The Preservation SocietyStory

How a unique survivor was saved for the nation

Written by Trustee, Volunteer and Member Les Green.

The Daniel Adamson preservation Society or “DAPS” for short is the volunteer led charity behind the £5 million restoration project that has returned the “Danny” back to operating service.

“Daps” is a relative newcomer to the heritage sector, only being formed in 2004 sometime behind the development of the majority of transport heritage societies who were inspired by legendary figures such as Tom Rolt and Charles Hadfield shortly after the end of the Second World War.

Although little more than a decade old ”DAPS” being formally constituted on 30th March 2004, the achievements of the volunteers have been amazing with the vessel fully restored back to original condition as at 1936 when it left John Browns Shipyard and returned to service all within 12years of acquisition.

The role of the enthusiast

The “Danny” even with its unique history was not saved for restoration until 2004 despite the fact that it had been laid up and neglected with no funding for even basic maintenance since 1984.

Berthed in the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum, she had become a target for vandals and was becoming an eyesore, all to the annoyance of local people and police. A reluctant decision was made by the owners to sell her to the scrap man and that scrapping proposal horrified Dan Cross, now Chairman of “DAPS” and was the impetus for the bid to save her. Dan, a skipper of a powerful modern tug currently at Milford Haven and with an interest in many aspects of heritage, canvassed fellow tug enthusiasts. The result was an approach to owners Peel Holdings who rather than see this historic vessel scrapped they sold her for the princely sum of £1 to “DAPS”.

From the initial group of tug enthusiasts with some professionals from the maritime industry, “DAPS” has progressively grown its membership to over 600. Members from all sections of the community including former ship canal workers, IT specialist and power station operatives, sharing a common purpose have swelled the membership and worked hard to achieve the vessel’s return to service.


The aims of “DAPS”

To achieve charitable status which DAPS has done with registration no 1104681 a clear aim was needed and was not difficult to define. The aim is:-

“To conserve and restore to full working order, the steam powered tug tender and to operate her in and around the Mersey Estuary for public benefit”

The work to achieve this aim began on 10th April 2004 when legal ownership of the vessel was formally transferred to “DAPS” whilst at the same time the first of many corporate sponsors, Svitzer Marine, provided a powerful modern tug “Ashgarth” (56 ton bollard pull) to tow the vessel out of Ellesmere Port on her journey into restoration in Liverpool Docks.


National Historic Ships Significance alongside “Cutty Sark”

The saving of the “Danny” within hours of the scrap man lighting his torch was to be of national maritime historical significance. The “Danny” has a pedigree of being the only surviving vessel of design of ship termed the tug –tender. These were vessels designed with the dual role of both being powerful tugs to move the great ocean going ships of the day around in port whilst at the same time having significant passenger carrying capability. In the case of the “Danny” she was licensed to carry some 100 passengers which she frequently did when traversing the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to Liverpool.

The vessel is defined on the National Historic Ships register as of “Pre - eminent national or regional significance” and classed with this level of importance the “Danny” possesses certificate no15 and is in the core collection alongside the “Cutty Sark” and s.s. “Great Britain”


Comments of Patron Paul Atterbury of BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow”

Impressed by the clear aim of “DAPS” to restore the vessel to an authentic achievable condition from a defined time in the vessel history, Paul Atterbury of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow fame joined the society as patron early in the restoration as Patron.

Paul who has been active in the society ever since attending fundraising functions wrote in the book “The Daniel Adamson – a unique survivor” :-

“There is no other vessel to match her exceptional history”

Paul being an expert on both transport and art –deco style and looking forward to the days when she would be back carrying passengers again described her as a:-

“A direct link with the great Cunarders and other liners of that era”.


What has “DAPS “and its volunteer achieved?

The first and probably most remarkable statistic is that volunteers spent a total of over 90,000 direct hours working to protect the hull from further weather damage and to restore all eleven steam driven engines to full working order all to the most exacting engineering standards. The boiler room was stripped out of all pipe work which has been labelled and stored ready for use.

The most impressive project was the restoration of the two main engines responsible for delivering over 500horse power to the two propellers and driving her forward at speeds in excess of 11knots (nautical miles). Built by John Jones and Sons, a local Liverpool company sadly no longer trading, these two engines will be the centrepiece of future engine room tours.



Behind the scenes – fundraising and corporate sponsors

Whilst the engineers and those with practical skills pushed ahead with the hardware a skilful group worked tirelessly behind the scenes to raise the funds and secure the facilities to support the volunteer hours spent on direct restoration.

Right at the outset the “Danny” project was supported by some of the biggest corporate organisations in the area and even many small companies came forward to offer their help. Svitzer Marine from day one has helped with towage whilst Peel Holdings and United Utilities have provided free workshop and berthing facilities.

The workshop at Sandon Dock used by the engineers includes a machine shop filled with donated equipment and has been vital to the project. The numbers of donors is already too long for this web- page and that is continuing with training facilities donated by Llangollen Railway.

The team at DAPS have been very active in their fundraising activity and early in the project were supported by grants from charitable foundations such as Esmee Fairbairn, Garfield Weston and Prism which acted as “seed corn” to get the project underway and later of course came the HLF grants amounting to close to £4 million and a landfill tax funded grant of £75k via WREN for the art-deco areas.

Cruises on the Mersey ferries, open days and members contributions have all added to the coffers but the most innovative arrangement was with Frodsham Brewery who were to develop “Danny” ale a 4.2% hopped bitter that sold throughout the North west and paid royalties to the DAPS coffers.

The overall result of this activity is that the direct work carried out by volunteers was to be valued at close to £1million prior to the main HLF grant.


Open to the public- the Albert Dock experience


DAPS have always been keen to contribute to any events celebrating the maritime industry on the Mersey and ship canal with buses laid on from Albert Dock on river festivals to show the public around the vessel in Albert Dock.

In 2015 there came the opportunity to have the vessel actually in the dock for the event with another free tow by a Svitzer tug but this time the vessel was to stay in the dock until the HLF award was made and this was to demonstrate the public demand for the vessel to return to operational service.

Wrapped in plastic sheeting and with her paintwork clearly the worse for wear she was to attract some 13,000visitors who donated £11,000 for her restoration. Both BBC and ITV regional news had articles on her at peak viewing times


The Heritage Lottery Fund grant is awarded

The Heritage Lottery Fund has a rigorous process for applicants for funding which is designed to ensure value for money, control of funding and that projects are sustainable for the benefit of the community through which DAPS had to pass.

DAPS application with the support of major museums, MP’s , councils and employers organisations was to be managed by the Manchester office of the HLF who after close scrutiny recommended acceptance. However with regional offices only able to award projects a maximum of £1million, Manchester office had to have headquarter approval from London to take the project to completion and DAPS for its part had to raise another £175,000 matched contributions.

Approval came through and DAPS has raised the required £175,000 and now the crowning glory of all their work is the return of the vessel to steam once again on home waters.

Camel Lairds of Birkenhead were to be the successful bidders for the restoration contract and once again it was a Svitzer tug that was to be involved in towing her into the Birkenhead dry dock literally yards from where she was built in 1903.

The volunteers at DAPS have been jubilant and all the hard work has paid dividends but all the celebrations are tinged with sadness as some of those dedicated and committed from the outset to returning the vessel to operating service, did not live the 12years to see her propellers turn again.

The Danny still needs volunteers and members to continue its charity work and to fund the project as it moves forward as a new story for community groups, schools and the public. The unique story of Daniel Adamson ‘The Danny’ continues……….

Click here to see the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society website


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