INTO Liverpool’s famous Albert Dock, overlooked by the Liver Birds, on Wednesday evening sailed a piece of south Durham history: the Daniel Adamson, a steam tug, after its £3.8m overhaul.

The tug, nicknamed “the Danny”, shares its name with a building in the middle of Shildon – the Daniel Adamson Coachhouse. There were two Danny boys, father and son: the father was a landlord who became a railway pioneer and built a coachhouse; the son spread his wings, became renowned as an engineer across Europe, as a folk hero in Manchester and had a steam tug named after him in Liverpool.

The son was born on April 30, 1820, probably in his father’s pub, the Grey Horse, in Shildon. He was the 13th of 15 children – there had been two babies previously named Daniel but both had died after only weeks of life – and he went to the Edward Walton Quaker School in Old Shildon where he showed an aptitude for mathematics.

Those must have been exciting times for a young man with such abilities – the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825 and Shildon, its cradle in the colliery belt, was rapidly growing and industrialising.

Aged 13, Daniel left school and became apprenticed to Timothy Hackworth in the world’s first locomotive works. By 19, he had built his first complete loco; by 30, he was general manager of the engine works.

Then he flew the S&DR nest. He became manager of a foundry in Stockport on the other side of the Pennines, and soon established his own ironworks at Dukinfield, near Manchester. He specialised in building boilers, but had spinning machine companies and he developed an ironfield in Lincolnshire. Sir Henry Bessemer gave him a gold medal for his pioneering work with steel.

Soon, Daniel’s ironworks covered four acres, employed 600 men and he lived in a mansion, The Towers at Didsbury. There, on January 27, 1882, he convened a meeting of the area’s great and good to drive forward a proposed canal to join Manchester with Liverpool 36 miles away.

The Mancunians wanted the canal because they felt their economy was being hampered by the transport monopoly controlled by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and the high charges levied by Liverpool docks.

But the canal would cost £4.5m…

Daniel became the company’s first chairman, and on August 6, 1885, he succeeded in steering a Bill through Parliament that granted permission for the canal to be built. When he arrived in Manchester from London, he was greeted by a crowd of 150,000 cheering Mancunians. Cannons fired, bells rang, and the Shildon lad was carried home to his mansion.

His expertise was in big demand across Europe. In 1889, the Italian government asked him to advise on the potential of ironmines on the island of Elba. He went over, caught an infection, and died back at The Towers on January 13, 1890.

He therefore didn’t see Queen Victoria open the canal on May 21, 1894.

But he was not forgotten. In 1936, one of the tugs on the canal was refitted and renamed in his honour. For 50 years, it worked on the canal, towing barges and, in its two magnificent art deco saloons, hosted corporate hospitality trips.

Time, though, got the better of it. The Danny – built in 1903 and the only surviving twin screw steam tug – was pensioned off to a museum in 1986, and earmarked for scrap. But the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society was formed, bought the vessel for £1, received £3.8m from the National Lottery and has spent the last decade restoring its 11 steam engines and its art deco saloons.

The tug returned to the Albert Dock on Wednesday evening in time for this weekend’s Steam on the Dock Festival, where it will be open to the public for the first time in 30 years.

On Thursday, as we reported yesterday, it welcomed aboard Alan Hutchinson, from Evenwood, who is the great-great-great nephew of the man after whom it is named.

“It looks remarkable,” he said. “They’ve done a splendid job with it.”

So the Daniel Adamson, a piece of Shildon, is alive and well in Liverpool.

AND there’s a piece of Daniel Adamson still surviving in Shildon – whether it is well or not is another matter.

When the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened on September 27, 1825, Daniel was well placed in his pub, the Grey Horse, which was half-a-mile away from where Locomotion No 1 began its inaugural journey outside the Masons Arms. Thousands of people were attracted to the district by the novelty of the new steam horse, and Daniel celebrated by hiring an itinerant fiddler to play in the Grey Horse and leaving a barrel of ale in the hedgeside so anyone passing could wet the railway’s head.

In the early days, the railway allowed anyone to put a horsedrawn coach on the tracks and run a passenger service between the towns. Daniel seized the opportunity and from 1827 ran a coach called Perseverance from the Masons the eight miles into Darlington. It made 12 journeys a week, carrying 74 passengers.

In 1830, Shildon Lodge Colliery was sunk directly behind the Grey Horse, and the following year, a little branchline – the Surtees Railway – connected the pit to the S&DR. The pub, therefore, suddenly found itself lineside so Daniel could run his coach directly from his own home rather than have to go down to the Masons to collect the fares.

Over the road from the Grey Horse, Daniel built a coachhouse to keep the Perseverance in and for passengers to congregate in.

Some daring souls claim that this is the world’s first passenger railway station, although it is known as “Daniel Adamson’s Coachhouse”.

Daniel died in February 1832, probably a victim of a cholera epidemic, and his son, William, 27, took on the pub and Perseverance. The coach left the house every morning (except Sunday) at 7am to arrive at Darlington at 8.30am and Stockton at 10am. The return journey left Stockton at 3pm and arrived back at the coachhouse at 6pm, when all of the passengers undoubtedly piled into the Grey Horse for a drink.

In 1833, the railway banned horsedrawn coaches from its tracks because steampower was taking hold, and so the Adamsons lost their travel business.

However, the coachhouse survived. The last time Memories looked at this story was ten years ago, when the Daniel Adamson steam tug was beginning its restoration. The coachhouse then was empty, having been a community centre, and there was talk of the Locomotion museum taking it over and putting on exhibitions.

That never happened, and whenever we’re passing over the mini-roundabout in front of it, we wonder what fate awaits this earliest piece of railway history…

DANIEL ADAMSON Snr had 13 children, one of whom was the Daniel who has the steam tug named after him.

The ninth of those children was Susannah, who married John Morgan, the keeper of the Commercial Inn in Shildon. They had 14 children, including Sarah Jane who in 1870 married William Hutchinson at All Saints Church, Shildon – it is said that they were the first couple to have their banns read there and be married. It is from them that Alan Hutchinson, who this week saw in the Daniel Adamson tug, is descended.

We are grateful to his grand-daughter, Amy Coatsworth, for taking the photographs in Liverpool.