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Regal Lady steams in to star in Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival

Regal Lady at Scarborough

A popular pleasure boat is coming back home to Norfolk to star in The Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival this year. The Regal Lady will sail back into Great Yarmouth in September – to the harbour where she was built in the 1930s to provide sailing fun for holidaymakers. Visitors to the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival will once again have a chance to ride on the Regal Lady during the weekend of seafaring fun and heritage.

The ship was also a well-known river cruiser operating out of Norwich in the 1970s and 80s.

And it is a chance to celebrate the pleasure ship’s past, which include seeing wartime “action.”

For during the Second World War the vessel, under her earlier name of the Oulton Belle, joined the armada of “little ships” in the Dunkirk evacuation – carrying 1,200 soldiers back to Ramsgate in three trips.

In her routine war work, after being requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence in January 1940 she was a tender on the river Clyde, ferrying American GIs from cruise ships including the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth to shore, to catch trains to their postings.

She is currently owned by Scarborough Pleasure Steamers, giving trips to Ravenscar Cliffs and Filey Brigg.

Owner Tom Machin is the man who sailed her to Yorkshire from Great Yarmouth on January 6 1987.

And he will be at the helm when she heads back to Norfolk for the Maritime Festival on September 10-11.

Mr Machin said: “It will her first time back in Great Yarmouth since then – so it will be a lovely moment. I am really looking forward to it.”

He added that the Regal Lady was the “last of the line” of six pleasure ships and he was excited about using her for trips.

Maritime Festival chairman Aileen Mobbs said: “Having the Regal Lady back in Great Yarmouth will provide a chance for visitors to see the town from the river on board a boat that is full of nostalgic connections to the area.

“We had her sister ship Coronia here in 2009, and she was packed. So we expect the return of the Regal Lady to be just as popular.”

The festival is staged by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement District. The Maritime Festival is part of a range of events, improvements and publicity to attract more visitors and spending power to the area.

BID chairman Gareth Brown said: “The Maritime Festival is a marvellous showcase of Great Yarmouth’s seafaring history. People love coming to see the ships, and hear shanty music on a quayside that reflects the town’s past and present and is as important to the town as its famous seafront.”

Regal Lady factfile

The Regal Lady was originally built for the Yarmouth and Gorleston Steam Packet Company by Great Yarmouth company Fellows and launched on May 23 1930.

She was first named Oulton Belle and was double-ended, with two ship’s wheels and rudders so she could run between quays at Yarmouth and Gorleston without turning around.

When she returned to Great Yarmouth following her war service, an upper deck and new funnel were fitted.

She continued with her excursions including sailing down the coast to Lowestoft then back through Mutford Lock, the Waveney and Breydon Water.

She was renamed Regal Lady in 1954 when she was sold, moved to Scarborough and converted to diesel.

The ship returned to Norfolk in 1970, running river trips out of Norwich through new owner Neville Blake and his son Kim until 1984.

She was laid up at St Olaves for a while then headed to Scarborough again for a complete refit, to work alongside sister ship Coronia – another former Great Yarmouth pleasure boat. Visit the website to find out more.