Easter snow – Waverley and Balmoral carried good loadings in weather that actually saw snow fall on the Clyde during Easter Monday. Balmoral’s first sailing of 1990 on the Bristol Channel was a Good Friday evening charter. Next day she took 250 to Ilfracombe. Whilst Waverley was able to complete the advertised programme, Balmoral was prevented from going down channel on both the Sunday and Monday by gales. Sunday’s south westerly gales produced some ingenuity by WEL with some 130 passengers from Bristol and Clevedon taken to Penarth and then on a coach trip. The operation was repeated on Easter Monday when Penarth passengers were taken to Avonmouth and then by coach to Weston Super Mare.
Before Waverley commenced 1990 sailings at Easter a plaque in memory of her first master, Capt. John Cameron was unveiled on board by his widow Jean. Capt. Cameron who died in 1988 served at different times on most of the large Clyde passenger steamers. Before the Second World War he was master of the 1899 Waverley and was among the survivors when HMS Waverley was sunk in 1940 while returning from Dunkirk. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Medway Queen report – One change that the casual visitor cannot fail to notice is that the ship’s mast is missing. Even when work started in 1985 the mast was cause for concern. The lower few feet which passed through the forward saloon into the mast step was quite rotten. The lower foot had disappeared! The mast was supported only by fresh air, its whole weight carried by wedges where it passed through the upper deck. It pivoted like a giant pendulum. A large steel support was fitted, but a local crane hire firm offered its services and the mast now lies on the wharf. The rigging must date from 1963 at the very latest.
Find for historical trust – One of our trustees, while browsing in a preservation railway shop came across a framed sailing bill of P&A Campbell announcing sailings jointly with the railways. In 1936 Waverley and Glen Gower, having finished their south coast sailings, offered a grand excursion leaving Brighton and calling at Ryde, and next day at Ilfracombe, then Cardiff, continuing to Bristol. The fare? Steamer trip 15/- (75p), round trip from London, 30/- (£1.50).
Wingfield Castle – Bought by Hartlepool Council in 1986,and having made the round trip from Swansea Wingfield Castle was berthed exactly where the shipyard of Sir W Gray & Co. was sited and from where she was launched in 1934. A team of craftsmen are undertaking a £1m restoration. The huge bridge structure has been magnificently restored using original teak timbers, and she has also received a new upper deck. Unfortunately the boiler has rusted beyond economic repair. The engines appear in a poor state, but with the flick of a couple of switches they start turning over at 3rpm. The paddle wheels are not connected.
A Vice-President’s notebook – by Nigel Coombes – Storms reached a climax in January and ferocity of hurricane force gusts (130mph was recorded at Clevedon) caused great damage. On February 26th their NW direction coupled with an exceptionally high tide caused large sections of the sea wall front in Portishead and Clevedon to be demolished. Several thousand pounds of damage was done to the timbers on Clevedon Pier. These have been repaired amid satisfaction that the central structure demonstrated its solidity and strength.
And 50 years ago… Humber ferry steamers will commence their short river cruises; Failure to get Medway Queen berthed alongside Thames embankment; Jeannie Deans up for sale. Read more…