Bill Prynne 1925-2020

On board Kingswear Castle at Strood Pier before a cruise to celebrate the life of another of the Society's past Chairmen Nick Knight. Bill Prynne is on the left, with John Megoran, Nick Knight's wife, PSPS Chairman Nick James, PSKC Trust chairman Malcolm Cockell and Pat Bushell, who volnteered in the KC office.John Megoran


Bill Prynne, who died aged 94 on Saturday 11th April, was PSPS Chairman for two stints, firstly for part of 1963 and then again from 1967 to 1976. He was appointed a Vice-President in recognition of his service when he stood down. These were periods crucial for the development of the Society in taking both Kingswear Castle and Waverley into preservation.

At that time the Society was neither an incorporated body nor a registered charity so could not own its own ships in its own name. It was also a period of much debate as to whether or not the Society should involve itself in ship ownership. On the one hand some argued that that is what the Society should be for. On the other more cautious voices pointed out the failures which had surrounded the attempts to run Freshwater, Princess Elizabeth, Consul and Jeanie Deas as Queen of the South in the 1960s. Of these ventures only the Lizzie had lasted for more than two years and she had managed just six before escalating operating and maintenance costs swept her away too.

Bill was in the camp wanting to buy a ship so when the opportunity to purchase Alumchine at a knock down price came up in 1963 he was up for it. Sadly, that project fell through but a legacy from it was that a company called Paddle Steam Navigation Ltd (later the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust) was set up to make such a purchase if the situation ever arose again.

Bill’s successor as Chairman Nick Knight was a man who could drive daisies through concrete. He was also keen to buy a paddle steamer so when Kingswear Castle was withdrawn after the 1965 season, he moved heaven and earth to make it happen. Accordingly, she was bought in 1967 by Paddle Steam Navigation, with Bill now brought back in as a shareholder and director of the company and with a loan of £600 from the PSPS to make the purchase. That year also saw Bill resuming the reins as PSPS Chairman.

Then in 1974 the unthinkable happened. CalMac offered to sell the Waverley for £1. Again, the debate raged with Bill Prynne very much in favour in the teeth of much opposition. In the end the case was made and agreed and, as had been the case with KC, a new company was set up called Waverley Steam Navigation Ltd to take ownership, along with a trading company to operate the ship and bring in the necessary professional expertise lacking within the body of the Society itself.

So, Bill Prynne had a very crucial role in the development of the Society starting the process to make it what it has become today. Without him, his drive and enthusiasm for paddle steamer purchase, neither KC nor Waverley might be with us today.

After he stepped down as chairman in 1976 Bill remained interested. I got to know him quite well and although he rarely sailed on KC, he regularly sent me letters congratulating me and my small team for what we were achieving and for what we had achieved in returning KC to service and operating her for nearly thirty years on the Medway and Thames. I know that he was similarly supportive of Waverley. I received my last letter from him only a year or so ago after he moved into a nursing home.

Bill Prynne was a thoroughly nice man who loved paddle steamers. He made a big contribution to the cause and will be very greatly missed.

Catherine, his late wife, died last August after over 70 years of happy marriage. He leaves behind 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Words by and picture courtesy of John Megoran