Named after Sir Walter Scott’s first novel, Paddle Steamer Waverley was built on the Clyde. Waverley’s keel was laid on December 27, 1945 but due to material shortages after the war, she was not ready for launch until October 2, 1946. It wasn’t until the following year on January 20, 1947 that she was towed to Greenock for the installation of her boiler and engines. Finally she made her maiden voyage on June 16, 1947 and started what was to become a very long career.
Waverley was originally intended to sail only between Craigendoran & Arrochar in West Scotland. She now sails right round Britain offering regular trips on the Clyde, the Thames, South Coast of England and the Bristol Channel with calls at Liverpool & Llandudno.
Waverley is the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer. In 1975, at the end of her working life, she was famously bought for £1 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, a charity registered in Scotland, was set up to operate the ship. Waverley then began a second career as one of the country’s best-loved tourist attractions. Since she has been in operational preservation she has been awarded four stars by Visit Scotland, an engineering heritage award, and has carried over 5 million passengers from over 60 ports around the UK.
2003 saw the completion of a major restoration project, which returned Waverley to the original 1940s style in which she was built. This was made possible with major grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the PSPS. Contributions also came from Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow, the European Regional Development Fund and local authorities.
Paddle Steamer History
In 1812, when Henry Bell’s paddle steamer Comet became the world’s first commercial steamship to operate in coastal waters, a tradition was started which remains alive today only in the form of the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer, Waverley.
From the 1860’s onward, paddle steamers developed an important niche in the coastal passenger and excursion trade. Large fleets served the cities, towns, villages and resorts of the Firth of Clyde, the Bristol Channel, the South Coast of England, London and the Thames Estuary.
Paddle Steamers also made a significant contribution to the war effort as minesweepers in both World Wars, and indeed Waverley is named after the previous Waverley who performed a heroic role at Dunkirk in May 1940 before being sunk by enemy action.
With a few exceptions, the Clyde steamers were owned and operated by railway companies. These were largely commuter ferries linking all the villages with the nearest railhead for onward travel.