Present: Paul Semple, National Chairman, and 45 other members of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society were present.
Adrian Sweeney, Chairman of the North of England and North Wales Branch, welcomed members and thanked Helen and Steven Strachan and David Haddleton for their work in arranging the meeting. Paul Semple introduced the Executive Council.
2. Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from 11 members.
3. Minutes of the 30th Annual General Meeting
The Minutes were approved and signed by the Chairman as a true record.
4. Matters Arising
There were no matters arising not covered by the agenda.
5. Reports of the Council of Management and Reporting Accountants and the Society’s financial statements for the year ended 31st December 2017
The Chairman introduced the Report of the Council of Management and it was agreed to receive this nem con. Martin Longhurst introduced the Report of the Reporting Accountant and the Society’s financial statements for the year ending 31st December 2017. He noted the exceptional level of bequests during the year and the considerable financial support given to PS Waverley. It was agreed to receive the reports nem con.
6. PS Kingswear Castle Report
John Megoran reported a good season at Dartmouth. Kingswear Castle was maintained to a high standard and the under-cover slipway was a huge advantage. The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company have an excellent crew who take a keen interest in the vessel.
John Megoran paid tribute to Jeremy Gold, who had stood down from PS Kingswear Castle Trust during the year, for his work over many years for the Society and for Kingswear Castle in particular. This was enthusiastically endorsed by all present. He also paid tribute to Pat Bushell, who had worked hard for PS Kingswear Castle Trust for many years, and who had died recently.
John Megoran reported that the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company was considering establishing a paddle steamer museum at Kingswear, but funding for this is required.
A major refit of Kingswear Castle is planned for 2021. It is hoped to achieve this without missing a season’s operation.
John Megoran concluded that he feels Kingswear Castle is "at home" at Dartmouth and has a glorious future ahead of her.
7. PS Waverley Report
Paul Semple reported on another challenging season for Waverley.
During dry docking the rudder was found to be out of alignment, leading to a second visit to dry dock to fit a new rudder stock. Fortunately, the Society had funded the casting of a spare rudder stock in 2016, but even with that available Waverley was ready for service only days before the start of the sailing season.
The Society was extremely grateful to Serco for seconding John Simm to act as Master of Waverley on the Clyde, but it had been necessary to rely on relief masters elsewhere.
Western Isles sailings operated successfully in fine weather, except for one curtailed by heavy fog. There was excellent weather on the Clyde until the third week of July. Waverley made her first passenger call at the new Brodick Pier on 28 June. For weather and operational reasons it was not possible to call at Ayr and there was only one call at Girvan. The PSPS Scottish Branch ran a successful charter of Waverley from Blairmore, Greenock and Helensburgh on 5 July, carrying 719 passengers, of whom 216 boarded at Blairmore – almost certainly a record for the pier. Unfortunately, the planned visit to Gareloch could not take place, because of a submarine movement.
There were three cancelled sailings on the Clyde, because of technical problems with the boiler and generators. A boiler ignition failure on 25 August resulted in Waverley being anchored at the Tail of the Bank for four hours, with passengers on board, while the problem was resolved. This resulted in a lot of publicity and cancellation of the final Clyde main season sailing. It also delayed Waverley’s departure for Liverpool, so the first sailing from there was amended to start at Llandudno. Bristol Channel sailings almost entirely operated as scheduled, with several sailings sold out in advance. South Coast sailings were badly affected by weather, with only one operating entirely as planned and six entirely cancelled. There was significant publicity, particularly on social media, for Waverley’s visit to the Thames. Weather delayed her return to the Clyde until 20 October, so the final sailings there were cancelled.
Overall, Waverley operated on 92 days. 91,000 passenger journeys were recorded. These figures are better than 2017, when technical problems and the incident at Rothesay caused significant time off service, but lower than in 2016. It is expected that fares income will be about the same as for 2017, but catering and shop takings are down.
Winter refit work has started, with a particular focus on repairs to the paddle wheels. Several paddle boards need to be replaced. The main engine No. 4 crankshaft bearing is due for survey, following damage found last year.
Gordon Stewart asked about dreadful reviews of Waverley on Trip Advisor, what Waverley Excursions’ attitude to this is and what is being done about it. Paul Semple said he monitors Trip Advisor and thinks some comments are harsh, but there are patterns and themes, which are being analysed by WEL. Douglas McGowan noted that Waverley Excursions seldom responds to postings on Trip Advisor and if similar comments keep being made there must be a grain of truth.
8. PS Maid of the Loch Report
Gordon Wilson reported on behalf of John Beveridge, who was taking a well-deserved holiday. Heritage Lottery Fund’s rejection of the £3.6m grant application, which they said was because of “insufficient funds”, was a major disappointment. The application had required considerable effort and cost over £470,000. Discussions are continuing with HLF concerning the reasons for the rejection.
There are has been considerable encouragement to carry on, though it may be necessary to carry out work in phases. Loch Lomond Steamship Company sincerely thanks PSPS and its members for all the support that has been given. The company will succeed, but it will just take a little longer.
9. Other Paddlers
Monarch: The Chairman reported that the vessel had not been sold and sailings are planned for 2019.
Wingfield Castle: David Haddleton reported that the steamer was in sound condition at Hartlepool, but with superficial damage. The vessel had been used as the café for Hartlepool Council’s maritime museum. The museum has now been adapted as the Museum of the Royal Navy North. It seems that Wingfield Castle is no longer seen as relevant to the museum and she is no longer open to the public. The museum staff have considerable calls on their time and have realised the value of volunteers in looking after the vessel. They have no experience of working with volunteers and wish to learn from PSPS. Although the ship is at risk, she has as good a chance as any to survive, given help.
Ryde: The Chairman reported that the PS Ryde Trust is purchasing the vessel and aims to get a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for its renovation.
There were no reports available for Medway Queen or John H Amos.
David Green reported that there had been several small donations of slides and books during the year, together with 170 items from Victoria Wood, which came from the collection of her grandfather, Ted Groom. Various rare handbills have been purchased on eBay. The biggest purchase, not on eBay, is the bell of PS Prince, dating from 1852. This is currently with Richard Clammer, who has been taking it to various branch meetings as a basis for a talk.
David Green has visited Margate and Felixstowe museums, which have material on loan from PSPS, and to Deal museum to provide some facsimile images. He is also in contact with Southend Museum concerning the material on loan to them.
At least 2,500 images have been scanned during the year and copies have been provided for the PSPS website and to the London & Home Counties and Scottish branches. The long and time-consuming job of cataloguing continues, with Richard Clammer working his way through the 25 photographic albums of Captain Thomas.
Storage has been a major focus of the year, with principal storage boxes being standardised. Box binders and acid-free polyester sleeves have been purchased with grants from the London & Home Counties and Scottish branches. The box binders are used to store the postcard collection, making it much easier to locate individual cards. Negatives, slides and tickets are similarly stored.
David Green expressed thanks to fellow members of the Archive Committee, Peter Box and Richard Clammer, and to David Lawrence who regularly checks the archive premises. In connection with the sixtieth anniversary of the Society in 2019, he asked for anyone with early memories to please come forward.
11. Chairman’s Report
Paul Semple thanked all those who contribute to the Society. He particularly mentioned:
- Jon Joliffe, who had stood down as Membership Secretary;
- David Haddleton, who is retiring from Council;
- John Megoran for his huge contribution over many years and particularly for the positive relationship he had developed with Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company;
- The volunteers, paid staff and directors of Waverley Excursions and Waverley Steam Navigation Limited;
- Geoffrey Ryder, who has served for forty years on Waverley;
- Roy Tait, who manages the PSPS website;
- Angela Johnson and Peter Morley, who have ably taken on secretarial responsibilities;
- Gordon Wilson, for his support as Vice-Chairman and for taking on the role of Membership Secretary;
- Martin Longhurst, who has served as Treasurer since 1980
Paul Semple noted that Paddle Wheels had been restyled as an A4 magazine from December 2017 and distribution was now carried out by a mailing company. Changes had resulted in a significant cost saving, from £20,000 for the last four A5 magazines to £12,200 for the first four A4 ones. He particularly thanked Myra Allen, assisted by John, for their hard work in producing a quality product. The new format Paddle Wheels is sold on Waverley, helping to raise the Society’s profile.
12. Elections to Council of Management
The meeting noted that John Anderson and Peter Morley had been re-elected and elected respectively to the Council of Management unopposed.
13. Appointment of Reporting Accountant
The meeting approved the appointment of Peter Walker FCCA as Reporting Accountant to the Society for the year 2018 and authorised the Council of Management to fix his remuneration.
14. Development Plan Progress
Paul Semple outlined how the Development Plan had been produced, in order to stem the decline in membership. It had been circulated to members in September 2018. A progress log is maintained and is reviewed at each Council meeting.
Paul Semple set out progress with each of the five key priorities, including:
- Better communication with members through improvements to Paddle Wheels and introduction of a national newsletter;
- Better communication with the public at large, principally through social media, including the PSPS website, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube;
- Membership renewal arrangements have been improved and a new Young Person’s membership category introduced;
- Around 100 new members have been attracted through an introductory offer;
- There is increased publicity for the Society’s support for Waverley and Kingswear Castle;
- There has been increased promotion of the Society’s collection, with images of items published in Paddle Wheels and on social media;
- Details of Trustees are given on the PSPS website and summary reports of Council meetings are published in Paddle Wheels.
Plans are well-advanced for marking the Society’s sixtieth anniversary, including publication of a commemorative book, a DVD and a calendar. A full day charter of Waverley is also planned.
Following the closure of the formal meeting there was an Open Forum:
Paul Semple reported that Professor Alan Robinson, the Society’s founder, had recently moved into a nursing home. The meeting wished him well.
Gordon Stewart congratulated Paul Semple on how he promoted the Society on social media. While there was a strong link between the ships and the society in the plan, there was no control over how the Waverley companies operated the ship. Paul Semple said that PSPS nominated directors to both companies.
Gas Hill asked for more innovative destinations for Waverley cruises and suggested Ellesmere Port on the Manchester Ship Canal. Gordon Stewart said that the company should concentrate on core routes.
Jeremy Gold said that Waverley’s business model should be reviewed, given that operational, economic and social changes have led to higher costs and lower revenues. He considered that there is a real risk of the situation getting worse and alternative business models need to be examined. Dave Braisted said that new regulations, availability (or not) of piers and in the market indicated the challenge. He suggested seeking common ground with other organisations. Iain Quinn said that infrastructure is key and thought that Waverley Excursions should participate in campaigns in support of piers, such as Millport.
Following the meeting there was a film show of historic Clyde steamers by Iain Quinn.