Autumn 1987

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

Autumn 1987

Mrs. Thatcher on board KC.

KC on the election trail – The charter on June 1st contrived not to mention the name of the VIP – none other than the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher herself! KC had to undergo the indignity of having her bottom examined for limpet mines by police frogmen and her compartments sniffed by sniffer dogs. Mrs. Thatcher was welcomed at the gangway by skipper John Megoran before taking her place on the landing bridge. Then it was off down-river to Gillingham – KC’s first call since her trials at the end of 1983. As there could be no suggestion of a U-turn, KC, with the Prime Minister at the helm, executed a full 270 degree turn before sliding alongside to deliver the PM to her “battle bus”.

Sir Harry Secombe on board Kingswear Castle.

KC in television spotlightKC’s 1987 season had an early opening when she was filmed on 28th April. This was for the TV programme “Highway” with Sir Harry Secombe. It was shown at peak viewing time on Sunday 24th May, excellent publicity just at the start of the season.

Loch Long revisited – Forty years ago the Clyde steamers began their summer’s sailing, later than customary, on June 16th. On that day the season’s newcomer PS Waverley ventured out. She represented an unexpected expansion of sailings by a company which had seemed to be in rapid decline before the war, and the re-opening of routes to Lochgoilhead and Arrochar. On 16th June 1987 about 800 passengers decided to celebrate in an evening cruise. They arrived by coach, car and train and came aboard at Greenock. Before long we were at Helensburgh Pier, starting point for our near recreation of Waverley’s original route. Fifty minutes ahead lay perhaps the most nostalgic call of the evening, at Blairmore where 70 passengers boarded for a hundred minutes cruising in Loch Long.

As Waverley paddled through familiar waters the birthday cake was brought with due ceremony to the arena between the funnels. A Tannoy announcement brought many passengers, and the press, to witness the cutting of the cake by the evening’s most distinguished passenger, Capt. John Cameron, who had charge of her throughout that first season. He had a few well-informed words to say about Waverley’s very earliest times. She had, he said, taken two or three weeks to realise who was master, but there was obvious affection in his remarks.

Bristol Channel decision pays dividend – It was a brave decision to offer a full programme of Channel cruises in April, May and June. However the risk paid off. Waverley’s three splendid Easter cruises saw the second visit to the Avon Gorge, though breezy Sunday conditions caused the scheduled Clovelly cruise to head up-channel instead. Easter Monday saw the first excursion call of the year at Lundy. Public trips gained good support although 17th May was cancelled due to poor numbers and drizzly conditions. The following Bank Holiday weekend saw celebrations of the centenary of the first Waverley in the Bristol Channel. Two days later Balmoral was back once again.

A remarkable trio – Lake Lucerne celebrates 150 years of steamer operations. The first Stadt Luzern was launched on 29th July 1837 having been built in Zurich with machinery built in Manchester. Although no longer a steamship and no longer carrying passengers, she is still in use today. Even more astonishing is the fact that the 2nd and 4th vessels of the fleet are also to be seen in Lucerne – a venerable trio.

And 50 years ago… On 14th April 1962 15 members visited Medway Queen having her inside out spring clean; Swanage Queen left the River Exe on 8th May for scrapping; Waverley managed to keep the Montrose at her stern right up to Craigmore; PS Compton Castle is to be withdrawn at the end of this season. Read more….