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Beloved historic Ellesmere Port tug boat wins national award

Daniel Adamson honoured by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Capt Dan Cross with the latest award to be gained by the restored famous steam tug the Daniel Adamson(Image: UGC TCH)

A much-loved heritage vessel with historic links to Ellesmere Port which predates the Titanic has gained a further accolade.

Steam tug the Daniel Adamson, restored thanks to a near £4m grant and 100,000 hours of effort by volunteers, has received an Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Already named as the winner in this year’s National Historic Ships Flagship of the Year Awards, the vessel, affectionately known as ‘the Danny’, now offers cruises in Cheshire and Merseyside.

Launched from Birkenhead in 1903, the Danny was honoured for being the last operational coal-fired tug in the UK.

The ship, then the Ralph Brocklebank, was built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead in 1903 to tow barges laden with goods from the inland towns of Cheshire and the Potteries to Liverpool according to records of the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society.

A small but incredibly powerful canal tug, the 150-tonne twin screw, coal-fired steam vessel is now unique in being the last surviving steam-powered tug to be built on the Mersey. She is believed to be the oldest operational Mersey-built ship anywhere in the world.

In her early days she also carried passengers between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool, a service that continued until 1915 while the First World War also saw her in service as an unarmed patrol boat with the Royal Navy around the Liverpool coast.

In 1936, the Ralph Brocklebank was chosen to become the Manchester Ship Canal Company’s official directors’ launch with a radical refit and a name change to that of the ship canal’s founding father, Daniel Adamson.

The restored Daniel Adamson steam ship tied up nearby at Telford's Quay. Pic: David Norbury(Image: Ellesmere Port Pioneer)

By the 1980s the octogenarian vessel was nearing the end of her era and in 1984 the ship canal company decided to withdraw her from service.

Arrangements were made in 1986 for her to be towed to the boat museum in Ellesmere Port where she had started her working life 83 years before.

In 2004, despite being a unique century-old maritime survival, she was earmarked for scrapping but within days a decision to try to save her was taken.

The campaign was spearheaded by Captain Dan Cross, a Mersey tug skipper, who bought the vessel from the ship canal company for £1.

She was then lovingly restored by a team of dedicated volunteers with £3.8m of financial support from The Heritage Lottery Fund and input from ship repair specialists at Cammell Laird.

The Art Deco style interior from luxury liners at the time was recreated from original 1936 photographs, serving as a reminder of the resplendent days when she was used as both a passenger vessel and to tow long strings of barges laden with goods from Cheshire and the Potteries to the seaport at Liverpool.

“After a working life of over 80 years she has now found a new lease of life as a cruise boat and provides opportunities for visitors to learn about how her operating engines and boilers work,” says the society.

A ceremony in Canning Half Tide Dock at the Albert Dock opposite the Merseyside Maritime Museum saw guests touring the ship before the Danny steamed out of the docks to her winter berth.

Earlier this year the ship spent 10 days visiting Ellesmere Port moored near the boat museum.

Previous winners of Engineering Heritage Awards include the E-Type Jaguar and Concorde.

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