A lively crowd cheered the public launch of the Waverley boiler appeal on Saturday 15 June. Joining the throng at the vessel’s berth near the centre of Glasgow, Andrew Clark detected a mood of go-for-it optimism.
In her 45 years of operational preservation Waverley has seen plenty of do-or-die appeals. Each time she was threatened with extinction. Against the odds, each time she came back stronger than before. Now she faces the stiffest challenge of all — to drum up £2.3m for new boilers. Without boilers, she can’t raise steam. Without steam, she has no power to move.
As if that challenge was not enough, she needs the money now (well, by mid July) if her owners are to have any chance of bringing her back into service next summer. Yes, the deadline is that tight. It will take up to six months to manufacture the boilers, and another four to instal them.
What became clear in speeches by Cameron Marshall, Waverley Excursions Ltd’s Chairman, and Paul Semple, General Manager, is that they are up for the challenge.
Are they mad? Aiming for the impossible? Far from it. Addressing the onboard crowd from the starboard sponson, they laid out a reasoned case for investing in Waverley’s future — not just to make enthusiasts happy, but to give succeeding generations a chance to “see those engines” and view the beauties of Britain’s coastline from the water.
Cameron said Waverley was not just a giver of pleasure to people of different social backgrounds, ages and incomes, but a working link with our social and maritime history, going right back to the Comet of 1812. Referring to the 1947 paddler as “a thing of absolute beauty”, he said “she takes ‘unique’ to a new level. She is worth saving, and we are determined to see her sail again.”
The sheer scale of what is required has been likened to a kind of marine ‘open heart surgery’. The iconic red, white and black twin funnels will be lifted off and large sections of decking removed to allow the boilers and other equipment to be lifted out. The replacements are expected to extend Waverley’s operational life by a further 20 to 25 years.
Since news of her broken boilers became known just a few weeks ago, more than £100,000 has been donated by individuals. “It’s clear that huge numbers of people throughout Britain and around the world want to see Waverley sail again,” said Paul. “The Waverley company has taken recent weeks to make a detailed and costed plan, and now it’s all about raising the funds to make it happen.”
Donations to the appeal can be made online at waverleyexcursions.co.uk or by calling 0141 243 2224.
Published on 15 June 2019.