THE story was told in 1943 of some naval ratings sitting on a train, discussing what they were planning to do after the war.

All but one said they were looking for land jobs. “Not me”, said the exception. “I’m sticking to the sea”. He was greeted with shouts of disbelief, but he persisted. “I am”, he said. “I’m going to try for a job on the Renfrew Ferry”.

The Renfrew-Yoker ferry has had an astonishingly long history.

There was a time when horses that were ferried across the river on the hoof were supplied with socks, which had to be pulled on so that they wouldn't skid on the moist stones of the slipway. Ferrymen hired out the galoshes for a ha’penny.

That latter observation was made by Glasgow Herald writer William Hunter in May 1984, just before the Renfrew-Yoker ferry was about to come to the end of its chain.

The service had been particularly popular with drivers during the car boom years of the 1950s and 1960s, and it had been the work vessel of the great shipyards and of the Singer factory and the Babcock and Wilcox works in their heyday.

But the service had been losing money. “Ferries”, noted Hunter, “have been torpedoed from the air and from underwater. Bridges on top of the road and the Subway terminals are the enemy”.

The Erskine ferry had ceased in 1971. In 1980 the Kelvinhaugh service to Govan followed suit.

From now on, the chain service between Renfrew and Yoker would be done by two new launches from Ardrossan, but it would not be the same.

“It is a way of life that is going”, Hunter was told by Archie Robertson, from Skye, (main image), the master of one of the three crews of four that staffed the boat round the clock.

The service was taken over by a 50-passenger ferry, The Renfrew Rose, and its sister vessel, Yoker Swan. The former made its last sailing in March, 2010 (a Strathclyde Partnership for Transport video can be seen on YouTube), prior to a new commercial operator taking over the route with a modern 12-seater boat.

The old ferry is pictured above in February 1956.

Read more: Herald Diary