Category Archives: Steam power

The People Liner’s – Britain’s Lost Pleasure Fleets

The People's Liners

If you can see it, don’t miss this cracking little BBC programme, with great rememniscences, some lovely old films, some nice history, and some great stories. It’s one of the things that makes the BBC great – and makes me wonder whethe the folks who would get rid of it know what they’re doing…

And example of the stories is the one about the Queen Victoria. It seems the Cunard folks commissioned John Brown & Company to build a new liner on Clydebank, and decided to name her the Queen Victoria. Being upright, proper gents with a bit of access, they decided to as the King for permission to use the name.

So they went to see King George V, and duly asked ‘We would like permission to call the ship Queen… ‘

They hadn’t got to the ‘Victoria’ bit when the Royal personage butted in with ‘Mary would be delighted to have the ship named after her’. So they went back to their office and were unable to change the plan.

A small problem was that there already was a Queen Mary, a steamer operating on the Clyde. So a deal had to be done… Cunard got it’s Queen Mary, and the Clyde steamer became Queen Mary II.

The blurb, by the way, says:

‘Far more than a means of transport, these steamers attracted a devoted following, treating their passengers, whatever their pocket, to the adventure and trappings of an ocean voyage whilst actually rarely venturing out of sight of land. A highlight of the great British seaside holiday from the 1820s until the early 1960s – and open to all – they were “the people’s liners”.’


SS Robin – an update, and an illustrated article

SS Robin

Regular readers may remember some posts a few years back explaining the preservation and re-purposing plans for the 1890-built SS Robin – the steam coaster that is said to be the oldest in the world and as significant as the Cutty Sark. Read about her here,  here and here.

Things have been a bit quiet, but an article about the SS Robin in the excellent Spitalfields Life weblog spotted by my pal Malcolm Woods reminded me about the project.

If you don’t know Spitalfields Life, do poke about among its pages. It’s a wonderful example of what a locally-focused weblog can be, and being based in an area boasting the docks and the Thames, many of its posts have a maritime dimension. It also benefits from being put together by a writer who can also take a photograph…

The news with SS Robin is that while the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has agreed to provide £100,000 to complete essential deck conservation works to help conserve the SS Robin, it has not agreed to provide funds to complete works that would have allowed the SS Robin to open to the public as a heritage attraction.

However, the SS Robin Trust says it remains committed to finding the best outcome and will therefore apply for HLF funding aimed at to explore broader options for the steam coaster. This will make a purely heritage use less likely, it will enable the Trust to explore more commercial uses.

Wanted: Capstan cigarette brand drifter poster

Wills Capstan poster

Fishing boat author, editor and all round herring expert Mike Smylie (AKA Kipperman) is on the hunt for an original example of this fabulous old poster showing a steam drifter in rough weather.

If anyone has one they would be happy to sell, please either drop me a line at and I’ll pass the message on, or contact Mike via his website!