Waverley’s First Day in Service – 16th June 1947
The photograph above was taken on 16th June 1947. It shows the brand new Paddle Steamer Waverley approaching Dunoon for the second time in her long career. Having left her base at Craigendoran at 08:45 that morning she took the service run down to Rothesay, coming back up as far as Dunoon. Thereafter, she carried on northwards into Loch Long and Loch Goil to make her maiden calls at Lochgoilhead and Arrochar. At the latter pier passengers could disembark and connect with the Loch Lomond paddle steamers at Tarbert. As a result this service was called the ‘Three Lochs Tour’ and it was this route more than any other that was the raison-d’etre of PS Waverley, the last in a very, very long line of Clyde paddle steamers and, much later (nobody could have had any inclination of it in June 1947), the Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer in the World.
Certainly, she had a ‘bone in her teeth’ that day – just look at that bow wave! On her trials over the Skelmorlie Measured Mile in early June 1947 with full bunkers and water tanks and added weight sufficient to simulate a 50% maximum passenger load, Rankin & Blackmore’s magnificent Engine No 520, which could develop and indicated horse power of 2100, drove her along at a maximum recorded speed of 18.39 knots. I’ve not seen a picture of her actual running trials. If the combustion was as incomplete as it was when this picture was taken it is more than likely she could have approached at least 19 knots on those trials.
She did tend to generate quite a bit of smoke in her early years. It had been intended from the outset to burn marine heavy fuel oil in the six furnaces of her double ended Scotch boiler, which was also built in Daniel Rankin and Edward Blackmore’s Eagle Foundry in Baker Street, Greenock, but this plan was thwarted by difficulties in procuring the necessary combustion systems in the immediate post WWII period. Therefore, her furnaces were modified to burn coal on static grates. Apart from the fact that it was difficult to ensure reliable supplies of good quality steam coal at that time it is possible that the furnaces were slightly small for burning the required quantity of coal, particularly if the fuel had significant ash contents. In general it takes longer and requires more volume for combustion to liberate the same amount of heat from coal compared to oil. She was eventually fitted with oil firing equipment supplied by Messrs James Howden & Company of Scotland Street, Glasgow during her maintenance period in the winter of 1956-57, which is probably just as well as a new bit of legislation had just reached the Statute Books – the Clean Air Act, 1956!
When the Waverley entered service at 08:45 on the 16th June 1947, the man in charge of her was Captain John Cameron DSC, who had also been been master of her predecessor, the Clyde paddle steamer Waverley of 1899. Capt Cameron was in charge of the previous Waverley when, sadly, she was sunk by Nazi bombers during the Evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940. Though there was significant loss of life Capt Cameron, a non swimmer, survived and he was proud to bring out what proved to be the last of a very long line of Clyde paddle steamers, stretching away back to the historic paddle steamer Comet of 1812, which, apart from being the first Clyde paddle steamer, was also the first commercially viable steamship to operated in the continent of Europe. Waverley will be commemorating the Bicentenary of the Comet with special sailings in early August 2012. Capt Cameron was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his wartime efforts. His association with the Clyde Steamer fleet lasted until his retirement in the 1970s. In retirement, which he spent with his wife Jean at their home in the Jordanhill district of Glasgow, Capt Cameron was an enthusiastic supporter of the Waverley preservation project in its early years as well as serving as the President of the West of Scotland Branch of the Dunkirk Veterans Association.
This is a revised version of an article originally published on PSPS Scottish Branch Blog in 2012 (archived here).