Birth of Waverley
Waverley is the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. Waverley's
story goes back to the Second World War when the previous holder of the name was
sunk at Dunkirk. Plans to replace the steamer were quickly drawn up and the London
& North Eastern Railway placed the order for the new steamer with A. &
J. Inglis Ltd. at their Pointhouse yard in Glasgow.
2nd October 1946, the Waverley was launched by Lady Matthews, wife of the
LNER Chairman and was the last paddle steamer built for service on the Clyde.
Waverley provided accommodation for two classes and was coal-fired (until
conversion to oil in 1957). Once the fitting out of the steamer was advanced she
was towed to the Victoria Harbour at Greenock where Rankin & Blackmore fitted
her magnificent triple-expansion steam engine and boiler. Waverley ran
her trials in June 1947 when a top speed of 18.5 knots was obtained.
first Master was Captain John Cameron along with William Summers as her Chief
Engineer. Her maiden voyage was on Monday 16th June 1947 on the route that she
was primarily intended for which was the route up Loch Goil and Loch Long to Lochgoilhead
and Arrochar. This was part of the famous 'Three Lochs Tour' that enabled passengers
to enjoy a further cruise on Loch Lomond by another paddle steamer. During her
first season, Waverley sailed to Arrochar six times a week.
1948, things were changing and Waverley's attractive LNER livery changed
to a rather drab one that belonged to the British Transport Commission. By 1951,
things had changed again and Waverley was transferred to the Caledonian
Steam Packet Company Limited. During this time she saw more service on the ferry
routes from Gourock and Wemyss Bay. She also started a Monday trip from Craigendoran
through the Kyles of Bute to Brodick, Lamlash and Whiting Bay. Other routes soon
became a regular feature of Waverley's sailings such as the Friday trips
to Glasgow Bridge Wharf and the 'Round the Lochs' trip on Wednesdays. By the late
1950s, Waverley was reaching her peak when under the command of Captain
Colin MacKay she became a byword for punctuality and smartness.
the 1960s, things were changing and Waverley's reputation was changing
somewhat. By the mid 1960s, Waverley's old stablemate the Jeanie Deans
was withdrawn and it was left to Waverley and the Caledonia to carry
on the great paddle steamer tradition on the Clyde.
By 1972, Waverley
was the last paddle steamer on the Clyde and as a tribute to show her uniqueness,
her paddle boxes were painted black. As the 1973 season drew to a close, it was
clear that Waverley's future was in question as her season hadn't been
good and several days sailings had been cancelled. The ageing Waverley was therefore
withdrawn at the end of the season leaving the Queen Mary II to carry on
the cruising tradition.
A New Beginning
quickly in November 1973, Douglas McGowan of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society
was called to Caledonian MacBrayne and was offered the Waverley for the
sum of £1! The Society had been actively promoting the uniqueness of the
steamer for several years and it now had the opportunity of actually owning it!
Thoughts of turning it into a static exhibit soon turned to more ambitious ones
of actually operating it. A small but forward thinking team was bought together
and the struggle really began. PSPS members and supporters soon realised that
they would need to launch a huge appeal if they were to operate the steamer once
again. Councils, tourism authorities and countless companies were approached and
somehow the money was raised that enabled the steamer to operate her celebratory
first cruise on Thursday 22nd May 1975 - the first under the Waverley Steam Navigation
At the end of the
season, despite more than a few teething problems, the venture of operating Waverley
had been a success. The 1976 season was yet another struggle for survival but
the operation of Waverley had caught the imagination of countless people
around the UK!
short season of operating on the Firth of Clyde as well as the ports from which
Waverley sailed somewhat limited Waverley's potential for revenue.
In late 1976, an invitation was made for Waverley to visit Llandudno in
1977 to help celebrate its Centenary. On 28th April 1977, Waverley departed
for Liverpool in a bold and exciting venture that would see the old steamer gain
a new life and fame far away from her native Firth of Clyde. The venture was a
great success and in 1978, Waverley sailed on an even more ambitious programme
that saw her visit the Thames and South coast for the first time. 1979 saw her
make her first visit to the Bristol Channel.
1980s saw Waverley take on an ever increasing programme of cruises around
the whole of the UK with visits to the Republic of Ireland as well. Highlights
included a memorable cruise that involved her first master Captain John Cameron
laying a wreath to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation in 1980.
the late 1980s, Waverley urgently needed a refurbishment and an ambitious
'Heritage Rebuild' was planned that was heavily funded by the Heritage Lottery
Fund. The first phase commenced in 2000 with the project being completed in 2003.
Waverley looks better than ever in her original and highly attractive livery.
That once unremarkable Clyde steamer launched in 1946, is now very much a national
treasure bringing great pleasure to countless thousands around the UK each year
by providing a glimpse of travel in a bygone age!