August 1966:
A Week in the Life of Balmoral

August 1966:
A Week in the Life of Balmoral
Balmoral dredging her anchor as she proceeds astern into Weymouth Backwater, Tuesday 4th February 1964.

Yesterday we looked at what Balmoral was doing during a week in August 1956. Move on ten years to 1966 and we see a changed scene with Red Funnel’s excursion trade in serious decline. The paddle steamer Bournemouth Queen had gone in 1957, Princess Elizabeth in 1959, Medina in 1962 and Vecta after the end of the 1965 season. Now for 1966 Balmoral was their only excursion vessel and what she offered was a slimmed down version of a decade earlier. The demand was in retreat. People were finding other things to do with their leisure time. The excursion steamers of yesteryear were slipping into history.


So what was Balmoral doing in August 1966?

Sundays 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th & Monday 29th: Leave Southampton (10.45) for Ryde (12.00), Clarence Pier, Southsea (12.40), South Parade Pier, Southsea (1pm), Shanklin (14.10pm), Sandown (14.30) for a “Cruise Along the Island Coast” returning to Shanklin (15.50), Sandown (16.10), SP Southsea (17.20) CP Southsea (17.40), Ryde (18.20) and Southampton (19.30).

Mondays 1st, 8th, 15th & 22nd & Wednesdays 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th & 31st: Leave Southampton (10.45) for Ryde (12.15). This trip was advertised from Southampton to go no further than Ryde. Then she was scheduled for a new trip leaving Ryde (12.30) for CP Southsea (13.00), SPP Southsea (13.20) “To Southampton Docks to see large liners in their berths. And on 22nd August “Possibly passing RMS Queen Elizabeth homeward bound” returning to SPP Southsea (16.40), CP Southsea (17.00) Ryde (17.30 – 17.45) for Southampton (19.00).

Tuesdays 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd & 30th: Leave Southampton (09.00) for Ryde (10.15 from which no pick up was advertised) and then on to run a trip from CP Southsea (10.45) and SPP Southsea (11.05) for Sandown (12.15), Shanklin (12.35) and Ventnor (13.05) before retracing her route “To Southampton Docks to see RMS Queen Elizabeth or RMS Queen Mary in their berths” or on 9th August “Possibly passing RMS Queen Elizabeth inward bound”. Return was to Sandown (17.35), Shanklin (17.55), Ventnor (18.25), SPP Southsea (19.45), CP Southsea (20.00) and Ryde (20.30) for Southampton (21.45).

Thursdays 4th, 11th, 18th & 25th: Leave Southampton (09.00) for Ryde (10.15), CP Southsea (10.45), SPP Southsea (11.05), Sandown (11.55), Shanklin (12.15), Ventnor (12.45) for a “Sea Cruise Round the Isle of Wight” returning to Ryde (16.05), Southsea (16.35), Sandown (17.35), Shanklin (17.55), and Ventnor (18.25) for Southsea (19.45), Ryde (20.10) and Southampton (21.30).

Fridays: Day off.

Saturdays: Running as part of the ferry service to West Cowes with departures from Southampton at 06.30, 10.00, 13.30, 17.00 & 20.30. On these she could accommodate about a dozen cars at the aft end of her main deck driven on and off from pontoons at Southampton and West Cowes at the same level as her main deck.

Note that the Round the Island trip ran only once a week in August 1966 compared with three times a week in 1956. There were no trips to Bournemouth. There were no trips advertised “towards the Needles.” Trips were only advertised from Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin on four days a week. Ventnor received a service on only two days a week. Of the five days in a week Balmoral was running excursions the focal point of three of them was to view liners including the iconic Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. In May 1967 Cunard announced that both of these giants would be withdrawn from service within the next two years. The market for interesting excursions on which passengers wished to travel was slipping away.

Times were a changing in other respects too. For the 1966 season Red Funnel adopted the twenty four hour clock in their timetables and steamer notices for the first time. In 1965 a sailing from Sandown “along the Island Coast” was advertised to depart at 2.30pm. For 1966 it was 14.30. The modern world was creeping in everywhere.

Balmoral managed just two more summers, 1967 and 1968 running from Southampton to Ryde, Southsea and the Island piers. From 1969 she was taken on long term charter by P & A Campbell and so started a new career in a foreign land doing different things none of which included carrying cars.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 5th August 2021.