#Portillos1916troopship – Excursion vessel, Balmoral, which featured on the 1916 Easter Rising documentary, ‘The Enemy Files’ presented by former British Defense Secretary Michael Portillo, has been awarded the UK’s National Flagship for 2016, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The former Conservative Cabinet minister was seen presenting the RTE documentary also broadcast on BBC, from the stern of the Bristol based excursion vessel Balmoral. The small ship acted the part of Irish Sea passenger steamer Munster which was used as a 'troopship’ for the Sherwood Foresters regiment that set off from Liverpool a century ago. The soldiers on board Munster arrived at Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) Harbour from where they marched to fight the Irish Rebellion that was unfolding in Dublin.
Balmoral actually dates after the Rising, having been built in 1948 to operate as a ferry capable of handling up to 12 cars for Red Funnel’s Southampton-East Cowes, Isle of Wight service. From the late 1960’s the 736 tonnes vessel became a coastal excursion vessel and is currently a member of the very special list of the UK’s historic heritage fleet of vessels.
The award for the Balmoral represents a win of £500 and the honour of flying the Flagships Pennant from the masthead on her 2016 cruise voyages operated by White Funnel Ltd. Afloat adds that the season includes cruises through the Menai Straits, Anglesey, north Wales.
Martyn Heighton, Director National Historic Ships UK said about the award: I am delighted that MV Balmoral has been awarded the accolade of National Flagship of the Year. This reflects the unstinting energy and commitment that MV Balmoral Fund Ltd., its volunteers, helpers and supporters have given to this Bristol [based] ship.
Balmoral has gone through hard times having only returned to service in 2015 after an absence of two years due to essential dry-docking required to ensure a passenger certificate. The vessel is understood to be currently in dry-dock in Sharpness in preparation for the 2016 cruise season, having sailed from Bristol earlier this month.
Mr.Heighton added, it is tribute by to all concerned that not only is this ship still with us to grace the Floating Harbour, but also that the new organisation has won the confidence of the Coastal Communities Fund and other grant bodies to make her seaworthy again in order to enable her to undertake this ambitious UK-wide programme. This is a proud moment for Balmoral and her home port of Bristol.
We are of course very honoured to receive this award. It is very much a reflection on the hard work, effort and great commitment that so many people have put in to get our ship where she is today. Lots of challenges and no doubt trials and tribulations are ahead, but it really is rewarding to receive this recognition. A fitting tribute to all connected with her.