Paul Semple – Meet the New Chairman

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

Paul Semple – Meet the New Chairman

At the Society’s Annual General Meeting in Cardiff on Saturday 18 November 2017, Iain Dewar stepped down as Chairman.  The Council of Management had already appointed Paul Semple as his successor and here Paul introduces himself. 

The picture below shows him in his professional capacity as a Chemistry & Physics Teacher in Ayr.

[paper]I am pleased to introduce myself as the new Chairman of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. I have served on Council as an elected member since 2011 and over the past year I have served as Vice Chairman under Iain Dewar. As Iain steps down I would like to acknowledge his commitment to the Society over his four year period as Chairman.

In taking the position of PSPS National Chairman I come with far less experience of sailing on British paddle steamers than previous Chairmen having not lived through a period when there were paddlers in commercial service in various areas around the UK. My only experience of sailing on British paddlers is by sailing on our two ships, Kingswear Castle and Waverley. Indeed, it was by sailing on Waverley as a child that I became a PSPS member. Had it not been for PSPS members purchasing, restoring and operating these magnificent vessels my path in life would have been somewhat different. Only three weeks after leaving school in 1996 I found myself living and working aboard Waverley as a member of the catering crew. Throughout my time at university (Dundee and Strathclyde) I was a full time member of the catering crew on Waverley (and Balmoral) and for a number of years following graduation I served as relief Chief Steward, Purser and Shop Keeper. More recently I have served as relief Purser on Balmoral while being operated under White Funnel Ltd. I have also sailed on Kingswear Castle a number of times as a passenger and have found her to be a delightful vessel which represents an era quite different from Waverley.

While my first love in paddler steamers is Waverley I do have a great affection for the Swiss steamers, a favourite being Schiller on Lake Lucerne. However, watching Waverley approach a pier on a summer’s day well filled with people and seeing the fuss she creates with paddleboxes foaming as she brings herself alongside to an awaiting crowd is most satisfying. The ship simply creates her own atmosphere. In helping to preserve the ships which the PSPS purchased or was gifted we are preserving the experience and atmosphere which only a paddle steamer can create. As members every one of us has contributed to preserving a unique piece of maritime heritage.

Since 2012 I have served as a PSPS nominated director on the Waverley Steam Navigation Co Board and this has given me a greater understanding of the various aspects and issues involved in operating Waverley. Overall I feel well placed to take on the role as National Chairman having a unique perspective of Waverley’s operation as a passenger, former crew member and director.

Several years ago the Society passed a significant sum of money to the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust to help fund future works on Kingswear Castle and therefore secure her long term operation. Two years ago we set a target of £500,000 as an amount to hold in reserve for Waverley to allow us to cover one winter refit should it be the case that Waverley Steam Navigation Co find that there are no resources after an operating season to cover the costs of putting the ship back into service the following year. History with Waverley teaches us that at some point she will require significant funds and as such this gives the Society an absolute key role in helping to ensure that the World’s last Sea-Going Paddle Steamer can continue to operate. I therefore believe that there is a role for the Society to ensure the continued operation of our two vessels. In addition in recent years we have also assisted the Loch Lomond Steamship Co as they attempt to return Maid of the Loch to service and I look forward to travelling on her for the first time.

The Society’s Council of Management recognises and accepts that change is needed to help ensure a future for the Society. I would therefore ask all members to give as much support as possible while we make changes. Rest assured that along with my colleagues on Council I will work hard to secure the changes that we feel are right to give the Society, and our ships, the best opportunity to survive in the long term.

As I take on the position of Chairman I would like to acknowledge the commitment and support of all members particularly those who serve on Branch Committees, the Council of Management or simply help in their own way undertaking a wide variety of duties which contribute to the Society and the ships we support. Looking forward, in 2019 we will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Society and also in the same year the Scottish Branch will mark its Golden Jubilee. We have many achievements to be proud of and with your continued support we will continue to achieve in the future.

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