A Look Back to the 1989 Season

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

A Look Back to the 1989 Season

The 1989 season for Waverley and Balmoral was highly successful – Waverley recorded 192,000 passenger journeys while Balmoral recorded over 109,00 giving a total of over 300,000 across both vessels!

The season was Waverley’s 15th and Balmoral’s 4th operating under the PSPS banner, and was blessed with some excellent weather and several key ‘first’ events including the reopening of Clevedon Pier. With record revenue a surplus was duly produced ending the 80s on a high. Looking back 1989 was clearly a season of great ambition.

The 1989 season started for Waverley on 17th January when she departed Milford Haven (with a car aboard) for Glasgow where she arrived the following day. While in Milford Haven a substantial amount of work had been carried out with new toilets installed in the after deck shelter and new crew rest and washing facilities installed on the main deck. 1988 was in fact the first Christmas that Waverley spent away from the Clyde.

Waverley arrived in Glasgow to find a new purpose-built office and workshop facility awaiting. The new offices were part of a housing development and are still used by the Waverley companies today. The housing developers, Wimpy Homes, hired the ship for a downriver cruise to mark the opening of the development on 25th April on what was the first passenger sailing of the year. The official opening of Waverley’s new headquarters was performed by Glasgow’s Lord Provost.

Page 3 of the Winter 1989 edition of Paddle Wheels records the highly successful 1989 season for Waverley and Balmoral.

Waverley visited the Western Isles during the early part of the season where she called at Lochmaddy, Tarbert (Harris) and Stornoway. Waverley’s ‘first’ arrival at Stornoway was at 3:30 am after a light run but her first departure a few hours later attracted over 500 schoolchildren.

Waverley’s first call at Tarbert on Harris. Stuart Cameron

During mid May the Scottish Branch of the PSPS arranged a special charter to mark the centenary of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co Ltd. To help mark the occasion Waverley called at Gourock and Wemyss Bay before heading up the Kyles.

Waverley then spent a month operating on the Bristol Channel in a season which attracted a number of private charters. She also called at a new berth at Sharpness (the Old Dock). Clevdeon Pier saw a Grand reopening on Saturday 27th May where Waverley offered three cruises culminating in a firework display. It had been 19 years since the last sailings from the pier and the town celebrated in style with a Victorian themed party.

When Waverley returned to the Clyde in June she settled into her weekly sailing programme and enjoyed excellent weather throughout July. Unfortunately the August weather was more changeable and resulted in a whole week of sailings from Ayr being cancelled – the first time a week had been lost from the town during her preservation career.

A poster promoting Waverley’s sailings from Glasgow in 1989. PSPS Collection


Waverley’s south coast programme got under way at the end of August when she was on charter from Torquay. Other charters were operated for the Swanage Steam Railway and the Round the World Yacht Race where she followed the yachts as far as the needles. Balmoral also attended the event and both ships were to be found operating on the south coast at the same time where on Monday 4th September both visited Yarmouth at the same time with Waverley berthing on the inner harbour while Balmoral berthed at the pier.

Waverley saw another ‘first’ on Monday 11th September when she called at West Cowes, using the Red Funnel Pontoon, on charter to the Missions to Seamen from Worthing.

Waverley berthed at Town Quay, Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight during the 1989 season while Balmoral is seen in the background berthed at the pier. Russell Plummer

Another example of a poster from the 1989 season with this one promoting sailings from Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Note that Balmoral operated a special sailing to celebrate her 40th Birthday with a cruise from Yarmouth on the ‘waters of Howards Way’. (Howards’ Way was a TV drama series broadcast on BBC 1 in the late 80s). PSPS Collection


Balmoral celebrated her 40th anniversary in 1989 and travelled widely around the U.K. Unfortunately her season started with some difficulty owing to work required to re-align one of her engines following the fitting of some new plates near the stern. The additional work meant that her early season programme of cruises in the south east had to be cancelled.

In mid-May Balmoral found herself on the east coast of Scotland visiting Grangemouth, Bo’ness, Burntisland, St Andrews, Anstruther, before heading further north to Inverness.

Balmoral at Grangemouth in 1989. Gordon Wilson

Balmoral’s first call at Bo’ness on 20th May 1989. Stuart Cameron

Balmoral departs Anderston Quay, Glasgow during her spring visit in 1989 with the new housing development and Waverley Offices in view. Stuart Cameron

During May 1989 Balmoral undertook some unusual and sailings on the Clyde. One such sailing was from Renfrew to Carrick Castle in Loch Goil which attracted over 500 to land at the small pier adjacent to the castle buildings.

Balmoral at Primrose Quay, Renfrew. Gordon Wilson

Balmoral made another first in sailing from Garlieston on 17th June when she took 630 passenger across to the Isle of Man for a day trip. Balmoral then returned to Scottish waters in September and operated on the Clyde. On her final weekend there was a change of master (and nationality) where in Loch Riddon the St. Andrew’s cross was taken down from the jackstaff to be replaced with the Welsh flag to signify that Captain Ted Davies had taken command from Captain Steve Michel. Both men played a significant part in Balmoral’s operation in support of Waverley from 1986 until 2012.

Balmoral approaches Tighnabruaich during her 1989 autumn visit to the Clyde with Captains Steve Michel and Ted Davies on the bridge wing. Gordon Wilson