FROM NEXT MONTH THERE’S TO BE NO OFFICIAL PIERMASTER ON PENARTH PIER

Piermaster Peter Andrews checks the halyards before hoisting the Vale of Glamorgan Council flag on the pierhead jackstaff . He now has the distinction of having been Penarth’s last official piermaster

It’s understood that as from next month – for the first time in 123 years – Penarth Pier will no longer have a designated Piermaster.

The present piermaster, Mr Peter Andrews,  combined his duties of patrolling the pier and sea-front and berthing the pleasure ships PS Waverley and MV Balmoral, with general caretaking duties.

Penarth Piermaster Peter Andrews (right) briefs Penarth Coastguard’s Greg  McKinney and an RNLI official on the casualty he’d spotted jumping into the water. The man was rescued in the nick of time.

Mr Andrews – a long-serving member of the Barry Lifeboat crew – also kept a weather-eye out for any safety issues on the sea front and was instrumental in raising the alarm for many incidents – not least the successful rescue of a man who threw himself into the sea from the pier head but, thanks to prompt action by Mr Andrews, was rescued by Penarth RNLI .

It’s understood that under the council’s “reshaping services” programme, Mr Andrews is to take up a new – re-designated –  role with the Vale Council which , as from the beginning of April, will require him to discharge a different set of duties.

As far as the job title of Piermaster is concerned, as from April 1st a PDN source says there will be “no official title as such”    – leaving the pier without an official Piermaster for the first time since 1897.

The pier and its facilities will still be checked regularly throughout the day and  locked-up at night, but its understood this is to be done a rota basis by other council staff.

Penarth Pier as it was after completion. Both the seaward and landward pavilions were later additions

Penarth Pier was opened in 1895 and in the ensuing years has always had an official  piermaster…that is until now.

In years gone by the Piermaster – and his assistants – always wore a formal brass-buttoned navy-style uniforms, enabling them to be readily picked-out by residents and visitors alike. The Piermaster was also allocated residential accommodation in the council owned North Lodge at Windsor Gardens.

Penarth’s first Piermaster Captain Daniel Evans circa 1905. The photo was taken from the balcony of the original Penarth Pier Pavilion which was at the seaward end of the structure.

The Piermaster of Penarth traditionally enjoyed a social status which eclipsed that of the town’s mayor. The first occupant of the post was a fully fledged merchant navy officer Captain Daniel Evans who was described as being ” the genial and courteous Penarth piermaster” .

Captain Evans was succeeded by Captain Henry Vellacott . When Capt Vellacott died at the age of 57 in 1910, the entire town went into mourning. Local newspapers noted that Captain Vellacott had been “exceedingly popular with visitors” , had been a founder member of Penarth Yacht Club and had been awarded a “life membership” of that august institution.

His successor as Piermaster was H R Leonard who had been a purser on board a Campbell’s steamer.  In 1914 Mr  Leonard signed up for naval service in the First World War aboard “HMS Majestic”  serving in the North Atlantic and after the war returned to Penarth to resume his duties on Penarth Pier .

Just after 21:00 on August Bank Holiday 1931 the entire length of Penarth Pier caught fire. Thanks to the quick thinking of the Piermaster all 800 people on the pier escaped or were evacuated by boat without injury

On August Bank Holiday 1931 it was Piermaster Leonard and his staff who marshalled to safety all 800 people  who were on the pier attending shows at 21:00 in the old pierhead pavilion and in the newly built concrete Pavilion at the Esplanade end.

Flames 30 feet high enveloped the pier from one end to the other. No one could quite believe just how quickly the wooden planking exploded into flame.

The timber-built pierhead pavilion was destroyed . The concrete structure of the new Penarth Pier Pavilion (at the landward end of the pier) didn’t catch fire – but the radiated heat turned the building into a huge oven. A fleet of 7 boats including a pilot cutter ferried the crowds safely ashore. Some of the dancers suffered from shock and were treated at Penarth Yacht Club but everyone escaped without serious injury.

Ex-naval officer Stan Galley was piermaster from 1946 until 1970. He lived in what was then the piermaster’s lodge at the Northern end of Windsor Gardens and is seen here about to brew-up with an enormous enamel teapot he is bringing to the pier from his home . He ran the pier as a tight ship … His ship.

In 1946 former seafarer Stan Galley was appointed Penarth Piermaster – and just a year later  had to cope with an emergency every bit as serious  as his predecessor had done in 1931.

A close encounter with the cargo-ship Port Royal in 1947 nearly put paid to the Pier and the Pavilion

On May 7th 1947 the steamer Port Royal Park collided with the pier and fractured 70 of the cast iron supports beneath .

The damage took two years to repair and the pier wasn’t re-opened until Whit Monday in May 1949.

 

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8 Responses to FROM NEXT MONTH THERE’S TO BE NO OFFICIAL PIERMASTER ON PENARTH PIER

  1. Vic says:

    The pier opened to the public on 13th April 1895! And that’s not Tom Fearnley – it’s Stan Galley!

  2. Chris David says:

    Don’t worry, allegedly a professor Tony Hazell assumes he’s the PM.

  3. Birkett says:

    Tory cuts.

  4. snoggerdog says:

    lovely fella stan galley,so,s his son bob.

  5. The Tax payer says:

    Good report. But it should have reported on good old Tom Fearley who I think was the last but one Pier master. And what a star he was 😎

    • Andrew Davies says:

      Not even close, I’m afraid. I took over from Tom Fearnley upon his retirement in 1986, having work as Assistant Piermaster for several years.
      After my brief stint, Alwyn Evans, the former manager at Penarth Baths and Penarth Leisure Centre took over until he, in turn, retired, to be followed by a succession of VGBC employees who were no longer based at the pier, but attended to lock and unlock, moor the steamers, and make sure the pier was cleaned – duties covered, when I started in 1978, by a team of five seasonal employees.
      However, you are quite right to point out that Tom Fearnley was a star. I have a hatful of memories – mostly good – of my time there, and Tom, and his family, became good friends.

  6. Penarth realist1 says:

    I vote Chris David as the new (Un paid) pier master. He will always have some well chosen words for ships that pass in the night!

  7. Chris David says:

    Un paid! interesting misuse of a word. Yes I’ll put up some shaving mirrors to keep away undesirables like the Un dead.

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