Regal Lady returning to Norfolk for maritime festival

The Regal Lady, pictured at sea, is returning to Great Yarmouth for the Maritime Festival.

The Regal Lady, pictured at sea, is returning to Great Yarmouth for the Maritime Festival. - Credit: Archant

For years, she was a familiar sight on our rivers before departing for more northern waters.

The Regal Lady on a late holiday cruise on the River Yare near Norwich in September 1972.

The Regal Lady on a late holiday cruise on the River Yare near Norwich in September 1972.

But almost three decades after she left, the Regal Lady is returning to Norfolk, to make a nostalgic appearance at a maritime festival.

The vessel will sail back into Great Yarmouth – to the harbour where she was built in 1930. Back then, she joined the Yarmouth-Gorleston Steam Packet Company's fleet of pleasure steamers and became a favourite among holidaymakers, renowned as among the fastest in the friendly races organised between rival river boats.

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.

She was later used by the military as 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.

The pleasure boat Regal Lady squeezing through Mutford Lock in April 1974.

The pleasure boat Regal Lady squeezing through Mutford Lock in April 1974.

After the war she returned to Norfolk, before being sold to a firm in Scarborough in 1954. In 1970, she returned to Norfolk, offering river trips from Norwich, until the 1980s when she once again went back to Scarborough. 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.

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

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.'

The Regal Lady passenger trip boat moored on the River Wensum near Foundry Bridge, Norwich.

The Regal Lady passenger trip boat moored on the River Wensum near Foundry Bridge, Norwich.

Visitors at the festival, staged by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement District, will have a chance to take a trip on the vessel.

The Regal Lady

Built by Great Yarmouth firm 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. Occasionally, she would also act as a tender for warships anchored offshore

When she returned to 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.

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