Sunday 8th September 1963 was Medway Queen’s last day in service.
She left Strood Pier at 9.15am, sailed down the Medway and across the Thames Estuary to Southend for 11am where she picked up more passengers for Herne Bay. She took the Four Fathoms Channel along the north coast of the Isle of Sheppey arriving in Herne Bay in time for a departure from there at 12.30pm back to Southend for an hour alongside from 2.15pm to 3,15pm.
Then it was back to Herne Bay for 5pm, Southend at 6.40pm and then back up the Medway to Strood for 8.40pm.
It was a grey and overcast day with the wind from the SW force 4/5 gusting 6. Medway Queen was herself en fete with bunting flying from the mast and with the trip receiving good media coverage from both the national and local press as well as TV. At Herne Bay Chairman of the local Council Mrs Gwendoline Fortune said a few words including expressing the hope that the PSPS would save the ship and find a new future for her. With suitable blasts on the whistle Medway Queen left Herne Bay for the last time to a chorus declaiming “Bon voyage Capt Horsham, bon voyage Medway Queen.”
The Mayor of Southend was present on the pier to make a speech wishing Medway Queen well for the future. As she cast off for Strood a small canon was fired and a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” rang out. In the Medway she received a salute from the Anzio, MacBrayne’s one time Lochinvar then operating a ferry service between Sheerness and Southend, and a friendly wave from the Medway Conservancy launch.
Then it was the long slog on up river past Oakham Ness, Darnet Ness (the Kingsnorth Power Station and its jetty had yet to be built), Hoo Island, Gillingham Pier, the training ship Arethusa, Thunderbolt Pier, Sun Pier (at that stage closed to traffic) and on to Strood Pier where passengers disembarked in a sombre mood.
It was Medway Queen’s last passenger carrying trip. It was Capt Horsham’s last day in command of a paddle steamer. It was the end of an era. The Medway would have to wait another twenty one years before it got its own paddle steamer once again in the shape of Kingswear Castle.
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 September 2020.