The Bournemouth Evening Echo for Thursday September 10th 1959 records a sorry tale of a mixed up school girl who had run away from her home in Manchester and sought refuge with a crew member aboard a Poole Paddle Boat.
With all the discretion of the time the vessel is not identified by name but it must have been either Cosens’s Embassy (above)…
…or Monarch (above) and, of the two, it is more likely to have been the Monarch as the first meeting of the girl with a crew member took place on a trip to Swanage and it was the Monarch which most usually ran on that service.
The paper continued:
A fifteen year old high school girl from Manchester described in a statement to Poole Juvenile Court on Wednesday how, after running away from home, she slept with one of the crew of a paddle steamer in Poole because she was “feeling spiteful” towards her parents. Her mother wept when the girl appeared before the Bench as exposed to moral danger and in need of care and protection.
Det Insp B Smith said the girl, slim and attractive, came to Ringwood on holiday with her family and they all had gone for a trip from Bournemouth to Swanage on a paddle steamer. While she was with her young brother, a member of the crew had spoken to her and asked for a date. A statement made by the girl about what followed was read to the Court by a policewoman. It said that she had told the crew member that she couldn’t make a date with him because her father was too strict. The man told her his name and she thought that he was “quite a decent fellow”.
When she had returned to Manchester with her family, the statement continued, she said she felt she must get away from home. She was “very fed up” and wanted to go where they couldn’t find her because her father had accused her of stealing some money. She was shocked and upset by this. The statement said that she thought of the man she had met on the paddle steamer.
After a row with her mother, she took £6 10s from a tin in her mother’s bedroom and left home. She caught the train to London where, in a waiting room, she got talking to another girl. The girl advised her to go to someone she knew, so, buying a bag for some clothes she came to look for the paddle steamer crew member.
She found him at Bournemouth aboard the pleasure boat. He asked permission from the mate for her to sleep aboard the steamer. The statement went on to tell how in the saloon of the steamer the man started kissing her, sitting on one of the seats. He went to fetch some blankets which he spread on the floor. She felt scared of being on her own and asked him to stay.
“I was feeling spiteful over my parents – I feel ashamed now,” the statement continued. The man, said the statement, told her he was married and had seven children. If she had know he was married she would never have gone to see him. The girl’s mother said she had experienced difficulty with her daughter at home. Her school report was not very good and she did not think that she would be able to control the girl, though both she and her husband had tried. “I don’t know how to face her. I think she would do it again if she felt like it. She said she doesn’t want to go home” she told the bench. The girl was sent to a remand home for a report while the case was adjourned for three weeks.
It is interesting to speculate just how such a case would pan out in today’s more fevered climate of near hysteria in relation to such matters. It is difficult to imagine that the crew member’s belief that the girl was older than she actually was would cut much ice with the courts now and it is quite likely that he would be charged, convicted and thrown in the slammer even though it was the girl who had sought him out. The girl, on the other hand, would be much more likely to be seen as a victim devoid of absolutely all responsibility and, in all probability, would be able to augment the £6 10s she had stolen from her mother with a hefty compensation payout for the emotional stress and trauma her night aboard the paddle boat had allegedly caused her. How times change.
If she is still with us, the girl would now be sixty three and may very well be a grandmother or even a great grandmother. I wonder if she managed to put her troubled childhood behind her and made good in the end. I do hope so.
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.