22nd March 1968:
Bristol Queen

22nd March 1968:
Bristol Queen
Bristol Queen. // Keith Abraham

On Friday 22nd March 1968 Bristol Queen had rounded Lands End and was on her way up along the south Coast of Cornwall under tow bound from Cardiff to the breaker’s yard in Belgium.

A lot of money had been spent on her prior to the 1967 season but nonetheless she continued to have issues mechanically and in terms of her crew with experienced engineers walking off mid season and quality replacements being hard to source. After numerous difficulties her season came to a premature end on 26th August 1967 when serious paddle wheel failure led to her withdrawal from service. Repair costs were estimated to approach the value of the ship on the open market so a decision was taken to put her up for sale through Tony McGinnity’s Weymouth based shipbroking agency. Attempts were made to find a new, perhaps static, role for her maybe as a museum. There was also talk of at least saving her engine but nothing came of that.

A damaged Bristol Queen leaving Cardiff, 21st March 1968. // Chris Collard

Then she was hit by the Liberian tanker Geodor whilst alongside at her berth in Cardiff on 14th January which caused quite a lot of damage. In the end she was sold for scrap and so was towed away from Cardiff on Thursday 21st March 1967 by the tug Fairplay XI on her way to the scrapyard in Flushing.

Westward Ho ex Vecta alongside Cardiff.

That left the Bristol Channel services for the 1968 summer season in the hands of Westward Ho and….

St Trillo leaving Weston. // Chris Collard

St Trillo with her North Wales sailings from Menai Bridge and Llandudno taken by Queen of the Isles on charter.

It was a big change from only two years earlier when P & A Campbell had fielded no less than three big ships Bristol Queen, Cardiff Queen and Westward Ho plus St Trillo at the tail ends of the season offering a comprehensive range of services on the Bristol Channel.

But the times were a changing. Clifton Smith-Cox reported to the board that the 1967 season had not come up to expectations. Passenger loadings from Ilfracombe had been good and those from Swansea, Mumbles and Porthcawl fair but business out of Cardiff and Penarth had been very poor. The opening of the new Severn Bridge in September 1966 had knocked a big hole in the revenue from the Cardiff/Weston ferry which had seen a drop of passengers in 1967 of around 75%. With the easy option of a bridge people now wanted to travel by car between Wales and Somerset and not by boat.

So it was a sad morning when on Monday 25th March 1968 Bristol Queen arrived in the ship breaker’s yard in Flushing. She was just 22 years old. That’s like scrapping a paddle steamer today built as recently as 1999.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 22nd March 2021.