The charter of the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry Mona's Queen in April 1988 following a fire in the St David at Dun Laoghaire perhaps represents to level to which standards at Sealink had dropped under the ownership of Sea Containers. Such a poor substitute would never have been considered, even five years previously when Sealink UK Ltd chartered the considerably older (but modern by comparison) French Villandry from partners SNCF.
Entering service between Douglas and Liverpool on 8 June 1972, the side loading Mona's Queen was the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's first diesel-powered ferry. Her accommodation however would not have been out of place in the 1950s. Her vehicle decks were based on the same configuration seen on the earlier steam-powered vessels, Manx Maid and Ben-my-Chree and offered a clear height of 2.1 metres. Higher vehicles could be carried if and when the tide suited loading onto the external platforms on the upper levels of her helter-skelter ramp system.
In 1974 the Mona's Queen inaugurated car ferry sailings to and from Dublin and two years later she did the same at Fleetwood.
Ailsa Shipbuilding, Troon, Scotland. 1972.
Side loading doors, aft.
Assisting the Mona's Queen at Holyhead was, initially. the Earl William, freshly arrived onto the Irish Sea to start a new service between Liverpool and Dun Laoghaire. The Steam Packet's ro-ro vessel Peveril also put in a weekend appearance to clear freight. This ship was no stranger to Holyhead, having visited the port's drydock on a number of occasions when she was British Rail's Penda.
The Mona's Queen remained on the link until the return of the St Columba from annual overhaul. This was not the Manx ship's only sortie away from the Isle of Man. In September 1989 she found herself at Cherbourg catering for 1000 passengers at the start of the Round the World Yacht Race. This complete, she was pressed into service for Sealink once again on their Western Channel routes in place of the Earl Granville and then the Earl Godwin. What a culture shock she must have been for the Channel passengers.
Leaving Dun Laoghaire. © Justin Merrigan
Alongside Holyhead's Refit Berth. © Michael Thomas.
At the end of her 1990 Isle of Man season the Mona's Queen was laid-up at Birkehead pending sale. Some five years passed before a buyer was found and on 4 December 1995 she left the Mersey for the last time, bound for the Philippines and a new life as Mary The Queen. She lasted until 2008 when she was sold to Indian ship breakers.