HOW often do you hear about a Runcorn volunteer helping a nearly 120-year-old heritage steamship to live on?

Well, Colin Leonard, 73, a former tugman on the Manchester Ship Canal put his love for the boats into action to save the heritage ship the Daniel Adamson.

Launched in 1903, The Danny, as she is affectionately known, is the last surviving steam-powered tug – that manoeuvres other vessels - to be built on the Mersey. She is thought to be the oldest operational Mersey-built ship anywhere in the world.

However, after the decline of shipping on the canals of north west England her fate was uncertain until being saved by a team of people who were passionate about her past.

One of those people was Colin – whose worked should be brought to light in Volunteers Week.

“I never thought I would be sailing on her 37 years later, as I thought she would have gone for scrap a long time ago,” said Colin.

Colin beside the Danny - Picture: Three Little Birds PR

Colin beside the Danny - Picture: Three Little Birds PR

“So I felt it was only natural for me to get involved in her new life and keeping her afloat.”

The Danny has worked as an unarmed patrol boat during the First World War, a passenger carried to the inland docks of Manchester, but fast forward some years and in 1984 the Manchester Ship Canal Company withdrew the tugboat from service after her towing duties became less frequent.

In 2004, she was earmarked for scrapping but her future was secured by the volunteer-led Daniel Adamson Preservation Trust and 11 years later £3.8m in Heritage Lottery Funding was secured to restore her to full working order.

The Danny is now celebrating the fifth anniversary of her restoration, with the living museum recently confirming its 2021 cruise schedule after a 21-month suspension of services.

What does Colin like about his work with The Danny? “Knowing I have played a part in keeping an important part of our maritime heritage preserved for future generations,” he said.

And it is some heritage.

Colin puts in hours as a member of the deck crew, organises attendees for outside events and assists in educational services, taking The Danny’s story into local schools and colleges to ensure ‘The Danny’ lives long in the memory.

L-R Colin Leonard (left) 1979 , The Danny - Picture:

L-R Colin Leonard (left) 1979 , The Danny - Picture:

Colin’s wife Sheila, 71, also volunteers as an office administrator where she liaises with members, organising talks and works with the fundraising team.

“My life has been so busy and fulfilling since I have been a volunteer – I would recommend to anyone who is a bit lonely or needs to make new friends to join us on The Danny,” she said.

Dan Cross, 47, a tug master in Cheshire/Merseyside, who is also a volunteer captain, marine superintendent and former chairman at the Danny, urges people from any ability and background to consider volunteering.

“We’re very keen to recruit younger volunteers, we need to make volunteering sexy to the younger ones and not frowned upon as a crowd of anoraks.”

Sarah Vibert, interim CEO, NCVO added: “As in this story, volunteers are always working at the heart of every UK community. Volunteers’ Week is an important chance for everyone to recognise all of those who deliver important work as volunteers.

To find out more about the historic steamship and her cruises, how to volunteer or make a donation, visit The Danny website.