On Tuesday 22nd December 1966 Westward Ho arrived back in Cardiff from Weymouth where she had spent the previous nine weeks with Cosens undergoing a major overhaul of both her main engines and her ancillary kit.
Having been bought as Red Funnel’s Vecta the previous year, 1966 was Westward Ho’s first full season running on the Bristol Channel where she had partnered the paddle steamers Bristol Queen and Cardiff Queen offering a three-ship service in the peak weeks not seen on the Channel since 1958.
There were those who thought that this was too good to last and that her arrival on the scene must inevitably sound the death knell for one or the other, and perhaps both of, the paddle steamers. In that they were right. Although nobody knew it at the time Cardiff Queen’s last day in service for the season on 21st September 1966 on a day trip to Lundy turned out to be her last in service ever. She was not returned to operation in 1967.
Overall 1966 had not been a good summer. The weather was not great. The National Union of Seamen had called a strike and whilst this had not directly affected P & A Campbell potential passengers reading and hearing about it on the news gained the impression that ships in general weren’t running as a result and so stayed away. On 28th July Embassy suffered a major breakdown off Hurst Castle near the Isle of Wight and had to be towed back to Poole which attracted adverse comment in the media. Then on 31st July the uncertificated passenger launch Darlwyne foundered with the loss of life of twenty-nine passengers and two crew off the south Cornish Coast. This disaster received massive and alarmist coverage in the national media and this tended to put many potential passengers off the idea of going for a trip to sea. And then on 8th September the new Severn Bridge opened which knocked a hole in the trade between Cardiff and Weston.
However despite all the doom and gloom Westward Ho was sort of OK now. After her major engine overhaul by Cosens in Weymouth she was in a much better place to offer a reliable future. In theory anyway.
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 22nd December 2020.