Following the departure of Captain Baker at the end of the 1956 season, Cosens appointed Cdr T Johnston to become their Bournemouth manager in March 1957 to take his place. A native of Whitehaven in Cumberland he had obtained his master’s ticket in 1932, joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1936 and subsequently transferred into the Royal Navy in which he served in a variety of roles including commanding destroyers until his last posting before joining Cosens at the naval base at Hythe on Southampton Water.
His duties as Bournemouth manager involved writing the schedule, producing the Bournemouth marketing material, drumming up business and generally managing the day to day operations at Bournemouth from the little booking office overlooking the west side of the pier. I think that it is fair to say that he could be very busy in the summer and the job had its stresses and strains. For example dealing with the travelling public can be difficult particularly if things don’t go according to plan. For example on occasions when he had to organise the return of hundreds of passengers from the Isle of Wight by other means because the Embassy couldn’t bring them back due to the wind. Then the following day there was ever the prospect of having to face the wrath of a small minority of passengers who were not best leased at the arrangements made to get them home. Dealing with such situations can be very draining and dispiriting.
The winter though could be quiet and there is a note in one of the minute books for a board meeting of Cosens to which he was summoned to explain how he filled his days out of season. His response was that he was busy sourcing business for the summer.
70% of the shares in Cosens were owned by Red Funnel in Southampton and the chairman was Red Funnel’s vice chairman so there was a close link between the two. When after the 1965 season Captain Johnson heard that there was a job going at Southampton as Red Funnel’s berthing master for the Cowes ferries he applied for and got that. I remember seeing him on the quayside at Southampton fulfilling his new career in 1966 wearing his full uniform complete with gold braid.
As a boy I wrote to him at Bournemouth each season asking if I might have the large posters, which were hand drawn enlarged versions of the steamer notices which were displayed at the pier entrance, when they were taken down. And very kindly he always posted them on to me. He never charged me any postage and being only thirteen at the time I never thought to offer it. I still have them here now with me today.
For Embassy’s last season at Bournemouth in 1966 Cdr Johnston was replaced Cdr Lapage but by then passenger numbers were in decline. In this picture Embassy is leaving Bournemouth Pier at the end of her day’s sailings to return to overnight at Poole. It was a sailing advertised in the timetable. In the 1950s these single trips were still popular with passengers returning from Poole to Bournemouth under their own steam on a bus. But how many passengers can you see aboard in this picture? Using a magnifying glass I counted just eight on deck and one of those was a crew member. And Embassy had a Passenger Certificate for more than 700. 1966 was Embassy’s last season in service.
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 31st March 2021.