#PaddleSteamer - In recent weeks, Waverley, the World's last sea-going paddle steamer, which has visited Irish ports among them Wicklow, returned to its Scottish homeport for winter layover following a UK season of coastal exursions, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Waverley's wake has included the waters off the Antrim coast, having set off from Scotland, where the 623 tonnes vessel is currently berthed on the Clyde just downriver of Glasgow City. The Waverley is berthed on the banks of where famous shipyards stood and nearby of the present day Riverside Museum of Transport featuring tallship Glenlee. The barque is the UK’s only remaining floating Clyde-built cargo sailing ship dating to 1896 and during its clipper ocean trading career called to Cobh.
The visits to Wicklow by Waverley is represented by a wonderfully executed mural painted on the East Pier by local marine artist Pat Davis. Recently, a new mural of the Irish Naval Service coastal patrol vessesl (CPV) LÉ Orla was added. This brings to 40 murals in total by Davis, including brigantine Asgard II that sank a decade ago. They line the length of the breakwater bookended by the Wicklow Sailing Club and the pierhead lighthouse.
Incidentally, CPV LÉ Orla was launched as HMS Swift in Scotland for the Royal Navy's 'Peacock' class. Under INS career (30 years), the small patrol vessel has never called to the port, though many years before, LÉ Gráinne another former RN 'Ton' class patrol vessel did and is depicted in a mural at the beginning of the pier.
It was at Wicklow Port's pier, where P.S. Waverley called to the Irish east coast port in 2001, a trip recalled with much fondness, having embarked in Dublin Port, from there the power of those paddles propelled the veteran vessel also to Arklow and as far south offshore of Courtown Harbour, Wexford.
Another, previously enjoyed coastal paddlesteamer excursion in 1984 involved the short hop across Dublin Bay from the capital to Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Also in that year, transits through Dalkey Sound made for a spectacular sight (see photo p. 37 'Maritime' Dalkey) as the vessel swept up and down along the coast. Other ports during this rare calls over the years have included Dundalk and Rosslare Harbour.
The 73m long paddle-steamer with capacity for 925 passengers, arrived last month on the River Clyde from where the keel was laid in 1945 at the former A&J Inglis Ltd shipyard in Glasgow. Due to material shortages after the war, the steamer was not ready for launch until October 2, 1946, however it was not till the following year that the vessel was towed to Greenock where boiler and engines were installed.
Waverley, finally made a maiden voyage on June 16, 1947 that began a very long career iniatially for London & North Eastern Railway. In the following year due to Nationalisation of Railways the paddle steamer became part of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company to serve duties on the Clyde. The distinctive angled twin funnels could be seen serving Scottish waters until retirement in 1973. The paddle steamer was saved the next year when gifted to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) for a nominal £1.
The Waverley decades later remains magnificently restored with those towering funnels, varnished timber decks and gleaming brass fittings. On board, excursionists on the steamer operated by Waverley Excursions, can hear but also observe directly the mighty steam engines as they propel the paddles through the sea.
Next year the PSPS will celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, having been founded in 1959 when many paddle steamers were been withdrawn from within UK coastal waters. Waverley Excursions are in the process of planning the 2019 season with a programme operated on behalf of owners the Waverley Steam Navigation Company.
In the meantime during the Waverley's winter layover in Glasgow, skilled tradespeople are been sought to carry out maintenance on board. So if you are an engineer, electrician, plumber or joiner you can submit the volunteering form to email: [email protected] and for further information by clicking this link