Former Clyde paddle steamer Jeanie Deans had been bought by Don Rose in the autumn of 1965. Renamed Queen of the South he had tried to run her on a programme of excursions on the Thames from Tower Pier to Southend, Herne Bay or Clacton in 1967 and 1967 but had been dogged by difficulties. Breakdowns were regular, crew issues endemic and in the end the ship ran for only a handful of days in both the summers of 1966 and 1967.
Accordingly, she was put up for sale in the hands of Weymouth based ship broker Tony McGinnity. He loved paddle steamers. He was a founding father of the PSPS. He had bought Consul and tried to run her on the Sussex Coast and Thames in 1963 and from Weymouth in 1964. Tony had a tiny scintilla more luck with Consul than poor Don ever did with QOTS but nonetheless he too had been dogged by difficulties and the venture lasted for only two seasons before also going bust.
After that Tony set himself up as a shipbroker, ship delivery contractor, marine surveyor and consultant and ended up handling the subsequent sales of most of the UK’s paddle steamer fleet, including Queen of the South, as one after another they were withdrawn as the 1960s wore on.
I find tiny points of detail in this sales flyer fascinating. For example, it states that QOTS’s fuel consumption was one ton of fuel oil per hour at an economical cruising speed with the engine pulsing round at 52rpm. However, pushing her on flat out to get another couple of knots out of her at 60rpm then the fuel consumption rocketed by 75% to 1.75tons per hour. As every marine superintendent knows, pushing a ship on flat out has a disproportionately extravagant effect on the bunker bills.
The flyer also states that QOTS could carry 1,026 passengers on her Class IV Passenger Certificate for Partially Smooth Waters on the Thames to the west of an imaginary line joining Clacton to Reculver. For 1967 her previous Class V PC for Smooth Waters for 1,480 down the Thames to Gravesend and Class III PC for 915 to seawards of the Partially Smooth Waters limit had not been renewed.
Broadly speaking she could therefore carry around 1,000 passengers. However, her dining saloon capacity, as described in the flyer, was for just 130 with a further 60 capable of being accommodated in the cafeteria.
QOTS’s marketing in 1966 and 1967 made much of the catering aboard declaring; “Excellent substantial hot and cold meals at very reasonable prices are served in the spacious dining saloon.” Well, marketing hyperbole about a “spacious dining saloon” is one thing. Reality is another. A ship which can carry a thousand passengers, many of whom may wish to be fed, but which has a dining saloon capacity for just 130 is by definition not going to be able to meet the demand. This will, as night follows day, lead to complaints. For serving full on meals it cannot be otherwise unless the overall passenger capacity is drastically reduced or the number of covers in the restaurant somehow miraculously increased.
This is an issue which has dogged and dogs operators of paddle steamers throughout Europe and elsewhere around the world in the modern age. How do you feed passengers today in a market where many/most want to be fed on ships designed to provide dinner for only around 10-15% of their original passenger capacity.
This article was first published on 25th November 2020.