Of all the Irish Sea railway-owned ships, the Princess Maud is arguably the one most local people still speak of when reminiscing about rough winter crossings! Having no stabilisers, on a wild night she was said to be unbearable; her reputation for rolling mercilessly being well-earned.
On one very bad night, my father arrived at Dun Laoghaire Pier to find not the Cambria or the Hibernia alongside, but the Princess Maud. He promptly turned around and went back home and made his crossing the next day!
During the War she served with distinction and is thought to have been the last ship to leave Dunkirk during the evacuation. She was also active at the Normandy Landings and was one of the last ships to leave St. Malo from where she carried 2,500 troops to safety.
As built she was coal-fired, but in 1939 she was modified to burn oil. She was transferred to Holyhead in 1947 as a replacement for the Scotia, which had been lost at Dunkirk. On the arrival into service of the new vessels, the Hibernia and the Cambria in 1949, the Princess Maud became the port’s third ship and remained as such until replaced by the Holyhead Ferry 1 in 1965.
Wm Denny, Dumbarton, Scotland, 1934
LR +100 A1
As the port's third ship she would usually sail from the Special Berth (No. 9) for Dun Laoghaire in the evenings to pick up passengers. Capt. John Bakewell, then 2nd officer, recalls, 'We used to join her in the early evening in case we were required to sail light to Dun Laoghaire in order to pick up passengers left behind on the 20.45 sailing from there. The Junior 2nd Officer would stand by the telegraph office in Holyhead and wait for the call from Dun Laoghaire as to whether the ship was wanted or not. If wanted, the officer would wave his arms to the Chief Officer keeping a lookout and very quickly she would be ready for sea.'
Additionally, a very popular sailing was the 'North Wales Excursion' when she sailed from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire at 09.00. This day trip was usually taken by holiday-makers from Rhyl and Prestatyn, hence the 'North Wales Excursion' tag.
The Princess Maud's final sailing was on 4th September 1965. She was quickly sold for further service in Greek waters. As the Princess Maud left Holyhead for the final time, one of the Marine Yard fitters, Wesley Williams, who was an accomplished bugler, played 'The Last Post' as she steamed past the Sheer Legs on her way to warmer climes. Bearing the name Venus and following alterations to make her suited to her new tasks she took up her new duties in June 1966. However after just three years she was resold for use as a shipyard accommodation vessel at Copenhagen and was finally broken up in Spain in 1973.