Happy Birthday, Mr Vice-President

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

Happy Birthday, Mr Vice-President

1 November 2020 marks the 80th birthday of Society Vice-President Terry Sylvester.

Along with our President Douglas McGowan, Terry was key to creating sufficient interest in Waverley, through the Scottish Branch, so that the Scottish Transport Group felt they could offer the paddler to the Society for a pound.

8th August 1974, Sale of Waverley for £1: Terry with Sir Patrick Thomas on the left, Chairman Scottish Transport Group.

After taking ownership, through Waverley Steam Navigation Co Limited, Terry took on the role of Commercial Director, responsible for timetabling and promoting the steamer. He performed this task with characteristic flair and enthusiasm in his own inimitable style. His contribution to the success of the operation cannot be overestimated. This is all the more remarkable as he lived in Barry, South Wales, as he still does.

1974, launch of (1st!!) Waverley Appeal with Bill Tennent of Scottish Television on the left and Peter Reid on the right of the photograph.

During 1974 and early 1975, in order to attend Board meetings held in Glasgow, he travelled overnight by sleeper train. Douglas McGowan recalls “As the train arrived at Glasgow Central in the very early morning, he would frequently jump in a taxi and make his way to our flat in Glasgow. For some time, Terry was our alarm clock as Jean and I would be awakened from our slumbers at some ungodly hour! Wonderful! Such were the joys of preservation!

Here is Terry, on the last day of the 1975 season on the far left, singing lustily “Save Save the Waverley”! Also in the photograph is Cameron Marshall, Junior Purser (2 stripes), Reg Collinson, Shopkeeper (with dark collar), Murray Paterson, Chief Officer (3 stripes), and Allan Condie, Assistant Purser (1 stripe).

At the other end of the day, as Board meetings seemed to go on and on and on until almost midnight, his Director colleagues would remind him that he would literally have 6 minutes to catch his train back to Barry. Some kind soul, frequently James Moore, would run him to the station at breakneck speed and Terry would be last seen running along the platform with only seconds to spare before the train pulled out! (No automatic locking doors in those days!) To the best of my knowledge, over very many years, he only missed his train once. Amazing!”

Terry continued in this role until he decided to step back in 1999, being succeeded as Commercial Director by Ellie Newlands. Nevertheless, he remained a Waverley Director until 2014. He also served on the Society’s Central Committee and Council of Management and was appointed a Vice-President in 1999.

Reunion in Glasgow with Douglas McGowan and John Whittle, former General Manager of Caledonian MacBrayne.

National Chairman John Allen commented “Terry’s contribution to Paddle Steamer Preservation is immense. He is one of the few visionaries at the time who realised that it would be possible to operate Waverley, a sea-going paddle steamer, in preservation and he had the persuasive powers to convince others, some of them highly sceptical, to allow it to happen. Happy 80th Birthday, Terry. May there be many more.”

Pictures courtesy of Douglas McGowan