For the first meeting of Cumbrae Historical Society of the New Year was held on 9 January, members being treated to a splendid presentation by local man Bill Gilpin about his life-long passion for model-ship making.

His passion is for metal-cast models to 1/1200 scale. He explained the history behind ship models which could be traced to the Pharoahs but, from 1782 onwards ship models were employed by navies for war gaming, refining tactics and strategies for wars at sea.

In 1898, Fred T. Jane, perhaps familiar as the originator of the publication “Jane's fighting ships” which is still produced, developed a naval war game, publishing in 1901 his “Hints for playing”; a game that could involve 75 players! In 1904 Jane's set of 12 wooden models for his “Naval Kreigspeil” game cost £3.3s, approximately two week's salary at that time. Several manufacturers in the USA and in Germany followed suit, eventually making die-cast models in metal. In the UK, in the 1940s-50s Airfix became the first to make and sell die-cast models in plastic and a whole new craze was born. Folk might recall the Clyde Model Dockyard in Argyll Arcade in Glasgow which became the Mecca for modellers. Small-scale models were cheaper and could be bought for pocket money. Bill explained the process he uses for producing his own waterline models in white alloy; Clyde steamers, warships, gunboats all feature in his fleet and he has even devised his own naval board war-game based on an hexagonal grid that the navy has used. It is little-known that the naval strategy for the Falklands War was devised using Bill's models of Clyde steamers as substitutes for warships.

The next meeting will be on Monday 6 February when Professor Alan Riach (Glasgow University) will talk on “The Kilmarnock edition of Robert Burns' poetry.” All welcome.