Award for restored Edwardian steam ship that was left neglected in Ellesmere Port for 20 years

Reporter:

Jamie Bowman

The award-winning Daniel Adamson steam ship has been lovingly restored by a team of dedicated volunteers.

Jamie Bowman tells of their work and The Danny’s rich past...

An Edwardian steam ship which has languished derelict and neglected at Ellesmere Port Boat Museum for over 20 years has received a top award following its painstaking restoration.

The Daniel Adamson Steam Ship, affectionately nicknamed ‘The Danny’, was presented with the Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at a ceremony at Liverpool’s Albert Dock on Wednesday, December 20.

Video and images by Rick Matthews

Launched from Birkenhead in 1903, The Danny was honoured for being the last operational coal-fired tug in the UK.

Bought for £1 by an enthusiast in 2004 who wanted to save the dilapidated boat from the scrap heap, it was lovingly restored by a team of dedicated volunteers, some of them from Chester and North Wales, with £3.8m of financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and input from the ship repair specialist Cammell Laird.

The tug’s Art Deco interior was recreated from original 1936 photographs and serves as a reminder of the resplendent days when she was used as both a passenger vessel and to tow long strings of barges laden with goods from the inland towns of Cheshire and the Potteries to the great seaport of Liverpool.

After a working life of over 80 years, she now has a new lease of life as a pleasure cruise boat operating from Ellesmere Port and providing opportunities for visitors to learn how her engines and
boilers work.

Previous winners of Engineering Heritage Awards include Alan Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley Park, the E-Type Jaguar and Concorde, the supersonic airliner.

In Northern England, past winners include Cragside, the first house in the world to be lit using hydro-electric power, and the Anderton Boat Lift, another engineering achievement in the history of the Cheshire canals.

The Danny is the 114th recipient of the award.

Gareth Jones, regional chairman
of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, who presented the award, said: “The Danny is a beautiful coal-fired steam tug; a
real survivor from an age when canals were the UK’s trade arteries.

“Her two Liverpool-built steam engines and twin screws gave her the high manoeuvrability and
power needed for work on canals and rivers.

“The ship has been on quite a journey in recent years. From a complete wreck, it has successfully navigated itself to join the National Historic Fleet, the maritime version of Grade I listed building status, alongside vessels of national importance such as the Cutty Sark.

“This award builds on that and honours not just the hard work of the Liverpudlian shipwrights at the start of the 20th century, but also the efforts of the volunteers who have invested so much time and effort into restoring the ship to such a fantastic condition.”

The Daniel Adamson’s unique combination of steam engine and stylish Art Deco interiors once drew admiring visitors to the Boat Museum – but she soon fell victim to the funding cuts affecting the region’s cultural and heritage sectors.

Maintenance became too expensive to carry out and by the early 1990s she was starting to show signs of neglect.

Over the next decade The Danny’s condition deteriorated and to add insult to injury, she was vandalised and partly set alight.

It was a far cry from the boat’s heyday when she used to take visiting VIPs around Manchester’s famous inland docks and along the Ship Canal.

From the late 1920s a succession of eminent visitors sailed on the boat, including King Fuad of Egypt, King Faisal of Iraq, King Amanullah of Afghanistan, and the Sultan of Zanzibar.

In early February 2004, despite being a unique century-old maritime survival, she was earmarked for scrapping at Garston.

But word of this soon got round the tightly knit maritime community grapevine and within days the decision to try and save her was taken.

The campaign was spearheaded by Mersey tug skipper Dan Cross, who formed the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society with the help of Tony Hirst, a former director of the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum.

Dan’s employer Svitzer Marine, on hearing of the steam tug’s plight, offered to dry dock and survey her for free to assess whether she was worth saving.

The next thing he knew, Dan had bought the Daniel Adamson from owner MSCC for the princely sum
of £1, and the campaign was underway.

Supporters started to emerge from all over the North West and also from Yorkshire, the Midlands, North Wales and beyond.

By April, preparations had been made to tow the tug to Eastham and out into the Mersey. The scale of the challenge became clear when the cost of insurance, simply to tow her from Eastham to a berth across the river in Liverpool, was quoted at £2,000. But with the goodwill and generosity of many, the money
was raised.

Dan said: “Gaining the award is very important and momentous to us as it is recognition which relates to engineering and hopefully its future.

“We have preserved an engine for the future as well as the vessel – and all our volunteers and members are passionate about both.”

Email:

jamie.bowman@nwn.co.uk

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