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Calshot Tug, Southampton

Posted on 27 March 2014 by

I was lucky to have the opportunity recently to shoot on board the Calshot tug, an old tug tender that operated in Southampton. I was working on a job for the Red Funnel ferry company who had been fundraising for the Calshot Trust, a charity set up in 1999 to fund the significant restoration work required on the vessel. After the shoot we were invited on board for a cup of coffee and a tour. It was a great opportunity to see a piece of history that sadly isn’t generally open to the public.

The Calshot was more than a tug; it was used as a tender to transfer passengers ashore from cruise liners, where it would be more practical and more economical than trying to dock a large ship just for a transfer of a relatively small number of people. As such the Calshot tug was decked out with first class and second class passenger compartments, which even in their current state give a great idea of the class divisions that existed at the time.

The most well known aspect of Southampton’s maritime history is of course its links with the Titanic. Although it is not as old as its more famous colleague (entering service in 1930 while the Titanic was lost in 1912), the Calshot tug is evocative of the time. It’s a real shame that Southampton doesn’t make more of this ship, and indeed the waterfront as a whole. Until fairly recently it was planned for the Calshot to form part of the Aeronautica museum set for Southampton’s Trafalgar Dock but these plans have since fallen through. The ongoing restoration work continues in the hope of a future, but depends on a grant from the National Lottery. Without this, the ship may be destined for the scrapyard.

The Calshot Trust is due to hear in May whether they have been successful in their application for a Lottery grant. I really hope they are, as so much love and work has been put in over the last sixteen years or so that it would be a tragedy to see all that go to waste. In the meantime, if you’d like to help please visit the Trust at www.tugtendercalshot.com.

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