Don Rose had bought the Jeanie Deans. He had persuaded Captain Stanley Woods, master of Princess Elizabeth in the 1965 season, to take command. He had asked two of the Lizzie’s seamen Ken Moore and Alfie Le Page to sign on for the voyage round from the Clyde to the Medway. And he had written to me asking if I would like to join them too. Would I?
I was just fourteen at the time but it did fit in with my school half term holiday so I asked my parents if I could go and they finally agreed largely I think on the basis that I would be travelling up with two Weymouth crew members and Captain Woods who they knew from the Lizzie.
So on Monday 1st November the three of us caught an early morning train from Weymouth. We were joined at Southampton by Captain Woods. Then we continued to London and from there we flew up to Glasgow.
It was the first time that I had ever been in an aeroplane so it was really exciting. And as an example of just how much the world has changed since then Captain Woods asked if we could have a look at the flight deck so we were invited in to watch the pilot at the controls.
From Glasgow airport we took a taxi to Port Glasgow and so arrived at Lamont’s shipyard and the Jeanie Deans just as dusk was starting to fall.
She was berthed on the outside of the pier at the shipyard next to the slipway and I couldn’t wait to explore going straight to check out the bridge which had radar, something of which I had no previous experience, and also an emergency telegraph with the orders on it in red in the wheelhouse just next to and to starboard of the binnacle. This was quite separate from the engine room telegraphs on the bridge wings and had its own repeater down in the engine room on the port side. The engine looked enormous compared with the Lizzie’s and those on the other paddle steamers like Consul, Embassy and Monarch I had known at Weymouth.
Having been round the whole ship I met up with everyone else and Captain Woods asked me if I had found a berth. That had just not occurred to me as I explored during which time all the more experienced hands had made bee lines to bag all the best bunks so I ended up making do with the sofa in one of the officer’s cabins on the lower deck forrard. This turned out to be distinctly on the damp side. Jeanie Deans had been laid up and a dead ship for over a year.
Captain Woods had a lifetime’s experience of attending vessels in shipyards during their refits and so had wisely made sure that he was put up in a B & B ashore just over the road from Port Glasgow railway station. So having made sure all was well he took himself off ashore.
Then it was time for more exploring, a sandwich and bed as we were to have an early start up at 6am the following morning to shift ship from the pier by the slipway to the fitting out basin.
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 1st November 2020.