The Sobriety Project in Goole, encompassing Yorkshire Waterways Museum, went into voluntary receivership and closed its doors to the public on 15 May, 2019. Funding cutbacks had finally forced an end to the award winning charity which had been helping society’s disadvantaged groups for some 40 years.
Administrators Revive Business Recovery have since made it clear that all of the assets of the organisation including museum vessels and artefacts have to be sold to pay its creditors, being the bank, suppliers and of course the staff who had unfortunately been made redundant by the closure. Those assets include the iconic tug Wheldale and her three compartment boats, the "Tom Puddings". Together with the grade II listed coal hoist situated in Goole docks they are a reminder of the revolution in coal transportation which had made Goole the hub for exports of Yorkshire coal around Europe and the world since the mid 19th century.
The original restoration of Wheldale and her maintenance since then has been carried out by a group of enthusiastic volunteers who also provided the crews for her popular dock trips. On Wednesday 22nd May, 2019 at a meeting in Goole Museum, a group of those volunteers came together with other interested parties and resolved to set up the Yorkshire Waterways Heritage Society initially as a subsidiary group of Goole Civic Society who have kindly offered their full support for the initiative. The new society has the short term goal of raising money to purchase Wheldale and her "Tom Puddings" from the administrators, saving her for Goole, so that she can continue to carry passengers around Goole docks, learning as they chug along about the unique industrial heritage of the port which has now been trading for nearly two hundred years.
The challenge facing the Yorkshire Waterways Heritage Society is not just to purchase Wheldale and her "Tom Puddings". With money always a problem in recent years, routine work on Wheldale had been deferred so that today she needs significant investment simply to keep her on the water.
Wheldale has not been formally surveyed for 7 years so she urgently needs to be dry-docked. It is expected that expensive work will be needed on the leaking stern gland that carries her propeller shaft.
Annual subscriptions from society members will help to pay for the ongoing costs of running Wheldale - insurance, mooring, licence, maintenance and fuel costs - but a significant capital sum needs to be raised to acquire Wheldale and get her repaired. Crowd funding has already started among society members and other enthusiasts in Yorkshire and beyond.
The public can help by making a donation online at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/Wheldale .
Once the purchase has been completed and the necessary work carried out, the volunteer crew members hope to recommence public trips around Goole docks and up the Goole and Knottingley Canal next year.
Wheldale rarely sailed far from Goole, the famous exception being when she took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations on the River Thames in 2012. Aboard Wheldale that day was lifelong Goole resident Rachel Walker, elected first chair of the new Yorkshire Waterways Heritage Society.
Rachel summed up the thoughts of many who want to save the Wheldale: "When you think of all the public money and the thousands of hours of volunteers time that have already gone into Wheldale, we just cannot allow that to be wasted. We need to save her for Goole and Yorkshire".
For further information please contact David Scrimgeour of Yorkshire Waterways Heritage Society by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07702 678128.