25 years on!
- Prof Alan Robinson: President & founder – It doesn’t seem possible that it all began so long ago, in that warm, dry summer of 1959 during a nostalgic tour of the Isle of Wight, filled with happy memories of boyhood trips on Southampton’s paddle steamers. Thanks to much hard work by both officers and ordinary members of the Society, what had begun as little more than pious hope changed into a remarkable (if occasionally precarious) success story. The growth and achievement of our society has resulted from the faith and loyalty of its members, given in the face of much discouragement and frustration. Given continued support of this kind, we will overcome the daunting financial challenges of our time and sail on into the future.
- Victor Gray: Founder member & former treasurer – I recall one eminent gentleman declining to join the PSPS on the grounds that there were plenty of paddlers still around. I wonder what he thinks now? The enthusiasm and cash generated by charters gave an impetus to the Society, membership began to increase, and thus the conditions seemed right in 1967 to purchase Kingswear Castle whose active preservation has in recent months come to fruition.
- Douglas McGowan: Past Chairman & present Vice Chairman – I was about to be summoned to the General Manager’s office. Although there had been no official announcement I was prepared for the worst. John Whittle was about to tell me that the old girl was being disposed of. What happened at that brief meeting is now of course history. I made my way out of the Gourock office stunned, still reeling from the proposal to “gift” the steamer to the Society in recognition of the considerable interest shown in Waverley since the formation of the Scottish Branch in 1969.
- Nigel Coombes: Chairman – Our society’s indispensable journal scores its maiden century with this issue. Our editor has been the guiding hand behind “Paddle Wheels” for almost 20 years. His opening editorial commented favourably on the 1966 AGM’s endorsement of the decision to rescue the Kingswear Castle. I believe that his term as editor has seen a hardening of that determination and enthusiasm. He has been as responsible as anyone for giving our society, through “Paddle Wheels”, its unanimity and sense of purpose.
- Russell Plummer: Editor of “Paddle Wheels” – Since finding myself propelled somewhat apprehensively into the hot seat in 1966, not much more than a year after joining the Society, the most frequent question has been: why paddle steamers? As the number of paddlers and large excursion vessels declined, my inclination was to search out steamers in more distant parts, an approach not always appreciated when there was still an element of opinion that side wheelers on Continental lakes and rivers were not quite the real thing.
Yet it was General Steam’s Royal Eagle that first sparked my interest. Much more official financial support has been forthcoming for overseas preservation projects than for Waverley or Kingswear Castle. It is encouraging to be able to look forward to not only Waverley’s 40th anniversary in 1987, but of a future for the vessel far beyond.
- Nicholas Knight: Vice President & past Chairman – It seems incredible that I have been involved with the Kingswear Castle for nigh on twenty years, and a great disappointment to me that, at the moment of triumph, when she was obtaining her passenger certificate, and carrying out our inaugural cruise, I should have been prevented from playing my part, because I had to go back into hospital for further heart surgery. My idea of liaison with the Chatham Historic Dockyard has been taken up with enthusiasm and the ship, thanks to the great efforts by all concerned, has acquired Class V and VI passenger certificates and on 18th May resumed commercial operations after an interval of about 19 years. Well done all hands!