For Easter 1958 P & A Campbell rostered three paddle steamers for their Bristol Channel sailings: Glen Usk for the Cardiff Weston ferry, Bristol Queen for the down Channel trips from Bristol and Cardiff to Ilfracombe and Cardiff Queen for sailings from Swansea. It was the first time for several years that as many as three paddle steamers were brought out for Easter and the first time for some years that Easter sailings had been scheduled from Swansea. It also marked the return to service of Glen Usk, which had been laid up during the previous summer season, taking the place of Glen Gower which was now laid up and would not sail again.
Glen Usk (Capt Virgo) missed her first scheduled sailings on Wednesday 2nd April 1958 due to a mechanical issue so started a day late on Maundy Thursday 3rd April on the ferry service taking the 8.15am departure from Cardiff for Penarth and Weston and finishing her day back in Cardiff after 9pm. On Good Friday 4th she was away from Cardiff at 9am with anticipated loadings from the Somerset side across to Wales expected to be increased With an English League, Division II, football match between Cardiff City and Bristol City scheduled for the afternoon. On Saturday 5th she was away from Cardiff at 9.45am but tidal constraints made an impossible fit to bring passengers across to Cardiff to make the timings of a scheduled rugby match between Cardiff Rugby and the Barbarians. Arriving at Weston for the 8pm departure that day she landed heavily and awkwardly causing some damage to her starboard sponson and spring beam. On Easter Sunday 6th she was away from Cardiff at 10.15am and slotted in a call at Barry with an afternoon cruise along the Welsh Coast. On Easter Monday 7th she was away from Cardiff at 8.50am and was rostered to bring passengers across from Somerset for the rugby match in Cardiff between Cardiff and the Harlequins. On Tuesday 8th she was away from Cardiff at 9.15am and there was more rugby in the afternoon at Cardiff this time between Cardiff and Northampton. On Wednesday 9th she retreated to Penarth Dock for work to repair Saturday’s damage with her place on the ferry being taken by Bristol Queen.
On Good Friday 4th April Bristol Queen (Capt George) was rostered to be away from Cardiff at 9.45am for Penarth, Barry and Ilfracombe due back around 8.30pm. The following morning the crew were up early for a 6.45am departure from Cardiff for Bristol to take up the roster from there. Each day from Saturday 5th April to Tuesday 8th she was then scheduled to run a trip from Bristol to Clevedon, Cardiff, Penarth and Barry and down Channel to Ilfracombe with departures from Bristol at 9am on the Saturday back about 8.45pm, 9.30am on the Sunday, back about 9.20pm, 8.45am on the Monday, back about 9.50pm, and 9am on the Tuesday, back about 9.50pm. It was hoped that loadings on the Bristol to Cardiff legs would be enhanced by the rugby matches in Cardiff on the Saturday, Easter Monday and Tuesday. To encourage extra business on Sunday 6th the trip was billed as an “Easter Showboat” with “Cabaret and music by the White Funnel Orchestra”. After she had finished her Easter sailings she relieved Glen Usk on the ferry until the latter was repaired and serviceable once again on Saturday 12th April.
On Good Friday April 4th Cardiff Queen (Capt Gunn) was rostered to leave Swansea at 2.30pm for Mumbles and Ilfracombe with about two and a half hours ashore before getting back to Swansea around 9.15pm. On Saturday 5th there was a double run across to Ifracombe leaving Swansea at 9.45am and 5.30pm with passengers out of Ilfracombe at 12.30pm having the options of a “long day” in Mumbles or Swansea, a Gower Coast cruise or to attend yet more sporting events this time either the English League, Division II, Swansea Town v Liverpool football or the rugby with Swansea RFC v Harlequins. On Easter Sunday April 6th she was rostered to be away from Porthcawal at 9.15am for Swansea, Mumbles and Ilfracombe with an afternoon cruise from Ilfracombe at 3pm along the Devon Coast to off Lynmouth before setting off back to the Welsh ports at 5.15pm. On Easter Monday April 7th she was away from Swansea at 9.45 for Mumbles and Ilfracombe before setting off from that resort at 12 noon for Lundy Island back in ilfracombe in time for a 6.30pm departure for Swansea. On Tuesday 8th she made just one round trip leaving Swansea at 9.45pm and leaving Ilfracombe to go home at 4.45pm. There was an afternoon cruise from llfracombe scheduled for 2.30pm along the North Devon Coast to off Lynmouth but with Bristol Queen also alongside in that period on her day trip from Bristol and Cardiff I don’t know which of the two steamers actually ran this cruise. Was anybody there that day? Does anyone out there remember?
It had been an ambitious programme particularly for an Easter in early April with three ships rostered rather than just two as had been the case in previous years. Perhaps Campbells were influenced by the fact that the previous four Easters had seen lots of sunshine and excellent paddle steamer weather. Also with the company’s financial situation looking pretty bleak maybe they gambled on another fine weather Easter hoping that passengers would be eager to get afloat once again after a winter cooped up at home.
As it turned out, it was not a good weekend. Although it didn’t rain, it was nonetheless cold with the wind from the east and north east and generally moderate to fresh, sometimes strong even touching gale force on the Saturday evening when Glen Usk had her unwelcome and expensive encounter with Weston Pier. Passengers did not flock aboard the steamers. Any hoped for cash injection did not materialise.
After completing her Easter sailings, Cardiff Queen retreated to Penarth Docks to lay up until Whitsun. There she was joined by Bristol Queen after she had handed back the ferry service to the freshly repaired Glen Usk on Saturday 12th April. This was another sporty day with connections advertised from Weston for the football in Cardiff, with Cardiff City playing West Ham United, and for an International Hockey match at Penarth with Wales taking on the Netherlands.
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 2nd April 2020.