Three Paddle Steamer Captains' Working Days


Capt E C Phillips on the Cardiff Queen's bridge berthing at Shanklin, Isle of Wight, around 4pm on Sunday 17th August, 1952 to collect her return passengers on a day trip from Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton.

The steaming time from Hastings to Shanklin was scheduled as five and a quarter hours each way, although adverse tides could extend this, so if you add that on to the time at Shanklin, the light running at the start and finish of the day for the ship between Newhaven, where she over-nighted, and Hastings that comes in at over a seventeen hour day not counting getting the ship ready in the morning before departure from Newhaven and closing down again in the evening or allowing for any delays which might have crept in during the day. That all goes way over the hours of work permitted in a day for crews in the current regulations. As these were such very long days, sometimes passengers for Hastings were disembarked at Eastbourne on the homeward leg and taken onwards by coach. After days like this, Capt Phillips had no real opportunity to do anything other than collapse into his bunk in the captain's cabin at close of play and stay aboard each night.

Note Red Funnel's Balmoral in the background and the lack of passengers aboard Cardiff Queen. After unloading her passengers at Shanklin around 2pm Cardiff Queen had to vacate the pier for Balmoral which made a call there at 3.45pm on her way back to Southampton on her day trip, which had started at 10.45am, calling at Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin and 'Cruise Along the Island Coast'. This was roughly a nine hour day.


Capt Leonard Horsham on the Medway Queen's bridge at Southend on Saturday 24th August 1963. Medway Queen had started this day at Strood at 9.30am with a run across to Southend (11.10am/11.30am) and then back to Strood for 1.10pm. She then lay alongside Strood Pier until 4.15pm when she set off for another round trip to Southend where this picture was taken around 6pm with the day ending back at Strood around 7.40pm. That was a ten hour day with a three hour gap in the middle not counting getting the ship ready and closing her down. Capt Horsham went home to the semi he shared with his wife in Rochester at the end of each day often calling in for a pint at the local Conservative Club on the way.


Capt Harry Defrates on the Princess Elizabeth's bridge at Weymouth on Tuesday 14th July, 1964. The time is shortly before 3pm. Princess Elizabeth has just returned from the 2pm trip "To Portland Harbour - viewing HM Ships" and is now loading for the 3pm departure "To Lulworth Cove also viewing Durdle Door and the magnificent Dorset Coast scenery". In the evening there was to be an 8pm departure, back 9.15pm for a "Melody Cruise featuring Joe Howe and his Black and White Minstrels". With a morning coffee cruise 11am to 12.15pm that gave a working day of about ten hours plus getting ready and closing down with a couple of two hour breaks in the middle. Capt Defrates went home each night to the flat he shared with his wife above the Royal Airforce Association Club in St Albans Street, Weymouth often calling in for a rum and blackcurrant at the Duke of Cornwall pub on his way home.

Click here for books by John Megoran

 Return to Pictures of the Month