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The Danny

28th March 2021 @ 6:06am – by Webteam
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Audlem and District History Society

History Shorts 51 by Brenda Smethurst

Audlem History Society recently hosted their first Zoom talk, after a year of lockdown and no monthly visiting speakers. So, it was very welcome to have volunteers from the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society (DAPS) for an on-line talk about the coal-fired tug-tender, affectionately known as The Danny, first launched in 1903.

The Danny

The Danny was originally built as the Ralph Brocklebank for the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company at what later became Cammell Laird's Birkenhead shipyard. It was used to tow up to 10 Mersey barges at a time from Ellesmere Port. The tug saw naval service in World War 1 and resumed towage afterwards.

In 1922 it was sold to the Manchester Ship Canal company, as motor lorries were now more cost effective for transporting goods, so it began assisting ocean-going vessels up the 36 miles of the Ship Canal, and also gave Sunday passenger trips from Manchester along the canal to Eastham. The trips cost 7 shillings and sixpence (37.5p) per person, including lunch. It was fitted with removable awnings to aid passenger comfort and, in fact, four different kings travelled on it during this time, including King Faud of Egypt.

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The Danny at Frodsham. Photo copyright: the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society

In 1936 it was re-named the Daniel Adamson after the promoter and 'father' of the Manchester Ship Canal. The Danny had a facelift at this time, emulating the ocean liners' Art Deco designs. We were treated to wonderful, evocative photos of the interior and newsreel film of The Danny at various stages.

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Photo copyright: the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society

In 1953, The Danny had another major overhaul plus new boiler, thereby fitting it for the golden age of the Manchester Ship Canal. Other famous passengers that travelled on it around this time were Eisenhower and Don Bradman.

The Danny was last used as a tug in 1961/2, then became an inspection vessel. By the 1980s, due to a decline in Ship Canal traffic, The Danny became uneconomic to run, and was moved to Ellesmere Port Boat Museum in 1986 where, unfortunately, it was vandalised. It was decided to sell The Danny for scrap, but a tug skipper, Don Cross, heard of her fate, formed the DAPS, and bought the ship for £1.

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The Daniel Adamson steaming west past the two swing bridges at Barton-upon-Irwell on the Manchester Ship Canal (CC BY 2.0)

The second half of the talk was equally as fascinating as the first half, as we heard how, thanks to over 100,000-man hours by a group of dedicated volunteers, plus a National Lottery grant of £3.8m. over five years, The Danny was restored to the 1936 specifications at Cammell Laird's Alabama Dock. Work was completed in 2016 and The Danny is now used as a learning resource for schools and communities, is open to the public and has an active programme of cruises along the Weaver Navigation.

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The Manchester Ship Canal and the Weaver Navigation. Map copyright: the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society

As our Chair, Jeremy Nicholls, said in his closing remarks, it was "a riveting talk" (no pun intended!), beautifully illustrated throughout, and with excellent speakers who enthusiastically answered a variety of questions put to them by the Zoom audience.

For further information see the DAPS website:

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