By Wednesday 3rd November 1965 Jeanie Deans was ready to run trials. Alongside in the fitting out basin at Lamont’s Shipyard, Port Glasgow, steam was raised. The engine was warmed through. And the pilot was aboard by 10am. He came up to the bridge and I recall him asking Captain Woods about using a tug. “We never had a tug when backing the Princess Elizabeth out from the pier at Weymouth, did we John?” Captain Woods replied looking at me.
So off we went backing out into the river with no tug. The pilot was on the telegraph. I was on the wheel. Slow, astern, half astern, then full astern and “hard a port”. And round she came just fine swinging the bow out into the channel and pointing it down stream. Stop. Full ahead. We were off on our trials with the pilot issuing usual pilot like instructions to me “port easy, midships, steady, starboard easy, midships, steady, port twenty, midships, steady,” and so on and so forth onwards down the Clyde.
We passed Greenock, where Waverley, Talisman, King George V, Duchess of Hamilton, one of the Maids and an ABC car ferry were all berthed in the Albert Dock. Then past Gourock with Caledonia alongside as spare ship for the first part of the winter Clyde ferry services. Then across to off Dunoon and on towards Rothesay before turning back up river once again.
Don Rose had ordered plates of smoked salmon sandwiches to feed his fellow directors which were brought up to the bridge. Having eaten very little since joining the Jeanie on Monday my eyes lit up and I helped myself to one to receive a mild rebuke from Don who said that they were for his guests only.
We overtook one of the ABC Clyde car ferries which gave us a cheery blast on her siren to which we responded with a toot on our whistle which was shorter than it might have been as the whistle wire snapped as Captain Woods pulled it. It had just rusted away. And that was the first time that I twigged that the Jeanie was not really in fine fettle and that she really needed serious money spending on her.
On the way back there was a fire drill and not only did the fire hoses leak – and watching a leaky fire hose is always an amusing sight – but part of the steel pipes leading to them also leaked. When the full water pressure was put on the system I recall seeing little pin holes opening up in the pipe work making it look like a multi-faceted water fountain feature.
We came back to Greenock swung four and one off the berth and came in port side to close to the Albert Harbour. The trials had revealed a number of defects which needed putting right so work started that afternoon and Captain Woods made off back to his shore-based B & B.
Not to be put off by my experience the previous night I made another sortie up to Glasgow for another bottle of cherry flavoured pop and straight back on the next train.
To be continued.
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 4th November 2020.