The Year That Was….Chairman’s Blog No. 8

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

The Year That Was….Chairman’s Blog No. 8

I know this is cheating a bit, but I had to put together the traditional Chairman’s Report for the Scottish Branch AGM and thought it might be an idea to include as a blog. It’s simply a good time of the year to have a wee summing up of the last year that we have shared as well as looking to the future.

Chairman’s Report to the Annual General Meeting

Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, Scottish Branch – 17th April 2009

I would like to briefly cover the activities of the Branch over the last year. Our activities have been well documented in Paddle Wheels and the accompanying newsletter, thanks to our Secretary Gordon Wilson. This leaves me gratefully in the position of simply covering a few of the milestones over the last 12 months.

Although it is a much abused expression, I do find it hard to believe that 12 months have already passed since I shook hands with Gavin Johnston at last year’s AGM to take on the role of Branch Chairman.

Work Parties

It is a source of continuing pleasure to see our contribution to Waverley’s winter overhaul flourish year on year. Gone are the days when we turned up on Saturdays to sweep up after the Monday to Friday gang and, if we were lucky, do a bit of painting. For several years now we have provided significant contributions to maintaining and improving the fabric of the ship and to assist in maintenance activities. We have enthusiastic painters, varnishers, electrical and mechanical engineers, and joiners who, will in fact turn their hand to just about anything. Make no mistake about it, through such activities, The Scottish Branch provide very real savings to the Waverley’s winter overhaul costs. At Balloch too, the fight goes on, possibly even more dependant of voluntary efforts by many individuals who are PSPS members. We are in a truly unique position in our Society in that we have not just one but, two Paddle Steamers to help with. Of course, for some work on Waverley is not confined simply to the off season, and Joe’s running of the souvenir shop and the staffing of it by Deryk, Ian and many others certainly has a significant “fiscal impact”.


2008’s midsummer cruise might more accurately have been billed as the “Nearly Autumn Cruise” by the time it had been rescheduled, twice, due to Waverley’s well documented wheel repairs. That the cruise on a chilly 11 July right in the middle of the Greenock Fair Holiday still managed to turn a small profit is due in no small part to the evangelical drumming up of ticket sales by Scottish Branch members, and also due to the remarkable efforts yet again of organiser Peter Reid, and also to Margaret Skee for taking up the reigns when Peter was off on holiday. Thank you both.

On Saturday 27th of December, 88 of us set sail on the MV Cruiser on a sunny clear and crisp day for our Christmas Cruise, complete with morning coffee and Christmas cake, buffet lunch, and for the first time, two calls at Blairmore. The first call being for the now traditional mulled wine and mince pies (thanks again Agnes), and the second to drop off our Blairmore hosts who came along for the Loch Goil cruise this year. Our thanks go to Deryk for again organising such an enjoyable Christmas cruise.

I’m not sure if this bit comes under excursions as such but it is worth, mentioning our hospitality day on Waverley in August. This year, PSPS members had the opportunity to congregate in the lower bar set aside for our use for part of the day for a short talk by David Rodger followed by the now traditional Bridge and Engine Room visits. It is not overstating things to say that the success of our Hospitality day, (the lower bar was again full to standing room only) is looked on with envious eyes by our fellow enthusiasts from all the other society branches.


The other Branches of our Society also look with envious eyes on our exhibitions activities. In fact, in Gavin Stewart the Scottish Branch is the only branch that has an exhibitions manager. In the last 12 month Gavin, with considerable assistance from Shelagh, has continued to be a driving force behind our representation at:

  • The Glasgow River Festival
  • Greenock Model Rail
  • Rails and Sails at the Transport Museum
  • Model Rail Exhibition at the SECC

As well as making a modest financial profit where PSPS, Maid of the Loch and Waverley souvenirs have been sold, other benefits, although harder to quantify are nevertheless very real and significant. The simple “spreading the word” regards the PSPS, Waverley and MOL including timetables where appropriate undoubtedly generates….trade, for want of a better word. Additionally this year, WavEx took advantage of our presence at the Rails and Sails exhibition to conduct some market research. In addition to Gavin’s guiding hand as exhibition manager, the list of willing volunteers from the membership who staff the exhibitions and carry out the exhibition set up, strip down and transport to and from storage is too long to go into here but I would like to record my thanks to you all. Perhaps some “I survived Model Rail 2009” polo shirts would be warranted!

Although not an exhibition as such, we have also spreading the word in Cyberspace though our blogsite which, Gavin Stewart, who set the whole ting up, tells me, is visited some 600-800 times a week even during the off season.


Our program of winter meetings again covered a varied and entertaining mix of subjects.

It would be immodest of me to comment here on the Chairman’s address on the 17th of October other than to say that I decided to attend long after most of you did!

This year was our turn to host the National AGM, and this time round it was held on Maid of the Loch. Again the Scottish Branch set the benchmark for providing entertainments for the day in addition to the actual business of the AGM, with visits to the winch-house which was “in-steam” especially for the occasion, lunch which was enjoyed by some 82 members and a short presentation by the Scottish branch after the AGM itself. MOL looked particularly impressive that day, with new festoon lights supplied by Shelagh and Gavin, rigged from the maid’s masts….funded by the Society. It is also worth mentioning that thanks to the… gentle persuasion of certain Branch committee members, Friends of Maid of the Loch also has some new members… Thanks Sheels!

As the winter months progressed we were treated to:

  • David Rodger’s presentation on his time with Hebridean Princess and a detailed account of her life since being converted from a “lowly” CalMac Ferry.
  • Brian Searle’s presentation on the history of Royal yachts as well as some first hand tales of his time serving aboard Britannia.
  • Guthrie Hutton’s talk on the truly remarkable regeneration of the Forth and Clyde canal.
  • Gordon Wilson’s history of the QE2 with slides contributed by several members. Who can forget the shots of her seemingly calling at some Scandinavian pier about the same size as Tighnabruaich.
  • It was particularly pleasing to see our meeting room at St Stephen’s seemingly repeatedly fuller than for some years.

Fund Raising and Financing

For 2008 we again had the kind offer from Olsen Cruise Lines to repeat their donation of the Prize of a two week cruise for two. Sales of tickets in Scottish Waters again lead the way despite the disruptions of wheel repairs and poor weather. Thanks are again due to Derek Brown for his truly sterling efforts, accompanied this year on more occasions than ever before by other branch members, whether around the deck, or in a new approach to selling them, from a table outside the purser’s office. Thank you one and all.

A huge vote of thanks must go to Committee Member Charles McCrossan for his part in the organisation of a new venture to raise funds for the Waverley. On 28th November a special concert was held at St Andrew’s in the Square.

With such artists as Duncan McCrone, The cast, and JJ Gilmour of the Silencers accompanied by Graeme Duffin of Wet Wet Wet fame, all those who attended were treated to a fine evening’s entertainment.

What’s the easiest way to raise funds for Waverley? Go for a sail and take as many fiends and family as you can! This year more than ever please do all you can.

Council of Management

With some reshuffling of the COM with Alec Lewis to becoming the WSN representative, our very own Gavin Stewart filled the resultant vacancy effective from this year’s National AGM. It is good to representation from north of the Border further strengthened in this way. It would be fair to say that the dominate topic at C.O.M. meetings over the winter has been the provision of financial aid to Waverley following recent financial hardship culminating in the problems of the 2008 season. As you will have doubtless read in Paddle Wheels this has resulted in a mixture of loans and grants to the tune of over £500,000 from Society Funds. The diminution of our funds to such a severe degree has necessitated a levy on all the branch funds.

Changes to Committee Membership

I would like to mention and record my appreciation of our two departing committee members. Whose contributions to the Committee will be sorely missed.

Michael Hughan I have known since the early 90’s when we became involved with the initial work on Maid of the Loch. In those very early days, the ship was in such a poor state that doing pretty much anything could not help but improve things and as our momentum grew week on week it was just as well Michael was on hand to perhaps inject some sanity into our increasingly “bull in a china shop” preservation activities! Personally I thought he took it very well when my interfering with mooring ropes and imaginative use of a chain block resulted in MOL shooting astern at about six knots into the loch one afternoon! And so over the years Michael has been quietly going about the business of being part of MOL’s restoration campaign, however his contribution cannot be underestimated. His reports to the Branch meeting, despite the many challenges that have come MOLs way over the years have always managed to maintain a sense of quiet, unwavering optimism.

From my very earliest days on Waverley, now approaching 30 years ago, Stuart Cameron has always been a part of Waverley. It was when I joined the Scottish branch however that I found just how much Stuart has been doing for our organisation. When the rest of us have been giving everyone the benefit of our opinion it is often Stuart who gets things back on track by distilling all that has gone before and then presenting us with facts rather than opinions. This has proved to be an especially valuable skill in recent times when things have been particularly intense regards Waverley, both at branch and national level.

Gentlemen, on behalf of the committee, and indeed the Society, thank you for all you have done.

Looking Ahead

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society and 40 years since the inception of the Scottish Branch. I seem to remember reading in an old copy of Paddle Wheels that at one point it was considered that a Scottish Branch would never be necessary as we had so many Paddle Steamers! It is surely ironic then that the Scottish Branch that has had perhaps the most remarkable history of all the Branches. We will be celebrating our anniversary this autumn at Balloch and details of this will come out in the near future.

However, we can be under no illusions that our forthcoming year, as well as being cause for celebration, will undoubtedly be one of our most challenging to date. Make no doubt about it, in the current economic climate and given the present financial trials and tribulations of the Waverley Companies, the future of our ships is not assured. Our December talk was about the Hebridean Princess. After many years, that relatively small ship operation went into receivership only two weeks ago. That must surely be a sobering thought for all of us. As I noted earlier, the money set aside by the PSPS for the rainy day has to all intents gone and if there is a requirement for similar financial aid from PSPS at the end of this season, then I believe it is highly unlikely that the PSPS coffers will have been sufficiently replenished in the space approximately six months to meet such a need.

There is but one option ladies and gentlemen, and it is a simple although difficult solution. As never before we have to do all we can to generate revenue for Waverley in order that there is no need to come to the PSPS for financial aid. We must also do all we can to replenish PSPS resources such that if the worst happens this season, then PSPS will be in the best possible position to render whatever financial aid that it can.

It is a daunting task for sure but there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain, if any Branch can rise to the challenge, it is surely the Scottish Branch. Perhaps the most glaring thing I have come to realise on writing this report is that the Scottish Branch has a knack, through shear hard work and bloody-mindedness to punch well above its weight when it comes to:

  • Hands on preservation work.
  • Paddle Steamer evangelism through our exhibition work, hospitality days and blogsite. Direct fund raising though prize draw ticket sails or by new and ground breaking activities such as the fund raising concert.
  • Running successful Branch excursions.

Our Branch can and I’m sure will lead the way in our Society over the coming year, but only with your help.

Thank you.

[signature name=”Stuart Mears” role=”PSPS Scottish Branch Chairman”]