Life at the museum began well. The Daniel Adamson’s unique combination of steam engine and stylish Art Deco interiors drew admiring visitors, but she soon fell victim to the funding cuts affecting the region’s cultural and heritage sectors. Maintenance became too expensive to carry out, and by the early 1990s she was starting to show signs of neglect. Over the next decade the Danny’s condition deteriorated, and to add insult to injury, she was vandalised and partly set alight.
In early February 2004, despite being a unique century-old maritime survival, she was earmarked for scrapping at Garston. But word of this soon got round the tightly knit maritime community grapevine, and within days the momentous decision to try and save her was taken.
The campaign was spearheaded by Mersey tug skipper Dan Cross, who formed the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society (DAPS) with the help of Tony Hirst, a former director of the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. Dan’s employer Svitzer Marine, on hearing of the steam tug’s plight, offered to dry dock and survey her for free to assess whether she was in fact worth saving. The next thing he knew, Dan had bought the Daniel Adamson from owner MSCC for the princely sum of £1, and the campaign was underway.
Supporters started to emerge from all over the North West, but also from Yorkshire, the Midlands, North Wales and beyond. By April preparations had been made to tow the tug to Eastham and out into the Mersey. The scale of the challenge became clear when the cost of insurance, simply to tow her from Eastham to a berth across the river in Liverpool, was quoted at £2,000. But with the goodwill and generosity of many, the money was raised.
Even though she had been stationary for two decades, and the move from Ellesmere Port would not be done under her own steam, a new chapter in the Daniel Adamson’s life was about to start. There was a determination that she would steam again, and the support from many quarters gave DAPS the confidence to throw everything into the campaign.
The next task was clearing two decades’ worth of mud, rainwater and rubbish. As the media and Internet forums spread the word about the Daniel Adamson’s resuce, more members and volunteers joined up to DAPS, bringing much needed skills, enthusiasm, and crucially, time. Ships’ surveyors and engineers, pipefitters, plumbers, joiners, electricians and many more, retired and still in employment, all offered their services free of charge.
Original members of the crew also turned up, including John Deakin, whose knowledge of the quirky workings of the old vessel proved invaluable. Customers and suppliers of Svitzer Marine also came forward with favours such as free surveys, rust repairs, paint and pilotage.
United Utilities granted the use of some redundant buildings to use as workshops at Sandon half-tide basin, where the repair works to the hull and boiler could be carried out and also training given to students from TTE Training. Grants started to be raised from various trusts and funds, including Halton Borough Council, the Manifold Trust, the P H Holt Charitable Trust, the Pilgrim Trust and the PRISM fund.
But more – much more - was needed. The commitment and fundraising drive paid off, and in February 2015 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £3.8m to restore the Daniel Adamson to full working order. The exciting news meant that she would once again be able to sail under her own steam.
From a vandalised wreck days away from the breaker’s yard, the Daniel Adamson has sailed into the elite ranks of the National Historic Fleet, the maritime version of Grade I listed building status – alongside vessels of national significance such as the Cutty Sark, HMS Victory and SS Great Britain.
The Daniel Adamson has been kept afloat quite literally from the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers and the goodwill of scores of companies, and from May 2016 a new generation of enthusiasts will be able to marvel at the her unexpected Art Deco interiors and experience the thrill of steam.