding of engineering and mechanics into his bookish son. Took me years to work out that the engine room was conveniently located next to the bar.

The pistons, golden with grease, slid like honey; cold and supple they powered the paddles which hurled the Clyde against the viewing window. The atmosphere was close, the smell of oil, cigarette smoke, beer and the sea – a sweet smell that meant holidays. I would stay there for the whole journey, which no doubt pleased Dad, until those pistons slowed and the boat groaned against the piles of Mil...

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