June 2017:
Paddle Steamer Consul 1960

June 2017:
Paddle Steamer Consul 1960

Consul’s 1960 season based at Weymouth started on Saturday 4th June with a shuttle service for Portland Dockyard Navy Days leaving Weymouth Pleasure Pier on the hour every hour from 12 noon to 6pm and returning from Castletown, Portland on the half hour. This was repeated on Whit Sunday and Whit Monday.

On Tuesday 7th June there was a one hour cruise round HM Ships and Merchant Shipping in Portland Harbour at 2pm followed by a Special Tea Cruise Towards the Shambles Lightship at 3pm back 4,45pm. On the way out a steward came round the deck selling chocolates, crisps, newspapers and so on to the passengers for them to donate to the lightship crew. Consul put her bow up to the stern of the lightship to transfer the gifts and was rewarded by some freshly caught fish handed back, one of which Capt Harry Defrates took home for his wife Ethel to cook for supper.

Consul and Monarch at Bournemouth.

On Wednesday 8th June there was a day trip leaving Weymouth at 10am to Swanage and Bournemouth giving about three hours ashore during which Consul ran a return trip from Bournemouth at 2.30pm to Swanage in time for a 4.15pm departure from Bournemouth back to Swanage and Weymouth where she was scheduled to arrive at 8pm. In July and August when Embassy had joined Monarch at Bournemouth, freeing her to run full time on the Swanage service, Consul’s 2.30pm departure from Bournemouth was changed to a Cruise Towards the Needles Lighthouse back 4pm.

Consul backing out of Lulworth Cove.

On Thursday 9th June there were two round trips landing at Lulworth Cove the first leaving Weymouth at 10.30am back 12.30pm and the second at 3pm allowing one hour ashore and getting back at 6pm. Consul put her bow up onto the beach and the passengers went ashore over a walkway on wheels rolled down from the shore.

On Friday 10th June she ran a one hour trip round Portland Harbour this time advertised to include a Tour of the Roadstead although in fact it was the same trip as the 2pm on the Tuesday followed by a departure at 3pm for a Special Afternoon Tea Cruise Towards the Bill of Portland viewing Pennsylvania Castle and Cove, the Portland Lighthouse and the Pulpit Rock due back at 4.45pm.

On Saturday 11th June she repeated the Tuesday schedule with the 2pm cruise round Portland Harbour followed by the 3pm for the Shambles lightship.

In the peak weeks there were more cruises in the mornings and in the evenings up to four nights a week, including the Special Jazz Jamborees on Sundays, giving Consul quite long days.

Embassy approaching Totland Bay Pier.

The Swanage and Bournemouth trips were upped to twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the peak weeks and on four Fridays in July and August Consul was scheduled to leave Weymouth at 9.45am or 10am for Swanage and Totland Bay, Isle of Wight giving about two hours ashore there and getting back at 8.30pm. Earlier in the 1950s when the there were more steamers at Bournemouth, Consul’s passengers sometimes transferred to the Embassy at Swanage on this trip to be taken on to the Isle of Wight whilst Embassy’s passengers from Bournemouth transferred to Consul for a landing cruise to Lulworth Cove. However, by 1960 Embassy was otherwise engaged on the direct run from Bournemouth to the Isle of Wight so Consul carried on to Totland Bay herself.

Each day started for Consul at her berth at Trinity Quay on the south side of Weymouth Harbour next to the town bridge from where she backed down to the Pleasure Pier between an hour or half an hour before her first sailing time. After she had finished her day’s trips she paddled back up the harbour again to her overnight berth. Here she is in 1958. You can just make out Capt Defrates on the port bridge wing.

John and elder brother Peter Megoran aboard Consul alongside the Pleasure Pier at Weymouth in 1960.

1959 and 1960 were the two seasons which really fired up my interest in paddle steamers. I was only eight in 1959 but that didn’t stop me pestering my parents to take me for trip, after trip after trip on the Consul. Over the road from our house was a little kiosk, selling light refreshments for those visiting Sandsfoot Castle, outside of which was a display case with varnished edges headed by the legend ‘Steamer Trips’ in stark black type on a scarlet background above the bright yellow steamer notice advertising Consul’s trips that week. My parents must have got sick of me studying this timetable week after week and going home with a recurrent plea along the lines: “The Consul has a trip to Portland Bill this afternoon at 3 o’clock. Oh please let us go. Please!” They were very forbearing, very kind and very generous. We clocked up a lot of time aboard Consul in those two summers.

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