A LONG running mystery for the UK owners of a former passenger ferry on the river Tyne has finally been solved – when the ferry was tracked down to West Cork.
The former Freda Cunningham, which served as a cross-Tyne ferry from 1972 to 1993, is now the Mystic Waters – a familiar summer-time sight on the Baltimore to Sherkin Island route.
The Nexus firm, which owns and operates the cross-Tyne service, sold the vessel in 1993 and since then her whereabouts had remained something of a mystery to its former owners.
The mystery was solved when her Irish owners, Carbery Island Ferries Ltd, conducted some research into her service history.
Since 2006 the Freda Cunningham has been operating between Baltimore and Sherkin, and her new lease of life means that she has been in service for 44 years.
Shields Ferry Manager, Carol Timlin, said it was wonderful to see that the Freda Cunningham was still carrying passengers after all these years.
‘We had wondered for a while what had become of her. It became a bit of a mystery. Now we know that she’s doing a great job running summer services to the island of Sherkin. She served on the Tyne for 22 years before a new vessel was procured, as this was more cost effective than going for a re-fit. She was then sold on and we didn’t really hear all that much about her fate after that.
‘It’s always really nice to see a former Shields Ferry being put to good use and long may that continue.’
Mystic Waters owner Rosaleen O’Driscoll said: ‘It’s always lovely to find out about the history of the boats that we operate. We only knew of her service since she arrived in Ireland, but a bit of research showed us that she used to serve the River Tyne,’ she said.
‘She’s a great little vessel,’ she added. ‘We use her in the summer months as she can carry more people. She does need some work on the hull, and we are getting that done. We don’t have any plans to have her scrapped.’
The Freda Cunningham was built at the Ryton Marine shipyard on the River Tyne in the early 1970s, and named after the wife of North East Labour Party leader Andy Cunningham, whose son was the politician and cabinet minister, Jack Cunningham.