PICTURES OF THE MONTH - April 2010

Paddle Steamer Captain Looks to Buy His Own Boat

 

Capt Harry Defrates (pictured above) joined Cosens of Weymouth after the Second World War and sailed as master of several of their paddle steamers including the Embassy, Victoria, Monarch and Consul. He left the company in 1961 and, for the following four seasons, was in the forefront of attempts to give the Princess Elizabeth and Consul new leases of life in private ownership. He then went to stay with his son, an official with the United Nations, in Beirut, then still a playground for the rich in the days before it fell into a dreadful period of chaos, anarchy and terrorism in the 1970s.

Whilst there his thoughts turned to how he and his wife were going to live in retirement without the benefit of any company pensions and, mixing with a number of wealthy businessmen known to his son, he found possible backers for buying his own passenger vessel with a view to setting up in business himself. He wrote to the UK shipbrokers H E Moss and they responded with three ships available for sale getting the spelling of his name wrong in the process.

 

One of these ships was the Thornwick, an excursion vessel built in 1948 for service on the Yorkshire coast.

 

 

As it turned out, nothing came of all this and Capt Defrates did not, in the end, get the financial backing needed for his scheme. He returned to the UK and, for the next couple of years, continued  to be involved with the sea, sailing as master of the steam yacht Medea in a venture on the South Coast and trying hard to get a new life for the Princess Elizabeth on the Sussex Coast. After that he lost his pilotage certificates due to his age and, still needing to work to live, had several summer jobs, first selling tickets in the booking office for the small passenger vessel Weymouth Belle and then collecting the money in various Weymouth car parks where he sat in his hut with his ticket bag slung over his Harris tweed sports jacket and with his old captain's cap perched on his head.  He died in the mid 1980s.

As it turned out, the Thornwick was bought by Bolsons of Poole who put her into service at Bournemouth, subsequently renamed Swanage Queen, as a direct replacement for Cosens Embassy which had been withdrawn after the 1966 season. With the arrival of the newly built Dorset Belles, in the mid 1970s, Swanage Queen was sold for further service on the Thames where she ran for several years. The last I heard of her, she was a houseboat in Conyer Creek off the Swale.

 

Capt Defrates on the starboard bridge wing of the Princess Elizabeth passing through the Town Bridge at Weymouth in September 1961.

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