Last paddle steamer owners celebrate diamond jubilee

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The owners of the paddle steamer PS Waverley are celebrating their diamond jubilee this year as final preparations are being made to the spring Clyde and Western Isles sailings.

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), a registered charity founded in 1959, has about 2,500 members and through its associated charitable companies it operates the only two working paddle steamers in Great Britain; PS Waverley and PS Kingswear Castle.

Of particular importance for supporters of the PS Waverley is the Scottish branch of the PSPS, which was formed in 1969 by Douglas McGowan, now the honorary branch president.

It was in 1973 that Mr McGowan was part of a meeting with CalMac which resulted in PS Waverley being gifted to the PSPS for £1. On Thursday August 8, 1974, PSPS took ownership of the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world.

Without the work of the PSPS, which has five branches across the United Kingdom, there would be no PS Waverley or PS Kingswear Castle – the latter being Britain’s last coal burning river paddle steamer. Built in 1924 and operating on the River Dart, she was purchased by the PSPS in 1967.

The flagship of the fleet though remains PS Waverley. Built on the Clyde in 1947 for the London and North Eastern Railway, she is named after Sir Walter Scott’s first novel and carries a portrait of Edward Waverley on her paddle boxes. She is powered by a triple-expansion marine steam engine and sails between April and October each year in the waters of Scotland, England and Wales.

Waverley is operated on behalf of the PSPS by Waverley Excursions Ltd. The 2019 timetable is still being prepared however her sailings this year will, as usual, include trips to visit Arran, Dunoon, Rothesay, Tighnabruaich and Tarbert, with cruises of Loch Fyne, Loch Long and Ailsa Craig also available.