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14th November 1965 Jeanie Deans

PS Jeanie Deans moored at Chatham.


After a fast run along the South Coast, Jeanie Deans reached the Medway and eventually tied up on the buoys off Thunderbolt Pier at Chatham on Sunday 14th November 1965.

She had left the Clyde around tea time on Friday 5th November for her voyage south. The journey had taken nearly ten days. The distance travelled was 750 nautical miles. If she had averaged 12 knots and the going had been good she could have done it in two and a half days. At an average speed of 14 knots she could have done it in two days.

But the going had not been good. The feed pump had packed up and had to be fixed on the first evening out on the Clyde. She was caught out in a storm in the Irish Sea in which the deck in the starboard sponson lavatories had been knocked out by the force of the waves. She had almost run out of fuel in the approaches to Holyhead. She had thrown a paddle float and radius arm in Cardigan Bay which had to be removed at sea. She had been broached across a dock end at Falmouth. At Southampton her anchor had fowled the moorings of the bunkering barge. Even on her approach to the Medway there had been an issue when a leak from an indicator cock, which had worked loose of its own accord, filled the engine room with steam.

There are many things which go into the equation of success for any project or business. Having the right people with the right skill sets and experience to make the right things happen is up there at the top of the list. Money to fix things when they go wrong and make sure that the ship is fit for service is essential. And designing a business model which somehow delivers an excess of income over expenditure year in year out is another must have. Without that combination no business will have any lasting success.

Luck can a play a part too and sadly that was something which seemed to be in short supply on Jeanie Deans back then. The wicked hobgoblin who turns good intentions into black farce seemed to have stationed his malevolent wand permanently aboard the ship both on her voyage south as well as in the run up to, and during, her spectacularly unsuccessful attempts to operate on the Thames as Queen of the South in 1966 and 1967.

PSPS members aboard Jeanie Deans Chatham December 1965.Guy Hundy

However, as 1965 ticked over into 1966 hopes were still running high within the PSPS that all would be well. Paddle Wheels listed all the jobs volunteers could do to help get the ship ready for her new career. There was general rejoicing that another paddle steamer had been saved. She had a rosy future now in a new career under fresh management who had go ahead ideas and would show everyone else how it should really be done.

The liberty boat which ferried Jeanie Deans’ new owner Don Rose out to join her on arrival at Chatham set off from Ship Pier in Rochester which was right next to a pub called “The Ship”. Don noticed this pub and would buy it to make a new living for himself a couple of years later after his attempts to run the Jeanie Deans as Queen of the South had ended in abject failure and he found as a result that he had lost his ship, the company he set up to own and run her and his wholesale grocery business in South London as well.

But on Sunday 14th November 1965 all that lay in the future. Back aboard on the moorings off Chatham Jeanie’s cook still had a plentiful supply of tins of Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies left in his cupboard and remained ever keen to serve them up to one and all. Of takers though there were by then few. Chief Engineer Arthur Blue, who had interrupted his studies to join the ship moments before she sailed from Greenock on 5th November, recalled that one of his first thoughts when “Finished With Engines” was rung on the telegraph on the Medway was to go ashore as soon as possible to source a nice plate of proper fish and chips.

John Megoran

John Megoran

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