John Megoran Lifetime Achievement Award
John Megoran, PS Kingswear Castle’s skipper from 1985 to 2012 and a PSPS Trustee, was presented with a Transport Trust Lifetime Achievement Award by HRH Prince Michael of Kent on 8 June 2015 at the Brooklands Museum at Weybridge, Surrey.
The citation read: “Kingswear Castle, the last River Dart paddle steamer, was withdrawn as unviable and bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) in 1967. She was moved to the River Medway in 1971, and after a volunteer restoration, steaming trials began in 1983. During 1984, she operated a limited programme of cruises carrying a maximum of 12 passengers. Full passenger certification was essential to a financially viable, long term future. That required a master who was capable of managing the ship and developing the business.
John Megoran presented himself for consideration and he offered a rare combination of talents. A science graduate and professional singer by training, he also held the necessary Master’s ticket and brought wide experience in operating small coastal passenger vessels.
He was also a long standing member of the PSPS and had a deep love for paddle steamers. With a full passenger certificate, the ship ran her first public excursion in May 1985 from a base in Chatham Dockyard. The first season’s programme of regular Medway cruises interspersed with visits to the Thames and attendance at special events set a pattern which John was to build on.
In addition to skippering the ship, he took on the roles of marine superintendent, crewing agent, engineering supervisor, HR manager, training manager, marketing manager, sales manager, administration manager, website designer and IT development and support manager.
John’s strategy was to maintain a very small full-time crew, supported by a succession of engineers, and in high season, by additional paid deck hands and stewardesses. All other tasks fell to a loyal and hard working team of volunteers and to the ship’s Trustees. John was also central, along with the Trustees, in obtaining external funding for major improvements. In the winter of 1993-94, her bottom was replated and in 2001, she had a new boiler.
The ship’s income rose steadily year on year, building reserves and an unrivalled reputation for mechanical reliability, smart appearance and a friendly welcome.
The question of the vessel’s future after John’s retirement began to be addressed in 2012. Conversations with the Dartmouth River Boat and River Boat Company had started in 2011, and in November 2012, a formal agreement was signed to return Kingswear Castle to the River Dart on a 15 year charter.
John closed the ship up for sea and prepared her for the tow from the Medway to South Devon. He spent the spring of 2013 in Dartmouth training the new crew in the arcane art of paddle steamer handling, advising on technical matters, undertaking steaming trials and her historic first return to Totnes since 1965, and overseeing her slipping, refit and MCA survey. He had secured the future of the ship, but it was the end of an era for John himself.
He will continue to visit the ship regularly, monitor her maintenance and operation within the terms of the charter agreement, give advice and act as occasional relief skipper. To be in command of the same vessel for so many years must be something of a record among British paddle steamer captains. His dedication and skills have secured the long term future of the last of her kind.”