#AircraftCarrier – During the rare visit of the Royal Navy's HMS Illustrious (R06) to Dublin Port (PHOTO's) at the weekend, the last serving 'Invincible' class aircraft-carrier was given a Gathering welcome with a showering of green light, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 22,000 displacement tons former aircraft-carrier which currently serves in the role as a High Readiness Helicopter and Commando Carrier, had called to the capital having completed Exercise Joint Warrior, a multi-national event involving several navies, off the coast of Scotland.
The 35 year old vessel which berthed at Alexandra Basin, was floodlit in green (as it happens, aptly on her starboard side) from lamps laid alongside Ocean Pier.
The special lighting effects were created by the Worshipful Company of Lightmongers with whom 'Lusty' as she is affectionately known by her 700 crew have a close affiliation to.
Niall Gibbons, CEO Tourism Ireland, said: "We were delighted to welcome HMS Illustrious to Ireland and are sure that the sailors on board received a wonderful Irish welcome during their stay."
During her visit, two members of the Ship's Company, Able Seaman Andrew Liston, 25, from Chesterfield and Able Seaman Aaron Canwell, 31, from Wembley, were both awarded certificates of Irish Heritage for having family ties to the country.
Another highlight of their 'Gathering' visit was a performance by Irish group, Ragus, who transformed the ship's hangar into a stage filled with traditional Irish music and dance.
HMS Illustrious was launched in 1978 from Swan Hunter on the Tyne and for most of her career spanning more than three decades the 209m long vessel had on board the famous 'Harrier' VSTOL jump-jets aircraft.
The Portsmouth based vessel is one of four Royal Navy core amphibious vessels, however she is due to pay off in 2014 and in her place are a pair of Queen Elizabeth class 65,000 tons aircraft –carriers currently under construction.
Until these newbuilds are delivered, HMS Ocean (L12) a helicopter carrier of 21,500 tons which has called to Dublin Port on previous occasions, is to replace the Lusty after completion of a £65m refit at Devonport Royal Dockyard early next year.
Yesterday HMS Illustrious departed Dublin Port as did all the other visiting navies which took part in Exercise Joint Warrior, except for the French Navy's oil replenishment tanker Marne which made an exodus this afternoon.