1962 was not a good summer for weather. Mr Lloyd-Worth, who had the contract for providing the catering aboard Consul alongside his other role as a publican in Easton on Portland, told my Dad on one of the evening cruises that summer that the loadings had not been great and “that it just had not been paddle steamer weather”
And as if to prove that point there was a full blown gale howling away on Monday 10th September 1962. My eleven year old self hoped to get out on Consul that afternoon the day before the new school year started but things were not looking good. It was blowing. There was intermittent drizzle. And Cosens generally pulled sailings when there was heavy rain in the air. But I went down anyway to the Pleasure Pier hoping to join the 3pm “Tea Cruise to the Shambles Lightship” if it was on.
It was encouraging to note that Consul was not in her overnight berth next to the Town Bridge. That meant that she was running or at least thinking of running. The booking office at the entrance to the pier was selling tickets so that also looked positive even though it seemed unlikely that she would make the Shambles. Then from the end of the pier Consul’s black topped buff funnel could be seen emerging from Portland Harbour from the 2pm “Cruise Round HM Ships and Merchant Shipping in Portland Harbour”.
By the time that she arrived back at the Pleasure Pier it was blowing quite fiercely with bursts of drizzle. 3pm came and went. Captain Iliffe was in deep conversation with mate Arthur Drage. But the minutes dragged on. Would she sail at all? However there were a few takers so eventually it was announced that Consul would go but not to the Shambles Lightship. Instead we would sail round Portland Harbour and then proceed across Weymouth Bay in the lee of the Harbour to Osmington before returning. Double Hurrah! My notes for that day record that it was 3.30pm before Consul actually backed out from the Pleasure Pier but that didn’t matter. At least we were off. Triple Hurrah!
On Monday 10th September there were still another nine operating days left with Consul scheduled to make her last trips of the season on Thursday 20th September, a 2pm trip round Portland Harbour followed by a 3pm departure for one hour ashore at Lulworth Cove. I managed one more trip on her that season the following Sunday 16th September for the 3.15pm “Tea Cruise to the Bill of Portland”. My notes for that day record “Went out of our way to see a foreign tanker in the Bay on the way back”.
When the season ended Consul laid up in her usual berth next to the Weymouth Town Bridge. Note in this pic the brass handrail up to the bridge has been greased up and swathed in sacking to protect it from the elements. Look in through the bridge windows and you can see the varnished poles stored away for the winter which in summer supported the canvas dodgers around the bridge wings.
It came as something of a bombshell when the Dorset Evening Echo announced that Consul was up for sale. However, onwards and upwards. Gloom one moment. Overwhelming joy the next when it transpired that she had been bought in the spring of 1963 by founding members of the PSPS Mrs Eileen Pritchard and Tony McGinnity, with their other associates and backers, to become, along with Freshwater and Princess Elizabeth, one of the earliest attempts to preserve a paddle steamer in operational condition here in the UK.
One other recollection from that day on Monday 10th September 1962. With Consul moored on the south side of the Pleasure Pier pontificating as to whether or not to sail, on the north side was an area with diving boards where people could swim and sometimes play water polo. There were changing rooms for this on the pier with a cafe above them. On that drizzly autumnal afternoon and with the wind at gale force there was a group of intrepid youths braving the elements in their costumes diving into the water and generally making merry despite the most inclement and inauspicious of weather conditions. But it was another age. People did things differently back then.
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 2022.