2020 AGM Minutes

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

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Draft Minutes of the 33rd Annual General Meeting of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society held at 14:00 on Saturday 24th October 2020.

Present: John Allen (Chairman), Myra Allen and 185 members by proxy. 44 members participated on-line or by telephone.

Reports were made available to members through publication on the Society’s website of the formal written report and a video presentation in elaboration of this. Matters reported to the meeting by video are summarised in the minutes in italic.

1. Welcome

The Chairman welcomed all participants to the meeting. He thanked Peter Morley for his work as Interim Chair and particularly for arranging on-line meetings for the National Council, Executive Committee and this Annual General Meeting. He noted that it had not been possible to hold branch meetings, but the Society had remained active and he paid tribute to the hard work of National Council members. He particularly thanked Myra Allen for her work producing four issues of Paddle Wheels and Gordon Wilson for arranging its distribution to members.

The Chairman was very pleased that Douglas McGowan MBE had agreed to be President of the Society and invited him to address the meeting. Douglas McGowan said he was delighted and honoured to have been invited to be President. 2020 had been a challenging year and it was remarkable that both of the Society’s paddle steamers had been in service. The incident at Brodick with Waverley emphasised the importance of safety. He paid tribute to those responsible for the progress with Maid of the Loch. He concluded by reflecting that the Society had achieved a lot and had much to be proud of, but preserving paddle steamers did not get any easier.

The Chairman noted that the Report of the Council of Management had been supplemented by a video presentation by Council that members had been able to view on-line during the previous week and this would not be repeated at the meeting.

2. Apologies for Absence

Apologies were received from two members.

3. Minutes of the 32nd Annual General Meeting

The Minutes were approved and signed by the Chairman as a true record.

4. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising not covered by the agenda.

5. Reports of the Council of Management and Reporting Accountants and the Society’s financial statements for the year ended 31st December 2019

Speaking to the Report of the Council of Management Martin Longhurst reported that Keith Adams, John Allen, Deryk Docherty and Chris Larkin had joined Council during the year and David Haddleton and Andrew Munn had retired. Paul Semple had stood down as Chairman on 31 January 2019, on becoming General Manager of Waverley Excursions Limited. He had been succeeded by Peter Morley as Interim Chairman until 28 March 2020, when John Allen had been appointed as Chairman.

During the year £2.3 million had been raised for PS Waverley, with over £800,000 of this coming from the Society and its members. As a result of that national reserves had fallen from £714,000 to £371,000 during 2019. Income had been £503,000, of which 77% was donations, and expenditure was £862,000, of which 93% was to support Waverley.

The Independent Examiner had submitted an unqualified report on the Society’s accounts for the year.

David Shirres asked whether the Society branches could hold Zoom presentations to maintain engagement with members. The Chairman said this could be done, but probably not until early 2021. It needed to be decided whether this would be done on a national or branch basis and there was a need to sort out the logistics.

It was reported that the current Covid appeal in support of Waverley had so far raised £41,000, including gift aid. Over 90% of members have renewed their subscriptions, with more still coming in.

The Chairman expressed his sincere thanks to Martin Longhurst for his work on behalf of the Society, applying his considerable knowledge to make sure that financial, charity and company law requirements were properly managed.

6. PS Kingswear Castle Report

John Megoran reported that Kingswear Castle’s refit had been interrupted because of Covid restrictions, but she had returned to service on 6 July. Passenger numbers were limited and other covid precautions were in place.

Kingswear Castle was being operated as the Dart Company’s main vessel, running one hour harbour cruises from Dartmouth Sundays to Thursdays. A premium fare was no longer charged to travel on her.

It is now proposed that the rebuild will be done over three winters starting in 2021/22. Funding of almost £0.5 million is available, but it is likely that as much again will need to be spent. It is planned to launch a fund-raising appeal in spring 2021.

John Megoran remained very pleased with the way in which the management and crews of the Dart Company look after and run Kingswear Castle. They could have chosen not to operate her this season and to use a motor vessel that is cheaper to run.

The Chairman said that he had had a most pleasant cruise on Kingswear Castle at the start of the season and he thanked John Megoran, Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust and the Dart Company for their work.

John Megoran said that Kingswear Castle was now laid up for the winter and he thanked the Dart Company for the magnificent way in which they operate the vessel.

7. PS Waverley Report

Paul Semple reported that Waverley had spent 206 days in the ship yard, from January to August 2020, for renewal of her boilers and other boiler room equipment. The cost is slightly over £2.3 million, which is 4% over budget. The increase is down to additional work, particularly renewal of steelwork, being necessary as well as Covid restrictions. Contractors stopped work during lockdown and there was a reduced workforce in the shipyard and among Waverley Excursions staff.

The 2020 timetable was drafted in March and included all areas Waverley had visited in recent years. Planning was at an advanced stage, with crew being recruited and marketing plans being developed, when lockdown was imposed. Some staff were furloughed from April, with engineers returning in June and office staff in July.

An initial timetable was developed for a short Clyde season from 21 August to 6 September, but this was extended to 12 September to meet demand. The first sailing was on 22 August and 5,670 passenger journeys were made on twelve sailing days. Fares were 15% to 20% higher than in 2018, with revenue comprising £92,000 operating, £23,000 catering and £11,000 from the shop. Operating costs were broadly covered by revenue, catering will show a loss and the shop a small surplus. Weather was variable, with one sailing cancelled because of strong winds. Covid safety precautions were taken.

The bow landed on the concrete ramp at Brodick on 3 September, causing some passengers to fall. 21 reported injuries on board and three presented to hospital after disembarking. The bow will be repaired during dry docking in spring 2021. The cost of repairs will be met by insurance and the insurers will handle compensation claims. Internal and Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigations are under way, but will not report for several months.

Waverley returned to Glasgow on 9 September for lay up. Deck furnishing has been moved into the saloons and plywood sheeting laid to protect floors. The winter refit has started; it is envisaged that some steel renewals to the sponsons will be required.

Paul Semple stressed that no surplus had been generated to meet the cost of the refit, hence the need to launch the Covid appeal. It is intended to publish a book about the boiler room refit.

The Chairman thanked Paul and all at Waverley Excursions, Waverley Steam Navigation, the ship’s officers and crew for their efforts. It was remarkable to have been able to sail on Waverley in 2020.

Paul Semple thanked Society members for their support at a critical time.

8. PS Maid of the Loch Report

John Beveridge summarised what had been achieved over the 25 years since Loch Lomond Steamship Company had acquired Maid of the Loch. Work and visitor numbers had been significantly affected by the 20 weeks lockdown. Restoration of the dining saloon is the current scheme. Work completed includes rebuilding and refitting the windlass and fitting out the bridge as a shop.

The most important project is repairing the slipway and constructing a new cradle, but funds need to be raised for the work. This will allow Maid of the Loch to be taken out of the water for the hull to be checked. This is critical to getting her back in service.

Sir Boyd Tunnock CBE is the charity’s new Patron and John Beveridge looked forward to making good progress with him on the Maid

The Chairman said he was sorry not have been able to visit Balloch to see the engine back in steam. He congratulated John Beveridge and everyone at Balloch on what had been achieved.

9. Other Paddlers

Medway Queen: The Chairman reported that he attends Board meetings of Medway Queen Preservation Society and that Pam Bathurst from the Society attends PSPS National Council meetings. Work on the vessel resumed on 6 July, following lockdown, and she re-opened to visitors in September. The focus is on preserving her as a static venue.

The Chairman added that he had attended the flag unfurling by Lord West of Spithead that marked Medway Queen being the South East Region Flagship of National Historic Ships UK in 2020.

Monarch: The Chairman reported that Monarch continued to operate from Wareham.

10. Archive

David Green reported that work on the Archive had continued from members’ homes. Donations had included postcards, tape recordings, photographs and technical drawings. Purchases had included black and white negatives, including Bournemouth Queen at Poole early in the 1930s.

Cataloguing of various collections had continued, as had scanning images and plans. Re-organisation of the postcard and ticket collections and the Council of Management papers was complete, with work on the post-war handbills almost complete.

A start has been made in preparing archive material for display on the Society’s website, with thanks to Roy Tait for his help with this.

David Green concluded by thanking all those who assist with archive work, particularly Richard Clammer, Richard Danielson, Jon Joliffe, David Lawrence, Mike Tedstone and Richard Turner.

The Chairman thanked David Green and his team for their work, and said that this should extend to David’s wife, Heather.

11. Receipt of Reports

The Chairman reported that there were no proxy votes against accepting the Reports of the Council of Management and Reporting Accountant and the Society’s Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2019. The Reports were, therefore, accepted nem con.

12. Membership of the Council of Management

It was noted that:

  1. Myra Allen, Richard Clammer and Paul Semple had been re-elected unopposed as Members of the Council of Management;
  2. John Anderson had indicated his intention to resign as an elected member of Council at the conclusion of the Annual General Meeting thus creating a vacancy; and
  3. Martin Longhurst has proposed John Allen to fill this vacancy and he has been elected unopposed.

The Chairman thanked John Anderson for his work as a National Council member for many years, including a long period as National Secretary.

The Chairman also thanked other members of the National Council who had been of great support to him, and Greg Beecroft who kept minutes for the Council.

Following the closure of the formal meeting there was an Open Forum:

Colin Nimmo asked whether an overseas branch might be formed to reach out to members in the USA and Canada. The Chairman thought that this might be difficult to arrange, but introduction of on-line meetings would enable members from any part of the world to participate. David Shirres noted that on-line meetings he arranged for other organisations attracted overseas members.

Colin Nimmo expressed concern about the safety of Waverley sailing between Scotland and the South Coast and suggested that the Society issued rail tickets or organised special trains for members to travel from London for a trip on Waverley on the Clyde. The Chairman said that Waverley only sails to and from the south when it is safe to do so.

Colin Nimmo asked whether the Society had considered buying the paddle steamer Der Majesteit, which is for sale in Rotterdam. The Chairman said that the Society was probably fully-stretched by the paddle steamers it was already supporting. Colin Nimmo said that he intended to inspect the vessel to see if it could be adapted for UK use and would be pleased to be accompanied by a Society representative.

Bill Knox thought that there would be a loss of support if Waverley remained confined to the Clyde. Jeremy Gold asked if it would be viable to operate away from the Clyde in 2021. Paul Semple said that Waverley Excursions will endeavour to operate the ship to the full.

Nigel Coombes asked whether Waverley Excursions could give practical and moral support to MV Balmoral. Paul Semple said that use of Balmoral would make it more likely that piers Waverley could use would remain open. Waverley Excursions was already providing support as far as possible, providing financial information. It was noted that the Bristol Channel branch meets on board Balmoral, there are regular reports on the vessel in Paddle Wheels and that MV Balmoral Fund Limited is an allied body of the Society.

Douglas McGowan said he was delighted to see the care with which Waverley was laid up, with the protection of furniture and floors. He congratulated Paul Semple and said this was real preservation. The Chairman endorsed these remarks.

Iain Quinn asked about problems with piers, particularly Helensburgh, which had been lost for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. Paul Semple said that a local group supporting renovation of the pier had decided to disband, but Waverley Excursions was continuing to engage with Argyll & Bute Council. Substantial work is required to the pier, but discussions continue. It was noted that the Society is a Corporate Member of the National Piers Society.

Terry Sylvester urged that youth membership is promoted, suggesting an initial year’s free membership for those under 25. The Chairman said that Paul Semple did a lot in his time as Chair and agreed that there is a need to target younger members.

Deryk Docherty wished to thank Roy Tait for his work on IT for the Society. The Chairman agreed.

Peter Reid drew attention to the poor condition of the replica of PS Comet at Port Glasgow. Inverclyde Council, the owners, considered that there was no hope of restoration and that it would cost over £700,000 to make a new replica. Murray Paterson said that he had corresponded with Inverclyde Council about this, in his capacity as Chairman of the Scottish Branch. He confirmed that the ship had been built as sea-going vessel, including a replica engine. The original engine is at the Science Museum in London. He recognised that the Society was not in a position to fund repairs, but encouraged others to fight for the vessel’s preservation. It was agreed that details, including copies of Murray Paterson’s correspondence with the Council, would be published on the Society’s website.

Chris Gasper said that his grandson was fascinated by Waverley’s engines and asked if the Society could produce an educational resource, for use in schools, about Waverley. Paul Semple said Waverley could easily fit into the school curriculum in many ways, but lack of time prevented him from being able to take this up.

Colin Nimmo urged the Society and its members to embrace new technology. He thought that the video presentation of reports was superb, showing what can be done.

Closing the meeting, the Chairman said he hoped to see members at on-line meetings and on paddle steamers in 2021. He thanked Peter Morley for facilitating the on-line meeting, but hoped that a normal AGM could be held in 2021.

The answers to both questions submitted in advance are incorporated in these Minutes.