At the tail end of 2012, Waverley Excursions Ltd – which operates both the paddle steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral – announce that Balmoral would not be sailing during the 2013 season.
In a letter to Waverley and Balmoral stakeholders, Kathleen O’Neill, chief executive of Waverley Excursions Ltd, said:
Balmoral’s operation has been hampered increasingly in recent years by extreme weather conditions. This has led to many cancelled or disrupted sailings, which has had a significant impact on that ship’s contribution to operating results. Waverley’s timetable is less susceptible to such disruptions.
Clearly, we are unable to predict the weather for 2013, but none of the forecasters is predicting a significant improvement over recent years. After taking a wide range of considerations into account, we have decided, reluctantly, that it would be too great a risk to operate Balmoral next year and that doing so would increase the threat to the future of both ships.
Balmoral was built in 1949, near Southampton, and is being looked after on a care and maintenance basis during 2013 by volunteers in Bristol.
Appeal web site
In order to return to her job of providing pleasure cruises in 2014, some £350,000 is needed to fund essential survey and refit work.
Those concerned have raised further fears. Since there are few vessels using their facilities, there are concerns that if Balmoral does not return to service in 2014, then pier owners will have little incentive to maintain them, and if they and Balmoral lose their certification, the chances this ever being restored could be slim.
An appeal web site has been set up, with further information and donation details:
Although it has taken a few months, news regarding the future of the University Marine Biological Station Millport has appeared, and the news is good, confirming that the station’s closure is no longer an option, following the withdrawal of its funding from the University of London.
Ownership of the station, its building, and the surrounding land have been transferred to the Field Studies Council (FSC):
Field Studies Council, FSC, is the only environmental education charity dedicated solely to providing informative and enjoyable opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to discover, explore, be inspired by, and understand the natural environment.
Established in 1943, FSC has become internationally respected for its national network of learning locations, international outreach training projects, research programmes, information and publication services, and wide range of professional training and leisure courses.
Regarding the transfer, FSC Chief Executive Rob Lucas said:
This is an exciting opportunity for the FSC. Our vision for Millport field centre is for it to become a flagship for field studies in Scotland, building on its reputation for high quality field research and university teaching.
The marine location will provide the perfect complement to the field studies we have been developing at our FSC Kindrogan field centre in the Highlands over the past 10 years.
According to Education Secretary Mike Russell, the agreement will ensure the long-term future of the station, which he said has suffered years of under investment while in the hands of the University of London.
The site has received a request for help in location information relating to a small military exercise which took place on Rockall some years ago.
In 1972, a group of marines were taken to Rockall on board RFA Engerdine, and tasked with repairing/rebuilding the damaged beacon which had been placed on the islet.
One of those involved would now like to find any information relating to this operation, to pass on to his grandchildren.
As ever, any information would be greatly appreciated, and passed on to the originator.
Rockall is not the best environment for any sort of beacon to be expected to survive in, and it seems the beacon referred to was one of four which have been established there over the years.
The last attempt seems to have been in 1998, but that too had failed by 2005, and current information is that no further attempts to mark the rock with a beacon have followed.
The picture of Rockall, dating from 2008, actually shows the latter beacon, just visible on the summit of the islet.
A reminder that the War Museum at Edinburgh Castle is hosting a special exhibition about the Arctic Convoys – admission is included with admission to the castle.
The date seems to have changed slightly compared to the advance news of the exhibition, when the opening date was given as May 24, 2013, and the date given now is today, May 29.
The museum’s web page does not indicate when the exhibition ends, but it was previously given as March 2014, so you don’t have to rush.
Then prime minister Winston Churchill admitted the mission to keep the supply lines of munitions, tanks, lorries, fuel and food open was “the worst journey in the world”, and they were dubbed the “suicide missions” by many of those who served on them, as the convoys had to run the gauntlet of submarine, air, and battleship attacks in harsh sub-zero conditions through the Arctic Ocean.
Open daily 9:45–17:45
Material has been gathered from numerous sources, including private collections, loans from the Imperial War Museum, and museums in Russia. The exhibition will also include recordings of personal testimonies from surviving veterans of the convoys. It is often forgotten that many of those who took part in the convoys were not actually in the Royal Navy, but were simply merchant seamen or fisherman who had been called up for duty.
Those involved with efforts to establish a permanent museum to the Arctic Convoys, to be located at Loch Ewe, where many of the convoys formed and departed from, have also helped with contributions to the Edinburgh exhibition.
Jacky Brookes, manager of the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum Project in Loch Ewe, said: “We’re delighted the exhibition is happening and hope it will help raise the profile of getting a permanent museum”
We have had occasion to mention the museum project at Loch Ewe before:
HMS Scylla, a Dido-class cruiser of the Royal Navy, served with the Home Fleet on Arctic convoy duties, and is seen below while anchored on the Clyde:
Click on the image below to see a British Pathé short, shot in Scandinavian waters, and showing various shots of ships in a large convoy en route to Russia where:
Aboard the cruiser ‘Scylla’ Lieutenant-Commander McKean in a fur hat keeps a running commentary on the battle for the benefit of the ship’s company.
A column of black smoke rises into the sky after one of the ships is hit. The Scylla draws alongside the minesweeper ‘Harrier’. The two ships are lashed together while travelling at speed as the Scylla and takes on survivors of a torpedoed freighter.
The escort Commander, Rear Admiral Burnett, is put in breeches buoy and slung across to a destroyer so the Scylla can go ahead with survivors. C/U of Burnett on a ship, smiling and looking through binoculars.
Back in March, we mentioned the renewed funding campaign for the restoration of the Maid of the Loch, and her 60th anniversary which lands in 2013.
Sad to say that the campaign is seeking to raise some £4.9 million to complete the restoration of the much-loved paddle steamer, which means she is unlikely to return to steam in time to mark that 60th anniversary with a sail on the loch, which would have been nice.
We went into more detail in March and you can read that post here.
Almost £5 million is a big goal, and according to the Maid’s own web site, the work completed to date, which has been carried out by volunteers, has cost less than £2 million, which makes the current target look even tougher to meet.
One of the thinks that has been apparent in past years has been the lack of any backers – in terms of a corporate name.
That has now changed, with a local brewery having given its name to the effort:
Loch Lomond Brewery has produced a 60th anniversary Maid of the Loch beer, and owner Fiona MacEachern has pledged a percentage of sales of the drink towards restoring the ship.
She said: “We live in the area and the business is on the loch, so we’re keen to see the Maid run again. It’s a big part of Loch Lomond’s heritage and hopefully its future, so any way we could help we were keen to.”
Loch Lomond Brewery
Block 1, Unit 5
Lomond Industrial Estate
P: 01389 755698
email us: email@example.com
While it may seem that the project has taken a long to get to this stage, it must be remembered that the Maid lay derelict and vandalised for many years after being withdrawn from service, while no-one had any idea what could be done with her. During that time, her interior was gutted for scrap and souvenirs. In part, this turned out to be helpful, as the souvenir hunters (the good ones at least) responded to appeals, and returned original parts to help with the restoration work.
It’s become something of a tradition to mention the annual journey of the surviving veterans of the Arctic Convoys of World War II, who meet at Loch Ewe, the gathering point for many of the convoys just before they departed for the freezing waters on their way to deliver their cargoes to Murmansk. Between 1941 and 1945, crews kept supplies, weapons, and ammunition flowing and through German blockades to their Russian allies in Operation Dervish, the first of the convoys in 1941.
Five years ago, it looked as if the gathering was set to end, as numbers had fallen from 70 in 2002, to 13 in 2008, and the journey to Loch Ewe was becoming a strain for some of the survivors.
This year, the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum, Aultbea, has organised the reunion as part of its Arctic Convoys Week, which run until Saturday, May 11, 2013.
It seems that more than 40 veterans, all of whom are about 90 years old, are set to gather at Loch Ewe, some of whom have not been back to the Wester Ross sea loch since the end of the war.
Arctic Convoys campaign veteran Jock Dempster dies
There will be one significant absence from the gathering this years, as Jack Dempster passed away last Sunday, just days before he had been due wear his Arctic Star medal at a public ceremony for the first time. He had also planned to wear the medal during the traditional remembrance commemorations in November, at the Cenotaph.
Mr Dempster, from Dunbar in East Lothian, had fought for decades to win official recognition for those who had taken part in the Arctic Convoys, who were considered to have been forgotten.
They had been given awards from the Russians, but the rules on such things meant they were not able to wear them at official events.
His campaign ended in success when Prime Minister David Cameron presented the newly created Arctic Star to a group of 40 veterans in March of 2013.
The funeral, in Dunbar, of Mr Dempster was also reported:
A memorial lies at the north west corner of Loch Ewe, near Cove, overlooking the entrance into this sea loch, where many of the convoys gathered and departed from.
There’s not many around, and in terms of authentication, only 8 bottle survive from a total of some 28,000 cases of malt whisky where were on board the 8000-ton cargo ship SS Politician, sailing from Liverpool to the Jamaican capital of Kingston and New Orleans, struck rocks and sank off the shores of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides in 1941, spawning the book and the film Whisky Galore.
The islander efforts to salvage the cargo, and keep the whisky, are now legend, as are the lengths the revenue men went to in order to get it back, since the export had not paid any tax.
The last time such bottles of whisky were sold was in 1987, when eight bottles recovered then by a diver were sold at Christie’s for £4,000.
Two went to a gentleman in Fraserburgh, who has since died:
He died recently and his widow decided to sell them along with the neck tags from Christie’s and letters of authentication.
The official documents from Christie’s state: “Two bottles bottled by W & A Gilbey with original cork and wax sealed by Christie’s in plain glass with shoulder embossing stating, ‘Federal law forbids sale or re-use of this bottle’.”
The auction house estimates the value of the two bottles to be around £2,000, but I have a suspicion the hammer will fall on a larger number (hopefully not to near the bottles!)
A number of small collectible and rare items have been in auctions recently, and if the right people are there on the day, and one really wants the lot, then the number have been getting silly in some cases.
We’ll see – the result should make the news, and I will add the final figure to complete the story.
(Before anyone gripes – No, the bottles shown above are just illustrative stock imagery.)
The auction has taken place and the numbers are in. And it seems that two determined bidders were after this lot, so the original estimate of £2,ooo was left far behind. Perhaps not silly money, but I was right for once.
The bottles made £12,050.
Although it’s unlikely anyone would ever have opened the bottle to have a wee dram, it’s now being suggested that it’s very likely the seals would not have prevented sea water getting into the bottle, and rendering the contents unfit for human consumption.
It seems the auction has led to the news of some more bottles from the wreck, but as has been pointed out, before anyone gets interested, or thinks of another sale, the provenance of these bottles would need to be verified.
We previously noted the imminent arrival of hybrid ferries to the Clyde, and the completion of the first of a pair pioneered by CalMac when the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00, which marked the start of new era. The hybrids are able to carry up to 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, and travel at 9 knots.
The second of the pair has had its name of MV Lochinvar released by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and like Hallaig, was built at Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd in Port Glasgow and is due to be launched in May. Lochinvar’s route will service Tarbert and Portavadie.
The names of all ships in the new hybrid fleet will follow the first vessel, the MV Hallaig, and be named after Scottish literature.
Hundreds of people voted for the new name and Lochinvar received over 55% of the votes cast.
The name comes from an excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion written in 1808. The stanzas telling the story of “young Lochinvar” particularly caught the public imagination and were widely published in anthologies, and learned as a recitation piece by many school children.
The twice yearly military exercises of Joint Warrior are due to begin in various area in and around Scotland, on land and sea, are due to begin soon, and always generate interest in those keen to pop out and grab some pics of the participants, usually as they gather in the Firth of Clyde, but also as they move around the country.
The exercises usually start with the maritime element in April, and the notification is given below.
The second part of the exercise will take place in October.
Joint Warrior (JW) 131, will take place from 15 until 29 April 2013 and will comprise of a programme of exercises conducted by land forces, warships, submarines and aircraft across the UK. The maritime element (15 until 25 April) is focussed in the offshore and coastal waters to the north east, north and north west of Scotland.
See the note issued by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff…
JTEPS JW131 18 March 2013 JOINT WARRIOR 131 SUBMARINE, MINEWARFARE, LIVE FIRING AND DENIAL OF GPS TRAINING ACTIVITY:
The fun could be deemed to have started already, as Loch Striven has just seen some exercises have just taken place off the Isle of Bute:
Zak caught HMS Brocklesby on Wednesday, one of eight Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels based in Portsmouth (launched in 1982 and commissioned 13 months later), which had been joined by HMS Pembroke, a Sandown-class minehunter based at HMNB Clyde at Faslane, for an exercise with a Dassault jet in the area off Ardbeg and Port Bannatyne, where the sound of gunfire caught folk’s attention (seems the local paper went for a look, but was way behind ‘our’ favourite photographer):
Best part of a week behind SeSco, the media has finally woken up and mentioned JW!
More than 5,000 UK personnel are to take part in the largest military exercise in Europe this year, the MoD has said.
Exercise Joint Warrior will test their ability to work together with the forces of nine other countries.
It will take place across Scotland from 15 to 29 April and will involve 5,250 UK military personnel.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the exercise will ensure the forces are prepared “to meet any challenge”.
“They give us the chance to test the way the different services and different nations work together, something that is vital in a multilateral world,” he added.
The exercise will involve 13,000 military personnel in total, including forces from Sweden, Germany, Brazil and the US.
There will be an airborne assault and amphibious landings as well as training in counter-insurgency, counter-piracy and interstate war.
49 ships from various navies as well as up to 40 aircraft will be involved, including RAF Tornados and Typhoons.
The Royal Marine Commandos will make a landing at Barry Buddon training camp in Angus, near Dundee.
Further activities will take place near Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, where all nearby residents have been informed and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expects it will cause “no real disruption”.
Live ammunition will be used in certain exercises, on cleared ranges where it poses no risk.
Via UK deploying 5,250 personnel for Exercise Joint Warrior (April 11, 2013.)
The arrival (or perhaps I should say anticipated arrival, given that we have just been told we are currently enjoying the coldest March for 50 years) of spring has seen life come to the Welcome to the Scottish Maritime Museum, and news of developments behind the move of the remains of City of Adelaide to her new home in Australia.
Australia… sounds like a good idea, as ‘sunny’ Scotland is currently set to keep its current wintry spell extension operating well into April. I’m almost beginning to believe I was sniffing too much cleaning solvent in an unventilated room recently, and that the long walks I was enjoying a few weeks ago were just a figment of my imagination. The idea of going for a nice walk armed with a camera is almost becoming a long-lost memory.
Back in Irvine:
“With the successful transfer to South of Australia of the rudder of the clipper ship City of Adelaide work has now begin on the preparation of the vessel for her journey to Port Adelaide. The technical issues associated with the treatment of the historic timbers of the vessel to meet Australian import regulations were overcome and tested with the move of the rudder. One of the engineers from Australia, leading the project, arrived in Scotland on the 10th of March and a number of specialist contractors have now been engaged. The first phase of this stage of the work will be the dismantling of the Australian built transportation cradle and its repositioning under and around the ship. Work will also commence inside the hull to provide the stability to the ship’s frame for the move.”
This announcement would appear to lay to rest claims by various naysayers that the move had been cancelled, has been stopped by a legal challenge, that the money had run out, that the timber treatment failed to meet Australian import regulations, that the Australians had run away and deserted (after their web site went down), that they had run out of money, and even one suggestion that the hull had already broken and could not be transported to the cradle.
Hunting around the web can find some fun claims that were thrown around while the project was on hold over the doldrums of the winter season.
The question now is whether or not the actual move ultimately produces better tales than the fertile imaginations that were free to roam over the period of calm, or if it all goes off without a hitch.