November 2023:
Balmoral 1968

November 2023:
Balmoral 1968

Balmoral’s last season with Red Funnel was 1968 during which she operated the company’s excursion programme from June to September Sundays to Thursdays and provided additional sailings on the Southampton/West Cowes ferry service on Saturdays.

Let’s take a look at what she was doing in August 1968.

On Sundays and Mondays she was scheduled to be away from Southampton at 10.45 for Ryde 12.05, Clarence Pier, Southsea 12.40, Shanklin 14.10 and Sandown 14.30 for a “Cruise Along the Island Coast” due back at Shanklin 15.50, Sandown 16.10, Southsea 17.20, Ryde 18.20 and Southampton 19.40.

On Tuesdays August 6th and 20th and all four Thursdays she was scheduled to be away from Southampton at 09.00 for Ryde 10.15, South Parade Pier, Southsea 10.50, Sandown 12.00, Shanklin 12.20 for a “Sea Cruise Round the Isle of Wight returning to Ryde 16.00 and Southsea 16.30 where she picked up from both piers an advertised “Non-Landing Cruise to Shanklin” calling at Sandown 17.40, Shanklin 18.00 and returning to Southsea 19.10, Ryde 19.40 and Southampton 21.00.

On Tuesdays August 13th and 27th she was scheduled to be away form Southampton at 09.00 for Ryde 10.15, Southsea 10.45, Sandown 12.15, Shanklin 12.30 and then cruise “To Southampton Docks to see the liners in their berths” returning to Southsea at 17.00, Sandown 17.00, Shanklin 17.20, Southsea 18.30, Ryde 19.20 and Southampton 20.45.

On Wednesdays she was scheduled to be away from Southampton at 10.45 for Ryde 12.30 for Clarence Pier Southsea 13.35 for a cruise “To Southampton Docks to see the liners in their berths” returning to Southsea at 17.00, Ryde 17.30 and Southampton 18.45.

Fridays were days off.

On Saturdays she was scheduled to run five round trips on the Cowes ferry, for which she could take a number of cars driven aboard at the aft end of the main deck, with departures from Southampton at 07.00, 10.00, 13.00, 16.00 and 19.00 and from West Cowes at 08.30, 11.30, 14.30, 17.30 and 20.30.


The excursions were offered in the 1968 timetable “By Balmoral or other vessel”. The “other vessel” if push came to shove and there had been an issue with Balmoral then that would have been one or other of Red Funnel’s two tug tenders Calshot or Gatcombe, which both had Passenger Certificates for their tendering work to liners, as Balmoral’s consort Vecta had been withdrawn after the 1965 season.

Another thing to note is that for 1968, as in 1967, there were no longer any calls at Ventnor as after the 1966 season the pier was considered in too poor condition to able to accept vessels alongside.

Red Funnel’s Norris Castle which replaced Balmoral in December 1968.

In December 1968 the purpose built Norris Castle was delivered for Red Funnel to join her quasi sisters Carisbrooke Castle, Osborne Castle and Cowes Castle so Balmoral’s additional capacity and usefulness as reserve ship on the Southampton/Cowes ferry was no longer required.

The times were a changing. Excursions were in decline. Piers needed money spending on them. People were buying cars in much greater numbers and wanted to use them for their days out. The world was moving on and Red Funnel was moving with it. And as a tiny token of that brave new 1960’s world of change everywhere from 1965 Red Funnel adopted the twenty four hour clock in their steamer notices and timetables. Gone was back about 5.30pm. Now it was 17.30.

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