Only a year or so after being formed the PSPS chartered Cosens’s Consul for a 2 hour “Special Steamboat Shuffle” departing Weymouth at 7.30pm on Saturday 10th September 1960 to raise funds and awareness that excursion paddle steamers were under increasing threat of being withdrawn.
One of the star guests for the trip was Capt Harry Defrates, who had that season been master of the Monarch which had made her last passenger trip the previous Thursday from Bournemouth to Poole and passed through Weymouth Town Bridge to await disposal just that very morning.
This picture, which I believe was taken by founding member of the Society and PSPS stalwart Bernard Cox, shows Capt Defrates holding up an early edition of Paddle Wheels and his wife Elsie on either side of my parents Winston and Dorothy Megoran. My brother Peter and I are in the background looking on.
The table shows a number of glasses. Capt Defrates could sink a fair few rum and blackcurrants to no obvious effect where my parents were virtually tea total. However that did not hold them back and I recall it being a very convivial evening with much discussion as to how paddle steamers might be saved amid the dawning realisation that there were other people out there who wanted to do it. Dad joined the PSPS that night as member number 62. I joined in my own right two years later.
I also have a very clear recollection of standing by the gangway after most had disembarked and looking up at the bridge at Capt Iliffe who seemed to my young eyes to be drumming his fingers on the bridge rail waiting for Capt Defrates and his party to emerge from paddle steamer conversations in the bar and lead the stragglers ashore before he could cast off to take Consul back up the harbour to her overnight berth by the Town Bridge. This was a stance I came to recognise frequently in later years on KC at the end of our evening Jazz Jamborees at Chatham.
PSPS chartered Consul from Weymouth once again the following year with a two hour “Special Evening Cruise Towards Lulworth Cove” on Wednesday 10th August 1961. Both charters, in the Society’s earliest days, in my view showed the PSPS at its very best as a campaigning, fund raising and support group for paddle steamers.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 10th September 2021.