Monday, 18 October 2010

Au Revoir 'Jimmy Tickets'

Jim the Purser, on the paddlebox of his beloved Waverley, at the Isle of Tiree
(picture by Helen Strachan)

Waverley's final sailing of the 2010 season on Sunday 17th October brought the retiral of one of her longest serving crew members, Chief Purser Jim MacFadzean, after 23 summer seasons 'Just Behind the Funnels' of the World's Last Sea-going Paddle Steamer. Undoubtedly, he is the longest serving purser of Waverley's 63 years and few, if any, pursers can have been associated so closely with the operation of one vessel for such a prolonged period in the entire 198 year history of the Clyde Steamers.

Although he had often been on the paddler as a passenger prior to joining the crew, when he was appointed Purser in May 1988 it was his first professional association of any kind with the sea and ships, a fact that is hard to believe nearly quarter of a century later. Coming from an Ayrshire farming family, Jim had been closely associated with that vocation in his native Ayrshire, in other parts of the UK and in North America. It was in the latter period that he caught the bug for his round-the-world wanderings which he has often pursued during his 'winter leave' from Waverley. While the ship has been in hibernation back on a cold and frosty Clydesside, Jim has has undertaken safaris in Africa, visits to the Orient and even some seaborne adventures on definitely larger, arguably more luxurious (well for Jim anyway!), rarely more famous and never more historic vessels than the World's Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer!

I well remember his first weekend as Purser, out of Oban in the spring of 1988 and it was something of a baptism of fire. After a 'single 'in service training day by the late Mr David Duncanson, then General Manag'er of Waverley Excursions, it was over to Jim - since then he has really made the job his own. His prediction on that first day that it would be a 'fill in' job for a couple of seasons before returning to farm management proved to be somewhat inaccurate. As the 'public face' of Waverley he is unrivalled. Thousands upon thousands of people know the purser of Waverley and not just from Clydeside or the ships other operational areas around the UK - he has been recognised as such during his winter wanderings in distant shores as far flung as Cape Town, South Africa and Hong Kong.

During the 2010 season Jim has received kindly given gifts, thanks and good wishes from people and Branches of the PSPS around the UK - a mark the genuine affection which so many people around the country (and even further afield) have for him due to his tremendous contribution to the preservation of Waverley and due to his genuine care for his passengers and fellow crew members, his friendship and good humour.

During Waverley's penultimate sailing of 2010 Jim was joined by several of his former assistant pursers from the last 23 years for an unique 'Pursors Collection' picture on the paddle box steps.

Jim and his Assistant Pursers
(Back Row l to r: Simon Morgan, Paul Semple, Jim, David Edwards and Tony Gamblin
Front Row: Campbell Watt, Gary Stevenson and Scott Adams)
(Photo by Dr Joe McKendrick)

On the ship's last call of the year at Blairmore, at a short ceremony on the pier, Captain Alistair McLundie, Chairman of the Friends of Blairmore Pier Trust, presented Jim with an honorary membership of the Trust and a wonderful retirement cake. A short video of the  ceremony can be seen at

Captain McLundie of the Blairmore Pier Trust making the presentation to Jim
(Photo by Dr Joe McKendrick)

The Certificate and Cake presented to Jim by the Blairmore Pier Trust
(Photo by Dr Joe McKendrick)
During the last sailing of Waverley's 2010 Season, signal flags spelling out Jim's initials 'J M C F' were flown from the paddlers foremast in his honour.

Signal flags J M C F for Jim's last day as purser
(Photo by Dr Joe McKendrick)

While the vessel was sailing Round Bute, at a special ceremony Jim was thanked on behalf passengers, crew, PSPS and Waverley Excursions. Speaking from the perspective of a passenger, PSPS member and Scottish Branch committee member Paul Semple described Jim as the best 'people person' he knew, a comment that drew applause from the audience, a quality that was obviously a mainstay of Jim's long successful 'Pursership'. Paul presented Jim with a large cheque being the aggregate sum of donations contributed by regular passengers of the Waverley. In his alternative role as a crew member, Paul thanked Jim for the wise counsel and advice that was freely available to fellow crew members of all deparments and ranks. PSPS Scottish Branch Chairman Gavin Stewart presented Jim with an engraved decanter (and some 'stuff' to put in it) as a mark of the thanks of his 'home' branch and Waverley Excursions Ltd Chairman Graeme Hogg thanked Jim for all his efforts on behalf of the Company. (subsequently WEL hosted a retirement dinner for Jim , attended by many of his colleagues, past and present, in the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Sobcross Quay, Glasgow on 18th October). Finally Jim cut a tremendous, large retirement cake - thanks to Catering Manager Craig Peacock and the catering department for that)

Jim's Retirement Cake
(Picture by Andy Gilmour)

On the return sailing Jim sported an unique version of Waverley's world famous wooly hats. The special hat, produced personally by Waverley's Chief Hat-knitter Jenny Longhurst, bore the appropriate legend 'Dun Pursering'. As Waverley returned to her home base at the old No 81 berth at Plantation Quay, Glasgow and her giant paddlewheels beat their last beats of 2010, Jim 'signed off' with his final announcement over the 'Tannoy', thanking everyone for their gifts, kind comments and good wishes and for making his final day so memorable.

Au Revoir Mr Purser. Thanks for giving us so many wonderful days out around the beautiful British coastline. Please don't be a stranger in future; come back to see us often but, most of all, have a very long, healthy and happy retirement.

'Jimmy Tickets' looking back on a long and illustrious career
 on the World's Last Seagoing Paddle Steamer
(Picture by Tom Dunlop)

Stuart Cameron
on behalf of Scottish Branch Committee