Duke of Rothesay

The Duke of Rothesay, one of three sisters built for British Railways' Heysham - Belfast overnight passenger and mail service.  Of the three she was, I think it is fair to say, something of a poor relation. She was the first to leave the route for which she was built, and was also the first to be sold for scrap.

Duke of Rothesay

Built:

 

IMO No.

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Access:

Wm. Denny, Dumbarton, 1956.
5094513

954 tonnes

4.54m

Lloyds +100A1

114.63m

17.46m

5.97m

1200 passengers

100 cars

Stern

Unlike the Duke of Lancaster and the Duke of Argyll, which came from Harland & Wolff at Belfast, the Duke of Rothesay came from the famous Dumbarton yard of Wm. Denny & Bros Ltd and was the last of the trio to enter service in 1956.

She could accommodate 1800 passengers; 600 of those being in first class. Sleeping facilities were provided for 240 first class passengers in four two berth cabins-de-luxe with bath, and a mix of one, two and four berth standard cabins. Some 214 second class berths were provided in two and four berth cabins.

 

There were two cargo holds forward and tween decks forward and aft for the shipment of general cargo, mail and cars.

The Duke of Rothesay saw her first spell of Holyhead - Dun Laoghaire service between 25 September and 11 October 1965, filling in for the Cambria which had come to grief on the Irish port's West Pier in dense fog. She was back again in January and February 1966 providing further relief on the mail service.

 

Surplus to requirements at Heysham the Duke of Rothesay was converted to a side loading car ferry by Cammell Laird in March 1967 for a new role on the Fishguard - Rosslare service. The Main Deck was gutted and space made for 100 cars.

 

In 1971, with the Fishguard service now in the hands of the Caledonian Princess, the Duke of Rothesay was downgraded to relief and summer peak work.

 

Having had a small stern door cut into her hull the ship saw relief work on other routes and she began 1973 once again operating between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire. She then moved back to Heysham but was at Holyhead for further relief duties that March. She even got as far as Dover in June, but only for one week after which she returned to Holyhead.

Holyhead

Holyhead

Resting underneath the Sheerlegs at Holyhead in 1966 is the Duke of Rothesay. © Peter Longhurst.

Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire September 1965 and the Duke of Rothesay provides overhaul relief on the mail service. © Justin Merrigan Collection

Holyhead

Holyhead

Under the command of Capt Len Evans, the Duke of Rothesay hauls herself off the Mail Pier. © Justin Merrigan Collection

Following the publication of my book, Car Ferries of the Irish Sea 1954 - 2004, Capt Len Evans wrote to me to say he thought I was very generous in my praise of the Heysham trio. They were well built ships, he said, and fast too, but lacked the manoeuverability that all cross channel ships should have..

"Their bow rudders were more effective than their main rudder. I wonder whether that was because they backed into Heysham and Belfast. The Duke of Rothesay, which I had for some time, had a turning circle of 51/2 cables, while the St Columba could, if one tried, do it in 3/4 cable." Capt Len Evans, January 2005.

August 1973 saw her at Fishguard when the Caledonian Princess required emergency attention and it was during this stint that she collided with a barge while berthing at Rosslare in a gale on 24 September. The damage to her stern was quite significant and there are those who claim she was never the same again. 

 

Finally, she was replaced at Holyhead by the Duke of Lancaster in July 1975 and after a brief lay up she was sold for scrap. In October she departed Holyhead under tow, with Capt Walter Lloyd Williams and Chief Officer Glynne Pritchard on the bridge, bound for Faslane, via Barrow, and the breaker's torch.

Awaiting her fate

Awaiting her fate

© Dave Marshall

Towing out

Towing out

© Dave Marshall

Looking sorry

Looking sorry

© Dave Marshall

To the breakers

To the breakers

© Dave Marshall