READING Robert Beale's letter (February 7, 'The ladies of the lake'), reminds me of how one of the vessels on Ullswater came to be part of the Ullswater Steamers Group.

In the late 60s I was part of a national firm of agents specialising in the sale and valuation of hotels and licensed properties. As I was returning from a trip to Cornwall, the office contacted me to divert and look at the Totnes Castle, a former ferry, which had previously run from Dartmouth to Kingswear, but which had been decommissioned and was moored on the River Dart.

It had been purchased by a private operator with the intention of converting it to provide family sailing holidays, but had obviously run out of finance to complete the project.

On a hot summer's day in a dark suit, I had to stand on the quay at Dartmouth and wave my briefcase to attract the owner's attention, when a rowing boat then appeared.

Despite having no knowledge of what the boat might fetch, I agreed a price of £7,500 and, when advertised, produced a mammoth number of replies, largely visionary buyers including one from Pakistan who wanted to know whether it was seaworthy to make it there - in all probability it was unlikely it would have got much further than the end of the estuary.

Sadly it did not sell and at that time I heard nothing more of it.

Having retired to the Lake District early in the 2000s I was on a trip to Ullswater and on arriving at Glenridding I came upon this rusting hulk lying at anchor, and lo and behold, it was the Totnes Castle.

The MD of Ullswater Steamers told me he had come across it in the Tamar Estuary near Plymouth, acquired it and managed to persuade a crew to make it seaworthy and sail it to Whitehaven, where it was put on a low-loader and transported to Glenridding.

This was an achievement in itself, as it had to be done at night with the roads closed.

It went through an extensive renovation and refurbishment to make it into the lovely little steamers it plies its trade on the lake. It was renamed by Princess Alexandra as 'Lady Wakefield'.

Paul Singleton