On Saturday 12th September 1964 the large turbine steamer Duchess of Hamilton was on charter so her usual roster from Gourock (9.20am) Dunoon (9.40am), Rothesay (10.15am) and Largs (10.50am) to Campbeltown (2pm) was taken by Waverley.
This was an unusual route for Waverley in those days with these long day trips from Gourock to Campbeltown and from Gourock up Loch Fyne to Inveraray then mostly the preserve of the large and fast turbine steamers Duchess of Hamilton and Duchess of Montrose. They had the speed to punch adverse tides and make up lost time over these vast 57 nautical mile distances. And they had more extensive undercover accommodation if the weather was inclement than was ever available on any of the paddle steamers.
Waverley’s main master for 1964 was Captain Hector Connell who had been a captain with the company since 1957 having previously commanded, amongst others, Maid of Ashton and Talisman. He would remain Waverley’s main master for the next two seasons and was relieved from time to time by Captains A Purvis, Angus MacEachran, and D McCormick.
Issue number 19 of Paddle Wheels for November 1964 reports that “It is a pity that this year Waverley has not been able to keep up to the name she had some few seasons ago for high standards and being generally clean. Several passengers have put letters into the Caledonian Steam Packet Company offices in the hope that when she comes out in 1965 she will be greatly improved all round and once more take her place in the minds of both steamer fans and the travelling public.”
Of course all managements want their ships to be turned out well but in 1964 their focus was not so much on whether or not the steamers could be turned out in sparking condition but rather whether or not they could be turned out at all as the market for excursions on the Clyde was already in steep decline by then.
Jeanie Deans and Duchess of Montrose were withdrawn at the end of this 1964 season and from 1965 the company abandoned positioning one of their ships at Ayr for the summer season bringing back Caledonia to partner Waverley on the summer excursion programme from Craigendoran in place of Jeanie Deans.
The management was reviewing its operations and whilst committed to its core ferry business increasingly saw excursions as loss makers with the ever rising costs of operating and maintaining what were by then becoming quite elderly ships not being covered by receipts from the excursion trip fares.
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 12th September 2020.