Notes of the Half Year Meeting held onboard SS Shieldhall on Sunday 5th November 2017
The meeting opened at 11.00 hrs with 34 members in attendance plus the following representatives of the Executive Committee: Doug Brodie (Chairman), David Rice (Treasurer), Jim Cusiter (Secretary), James Robson, Barry Eagles, Sam Dobell and Rosie Jacob.
The Chairman welcomed all present. He explained that the Half Year meeting was a less formal event than the AGM and served primarily to keep members updated and to answer questions. No formal business would be transacted but notes of the meeting would be made available to members.
Doug Brodie reported on the highlights of another busy year for the Charity. These included:
- With the sad passing of Maldwin Drummond earlier in the year, Robert Woods who has had a long association and interest in SS Shieldhall has accepted the position of President.
- There have also been some changes of personnel in key positions including Secretary, Membership Secretary and Marine Superintendent. Those stepping down were thanked and those taking up their new challenges were welcomed.
- The Heritage Lottery Project was completed to budget and an expression of thanks to all those involved was appropriate for what was a fine example of a very successful project executed by a good team very capably led.
- The sailing season had again been very successful despite ongoing difficulties with the berth location and some adverse weather which caused two sailings to be cancelled. We are still getting very positive feedback from customers on their sailing experience due in no small part to the friendliness, enthusiasm and professionalism of the crew who were thanked for all their efforts.
- Planning is well underway for the next drydocking which will take place before the start of the 2018 sailing season.
Derek Burke was unavailable for the meeting and The Trading Company matters were dealt with under financial and marketing presentations.
Dave Rice reported that income from ticket sales in 2017 was slightly lower than planned due to the need to cancel two sailings because of adverse weather conditions. Fortunately, this was significantly offset by a filming contract which contributed £26,000 to income. However, fuel costs have increased by about 40 percent during the year resulting in a net surplus for the year of approx. £21,000. The Catering Company and the Shieldhall Shop had also continued to make a contribution to the Charity funds. There is still concern that we are losing revenue by being unable to host functions in the refurbished saloon due to access restrictions placed upon us by ABP at Berth 110.
Graham Mackenzie gave an overview of the Heritage Lottery funded ‘Saving Shieldhall’ refurbishment project which has now been completed. The initial investigation work started with a grant application for £200,000 in 2011 and a stage 2 grant application for £1.92 million in 2012. A main aim of the work was to get the corroded hull steelwork into a condition that would be good for at least another 25 years. Another significant aspect of the work was removal of asbestos. Refurbishment of the saloon and parts of the accommodation were undertaken with the aim of improving income streams from better use of the facilities during sailings and for alongside events. The project was delivered on budget and received an excellent endorsement from the Lottery Grants Officer as an example of how such projects should be run. Those interested in more details were referred to the article in the current edition of the magazine (October 2017). The Chairman thanked all those who had contributed to this essential project without which it is likely that SS Shieldhall would not be still sailing.
Barry Quest was unable to attend the meeting and Jim Cusiter reported on behalf of the Membership Secretary. The Society currently has 794 members which is a small decrease on last year. To date 36 new members have joined in the 2017-18 membership year. The contribution from subscriptions was £12350 which is an increase from last year due to the new subscription rates applicable from 1st April 2017. Those members who pay by Standing Order/ Bankers Order were requested to check that their bank instructions are for the correct new mount since a number of payments received in April 2017 were still for the old rate and in many cases follow-up was needed to get the balance paid. Members were reminded that we need to recruit younger members and that whenever the opportunity arises we should be using word of mouth to promote SS Shieldhall and tell people about the ship and what we do.
John Thompson reported the Marketing highlights on behalf of Nigel Philpott. It was a successful season overall but two late cancelled sailings meant that the total passenger figures were just short of target at just under 3000. There were a number of sell-out sailings including the American Independence Day Jazz Cruise, Cowes Fireworks and the Saturday of the Bournemouth Air Show. Average passenger loadings equated to 135 persons. Short 2-3 hour trips were most popular, especially with families, but returns are lower because of free or discounted rates for children. Market research shows that 65% of those who responded were first time visitors to Shieldhall. 2017 was significant for marking the 500th sailing of Shieldhall under the ownership of the Charity. Another milestone which will be marked over the weekend of 28/29 July 2018 is the 30th anniversary of the transfer of the ship to the Charity. The sailing programme for 2018 is being finalised and will be published on the website and distributed shortly. There was some discussion of the pricing policy for sailings particularly in respect of potential for increased rates and introduction of charges for children without affecting potential demand. This will be further considered by the Trading Company Board. There was a request for more volunteers to come forward to help raise the profile of Shieldhall by manning stands at volunteer shows, trade exhibitions, village fetes etc. and helping with display boards, distribution of leaflets and general marketing etc.
General questions and comments were invited from the floor. These included the following:
- The feasibility of varying sailings to potentially include longer trips to more interesting destinations that might attract more customers. It was recognised that longer trips to, for example, Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast would require detailed planning and assessment of commercial viability including local support, certification and manning issues.
- Youth training should continue to be a priority in the programme. The current berth location is still a problem and despite ongoing discussions with ABP there is little progress on an alternative location.
- Steam experience which has been successful in the past should be promoted again.
- The charge rate for renting the saloon was raised but due to restrictions imposed by ABP at Berth 110, this facility is not currently available.
- Some time ago two models of Union Castle ships had been donated to the Charity to either exhibit or to sell to raise funds and an update was requested. It was confirmed that the models are still in storage and although efforts are still being made to find a buyer, the models need considerable refurbishment the cost of which is likely to outweigh their resale value.
- A member drew the meetings attention to a piece of glass found on the beach at Woolston. It was of interest since the glass had the name ‘Shieldhall’ embossed in the glass. There was speculation that the glass may be from a whisky bottle which was marketed under a Shieldhall brand (the district of Glasgow but not necessarily associate with the ship). The Chairman highlighted the fact that we are hoping to establish an Archivist role to better organise and make accessible for future use documentation and artefacts associated with SS Shieldhall.
The Chairman thanked members of the Executive and Board for their hard work during the year and particularly all contributing officers for a comprehensive update for members. Whilst it was reassuring to hear that the Society was still in a good financial position, it was important to continue fundraising to meet future need including drydocking next year. He also reminded the meeting that the future of Shieldhall depended solely on the volunteer effort and urged all present to introduce more members and active volunteers and spread the word about SS Shieldhall. He thanked members for attending.
The AGM 2018 would be on Sunday 8th April at 11.00 hrs.
The meeting closed at 12:15 hrs.
JMC Hon Secretary 9th November 2017