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Medway Queen paddle steamer given £50k boost by anonymous donation

A mystery benefactor has made a £50,000 donation towards the restoration of the famous paddle steamer the Medway Queen.

The businessman made the generous gesture when he visited Gillingham Pier over the weekend where the historic vessel is undergoing repairs.

Brian Goodhew, member of the Medway Queen Preservation Society (MQPS), was left "stunned" after being presented the cheque.

Brian Goodhew on board the Medway Queen
Brian Goodhew on board the Medway Queen

The society's press officer, he said: “I had to look twice. I thought he must have put too many noughts on the end by mistake.”

The man, believed to be in his 50s and from Maidstone, does not wish to named.

Mr Goodhew said: “He was most insistent. He said she will be saved. She is a national treasure.”

He added that he recognised the person from a previous visit, when he promised he would be back to pledge money.

Mr Goodhew said: “His wife had died recently and the cash had come from proceeds of the sale of a house.”

The Medway Queen was hailed as the Heroine of Dunkirk for her vital role in saving 7,000 Allied troops from the beaches of northern France in the Second World War.

"I had to look twice... I thought he must have put too many noughts on the end by mistake" - Brian Goodhew

After the war she was refitted for civilian use and became a floating nightclub off the Isle of Wight and also carried out pleasure trips to Southend and along the Kent coast.

After suffering damage to her hull, she was towed back to the River Medway on a pontoon where she fell into disrepair.

The MQPS was formed in 1985 with an ambitious long-term mission to get repairs done and get her sailing again.

Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding and an EU grant, experts were able to complete structural work at dry dock in Bristol where she spent several years.

With tireless work from volunteers and apprentices, the fixtures and fittings have largely been finished and now the project is being handed over to experts to carry out the final touches.

The race is on to get her complete by June 4 when Prince Michael of Kent and society president the Rt Hon Lord West of Spithead are due to pay a visit.

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