• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Ian McMillan

Marine engineer

Marine engineer

Born: May 3, 1954. Died: July 19, 2014,

IAN McMillan, who has died suddenly aged 60, was a key figure in rescuing and rebuilding the neglected Clyde steamer PS Waverley, the world's last seagoing, passenger-carrying paddle steamer.

These days, she proudly plies UK waters from her base at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, to the eastern reaches of the Thames and the south coast of England. With her twin red, white and black funnels, she is "one of the most photographed ships in the world", according to her operators Waverley Excursions of Glasgow. Not bad for a vessel bought for a Clydesdale Bank pound note in 1974 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), which runs Waverley Excursions as a not-for-profit company.

The steamer had been built in 1946 by A & J Inglis at their Pointhouse Quay yard in Glasgow Harbour, now the site of the Riverside Museum near the Clyde's confluence with the River Kelvin.

As a boy from Clydeside, I rode the Waverley every time my parents could afford a big "holiday" - a day away from the shipyards. It had to be just a day because we couldn't afford a B&B. After taking a train to Craigendoran, near Helensburgh, and negotiating the gangplank of the Waverley, we were transported into a different world. It might only have been the Clyde estuary and a couple of lochs, but it represented escape, freedom, possibilities. As an adult, neither the Costa Brava nor the Caribbean ever matched that.

Although he was a proud Welshman, Mr McMillan's experiences in saving the Waverley and seeing her sail the west coast of Scotland in all her former glory made him a passionate lover of the Highlands and Islands for the rest of his life. He also helped revive the MV (Motor Vessel) Balmoral, built in 1949 as a ferry between Southampton and the Isle of Wight.

After her brief and frustrating time as a floating pub restaurant in Dundee, the Balmoral returned to active service as an excursion ship in the Bristol Channel, where she remained successful until last year but now needs financing to get back in operation.

David Ian McMillan was born in Barry, South Wales, on the northern banks of the Bristol Channel where he first fell in love with the sight, sound and colours of the passing steamers.

Growing up in Bridgend, Glamorgan, he followed in the footsteps of his father William, a marine engineer, and studied the same subject at what was then the Southampton College of Technology (now Southampton Solent University).

From his mother Moyra, a talented amateur musician, he developed his own gift for music, initially playing the clarinet, lending his booming bass voice to Welsh choirs or in his local pub during rugby matches, and later becoming an opera buff with a particular love of Wagner. After university, he first answered the call of the sea, joining the Merchant Navy as an engineering cadet on long-haul BP oil tankers and sailing the world for several years.

Back on land, on the banks of the Bristol Channel, he returned to his childhood love for "paddle wheels" and got a job as engineer on the Balmoral during the last days of the White Funnel fleet operators P&A Campbell, sons of the legendary 19th century Clyde steamboat owner Captain Bob Campbell of Inchinnan, Renfrewshire.

As a young man, Mr McMillan travelled to Scotland to experience the glories of sailing Loch Lomond, under the benign eye of the Ben, on the steamer Maid of the Loch.

One of his quiet ambitions was to see that old lady, the Maid, still a tourist attraction at Balloch today, sail Loch Lomond once again from Balloch, past the beautiful Inchmurrin island and on to Rowardennan.

Anxious to avoid seeing his beloved "paddle wheels" die off, Mr McMillan turned to ship restoration in his late 20s, helping revive the old MV Shanklin, built by Denny's in Dumbarton, renaming her Prince Ivanhoe.

She became extremely popular with tourists during her first year on the Bristol Channel until she ran aground off the Gower Peninsula, South Wales, in 1981.

Once the PSPS had obtained both the Waverley and the Balmoral, Mr McMillan became chairman of their operative company, Waverley Excursions, and, true to his origins, he remained superintendent engineer on both vessels, on call whenever needed.

That took him into new realms, like how to balance alcohol licensing laws with health and safety, but in 2011 he stepped down from the modern paddle steamer industry and returned to an area he had been involved in as a younger man - the power-generation industry.

Although his steamers and the heritage of the seas, apart from his wife and daughter, were his first love, Mr McMillan listened to music as a further passion.

He loved opera and travelled all over Europe to enjoy productions he felt were unmissable.

He died suddenly in Geneva and is survived by his wife Jane and daughter Sara.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

256426