On the Spot: Derek Peters

Making the hands of time stand still: Derek Peters says the past two years for Waverley have been a bigger challenge than anyone imaginedand what she needs now is a period of stability. The 75-year old paddler has not had a full season since 2018, when her sailings included a circumnavigation of Ailsa Craig on the first day of July (above). In 2021 she is scheduled to give two such sailings, on 26 July and 16 August

Derek Peters is chairman and finance director of Waverley Steam Navigation Company Limited (WSN), the charity that owns Waverley. He is also finance director of Waverley Excursions Ltd (WEL), its operating arm. He knows the steamer inside out: while still a schoolboy in 1975 he was assistant purser for her ‘hugely exciting’ first summer of operational preservation, remaining on board for five of the following six seasons. A graduate (in civil engineering) of Glasgow University, Derek pursued a career in banking until retirement in 2019 — whereupon he was invited to join the WSN and WEL boards. What with the boiler replacement appeal, Covid restrictions and the impact of Brexit on crew recruitment, he has had his hands full ensuring the paddler has a viable strategy for her first proper season since 2018.

Acknowledging that today’s regulatory environment has made the Waverley business ‘very complicated’ compared to the early years, Derek says the central challenge remains the same — to ‘continue providing new generations with the opportunity to sail on a real sea-going paddle steamer, maintaining her heritage machinery to modern standards of safety’. On the eve of her first public sailing of 2021, he kindly took the time to answer Stuart Craig’s ‘On the Spot’ questions.

What is your earliest memory of sailing on a Clyde Steamer?

Derek Peters (right) on board Waverley at Glasgow with WEL general manager Paul Semple

There are photos of me aboard Waverley as a baby, but as a memory, at age less than 5, I remember standing by a doorway below decks, and my dad saying ‘ask the man what boat this is’. The answer was ‘Duchess of Hamilton’. That must have been the chief or second engineer. I have no other recollection of the ‘Hamilton’ unfortunately.

What was the last sailing you took?

Waverley on 2nd September last year. Diverted from Tarbert to Lochs Riddon and Striven in the pouring rain!

Holidays: Dunoon, Rothesay or Arran?

In childhood – only Rothesay and only once. As an adult Arran quite a lot, and Rothesay once or twice when our own kids were wee.

What is your favourite steamer?

No surprise – Waverley for sure. I like the looks of some of the Victorian boats too.

Which was Waverley’s best livery?

Derek Peters (left) as assistant purser of Waverley in 1976, with purser Cameron Marshall

WSN post 2003 with the scumbling on the deckhouses.

If young enough, what was your favourite ‘streaker’, or if older,  your favourite ‘Maid’?

I qualify for the ‘Maids’ but never sailed in the ‘Ashton’. Maid of Argyll out of the other three. I remember a wonderful lively trip in spring from Craigendoran to Gourock, Kilcreggan and Dunoon. I also sailed on the maiden (public) voyage of Jupiter in 1973 but still rate the ‘streakers’ as a curiosity!

Jeanie Deans or Waverley?

Never saw the Jeanie. Waverley for me.

A new turbine has been built on the Clyde. What would you call her?

To replicate the marketing genius of our forebears it would have to something topical and popular. Hogwarts Castle perhaps, or Craiglang(?) — or something from Outlander or Game of Thrones!

What would you like to see happen on the Clyde ferry scene over the next few years?

I agree with others calling for standardisation of the ferries and terminals; also for more ships and not larger ships. Routes to Kintyre need to be developed. And Fairlie should be looked at again for Arran.

The best point-to-point route you’ve sailed on?

Waverley at Arrochar in 1968: a new pier there would open the possibility of reviving the Three Lochs Tour

Just for the scenery – Mallaig to Lochboisdale.

Apart from Millport, which pier would you like to see re-open?

Arrochar. And lots of others!

What inspired you to join CRSC?

It was the big boat charters in the early 1970s. The winter meetings in Glasgow too.

Would you like to see Zoom meetings become a permanent feature of the Club’s year, even once normal meetings are allowed again?

Yes. Allowing more distant members to take part (even me from my home in Fife) is a wonderful new facility.

What makes you continue your membership of CRSC?

My lifelong interest in coastal shipping, the quality of the publications and the winter meetings.

What could the Club do better?

The direction of travel is very positive at present. Keep developing the website and the online meetings; the technology doesn’t stand still. Also keep a presence aboard Waverley and the ferry fleet. Grabbing the interest of new generations is key!

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Derek Peters (left) in 1977, his third summer as assistant purser of Waverley, with purser Allan Condie and second engineer Angus MacLean. Derek says that, for a teenager, working on the paddler in the early preservation years was ‘hugely exciting….to be on the edge [of the action] without carrying much responsibility’

It was CRSC’s big ship charters in the 1970s, such as that of Queen Mary II on 7 September 1974 to Kilcreggan, Tarbert, Campbeltown and Round Ailsa Craig, that encouraged Derek Peters to join the Club. This is the view enjoyed by enthusiasts that day from the front of the turbine’s boat deck, as she approached Davaar Island at the entrance to Campbeltown Loch

CRSC 2017 New Year excursion to Arran: during lunch at Auchrannie Resort, Brodick, Derek sits second from right between his wife Dorothy (extreme right) and erstwhile Waverley colleague Cameron Marshall. Seated at the far end of the table are Ken McLaren (left) and David Mackie (right)

At a CRSC meeting at Jurys Inn in November 2019, Derek Peters (in his capacity as WSN chairman) received a £5,000 cheque from Club president Roy Paterson as our initial contribution to Waverley’s boiler replacement appeal. Cameron Marshall sits on the far left

Waverley’s 2020 season was curtailed by Covid and the 3 September accident at Brodick. She is pictured on 24 August at Lochranza. Her 2021 summer timetable includes several visits to Brodick and Lochranza and one to Campbeltown

Waverley’s 2021 timetable can be found here.

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and plenty more….

Published on 29 June 2021