Minutes of the 27th Annual General Meeting of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society held on 25th October 2014 at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.
1. Welcome and Introductions
The Chairman, Iain Dewar, opened the Meeting by stating the aims of the PSPS.
Archives and our two Paddlers and operating those Paddlers 60 years after they had all been removed from our Coastal Waters. He thanked all those who had been and are currently involved and the dedication of the current Operators and their Companies.
David Green (Secretary of the London Branch) then welcomed the assembled members and pointed out that we are celebrating that purchase of a Paddle Steamer in 1974 for £1.00.
He proposed thanks to Douglas McGowan and Terry Sylvester from the inception on that date and also added thanks to Douglas McGowan for bringing along some of the items on display.
2. Apologies for Absence
The National Secretary (John Anderson) then read out an apology from Prof Alan Robinson in which he wanted to express his warmest thanks to the Committee Members who have, as always, given unstintingly of their time and energy to the work of the Society.
There were also apologies from Bill Prynne (Vice –president), Gordon Wilson and Iain Quinn (Scottish Branch), Mr and Mrs Purves, Philip Cade and Frank Snart (Wessex).
The Chairman then mentioned the fact that Ian McMillan had died this year and we should note his huge contribution over the years to Waverley and PSPS.
Regrettably Richard Winfield (Northern Branch stalwart) passed away a month ago.
3. Minutes of the 26th Annual General Meeting.
These had been distributed to all those present and there being no amendments thought necessary they were proposed for acceptance by John Beveridge and seconded by Noel Kemp.
4. Matters Arising
There were two items pointed out by the Chairman.
Child FREE membership offered for 1 year as a celebration gesture, Council had considered and decided that this was only a 1 off offering.
Name change – it had been suggested that this be changed to Pleasure Steamer Preservation Society. John Beveridge had produced a paper which discussed the pros and cons and Council unanimously decided that it should remain Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.
There were no further discussions on these topics.
5. Report of the Council of Management and Financial Statements.
The Report and Accounts had been circulated to members in the Summer Paddle Wheels and were also distributed in the booklet issued to all attendees.
They were explained by the Treasurer (Martin Longhurst).
He stated that he had followed the Guidelines of the Charity Commission in preparing the Report and Accounts. For the first time detailed memberships had been included and at December 2013 had been 2,803.
The main financial movement in 2013 was the transfer of the ring-fenced fund of £327,000 to the Kingswear Castle Trust (as a dowry) which would enable the Trust to meet its obligations under the charter agreement with the Dart Company to maintain the major components (hull, boiler and engine) of Kingswear Castle.
He then displayed two Pie Charts.
The one for the Society’s income of £184,000 showed that this was made up of 41% donations, 30% from fund raising (mainly charters), and 23% from Subscriptions with investment at 6%.
The one for the Society’s expenditure of £441,000 showed that this was made up of 74% to the Kingswear Castle Trust, 7% on other support to our ships, 6% on fund raising (mainly charters), 5% on other charitable expenditure (mainly museum), 5% on Paddle Wheels with administration costing 3%. He also drew attention to the subscription income of £42,000 compared the Paddle Wheels costs of £23,000.
There were no questions and Chris Phillips (Wessex Branch) proposed and Keith Abraham (London Branch) seconded acceptance of the Treasurer’s report.
The Meeting AGREED.
6. Ships Reports
PS Waverley Report – Summary of Remarks Made By David Kells Chairman WEL
David Kells began by thanking the Society for the opportunity to speak and for its continued support whilst paying tribute to individual members who helped in a multitude of ways, not least by sailing on the ship.
He believed that lack of transparency in the past had sometimes contributed to misunderstandings and he hoped that what was now being published – including a consolidated financial statement placed on the PSPS website – and what he was about to say would show that culture had changed. It would never be possible to explain every decision but it was not helpful if people without solutions offered negative criticism.
A number of successful actions had been taken to control finances to prevent recurrence of the dramas of recent years. On top of these a number of serious challenges had had to be overcome:
- Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund. Like many long established pension funds this had suffered from the general financial malaise with revaluations revealing a substantial deficit. This resulted in levies on the shrinking number of member companies. In this year alone WEL had had to pay £112,000 on top of normal contributions. Support to meet this had been received from a major company. (DK modestly omitted to mention he had secured this help.) Graham Shankland, WEL Director and Accountant, had also negotiated favourable payment terms.
- It had not been possible to discuss this openly until now because of the delicacy of negotiations. For the last year the possibility had existed of WEL having to pay back roundly £1m of Gift Aid received. A decision had had to be taken in February as to whether the company could continue to operate: professional advice was that it could. With the benefit of further professional advice, much work by the directors, Kathleen O’Neill and Graham Hogg and the co-operation of HMRC the threat had very recently been lifted. Discussions were continuing on what might be claimed in the future. Unfortunately one consequence of the uncertainty was that other funding had been lost, including £70,000 for a bow thruster (which again DK refrained from saying he had obtained).
- Letters to Funders. An individual or individuals had written a number of hostile letters to funders, including all councils and the HLF and to OSCR and HMRC. There was a huge expenditure of directorial and managerial time in recovering the position despite which one major supporter had probably been lost.
The uncertainty created by these challenges caused other difficulties: planning was difficult for example and it was not possible to recruit staff for the long term or ask people to leave secure jobs to join.
With the support of the PSPS the boards had been restructured and now met jointly. This had resulted in better communication, more focus, less danger of misinformation and a greater chance of going in the same direction. It facilitated recruitment of people with business people without an agenda.
Tribute was paid to Nick James who had just stood down as WN Chairman and whose contribution over the years had been huge. Lawrie Sinclair, a former MD of CalMac, who had taken over had large shoes to fill.
George Taylor, formerly of CalMac had taken over this role and there were many benefits from his experience and professionalism. He was working with Ken Henderson and a full programme of winter works was being developed. A lot had to be done to maintain standards and the company was well aware of the issues, including the condition of the varnish. The new CE supported by ken Henderson had improved engine room standards and efficiency.
Although there had been some improvements this year, especially in profitability and products offered there was a lot more to be done. New stock control systems, purchasing policies and selling prices that deliver good margins had been introduced. New tills should provide accurate information on stock levels and sales. Deryk Docherty who had been organising the retail area had withdrawn because of other commitments. Along with the volunteer shopkeepers he was thanked for all he had done.
A number of changes had been made which had not been popular in all quarters but improved figures and margins had resulted. Two major suppliers had been changed with benefits in price and quality. What was offered was more in keeping with demand and the restrictions under which the catering operated. It was however still work in progress.
Volunteers were key to how WEL operated and James Macmillan had been asked to take the lead with a view to making their use more professional. As the ship aged more work had to be done on her and it was necessary to find people with the necessary skills, even if not enthusiasts. The take-over of the Garvel dry dock would result in significantly higher costs so volunteer effort became even more important.
The company wished to sail Waverley for as many days as possible so long as they are profitable, but income did not necessarily mean profit and the ship was the last sea gong paddle steamer for a reason: sailings had to contribute to central costs. The Commonwealth Games had had an adverse impact on 2014 in terms of uncertainty and inability to carry out normal sailings. The outcome of this year’s schedule would be carefully examined and next year’s constructed in the light of outcomes. At least however the company was in a sufficiently stable position to be able to take a considered view.
How We Operate.
There would be more changes in 2015 to improve control and deliver better levels of customer service. Lucy Morley had made a significant difference this year and her responsibilities would increase in 2015. WEL would also be looking at systems which might improve customer experience.
2013 showed a reduction of final surplus of £172,552 BUT £537500 less external support had been received so there was actually an improvement of £365,000 in business performance despite £100,000 of one-off pension and redundancy costs.
Although MV Balmoral was a separate subject – and transfer to MVBFL was well on course – WEL had carried £73800 of Balmoral costs in 2013 and a further £19000 in 2014, which would not recur.
Finally Mr Kells provided some initial figures for 2014 together with some of the highlights, mentioning that, sadly, the last Clyde weekend had been disrupted.
Hot Meals +16%
PS Kingswear Castle Report
John Megoran reported that there had been another good season on the Dart with similar numbers to last year with September particularly good and October rather less so.
KC received an award from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers which was presented during a function held aboard the ship at Dartmouth in May. A number of people who had a past involvement with KC attended including Chris Smith whose contribution as relief skipper, mate, engineer and shipwright over very many years was vast.
As well as Ritchie Swinglehurst and Malcolm Pope, Simon Bush, another of the skippers from the Dart fleet, has now received training and been passed out as competent to command KC.
The Dart company have also recruited another engineer, Jack Woodhams, to work both on the railway and on KC making a total of five engineers, including Nigel Thomas and the company’s health and safety officer, Nick Dunn, who are competent to sail as KC’s engineer.
He attended the AGM of the Dart Company in Paignton in June at which it was reported that KC had fitted into the company’s overall operations very well and had received much praise and support helping to bring together the railway and the passenger boat operation. She also won the Gold Award as “Best Visitor Attraction” in the 2014 Torbay Herald English Riviera and South Devon Hospitality Awards.
He expressed his thanks to all those people who had worked on, and been involved with, KC on the Medway. Her move to Dartmouth was a big loss for them and for many people in Kent and the South East but he felt that the move was very much in the ship’s long term interest offering the opportunity for her to sail in a major tourist area for a company with experience of both steam engines and passenger vessels, with a supply of local skippers and engineers and with their own undercover shipyard facility in the Dart area. He stated that it is a far better environment than on the Medway owing to the lack of custom of late.
The next season’s timetable is under discussion and the ship will be slipped in May.
PS Maid of the Loch Report
John Beveridge report that since the last AGM, the 60th Anniversary public appeal has reached almost £150,000.
He reported that support from publicity and PR has been wonderful with the local papers carrying an item about the Maid almost every week. They have enjoyed national exposure on TV, national papers, and in journals & magazines. In 2014 so far, they have had 34 news releases or news items. More events this year than ever before. 20 so far with a further two planned. These have included a special Easter opening; the Allsorts Choir from Dumbarton concert in the town’s civic theatre (raising over £930); Swiss visitors; weddings; and hosting the Great Scottish Swim.
He reminded the meeting that they had submitted a bid to the HLF in December, together with proposals for an all year round visitor centre on Balloch Pier. In April they were advised that this was not supported although they were “excited” by the project. They also need to address “education” issues, and this is underway.
They have produced a DVD about the Maid called “Voyage of the Maid”; the National Park Authority printed a poster featuring the ship; a new souvenir booklet was published; and Loch Lomond Brewery have again prepared a new ale for sale, from which we get 10% on every bottle sold.
Sponsorship has been received from LLB who gave them the entire batch of their 60th Anniversary Ale towards the appeal; and from Merson Signs which made new signs at the entrance to the access road, and to the pier. Many suppliers have given generous rates, from Gilmour & Aitken to a local carpet cleaner.
On the ship, volunteers have been exceptionally busy – some of the original opening windows have been repaired and now are able to be opened again; painting of the white portion of the hull has been completed; the handrails have all been scraped and varnished; the foc’s’le has been renewed; and a range of other repairs and maintenance carried out.
The main projects for the volunteers are to finish painting the black portion of the hull and the red boot topping; and to refurbish the Mickel Saloon (cure the rain coming in via the window frames, lay a new floating floor, and recarpet).
The major task now is for preparation of another application to the HLF, resolving the education issues, and this may take a few more months.
He ended by thanking those present once again and PSPS for the support.
PS Medway Queen Report
Mr Roddy McKee reported that the Medway Queen Preservation Society was very short of funds; it had made an internal appeal to members and was urgently seeking new sources of finance.”
This is operated by Wareham Steam Navigation and Chris Phillips reported that they plan to run the ship whenever possible. J. Gold pointed out that the builder of the paddler is in the audience.
Dave Bassett gave an update report starting with grateful thanks to Nigel Coombes without whose support and organisational skill they would not be so advanced.
Last year there was not a great deal of progress to report. The target had been to get the survey done. Recertification was successful and the MCA official survey was completed. The ship’s bottom and electrical and other services were also reviewed.
He stated that the first promise has been achieved. He praised Seaspan and the dedication of the ship’s volunteers.
There is a lot more hard work ahead but they have a strong team and have moved forward in the past 12 months. They are looking for a passenger certificate in the Spring and possible operation in 2015 (dependent on Funds).
The Meeting was appreciative of the report and wished the Balmoral success in the next phase.
7. To note that Douglas McGowan has been re-elected unopposed as a Member of the Council of Management
8. To note that Richard Clammer has been elected unopposed as a Members of the Council of Management to fill the vacant position having been duly nominated by Douglas McGowan and Terry Sylvester
The Chairman stated that Richard Clammer will also be involved in the Archive work of the Society.
9. To appoint Adey, Fitzgerald and Walker as Reporting Accountants to the Society for the year, and to authorize the Council of Management to fix their remuneration
This was proposed by Noel Kemp and seconded by Paul Semple and was carried nem com.
This was the end of the formal proceedings and after a break for refreshments there was an open forum.
PSPS National Secretary