Broads Tours – Princess Mary

I promised some further updates on the Broads Tours story which I’ve been covering in a series of posts on the blog, and the first of these concerns the passenger launch Princess Mary.

In the first Broads Tours article, I mentioned that the Princess Mary had last operated on the Broads at Potter Heigham but the entry for her on Craig’s boat database indicated that she left Norfolk c2002. I found reference to her having been moved to Scotland where she was operating from the Falkirk Wheel visitor attraction, and in the Broads Tours Update article had discovered photographic evidence to confirm this. However, the latest photo I could find dated from 2010 and it appeared that she was no longer being used as a passenger boat there, so I fired off an email to the Falkirk Wheel to make some enquiries.

Princess Mary at Hoveton in the 1930s - the Pegg family

I received a reply from a very helpful chap named Mike Lennox who had been one of the skippers of Princess Mary at the Falkirk Wheel and he kindly posted a CD ROM to me which included a number of photographs and some further details on her history. Mike’s records show that he first set foot on board Princess Mary on June 17th 2003 and he says that she must have arrived at the Falkirk Wheel a few weeks before this. A couple of years after she began working on the Forth and Clyde Canal, Princess Mary carried a very interesting passenger – the daughter of Alfred Pegg who had originally built the launch for George Smith and Sons in 1922. She later sent Mike some lovely photographs of Princess Mary – the image on the left is one of those and shows her moored at Hoveton in the 1930s. Alfred Pegg’s daughter also provided a fascinating potted history of the boat which happened to touch upon the questions I posed about the William Littleboy’s Norfolk Broads trips leaflet featured in the More Broads Tours blog post.

As I mentioned in the original post, Princess Mary was around 45 feet in length when originally built but was lengthened just a few years later, not by Alfred Pegg but by Graham Bunn. According to Pegg’s daughter she was cut in half with a hand saw and pulled apart so that the new 20 foot section could be inserted. Interestingly, she mentioned that Alfred Pegg had built a sister ship in 1925, Princess Pat, which eventually joined the Broads Tours fleet but was originally commissioned by Charles Mayes who ran her as a trip boat from the Horseshoes public house at Hoveton. Princess Pat was also lengthened at a later date and eventually renamed Prince Edward, but was sadly destroyed in 1991 when fire ripped through the boatshed in which she was kept. Alfred Pegg built another of the Broads Tours launches, Princess Elizabeth, which has been running as part of the City Boats fleet in recent years but was spotted for sale on Ebay a couple of weeks ago.

As we know, Charles Hannaford purchased George Smith’s passenger launch fleet and business c1936 but, according to the notes provided by Afred Pegg’s daughter, it seems that he did acquire William Littleboy’s company too. I do still wonder whether the two fleets had been amalgamated prior to Hannaford’s arrival, given the almost identical wording and day trips advertised on the 1930s Smith’s and Littleboy’s leaflets I featured on here before. The 1930s photograph of Princess Mary shows that she was originally open sided, another in the collection shows her looking the same in the 1950s, but by the 1960s she had undergone a rebuild which saw the superstructure remodeled to enclose the cabin sides and the fitting of red vinyl bench seating inside.

Mike Lennox has many happy memories of his time skippering Princess Mary at the Falkirk Wheel during which time she was used was used for a variety of passenger trips and functions including a number of weddings and corporate events. As mentioned, she began her new life on the Forth and Clyde Canal in 2003 and Mike’s records show that on the 16th of August that year she carried a total of 788 passengers – not all at once I hasten to add! The first photograph seen below was taken by Mike and shows her moored alongside the service pontoon at Tamfourhill in 2003.  In 2005 she underwent a refit during which the red vinyl seating was removed to leave a very spacious, open cabin, although her passenger capacity was reduced from 106 to 80 in the process.  The second photograph, also taken by Mike, shows her interior prior to the 2005 refit whilst the third captures her being craned back in after her annual out of water inspection in 2007.

Princess Mary left the Falkirk Wheel about a year ago and was moved to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal where she is currently advertised for sale at the Fettlers Wharf Marina with a £30,000 price tag. I hope that this grand old lady finds a new owner soon and that she continues to offer passenger trips for many years to come. Many thanks to Mike Lennox for providing the photographs and information on her history.

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