Bett Pittaway (left) was an office junior from 1941 to
1946, George Clephane (centre) was a wharf porter from 1943
to 1944 and Russ Grigg operated the ship-to-shore radio
from 1953 to 1959. Photos by Christina McDonald.
Before working as a pianist on TSS Earnslaw
1994 to 2008, Bill Purvis owned and worked on a sheep farm in
After selling the farm he retired to Queenstown and when he
saw that one of the steam vessel's pianists was leaving he
was "cheeky enough to say I would like that job" Mr Purvis
"My wife and all my friends thought I was nuts, but I managed
to put in 14 years."
Entertaining passengers was a far cry from farm work, he
said, though very rewarding.
"On the farm all the sheep ran away from you and all you see
is their dirty bums, but when you're playing here all the
people come towards you and you see their happy faces - and
that's much better."
To launch Earnslaw's centenary celebrations, a staff
reunion was held aboard the steam ship on Sunday night, about
100 past staff attending.
TSS Earnslaw's only female skipper under current owners
Real Journeys is Lisa McIlroy.
The sole female skipper of Earnslaw
at present -
and the only woman to skipper the ship since company Real
Journeys, formerly Fiordland Travel, first leased it in 1969 -
is Lisa McIlroy.
Ms McIlroy is in her seventh season and said children were
surprised to see a female skipper - as were woman from other
cultures - and men shook her hand.
Having had "all sorts of skippering roles", she said she was
thankful to the senior captains who had been willing to give
her a go.
"It's been a privilege to have the opportunity to say you're
the skipper of a 100-year-old steam vessel," she said.
"Steam is a very interesting era of time; it's living
The boat would "outlive us", she said, and she hoped there
would be many more female skippers to come.
• See today's Otago Daily Times for preparations for
the first re-enactment of Earnslaw's maiden voyage