Birthday treat for steam fans as Lydia Eva drifter turns 92

Yarmouth Stream Driftter Lydia Eva takes to the sea for the first time in over two years for sea tri

The Lydia Eva is marking her 92nd birthday on Sunday June 26, 2020. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The world's last surviving steam drifter celebrates her 92nd birthday this weekend.

The Lydia Eva boasts a colourful life including a long spell working for the armed forces, a name change hiding her true identity, and a blockbuster movie role.

The Great Yarmouth boat, Lydia Eva, has been taking centre stage in the new Willy Wonka film

The Great Yarmouth boat, Lydia Eva, took centre stage in the new Willy Wonka film shot in Lyme Regis but yet to be released. - Credit: Graham Hunt/BNPS

Despite her fame, her service as a herring drifter was relatively short, spanning just eight years from when she was launched on June 26, 1930, by her owner Harry J Eastick's daughter, her namesake Lydia Eva.

She went on to spend some 30 years working for the armed forces under the name Watchmoor steaming all around the coast.

YH1 and YH222 help to escort YH89 (the retired drifter Lydia Eva) when she sailed from her home port

YH1 and YH222 help to escort YH89 (the retired drifter Lydia Eva) when she sailed from her home port in 1978 to join a fleet of classic vessels in a maritime museum in the Thames in London. She returned to Yarmouth in 1990. - Credit: Archant

She was restored in the 1970s and joined heritage vessels at St Katherine's Dock, but was abandoned again due to a lack of funds.

A trust to save her was formed in 1989 and she was brought back home and restored for a second time. She is moored in South Quay, Yarmouth, as a free-to-enter floating museum.

View from the top of Havenbridge House with the Lydia Eva in the foreground. Picture: James Bass

View from the top of Havenbridge House with the Lydia Eva in the foreground. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

On Sunday (June 26) at 10.30am her boilers will be fired in celebration with borough mayor Graham Plant and various dignitaries joining the party.

Ship's manager Ernie Artis said plans to mark her 90th in style had been scuppered by Covid.

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This being the first birthday post-pandemic they thought they would try to make something of it, he added.

There were several points along her long life which could have taken a drastic, even terminal turn, he said, making her story of survival all the more remarkable.

The ship always needed volunteers to help with guiding and maintenance, as well as donations, he said.

After her stint filming in Lyme Regis a flurry of repairs and a period in a dry dock cost over £30,000, adding to the usual running costs of keeping her as floating museum in her home port of Yarmouth, even though - because of a strike - she was actually built in King's Lynn.

Her boilers were last fired up in March in order for movie makers to film close-ups of her machinery in action.

The charitable trust's other historic vessel The Mincarlo, built in Lowestoft, turns 60 this year.

The two ships are billed as "living reminders" of East Anglia's fishing heritage.