Annual General Meeting 1976 – The 16th AGM was held on board Old Caledonia on March 27th. The President spoke of the threefold challenge facing the Society: the continuing operation of the Waverley in Scotland, the plight of the Medway Queen, and the restoration of the Kingswear Castle. Each vessel presented formidable difficulties in its own way, but he urged that the Society should not lose hope, and thanked the Committee, helpers and volunteers for all their work.
Passenger figures up by 54% – Waverley completed an outstandingly successful Clyde season, carrying 194,300 passengers. The steamer did not miss a single day’s service through mechanical troubles, a performance clearly justifying last winter’s massive refit expenditure, the majority of which went on retubing the boiler. Problems with the paddles caused some delays and caused regular visits by the staff of Stephens Shipbuilders each Thursday (maintenance day). One of the contributory causes has been lack of the correct type of Canadian timber for the floats. This has now been rectified. At the beginning of July the port aft lifeboat was replaced with inflatable rafts. This enabled a Class III passenger certificate for 819 passengers to be obtained compared to the previous 519. In sailings from Ayr only around 200 had to be left behind instead of 400 or 500 as previously! Because of the tremendous demand the public timetable was extended by one week to September 1st. Thereafter charters and specially advertised sailings were operated from Glasgow.
Lincoln Castle – One of the most successful of the 1976 charters was the Humber Charter on August 22nd. A queue of people at Hull’s Corporation Pier long enough to pay for the charter and to provide a surplus was a sight to gladden the heart of the Society’s treasurer. Over 500 tickets had been sold in advance so that there were 575 aboard the venture into the River Trent. Soon we were leaving Lincoln Castle’s usual stamping ground and heading past what, one day, will be the Humber Bridge. There are now two monstrous towers bestriding the estuary and it seems that British Railways will be able to advertise cruises to see the “work in progress” for quite a time yet. No doubt the success of sailings such as ours has brought the railway back into the cruise business themselves. Lincoln Castle, now billed as Britain’s last operational coal fired paddle steamer, is going on an evening cruise the Saturday after our own trip. This time, the vessel swung rather earlier than on our previous visit to the Trent – off Burton Stather. “Steady” is the word to describe the steamer’s progress, for there was no sense of urgency about the sailing – but that was nice, in its own way, and probably has something to do with the tide which wasn’t absolutely ideal.
Waverley to Loch Long – On Saturday September 18th Waverley chalked up a “first” for PSPS and WSN by berthing at the now closed Blairmore Pier. Leaving Blairmore, Waverley headed right up into Loch Long to the strains of Charlie Harkin and his Kit Kat band. Waverley now had 800 on board for a cruise which retraced her maiden voyage of 1947. We reached the head of Loch Long and to everyone’s delight the captain manoeuvred Waverley astern to within jumping distance of the pier at Arrochar. The call at Strone Pier was the highlight of the charter. Built in 1847 for the Holy Loch steamer traffic it was closed in 1956 with Waverley never having previously called. The cruise was unique, the weather perfect and a modest profit obtained. What more could we ask?