The Steam Tug Kerne Preservation Society Ltd


March 2017

Posted by Allan Hickson (Mod) on April 5, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Roll back the calendar to 1st March 1913, the day the Steam Tug Viking left her birthplace of Montrose for her delivery voyage to Chatham. The crew that day could hardly have believed what was in store for this lovely little ship over the next few short weeks and years to come, never mind that 104 years later, a current member of her crew would be writing about the last month of the ship’s continued operating life – but here I am, doing just that. Their first shock would be that on arrival at Chatham, she would not be handed to commercial owners, but would be joining the Royal Naval list as HMT Terrier. The rest, they say, is history.

Work has carried on apace aboard the good ship, helped by the occasional glimpses of sun, and the warming of the cold steel of the vessel. This has enabled the chipping and painting gang to make good progress on, as well as, below decks. The painting job extended to the newly installed starboard Boiler Room ventilator that is now fully restored and back in position, and very good it looks too. Work on the port side vent is following in similar fashion.

The paint brushes have also been out in the Engine Room where the main engine bedplate has been scraped and painted, and the newly installed silver coated steam pipe lagging has been painted in white in order to give it a ‘period’ look.

The water tank has been repaired, returned to the vessel, painted and is now ready for re-installation, and wiring conduit ducts have been welded into position at several points on the deck in readiness for the wiring of the vessel for power from our auxiliary generator. Work has also been carried out to improve the generator housing.

In the Forward Cabin, significant strides have been made in the installation of the new flooring as a matter of some urgency. Such is the need to press on with this job that it has been necessary for me to move from my comfort zone of the Engine and Boiler Rooms to assist with matters involving wood. This is a strange world where there are no spanners, saws don’t have removable blades, chisels have wooden handles, and hammers have these odd claws. All this, coupled with the fact that you can work all day and not get dirty, and sometimes you don’t even need to wash your hands before driving home! All very strange, but needs must as we press on to be ready for our first steaming to Liverpool’s ‘Steam on the Dock’ on the 6th and 7th May.

On a serious note, work in the Forward Cabin is progressing well despite the difficulties of trying to achieve the original floor level, where all previous evidence of this had hastily been stripped out. The great news is that following excellent work by the Mate, Paul Kirkbride, we have secured a Restoration Award of £1500 from the Transport Trust to restore the remainder of the cabin. Paul has accepted the invitation to attend the Award Ceremony at Brooklands where he will receive the award from HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

March also saw our Exhibition Stand out at the National Waterways Museum’s Model Boat Show at Ellesmere Port, an event that saw the launching of Mountfleet Models prototype commercial kit model of Kerne which created a great deal of interest. The model is the result of close cooperation between Mountfleet and our Society and is now on sale as a single kit, from which the vessel can be created as either the Naval tug ‘Terrier’ or the commercial tug ‘Kerne’. Several orders were placed on the day for this very impressive model, which comes with one year’s free ‘Friends’ membership of The Steam Tug Kerne Preservation Society Ltd.

Contact details for Mountfleet are as follows – Tel 01977 620386.

Sadly, I must conclude this Newsletter by reporting the passing of our long-standing Member Gwil Williams who died after a along illness on 18th March.

Born outside Caernarfon, North Wales, Gwil was a Welsh-speaking former Merchant Seaman who went to sea in his late teens, unable at that stage to speak English. He joined our group after his retirement, and was able to use his skills to make fenders, splice ropes and generally keep things ship-shape. A fun-loving, generous guy who was always ‘up for it’ he brought many a smile to our faces with tales from his sea-going days.

An episode that springs to mind happened in 2003 when we sailed to Conway, and spent a week or so moored on the quay. Gwil and Dave Lowndes stayed aboard for the week and managed to make a name for themselves as Kerne’s answer to Morecambe and Wise. Dave, tall and gangling and Gwil, short and stocky, they entertained the visitors to the vessel with their banter and mock insults – Gwil always craving for a curry and Dave having none of it, hating anything with the slightest hint of spice. But Gwil used his charm and his native tongue to secure for the crew Honorary Membership of the local Yacht Club, not only securing the all-important access to the bar, but also acquiring the key to enable us to use the showers and toilet, very much ‘at our convenience!’

Several of our crew attended his funeral, his coffin fittingly being draped in the Red Ensign. He will be sadly missed. 

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