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Monday, 10 September 2018

August 2018

August marked the awarding of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which turned out to be all we had hoped it would be and more.

Cleaning, painting and general sprucing-up during the first week of the month had the vessel looking very smart indeed for the award ceremony on the 7th August, but ahead of the event itself we had a marquee to erect, tables, banners and bunting to be put in place, food and celebratory bubbly to be arranged, and regional TV and radio interviews to be recorded.


Monday 6th started early as Dave Guest, BBC North West’s Senior Reporter arrived with his cameraman on the quay to film a piece for the evening news. Over the next two hours Paul Kirkbride, myself and Chris Heyes were interviewed and filmed in the Wheelhouse, Boiler Room and Engine Room, shots were taken around the vessel, and information gathered for the commentary. This was duly broadcast during the North West Tonight, albeit that the two hours was condensed down to three minutes and Roger Johnson in the introduction pronounced ‘Kerne’ as ‘Kee-ern-ee’. That said, we had plenty of good feedback and responses to the piece. No sooner had we finished with the TV, than BBC Radio Merseyside’s Claire Minter arrived and recorded an interview with Paul that was broadcast on the Tuesday morning.


The crew arrived before noon on 7th and delivered the catering and made final preparations for the big day. United Utilities had very kindly offered to provide car-parking at the Liverpool Wastewater Treatment Works from where our volunteers (suitably dressed in ‘Kerne’ shirts) and guests were conveyed in a classic ex-Liverpool bus to the quayside for the ceremonial proceedings. The Queen’s official representatives were Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside Mr Mark Blundell, Deputy Lieutenant Sir Mark Hedley DL and Lieutenant Colonel Sean McEvoy BEM. The civic party was The Right Worshipful, The Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Christine Banks. After official introductions and a visit aboard Kerne there followed official speeches including a welcoming address, a description of the award process and assessment, the presentation of the Award and signed Certificate of Authority. Obligatory photographs followed and a speech of thanks on behalf of the volunteers before all present enjoyed drinks and food in the marquee in a very relaxed and convivial atmosphere despite the somewhat cold and blustery conditions..


The Society are very honoured to receive this Award in recognition of the 47 years the group has preserved and operated the vessel, particularly as it is the first time the Queen has recognised a voluntary vessel preservation group in this way. Following the departure of the dignitaries and guests, the remaining crew were transported in the classic bus to The Lion Tavern for post event drinks. Unsurprisingly, this part of the proceedings lasted several hours! Even less surprisingly, the dismantling and clearing-up operation the following day was performed despite a number of very thick heads.


Work aboard had taken second stage to the Award Ceremony, but we are now on with jobs including the cleaning and cement washing of the aft peak tank and preparatory work on the Aft Cabin/Galley improvements. In the Boiler Room work has commenced on the removal of the 60 stay tubes, a job which will likely take us into next year. Normality service has returned!.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

July '18

This month was dominated by preparations for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service presentation held on 7th August, so it was all hands to make the Old Girl look at her best for the occasion.
Before we got too stuck into things, there was a change of scene and subject as some of us spend the first day of the month at the impromptu Road Run of Steam Engines around the lanes of Cheshire, loosely arranged by the Lancashire Traction Engine Club, which featured Kerne member George Coles’ 1913 Clayton & Shuttleworth Traction Engine and Jonathan Bregazzi’s Stuart Turner-powered ‘Steam Buggy’.
It was soon back to work with paint brushes in evidence, including the Chief’s repainting of the funnel colours, completion of the deck painting and hatch varnishing. Due to our ongoing boiler tube issues, we obviously cannot raise steam, so the WWII veteran tug Seaport Alpha was again pressed into action to move Kerne along the quay to a more salubrious location for the Award Ceremony. The downside to this was the presence of a huge flock of feral pigeons scavenging for grain from the nearby grain store. They obviously don’t like the vessel’s colour scheme as they seemed intent on converting it to a colour and texture infinitely more unpleasant than the usual red, black and buff!
Down below in the Forward Cabin, the absence of the new oak bulkhead (yet to be completed) creates something of an eye-sore as we have stored wood in the forward area, so to tidy this up, curtains were put up, giving the Cabin the appearance of a theatre. We only needed a magician to emerge from behind the curtains to make the illusion complete. One further element of the Forward Cabin restoration is however complete, this being the seating. To achieve this, away from the vessel a group of volunteers formed a production line in order to cut to size the plywood seat-backs, then cut carpeting to fit, glue the carpet to the plywood, add brass-effect edging before returning these to the vessel to be drilled and fitted. The seating now looks good, and the fitting of a new timber facia behind the access steps greatly improves the appearance of the cabin.
Work has started on removing the boiler stay tubes and a new carrier has been fashioned to lift the starboard side steering chains off the aft deck, where they have been rubbing for some time.
As the month drew to a close, Brasso (other metal cleaning products are available) was applied to beading to the engine, pipes, gauges and anything else that could be polished with very pleasing results ahead of our Big Day on 7th August. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

May - June '18

Firstly – apologies to our ardent readers who have wondered why things have been so quiet on the News front, and the reasons are-
I have been away on holiday (great), we have had serious family health issues (not so great), problems have been experienced with the Website (annoying), my PC ‘died’ on me (complete pain in the backside). The good news is that things are back to normal (hopefully!)
Undoubtedly the big news, as reported in our June bulletin and on Facebook, was that we have been honoured by Her Majesty with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, this being the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a Voluntary Group and is the equivalent of an MBE. As with all such Royal Honours, we were told of the award some time before the official announcement, but were sworn to secrecy. We were immensely proud and delighted by the news, but just about managed to keep it to ourselves. We had been aware for some time that we had been nominated, and when we were advised that an assessment would be conducted by Captain Hugh Daglish LVO JP DL, former Royal Navy Commander of HM Yacht Britannia and His Honour Judge John Roberts DL on behalf of Her Majesty, we knew that matters were getting serious. I have to admit to feeling a little nervous when these two eminent gentle arrived on the quay for a conducted tour of the vessel and a discussion on the history and activities of our group, but I need not have been; they took a real interest and were extremely complimentary on our achievements. We must have done something right as we now have the privilege of being the only Historic Vessel Group to be honoured in this way. To accompany the honour we received two invitations to attend the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, the Ship’s Mate Paul Kirkbride and the Chief Engineer Chris Heyes, who were two of the original protagonists in the saving of the vessel in 1971, attending on behalf of the Society. The actual award will be presented to the Society on behalf of Her Majesty by the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside on 7th August at the vessel’s mooring in Sandon Dock.
More good news to report – We have also been awarded a grant of £5000 from the Pilgrim Trust towards the replacement of the vessels wheelhouse which has seen better days. An order has now been placed with Moorside Joinery for the manufacture of the structure.
Despite the obvious euphoria of the Queen’s award, and also as a consequence of it, we have had to re-plan our summer as we are determined to have Kerne looking at her very best for the award ceremony; scaling, painting, polishing and general tidying up has been the order of the day (or should I say month). We did however have a very successful weekend in Albert Dock for Steam on the Dock, albeit that as a consequence of our boiler tube problem we had to be towed to the venue by the WWII veteran tug Seaport Alpha. Well over a thousand visitors ventured aboard over the weekend, with many more taking the opportunity to view her and talk to the crew from the quay. We also attended the Lymm Historic Transport Day on 24th June with our Exhibition Stand, which once again attracted a large number of visitors.
As regards actual ‘work’ aboard, in the Aft Cabin a new grate has been fitted to the galley stove, the automatic pump to the bilge has been replaced, and work continues at our Davyhulme workshop on new units, sink and plumbing to this cabin. In the Forward Cabin, the seatbacks have been removed for re-upholstering, but the focus remains on having Kerne looking at her best for 7th August! 

Queens Award for Voluntary Service

We are extremely pleased and honoured to announce have been awarded The Queens Award for Voluntary Service.
This is an MBE equivalent and the highest award given to a voluntary group.
It is the first time a historic vessel preservation society has been honoured in this way.
The award was created in 2002 by Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate the anniversary of her Coronation and recognises excellence in voluntary service and activity carried out by groups in the community.
The assessment process for recommendation to The Queen for the award was conducted on behalf of Her Majesty by Captain Hugh Daglish LVO JP DL Royal Navy ex Commander of H. M. Yacht Britannia and His Honour Judge John Roberts DL. Who I hope had an interesting day aboard the tug.
The award citation honours the rescue and preservation of Kerne,
In 1971 Kerne was the last coal fired steamship to work commercially on the Mersey when our preservation group stepped in and saved her from the scrapyard. Since then, the steam tug has relied on the voluntary effort of its members, public donations and awards granted from The Transport Trust, National Historic Ships, The Pilgrim Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund plus the support of many local businesses such as Cammell Laird, United Utilities, Mersey Tanker Lighterage and Peel Ports.
Chris Heyes and Paul Kirkbride are attending Buckingham Palace on Tuesday for a Royal Garden Party and The Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside is to make a presentation aboard Kerne at a later date. #QAVS2018 #bbcradiomerseyside #liverpoolecho #wirralglobe #shipsmonthly #transporttrust #oldglorymagazine #merseymaritime #peelports #thepilgrimtrust #unitedutilities #nationalhistoricshipsuk #merseysidemaritimemuseum #historicdockyardchatham

April '18

At last – a glimpse of sunshine, but only a glimpse!! However, this was enough to warm things up to enable us to complete the Aft Cabin painting and insulation. We can’t be accused of cutting corners on this, in fact so many coats have been applied that the headroom has been lowered!
Firstly, a coat of Granville Rust Cure (not to be confused with ‘Open all Hours’ although Dave does have a touch of Granville about him!), then 2 coats of epoxy primer, followed by a coat of epoxy polyurethane and finally 6 coats of Temp Coat 101 ceramic insulation, (as carried by US Warships) albeit that ours is in a rather fetching ice blue colour. The cabin now looks somewhat like a steel riveted glacier!
Following that new slatted seat-backs were installed and the seat cushions re-upholstered. This cabin is never intended to be salubrious, but it does look a whole lot better than it did. Away from the vessel, new cupboards are being manufactured, and once installed we can fit and plumb in a new sink. We also need to fit a new grate to the galley range as the original is nearing life expiration. Work in the Forward Cabin has stalled somewhat, as the joiner is now unable to do the job of manufacturing and fitting the oak bulkhead, so we will need to think again.
As reported in last months News, two boiler tubes have failed. There is never a good time for things like this to happen, but when you are readying for the years first steaming, this is definitely the wrong time! Whilst we have removed the offending tubes, there is insufficient time to effect repairs to enable us to be in steam for the forthcoming ‘Steam on the Dock’ Event on 12th & 13th May, also the work required in removing the tubes has diverted us away from other jobs we intended to finish prior to SOTD. To add to our woes, the weather has severely delayed our exterior painting program.
We are nothing if not resilient, so before the collective tears of anguish flow, we WILL be at SOTD thanks to the venerable old tug Seaport Alpha that has towed us from Sandon Dock to our position in the Albert Dock. Seaport herself is an interesting craft – built during the Second World War in 1943 as the steam tug TID 43. These vessels were deployed during the D-Day landings and were built in double-quick time in pre-fabricated sections using female factory labour. Now motorised, she is still able to do a job of work to this day on lighterage work around the docks and river.
Come and join us over the week-end – we will look forward to seeing you in the Albert Dock.

March '18

It is fair to say that progress on the vessel during March is best described as ‘mixed’. 
At the forward end of the vessel we moved slowly towards completion of the cabin; the installation of the document cupboard is finally finished after a lot of messing around to get the thing to look right. That is the trouble with curved hull plates and benching at different angles and heights – but it now looks pretty good after final touches of paint. The boardroom table is now in-situ after some modifications to its support legs to get it on an even keel. The method of testing was to place my lunchtime apple on the table and if had not rolled off onto the deck when I finished my sandwiches it was level enough – and it was!
Some further modifications have been necessary to the steel frame for the false bulkhead as the doorframe was found to foul the lighting conduit. We are now waiting for the joiner to way up the oak facing.
Those who follow this column may be wondering what has become of Dave whose misdemeanours regularly feature. The fact is that the poor lad has been under the weather for some time, but he is now fully recovered and back in the swing. This is classed as a mixed blessing. Throughout his absence, his ‘contraption’ to which I have reported on in previous Newsletters has remained perched, unused and unloved above the low-pressure valve chest. Unfortunately, time is now not on our side to undertake the valve re-facing before the steaming season, so the contraption has now been dismantled and will in all probability, re-appear next winter.
Work in and around the boiler has been moved on apace with the installation of the scum pipe complete, shell valves overhauled and replaced, safety valves removed and checked and the boiler filled with water in readiness for steaming.
Down in the Aft Cabin, following the removal of the seating, the steelwork has been de-rusted and painted, and the seating re-upholstered. After much thought and discussion on the continuing problem of condensation in this area, we have decided to alleviate this by having a ceramic insulation coating applied to the deckhead and bulkheads. Dates were fixed with the contractor to carry out the work, but the continuing cold and wet weather has not only delayed this but has also prevented any painting of the exterior superstructure or decks. In short, a lot of work has been done, but there is little to show for it.
I referred above to progress this month being ‘mixed’. This was typified on the last day of the month when during boiler preparations we discovered two leaking boiler tubes. So we grit our teeth and add another job to the list! 

February '18

Just when you think Spring is round the corner, with lovely sunny days at the beginning of the month, an Arctic blast swept across from the East, confining some of us who live away from the flat lands of Merseyside and the Wirral to barracks. Never daunted, work carried on by those who live nearby, despite the freeze.
A replacement for the corroded skum pipe that was removed from the boiler has been fabricated, leaving the small job of reinstallation. To achieve this task requires skill and patience, the ability to get inside the boiler and be lithe and supple enough to work in this somewhat cold and claustrophobic area. Nowadays, this rules me and certain others out, although I was able to stick my head down through the top boiler access door and offer words of encouragement to those within. The muttered replies seemed to sound more like insults than words of thanks!
The Forward Cabin was the place to be as the cold winds blew, accompanied by the warmth of our new stove, where there are still a few details to finish off. These include the installation of the document cupboard, the tubular steel false bulkhead frame, and modifications to a donated former boardroom table for adaptation into its new home. We are now looking for someone to manufacture the oak facing for the false bulkhead.
As we move forward with the minor finishing touches, the next big project – the Aft Cabin, continued. The removal of the seating and some of the work surfaces allowed access to the inside of the ships hull and framing and these areas were duly scraped, treated with rust inhibitor and painted. It is our intention to modify and improve the facilities in this area; our plans include improvements to the ventilation, the installation of a sink and pumped discharge, an overhaul to the solid fuel range and a wiring upgrade. What we now need is some decent weather so we can set about exterior painting in readiness for the forthcoming season, which is only some 2 months away.
For those who subscribe to the magazine ‘Old Glory’, you will have seen Paul Kirkbride’s excellent published article on Lidgerwood engines, of which Kerne’s engines are probably the only surviving example. For those who don’t, the article can be viewed on our Facebook page and is worth a read.