Memories & Yarns

Steer Out!

Capt George Davey recalls being in charge of the Slieve Bloom on leaving Holyhead, when the ship inexplicably stopped responding to the helm. He managed to take the ship out of the harbour under the engines alone. The ship was anchored in the outer harbour to investigate. It became apparent that the rudder had fallen off, probably as a result of metal fatigue in the shaft! The missing rudder was recovered some years later during dredging operations in the harbour and can now be seen at Holyhead's Maritime Museum. 

Andy Davey


Capt John Bakewell remembers one of his first trips out as Master​


"One of my first trips as Master on Slieve Donard was with Glynne Pritchard as Chief Officer. We arrived at night in the Boathouse berth with a heavier landing than I would have liked!  So we went down the gangway to see if any damage had been done.  We couldn't see any damage to the ship but there was a strong smell of burning.  I thought that we couldn't have slid along the piles that much for them to burn.  The smell got stronger when suddenly I found that my coat pocket was on fire from my pipe!!!.


Screeching Metal!

The St David berthing on west side of Carlisle Pier. Capt Owen Wyn-Jones, normal landing, no major bump, when there was a screech of metal on metal as the 'coming and going BR logo' detached itself from the port side funnel and disappeared into the dock!

Capt. Glynne Pritchard.


I do look back to the Halcyon days of Stena Sea Lynx and Stena Sea Lynx II and the fun and characters! Those classic moments such as a transit from Dun Laoghaire to Rosslare to assist when the Stena Felicity had bow door trouble. Night time, Strong Southerly Gales and Capt Hugh Farrell asking about a Flashing Light to which I mumbled something "Rock" to which Hugh cried "Rock, what Rock.....?!"

Capt. Simon Mills

Prayer on the Dover

The late Capt Len Evans recalls a voyage in the turbine steamer Dover in September 1974.

"We left Holyhead in flat calm conditions, but it was a good Force 12 Northerly in Dun Laoghaire. I was able to berth, but the sea in the harbour was such that she was pitching and rolling alongside the berth.

“Clearly she was going to suffer major damage, and so I sailed back out into Dublin Bay where I turned circles for the next twelve hours until conditions improved slightly and I was able to go back alongside, discharge cars and passengers and reload.

“At about 2300 hrs I had a message from Valley that the wind was now 83 mph. Coming into Holyhead was not funny; at one stage it seemed inevitable that she would smash into the Refit Berth. However, she came around, and I was delighted to berth in the Station Berth.

“After we got alongside, the Carpenter came up to my room, which he never did usually and said, “Captain, if I was to die, I prayed for you, and she came around” with tears rolling down his cheeks.”

“He left me a very chastened man, that one of my crew had thought so much!”

Harrogate Memories

Marking the Corner!

Turkeyshore corner was once marked with two large, white painted, wooden dolphins.

Wouldn't have done much good if you were destined to hit it, but they did mark the shallow bit. They can be seen on the photo of the old Hibernia bow up on the corner in fog.

A rather pompous head of personnel named Mr Shaw is reputed to have gone to se the spectacle and was invited by the Master, peering over the bridge wing to, "Push us off with your umbrella Mr Shaw"

The Evening Papers

As a young boy I crossed over to Dublin Bay several times on the old steamboats when my father was C/O.

I can remember being on the bridge at night, and the Q/M's face illuminated by the binnacle light, and being allowed to 'steer' the ship.

Passing close to the Kish Lightship on the way home we would throw the evening papers overboard in a waterproof canvas bag for the keepers to pick up in a small boat.

Capt. Glynne Pritchard.


The Harrogate was my first ship in British Rail. I am convinced she was fitted with some kind of primitive bridge control which I know was never used at Holyhead, perhaps a viewer might confirm?

I recall that the masters of the day were not too keen on her as she was single screw. We used to berth port side to (the easiest side with RH single prop) at the coal crane to discharge/ load our containers. How many ? 20 odd?.  Getting bow to seaward for departure was accomplished by running a rope from the bow, outboard to a bollard astern, then after heaving the stern in as much as possible with a stern rope, heaving on this rope to pull her around. That was the accepted manoeuvre until tone day - a particular master joined for the first time. He decided to do it properly. Cant the bow out as far as possible by heaving on the stern rope and then bring her round using hard to starboard and ahead and when making headway, midships and astern on the engine to keep the starboard momentum. We got there in the end but it was not easy!! Was she the first ever single screw ship at Holyhead?

Arriving at north Wall it was a different story, starboard side to, and the 'fresh' in the Liffey to contend with.

We used to sail from Holyhead about 7 or 8am. Arrive Dublin about noon or 1pm. In the summer the office girls would be sunbathing on the narrow quayside between shed and river, totally private and isolated from the dock road. Skirts up to their waists, blouses unfastened, they would lie on their backs soaking up the sunshine. Then a shadow would fall over them. Annoyed at the cloud, the girls would look up to discover it was not a cloud, but the Harrogate approaching the berth with an appreciative crew enjoying the 'scenery'!

Capt. Glynne Pritchard.

Captain Freddie Tunstall

remember Freddie Tunstall very well.  He was what we used to call a real gentleman.  I sailed with him a few times when he was Master of the Hibernia or the Cambria. 

After retiring, he came back as an officer on our container ships.  Our role was reversed with me as Captain and Freddie as 2nd Officer!! 

He was great fun with an ideal personality.

Capt. John Bakewell