Tuesday 8th June 1954 was the last day in service of the paddle steamer Marchioness of Lorne. She had already been displaced the previous summer from her old run between Gourock and the Holy Loch by one of the new nimble and more cost effective twin screw diesels, Maid of Ashton. As a result for the summer of 1953 she was transferred to the Wemyss Bay to Millport ferry service to replace the elderly paddle steamer Duchess of Fife which had been built as long ago as 1903.
On this route Marchioness of Lorne had a mixed reception. She was spacious and quite well appointed for a paddle steamer on a ferry service and was considerably younger than the Duchess of Fife but her paddle boxes tended to clog up when she was heavily loaded and she sometimes found it hard to keep to the schedule.
According to Alan Brown in his excellent book “Talisman, the Solitary Crusader”, she found little favour with her master that summer Capt Colin MacKay. Asked by Mr John T A Brown how he liked his new command Capt Mackay is reported to have said “Ach! It’s not the same. She chust hasn’t got it” accompanied by a shake of his head.
In early July of that year the diesel electric paddler Talisman found herself in a bit of difficulty when one of her four diesel motors failed which led to her being withdrawn. Then in late August the inner funnel of the paddle steamer Jupiter collapsed and so she too had to be withdrawn for repairs. Talisman was the only ship then available to replace her so she was dusted down and brought back into service running on just three of her four motors on the Gourock to Dunoon service. As luck would have it Capt MacKay was asked to take command and he found himself very impressed with his new charge which he considered superior to Marchioness of Lorne even though she wasn’t running on full power. It is said that Capt MacKay bent the ear of management on this subject and that this resulted in their decision to re-engine Talisman that winter and put her on the Millport route to replace the Marchioness of Lorne from 1954.
Talisman’s re-engining took longer than planned so the Marchioness had to be brought out in May 1954 to cover the start of the season. By 8th June Talisman was ready so the Marchioness made her last public sailing that day with her arrival at Rothesay at 2.45pm where she met up with her replacement.
Marchioness of Lorne was laid up in the Albert Harbour, Greenock and was scrapped in Port Glasgow the following February. She was just nineteen years old. That’s like scrapping a paddle steamer today built as recently as 2001. Shocking really.
Talisman remained as the mainstay of the Wemyss Bay/Millport ferry route for the next thirteen summers until she too was withdrawn and scrapped.
Capt MacKay became master of our Waverley in 1956 and again in 1958 and 1959. He retired in 1960.
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 8th June 2021.