Waverley is the last seagoing passenger carrying paddle steamer
in the world. Built in 1946, she sailed from Craigendoran on the
Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. Purchased by
the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, she has been restored
to her 1947 appearance and now operates passenger excursions
around the British coast.
Since 2003, Waverley has been listed in the British National
Register of Historic Ships core collection as 'a vessel of
pre-eminent national importance'.
History in detail
PS Waverley is named after Sir Walter Scott's first novel. She
was built in 1946 as a replacement for an earlier PS Waverley of
1899 that took part in the WW II war effort as a minesweeper and
was sunk in 1940 while helping with the evacuation of troops
from Dunkirk. The new 693-tonne steamer was launched in October
1946 at builders A. & J. Inglis, Glasgow, and entered service in
June 1947. She was built for the London and North Eastern
Railway to sail on their Firth of Clyde steamer route from
Craigendoran Pier, near Helensburgh, up Loch Long to Arrochar,
and in her first year in service she wore that company's red,
white and black funnel colours.
In 1948 nationalisation of Britain's railway companies brought
the steamers under the control of the Caledonian Steam Packet
Company (CSP), a subsidiary of the Railway Executive, and the
funnels were repainted yellow with a black top. In 1965 a
Scottish red lion rampant was fixed to each side of both
funnels, and her hull was painted monastral blue until 1970.
After a revival of pre-war fortunes in the 1950s, the 1960s saw
a gradual change in holiday habits leading to a decline in
passenger numbers, and the closure of many of the small piers.
Since 1969, and the formation of the Scottish Transport Group,
the CSP had been gradually merging with the West Highland
shipping and ferry company David MacBrayne Ltd, and in 1973 the
company became Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd.
Waverley was withdrawn after the 1973 season as too costly to
operate and in need of significant expenditure. By then the
Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), had been set up as a
registered UK charity, and had acquired the near-derelict small
River Dart paddler PS Kingswear Castle. Caledonian MacBrayne,
keen to ensure that the ship was preserved, sold Waverley to the
PSPS for the token sum of one pound (GBP). Neither side really
believed that the vessel would return to steam but, just in
case, Caledonian MacBrayne stipulated that she should not sail
in competition with their remaining cruise vessel, TS Queen
Mary. A public appeal was launched to secure funding for the
return of the Waverley to service and the fund-raising operation
was successful. The PSPS found themselves running a cruise ship
operation, Waverley Excursions. Since then Waverley has been
joined in the PSPS fleet by PS Kingswear Castle and MV Balmoral,
and has had a series of extensive refits and a lot of
restoration work, including a new boiler and improvements to
meet modern safety standards. She has circumnavigated Britain
and every year carries out extensive sailings around the
Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection,
between 2000 and 2003 the ship underwent a substantial rebuild
and reboilering, funded principally by the Heritage Lottery
Fund. The work was done in two stages at the shipyard of George
Prior at Great Yarmouth and has succeeded in returning the ship
to her original 1946 livery with the inclusion of many 21st
Century safety and technological improvements.
In 2009 the ship was affiliated with HMS Defender, having hosted
the official dignitary party at Defender’s launch on the River
Clyde. And in 2011 the ship was awarded the Institution of
Mechanical Engineers 65th Engineering Heritage Award.
Waverley at the Watt Dock, Greenock, for a day's repair work on
13 July 2010, with MV Clansman in for more extended repairs.
On the evening of Friday 15 July 1977 while returning from a
cruise and approaching Dunoon pier, Waverley's steering failed
and she struck the rocks to the south known as ‘The Gantocks′.
Firmly aground and down by the head the ship was extensively
damaged. There was some doubt about whether or not she would
hold together on refloating but she did, and she was repaired
and returned to service. Her survival was attributed to her
heavier than normal post World War II construction which had
included provision for minesweeping gear and a deck gun in case
she was ever requisitioned by the Admiralty for use in a future
On 15 September 2008, Waverley was involved in minor damage to
Worthing Pier. After she berthed and secured lines to pier
bollards, part of the landing stage became dislodged. No damage
was sustained to the steamer but she had to depart without
taking on passengers. The only damage to the pier was that a
length of timber was pulled out.
On 26 June 2009, Waverley struck the pier at Dunoon, resulting
in damage to both the ship and pier. Some 700 people were on
board at the time, and 12 suffered minor injuries. The ship
returned to Glasgow, where a damage assessment was carried out.
One week later she was back in service on the Clyde.
Today Waverley operates passenger excursions from a variety of
British ports. She regularly sails from Glasgow and other towns
on the Firth of Clyde, the Thames, the South Coast of England
and the Bristol Channel. She also undertakes private charters
and provides an authentic backdrop for television documentaries
and movies such as 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.