The Brian Boroime © Tony Jones
The Brian Boroime © Tony Jones
When British Rail's Freightliner block trains began in 1965 ISO (International Standards Organisation) and the container revolution had barely begun. The original intention was for a purely domestic Freightliner rail service - no consideration being given to the possibility of continuing the operation across the sea. That however soon changed.
In 1968 British Rail launched its Sea Freightliner service between Harwich and Zeebrugge with the cellular container ships Seafreightliner I and Seafreightliner II. Plans were soon put in place for an equivalent service on the Irish Sea and an order for two similar ships was placed with the Irish yard of Verolme Dockyard in Cork.
The new Brian Boroime and Rhodri Mawr were named after and Irish monarch and a Welsh monarch respectively. A little known fact is that the 'Brian' was saddled with an incorrect spelling of her name. In the Irish language some consonants can undergo a transformation called séimhiú (pronounced Shea-Vu). In the old Irish script this was shown by putting a little dot above the letter. Modern Irish is printed using the standard Western alphabet, and the little dot has been replaced by the letter "h" following the consonant. The 'M' of Boroime has neither a dot over it, or a 'H' after it to give the correct Boroimhe, pronounced Bor-oy-va - or so it seemed! At a reunion of Sealink staff in Holyhead in August 2006 the Brian Boroime's former Chief Engineer, Eric March, informed the author that the séimhiú was in fact in place, in the form of a raised weld mark. However it always seemed to escape the painter's attention during each drydocking - much to his frustration!
The brand new Holyhead Freightliner Terminal (FLT) was commissioned in 1969 but lay idle for 20 months as a result of the Britannia Bridge fire in 1970, an event which effectively delayed service start-up at Holyhead until February 1971.
When the new Rhodri Mawr and Brian Boroime were finally able to enter service on routes from Holyhead to Dublin and Belfast traffic volumes grew rapidly, reaching their highest-ever annual total of 73,000 containers in 1973.
The steady growth in Ro/Ro traffic on the Irish Sea influenced container volumes and by the early 1980s the Belfast route was being particularly affected. The end finally came in 1989 when the Rhodri Mawr, under the command of Capt Ted Besson, made the last Holyhead - Dublin - Belfast container sailings on 21 December.
Both the Brian Boroime and her sister were quickly bought by Greece's Sarlis Container Services for operation around the Mediterranean, the "Brian" becoming the Peltainer. For around 14 years they appear to have served their Owner well, even going as far as carrying two tiers of containers on deck - something they never did on the Irish Sea
Sarlis Container Services filed for bankruptcy in 2004 forcing the lay-up of the entire fleet. The Peltainer was sold becoming Arados Shipping's Abdul H and changing to the Korean flag in February 2004. Having been built together in Cork, the long partnership between the "Brian" and the "Rhodri" appeared to have ended.
However, in 2008 they were to be found operating together once again, although it appears for different operators. Both ships sailed on various itineraries in Turkish waters through to Romania. Four years later the old "Brian" pointed her bows towards a beach in Aliaga, Turkey. She arrived there on 17th April 2012. Breaking began shortly afterwards.