Last Saturday, I finally got around to take a "Ferry 'cross the Mersey" as we boarded the "MV Royal Daffodil" for a 50 minute nostalgia trip.
The Royal Daffodil was built in 1962 as MV Overchurch and was the sistership to the more famous MV Royal Iris.
There have been three Royal Iris's on the Mersey. Currently there is a vessel named "Royal Iris of the Mersey". The ship that is best known is the Royal Iris of 1951. She was built on the Clyde and was designed by W.H.Fry, the Wallasey Ferries manager, to withstand the strong winds of the Liverpool bay.
In June 1957 a happy Merseyside tradition that was to continue for more than four decades was launched, the Cavern Club's legendary "riverboat shuffles," a series of four-hour dance cruises up and down the River Mersey aboard the M.V. Royal Iris, a beautiful, Art Deco-style ship that had been plying the river since 1951 and was popularly known as "the fish and chip boat" for the food served onboard during the dance cruises.
The 'riverboat shuffles' continued until 1990, when the 40-year-old Royal Iris was retired from service.
Several Liverpool groups in the early sixties used to perform on the Royal Iris, including The Beatles and Gerry And The Pacemakers who had a hit song about the voyage. Paul McCartney namechecked her in his own song "That Was Me" on the album "Memory Almost Full" in 2007.
According to Mark Lewisohn, The Beatles played on the Royal Iris four times and, on the first two dates, shared the bill with Acker Bilk's Jazz Band. 25 August 1961; 6 July 1962; 10 August 1962 and 28 September 1962.
The vessel last sailed as a Mersey Ferryboat in April 1991 to participate in the annual commemeration of the Zebrugge raid, which the 'Royal' prefix was given for. She was then offered for sale, much to the dismay of many Merseysiders. It was said by Mersey Ferries that the hull was in poor condition and she would need lots of money spending on her to bring her up to modern standards. She sailed from the Mersey in 1993 to Wales where she was used for a short spell as a floating nightclub/casino. She was then sailed under her own steam to Bristol where she remained for a number of years in an increasingly decaying state. Due to complaints from the port authority she was offered for sale and was purchased and towed to London and berthed near the Thames barrier, where she still resides today.
The Beatles perform on the Royal Iris, 1961
The Royal Iris hasn't been in use for several years, and was rotting away on the Thames until recently. The current owner of the Royal Iris, James Jegede, has leased premises at the Albert Dock in Liverpool and intends to open them as a Royal Iris themed bar. He has plans to fit it out with the original fittings from the vessel.