On a hot, barmy, summer’s day, in July 1974, I reached a milestone in my life; my 18th birthday. In Liverpool, we seldom need an excuse for a party and my mum, suggested an evening on the Royal Iris III, the iconic Ferry, that traversed the Mersey as a floating restaurant and entertainment venue.
The Royal Iris was a wonderful ship. It had three decks, including a grand dance floor and was popular, not just with Merseysiders’ but with visitors from all around the world.
In the 1950’s & 1960’s, the Royal Iris was our gateway, to a magical day trip, to New Brighton which at it’s height, would host tens of thousands of holiday makers.
One of the Royal Iris’s cafes, came complete with a working Frier. If there was a swell, passengers, who had imbibed a little too much, often ‘enjoyed’ their fish and chips twice; once on the way down and again, on the way back up.
There is a fantastic replica poster, in the Hard Days Night Hotel, in Liverpool, on display advertising: ‘The Cavern Presents A Riverboat Shuffle, Friday, August 25, 1961, on The MV Royal Iris with Mr Acker Bilk‘s Paramount Jazz Band & The Beatles. Boat sails from L’Pool landing stage @ 8.30pm. Tickets 8/6p.’ Fred Charters, Liverpool.
The MV Royal Iris III, William Denny’s classic diesel electric ship, entered service on May 5, 1951, with a passenger certificate of 2,296 for ferry services and 1,000 for cruising.
The twin screw Royal Iris III is a surprisingly large, 1,234 tons gross, 159ft long, with a beam of 50ft and a top speed of 13 knots.
The other Mersey ferries were about half the tonnage and were less streamlined than the Royal Iris.
By the mid-1970s, the Royal Iris was not in regular ferry use but reserved for dining and cruising, as well as for broadcasting the Saturday morning kids’ TV programme, Mersey Pirate, live from the top deck of the ferry. I only watched the ‘Mersey Pirate’ once but one of the most memorable moments involved asking the local children to tell a joke. One cheeky 8 year old lad asked the presenter; “What do you call a cowboy with no money’? The presenter was stumped. Quick as a flash, the lad delivered the answer in his best scouse accent; “SKINT EASTWOOD”! Classic.
The Royal Iris was eventually sold in 1993 for use as a floating nightclub in Cardiff and now languishes, on the Thames, near Woolwich, gently and sadly, rusting away.
Dave Wood, a Liverpool photographer has launched a petition, to bring this famous ship, back from London, to it’s rightful home, on the Mersey. Please help, to save an irreplacable artifact of Liverpool’s rich Maritime Heritage. In the past, Liverpool had a less than perfect record, of preserving its heritage and the Royal Iris is as much a part of Liverpool as the Three Graces. There has been a ferry service on the Mersey since 1260. The Royal Iris III is the most distinctive ferry to enter service on the legendary River. It would be a tragedy if one if Liverpools most famous daughters withers on the vine in London.
Please, please sign the petition at http://www.royaliris.co.uk/phpPETITION/index.php.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have any stories about the Royal Iris III, I would love to hear from you.
My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the Digital Circus.