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The Scottish Islanders

The first book in a series of yachting publications from The Scottish Yachting Archives

Written by Ewan Kennedy

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A century ago, some of Glasgow’s best known business families chose to leave their home comforts behind every weekend in summer to do battle on the Firth of Clyde, racing against each other in a fleet of sailing yachts, the Scottish Islanders. Designed, built and organised to ensure absolutely level competition, winning in one was entirely down to boat handling skills and cunning. 

The boats’ seaworthiness ensured that they turned out regardless of the weather, sometimes the only fleet brave enough to do so. Their antics excited interest far beyond the yachting fraternity and were eagerly covered in the national press.

Using the Scottish Islanders as a thread, we draw together stories about the people involved in the original pre-war racing scene, including some early pioneers of women on water, such as the remarkable Udy Russell, and their intense competition, including occasional excursions abroad, where we see Herbert Thom and his crew doing battle with America’s best in Oyster Bay. Finally we look at how the individual boats have survived into our age, being restored and rebuilt to serve new generations as basic, safe cruisers, still winning races, always turning heads, not forgetting the social scene.

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About the Author

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Ewan Kennedy was born on Burns night 1948 and brought up in post-war Glasgow. The Clyde and its ships sparked a life-long interest in the maritime world. Childhood holidays in St Abbs, where he would go creeling on a 24ft Millers of St Monans open launch, fuelled his interest in small craft, the people who sailed them as well as the possibility of building his own. 

After graduating in Law from Glasgow University, Ewan practised as a solicitor in Glasgow for over 40 years, but always escaping to the West Coast and his boats as often as possible. Among his many boats is Stroma, Scottish Island Class No. 4, of which Ewan was curator and custodian for 42 years and completely rebuilt. That story is part of this book, but not included are those of the other eight boats he has built and sailed as a means to escape the pressures of work. 


Ewan’s research and writing on the history of Scottish boating is well known thanks to his blog When not writing, Ewan sails the 21 foot Iain Oughtred designed cruiser he built for himself and enjoys living on the coast of mid-Argyll. 

About the Author


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Scottish Yachting Archives, 20-23 Woodside Place, Glasgow G3 7QL

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