THE Waverley does seem to be somewhat unlucky or even ill-fated, as was her predecessor of the same name (sunk in 1940 while evacuating troops from Dunkirk). Only in service this year for a short season of two weeks and she has damaged her bow on the pier at Brodick when she “made heavy contact while berthing” ("Waverley paddle steamer crashes into pier only weeks after returning to service", The Herald, September 4).

There have been various other incidents in past years, including hitting piers at Dunoon and Rothesay, and grounding on the Gantock Rocks.

She is the last sea-going passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world, a vessel of pre-eminent national importance, and a tremendous operational asset for tourism in Scotland.

Paddle steamers are notoriously difficult to manoeuvre due to their flat bottom with almost no keel, especially in side winds and strong tides. Also the main crank is solidly attached to both paddle wheels and therefore they cannot turn independently.

Nonetheless, many paddle steamers sailed extensively and successfully for more than a century on the Firth of Clyde and elsewhere.

However, I have a major concern regarding the viewing areas on each side of the engine room.

Sometimes I feel we are too much of a nanny state with excessive health and safety rules and regulations, but here I consider we are negligent.

It is great to be able to see and smell the triple expansion steam engines in action, but the open unrestricted access to the monstrous pistons and rods less than one metre away from passengers scares me. With revellers who have had a few refreshments in the ship’s bars, or boisterous children held in their parents’ arms, someone could fall on to the wrong side of the barrier. A tragic and horrific accident could so easily happen here.

I do not advocate the observation areas being placed out of bounds, but should the viewing positions be protected by see-through metal mesh screens, or robust frameless clear plastic screens?

If it is an issue, ventilation could be improved with small holes in the screens, or even with the use of powered fans.

I hope this matter can be thoroughly reviewed and carefully risk-assessed before another accident occurs on this much-loved national treasure.

Robin M Brown, Milngavie.


ALISON Rowat makes some grave accusations regarding historical accuracy in her critique of Braveheart ("Why, after all these years, does Gibson’s epic still rankle?", The Herald, September 3). However, she does rather damage her article with a most grievous error of her own, by stating that Mel with his blue face came before Papa Smurf. To set the record straight, Papa Smurf appeared first in 1958 and therefore predates Braveheart by more than 30 years. Don't let it be insinuated that he copied Mel Gibson.

Dr Gerrit van der Molen, Bishopton.

WAS Braveheart really that big a "Scottish nationalist" movie? I beg to differ ("Braveheart hit our cinemas 25 years ago… and we’re still talking about it", The Herald, September 3).

With cardboard cut-out acting and ludicrous liberties with history – the most offensive being Irish troops joining the Scots when in reality they and the Welsh gleefully slaughtered the Scots at the Battle of Falkirk on the behalf of English paymasters as per usual – it was little more than a Disney cartoon with gore.

Infinitely superior is 2008's Stone Of Destiny – a wonderful example of truth stranger than fiction (with only very minor historical liberties taken, unlike "Braveheart") of how just about the last four people on earth you'd chose to irrevocably change history did so more in the style of Blackadder than a John Buchan ripping yarn.

It even had time to poke fun at tiresome romantic tropes, unlike Gibson, as the alpha male Hamilton does indeed "bed" the token girl Matheson – but only so she gets over the worst of a cold.

Mark Boyle, Johnstone.


I WAS interested in your report on harsh attitudes towards obese people ("Fat-shaming persists in UK as one in three blame obese for their condition", The Herald, September 4).

I have been interested in the reasons for people being overweight since I worked in the library of the Scottish Hotel School in the 1970s. I have just read Jenni Murray's book on her weight loss journey called Fat Cow, Fat Chance. According to her and the experts who helped her with research, obesity is a metabolic disease. It is more complicated than the amount of food in and the amount of energy expended. Once people get to 20 stones, its impossible to lose weight without professional help.

Margaret Forbes, Kilmacolm.


I WOULD suggest that it has been proved, over the last six months, that one of the greatest innovations introduced was the contactless debit/credit card. We have become a virtually cashless society.

Derek B Petrie, Milngavie.