July 2008:
Paddle Steamer Entrepreneur Tony McGinnity

July 2008:
Paddle Steamer Entrepreneur Tony McGinnity

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Tony McGinnity, pictured above on the bridge of the Consul in February 1965 with Capt Harry Defrates. Tony went into hospital on the Isle of Wight earlier in June for a relatively routine operation from which he did not recover.

Tony was one of the small band of founder members of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society and was involved in organising the early fundraising charters by the society of Cosens little paddle steamer Consul from Weymouth.

When the Consul was withdrawn by Cosens after the 1962 season, Tony set up a new company, South Coast and Continental Steamers Ltd, determined to put her back into service. Although only twenty six years old he got together the necessary backers, including PSPS member no 1 Mrs Eileen Pritchard, hired a former Cosens master, Capt Harry Defrates and set up a programme of sailings for the little ship on the Sussex coast running from Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. In September she spent a couple of weeks on the Thames under charter to Don Rose who would subsequently try to put the former Clyde paddler Jeanie Deans back into service two years later.

The Consul was in pretty poor shape by this stage in her career and her performance in 1963 was not helped by engineers unfamiliar with and unsympathetic to her machinery. For 1964 Tony brought her back to run from Weymouth close to the ministrations of one of her former Cosens engineers the mechanical wizard Bob Wills.

There she ran faultlessly. But in a diminishing market, with debts from 1963 and in competition with the paddle steamer Princess Elizabeth she did not derive the revenue necessary to cover her substantial running and maintenance costs and so was offered for sale.

Determined that the Consul should not go for scrap, Tony found a buyer to give her a further lease of life as an accommodation ship for a sailing school at Dartmouth. She is pictured above about to leave Weymouth for the last time in February 1965.

After that Tony ran an agency offering shipbroking, ship delivery and surveying services which handled the sale of several paddle steamers in the 1960s including the Queen of the South, ex Jeanie Deans.

When the Clyde paddle steamer Caledonia, pictured above off Dunoon on a rather windy day, was withdrawn in 1969, Tony handled her sale and set up the arrangements to bring her south to open as a restaurant and bar on the Embankment in London just over the road from the Savoy Hotel. He was very pleased to have found what should have been a long term future for her and it was a matter of great sadness when she caught fire and burnt out several years later.

Tony spent the rest of his career running, managing and operating a variety of ships and was also a director P & A Campbell.

I liked Tony McGinnity hugely. When he appeared on the scene at Weymouth in the early 1960s, Richard Clammer and I were just young schoolboys with an interest in paddle steamers and a sorrow that they seemed to be going down the plug hole with ever increasing speed.

Tony materialised with something of a god-like status about him. Not only was he rather tall with a commanding presence but he also had the air of a man who would do things. And do things he did in spades. Few paddle steamer preservation projects passed in the 1960s without Tony having a positive input into them somewhere.

I saw him at a dinner last year. He looked just the same then with his infectious smile as he had done all those years ago albeit slightly greyer of hair. He was in good form and anticipating retirement to sunnier climes. It is hardly credible that this giant of paddle steamer preservation is now no more.