The 1967-built Stranraer-based Antrim Princess was a regular visitor to Holyhead, mainly for refit, but she also put in an appearance or two on the Dun Laoghaire service. The ship was notable as being British Rail's first seagoing ship to be fitted with a bow door. She also broke with the company's long tradition of using steam turbine propulsion for its channel vessels, a move that introduced the funnel design that was to become synonymous with British Rail and later Sealink ferries.
1967, Hawthorn Leslie, Hebburn, Tyneside.
Lloyds Register +100A1
Bow and stern
A regular visitor to Holyhead for annual overhaul and refit, the Antrim Princess was also no stranger to the Dun Laoghaire run. The ship was first called into service at Holyhead in 1973 and again in the early 1980s.
On 9 December 1983 the Antrim Princess hit the news headlines when she lost power following an engine room fire shortly after leaving Larne for Stranraer. With his vessel left powerless in severe gale conditions the Master Captain Thomas Cree issued a distress call.
Within around 15 minutes helicopters from the RAF at Aldergrove (near Belfast) and naval Sea Kings from Prestwick were on the scene. In an amazing rescue in which eight helicopters were involved, the pilots and crewmen showing incredible skill and bravery, airlifted all 108 passengers and 20 crew members to safety in an operation co-ordinated by an RAF Nimrod circling overhead.
Captain Cree and 32 officers and crew remained onboard.
Eventually the Antrim’s anchors bit and held just around 1/2 mile off Muck Island and she rode out the storm. The RN tug Rollicker also attached a line to the ship. Captain Cree, Chief Engineer Andrew Bulloch and all the Antrim Princess’s crew were later praised for their high standard of seamanship and professionalism and their efforts in getting the fire under control and extinguished.
When Captain Cree returned to Stranraer and attended his local church the first hymn was reported to be “Will your anchor’s hold through the storms of life”.
Replaced at Stranraer by the St David, on 5th October 1985 the Antrim Princess was transferred to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company following a merger with Sealink, and later renamed Tynwald. With the introduction of new safety standards following the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise at Zeebrugge in 1987 the Tynwald's days were numbered. Completing her final sailing on 18th February 1990 she was returned to Sea Containers (Sealink) who promptly sold her for further service as the Lauro Express with Italy's Lauro Line running from Naples to Sicily and Tunisia.
As the Giuseppe D'Abundo the former Antrim Princess was sold for scrap in April 2006.
With thanks to Captain Hamish Ross, Ronald Roberts,
Kenny Whyte, Michael Thomas and Nigel Thornton.