Scillonian purser retires to shore after four decades at sea

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group’s popular purser Marcia Still is leaving the iconic Scillonian III passenger ferry 41 years after she first began working onboard the ship.

Marcia initially joined the ship as a stewardess in 1980 making daily, sometimes twice-daily, crossings from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly during the ship’s season of sailings between March and November.

Marcia worked regularly for the Steamship Group as a stewardess during the intervening years, returning after two periods of working away, and since 2004, Marcia has worked as the Scillonian’s purser, with responsibilities for overseeing staff, accounts, administrative and financial tasks including cargo and passenger manifests, as well as managing guest services.

Marcia has become well-known to passengers including both islanders making the journey to and from the mainland and to regular visitors to the Isles of Scilly, many of whom return year after year.

Marcia Still said: “The people are definitely what I will miss most; the crew feel like family; Pete Crawford, the Relief Master, and I used to catch the same school bus so we go back a long way. I’m a sociable person so I’ll miss the interaction with passengers, as well as with work colleagues to make the operation work, and the satisfaction when it all goes well.”

Marcia is stepping down from her role to spend more time at home in Newquay with husband Steve Hoare, who she first met in 1980 when he travelled to Scilly for the annual Newquay/Scilly gig racing. The couple got together in 2000, married in 2018, and Marcia found during lockdown that she enjoyed being at home more so decided to scale back her working hours and learn new crafts.

“I’ve loved the role but 12 hour days can take their toll, and I’m not getting any younger,” Marcia said. “I certainly hope to keep visiting the Isles of Scilly regularly though, as I have many friends there now.”

Marcia, aged 58, who grew up in Newlyn and attended Heamoor Secondary School, vividly remembers her first day working on the Scillonian III ferry as a stewardess, mainly working in the bar and buffet.

She recalls: “It was a very rough double sailing, I wasn’t feeling great and succumbed to seasickness when we were nearly in Scilly. But I survived the afternoon sailing and managed to hit the Barn Nightclub in Penzance that evening – with all the lights and a few ciders, it felt like I was still on the ship.

“I joined the Steamship Group because it was an exciting and unusual job and meant I could stay in Cornwall. We worked long hours as there were many double sailings but there was also a lot of fun.”

Marcia took on the purser’s role in 2004 when Raymond Jefferies retired, and has enjoyed 17 years as one of the ship’s most popular and well-known faces, greeting passengers as they board.

Her daily routine started before 8am and included briefing the crew, managing deliveries and stock for the onboard cafe and bar, liaising with shore staff, running safety drills, admin and overseeing passenger manifests, boarding passengers and ensuring passenger comfort and safety during sailings. The day ended when Scillonian III arrived back in Penzance at 7.15pm.

Marcia will leave with a host of happy memories, especially those of wildlife sightings from the deck of Scillonian III. She said: “Seeing the basking sharks as we sailed along the coast or sightings of dolphins never ceased to delight me, and the reaction of the passengers was always uplifting. “It was always lovely on the first sailing of the season when I would go ashore on St Mary’s and be greeted with comments like ‘we’ve missed you’ and ‘summer’s here’.”

Marcia will be succeeded as ship’s purser by current deputy purser Dan Reynolds, who has worked for the Steamship Group since joining as a seasonal steward in April 2009, and is looking forward to stepping up to the senior role.

Marcia said her only advice to Dan would be to “enjoy the job as much as I have.”

Stuart Reid, Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group, said: “Marcia is known and loved by all of our returning customers, as well as the Isles of Scilly community.

“She will be deeply missed and we are grateful for her many years of service, helping us to connect people to the islands year after year and providing exemplary passenger services. We wish her all the best for the future, and look forward to seeing her onboard again soon as a passenger travelling to visit her many friends on the Isles of Scilly.”