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T. S. S.  Waverley
The last surviving West Coast Gold Fields Steamer


Oficial Number     69012

Displacement     92 tons net, 125 tons gross (later refitted to 157 tons gross).

Rig     Schooner rigged twin screw steam ship

Length     originally registered at 93 feet, 7 inches, she was lengthened to 112 feet in 1897

Beam     18 feet, 2 inches

Draught     8 feet, 4 inches

Hold depth     8 feet

Propulsion     Twin 25 h.p. steam engines


1883     Built by Bailey and Seager at Freeman's Bay, Auckland for the Patea Steam Shipping Company at a cost of £5,700. (and mortgaged to the Bank of Australasia)  The design was supervised by Captain Gibbons, who would be her master in 1893. Although primarily built for cargo, she was also licensed to carry 42 passengers, with cabin berths for 12 males and 10 females. The Saloon and Smoking Room were panelled in Oak and Maple, with upholstery of Crimson velvet.

Early in her career, she was known to be carrying live stock from the small ports of Taranaki to the freezing works (abattoir) at Petone in Port Nicholson (Wellington).

1883     May 23     Arrived at Patea at the end of her delivery voyage.

1884     The vessel made a loss of £313 in her first year of trading.


1886     The vessel made a handsome profit of £4,359 in the 1885-86 trading year.

1886     July 9     Purchased by the Anchor Steam Shipping Company of Nelson for £3,300 to replace the ss Wallace, which broke her back at Greymouth in the previous year (above).

At Nelson between 1886 and 1897

1886     circa     Right: Frank Longborne Vickerman (1851-1933 ) transferred from the Murray to become her master.  He would serve the Line for 55 years.

On the whole she proved to be a good investment for the Company, which she served for thirty years.  A colourful personality who elected to remain with her for most of this time was Charlie Hart, the ship's cook.

"Charlie served as cook on the Waverley for many years and was considered to be a most likeable character.  He was reputed to the thinnest man in active work ever seen, yet one who always appeared to be in good health.  It was common for boys from the Company's office to wait for Charlie to leave for home after dinner had been cleared away, and then to raid his biscuit tins which were kept under the saloon table.  I confess that I had many a pocketful to chew.  But we had one grouse and that was that the biscuits on the Waverley were not up to the standard of the other vessels.  Thinking back on it now, I rather suspect that Charlie was one up on us boys, and that the good biscuits were not placed. so prominently in the saloon."

Loading Coal at Greymouth

She usually left Wellington on a Friday afternoon and arrived at Nelson on Saturday morning, when she discharged her cargo for that port.  Then she loaded cargo consisting mainly of general produce and groceries for Westport and Greymouth.  Much of this came from the country by the Saturday afternoon train, which usually ran late.  It was said that this train was not popular with the Line's staff because they usually lost their half holiday and even the biscuits would not make up for this.  After discharging on the West Coast, the Waverley would then loaded coal for Nelson, Picton, Foxton, Wanganui, or Patea (below).

1887     December 8     Stranded at Patea.

1896     Above: stranded at Patea again.

1896     Offered to L. D. Nathan and Company of Auckland for £4,100, a later offer to sell them the vessel for £3,800 was also declined.

1897     Lengthened by 18 feet, 5 inches, she was refitted to 157 tons displacement.  Later photographs would appear indicate that during this refit the Saloon superstructure was squared off, with a partially enclosed bridge built above it and the life boats moved slightly aft.

1898     The ss Ruapehu, bound from London to Wellington, stranded in broad day light on the Farewell Sandspit and the Waverley was sent to her assistance.  She arrived early in the morning and during the day was joined by seven or eight other steamers willing to give assistance (and incidentally to earn salvage).  However, it was the case of the "mouse and the lion".  All the steamers with the exception of the Waverley were of too deep a draught to get alongside the stranded vessel and consequently she was the only means of communication between the Ruapehu and the other vessels, two of which were intended to tow her off at the next high tide.  Unfortunately, when transferring a heavy wire hawser from the Talune to the Ruapehu a Manila rope to which the hawser was attached became entangled in one of the propellers of the Waverley, and for a time it was feared that not only would the Waverley be out of action, but the special towing hawser would be lost.  Captain Bendall, acting on behalf of Lloyds, endeavoured with the assistance of a boat's crew to clear the line but after considerable buffeting in a heavy sea gave it up as hopeless.  William Rogers [1860-1940], pictured Right, having gained experience in similar propeller troubles volunteered to undertake the job and after a rough time in and out of the water, he managed to free the rope.  Later the chairman of the Anchor Line presented William's wife with a gold brooch representing a propeller entangled in rope to commemorate the event.  William Rogers had joined the Anchor Line as a 15 year old and served some years at sea as Purser, retiring as the Managing Director in 1936 after more than sixty years of service with the company.

1901     Taken over by the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company Ltd.  She was valued at £5,000 on the 4th of November.

1905     circa     Above: detained at Foxton by flood waters.

1905     Until 1909 she was used by the company in the provision of its over night passenger and cargo service between Nelson and Wellington.

1906     Right: Captain W. A. Wildman (1881-1953) appointed as master.  He would later succeed his father as master of the company's inter-island ferry Arahura.

Undated     Captain "Ned" C. E. Graham served as an Able Seaman aboard the Waverley before eventually becoming her master.  It is reputed that he would have been well into his seventies when he retired in the late 1920s.

1916     April     Sold to the Patea Farmers' Co-operative Freezing Company.  With her insulated holds, she was suitable for the freighting of frozen meat from Patea to Wellington.

1917     November     Stranded at Patea.

1919     February     Stranded at Patea.

1921     April     Stranded at Patea.

1921     October     Stranded at Patea.

1925     April 16     Stranded at Patea, where water was pumped from her forepeak by the dredge Wallace.

1928     Dismantled at Wellington.


1928     June 14     Towed from Wellington by the ss Wairau to the mouth of the Wairua River, where she was to be sunk to form a breakwater.  Before being scuttled, she was swept up the channel in a flood to where she now lies in the Wairau Lagoons (7.5km South-east of Blenheim) and subsequently used for target practice by the NZ Army.

1928     December 31     Registry closed.




Kirk, Allen A.
Anchor Ships and Anchor Men
Wellington: Reed, 1967. 186 pp. Illustrated.

McLean, Gavin
Canterbury Coasters
Wellington: New Zealand Ship & Marine Society, 1987. 96 pp. Illustrated.


Thanks to Kevin Dekker for many of the images and Marcus Castell for the research.

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