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When the Norfolk Line ferried us from Great Yarmouth to the continent

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 September 2019

The Duke of Holland, pioneer of the roll-on/roll-off frequent ferries between Yarmouth and Holland, in the Yare.

The Duke of Holland, pioneer of the roll-on/roll-off frequent ferries between Yarmouth and Holland, in the Yare.

Archant

We all have souvenirs, perhaps of holidays, family, pets, memorable occasions... American songstress Connie Francis had a best-selling record with "Among My Souvenirs" in the 1950s.

Ernie and Violet Smith rekindle memories of their Norfolk Line voyage to Holland and back by perusing their 1975 tickets.Ernie and Violet Smith rekindle memories of their Norfolk Line voyage to Holland and back by perusing their 1975 tickets.

At their home in Mallard Way, Bradwell, retired electrician Ernie Smith and his wife, Violet, still possess the Norfolk Line ferry tickets they bought in 1975 for their return voyage from Great Yarmouth to Scheveningen in Holland to visit her soldier brother, Jeffrey, in Belgium.

It cost a total of £58 return... for two adults and their young son, Karl! Their voyage generated enduring memories, rekindled every time they happen to look at their ticket booklets.

By coincidence, this year marks the golden anniversary of the 1969 launch of those Norfolk Line sailings by roll-on/roll-off ferries, a frequent service which breathed new life into the port of Yarmouth, once the world's premier herring fishery base but unaware that the future held the massive offshore search for natural gas and oil.

Norfolk Line replaced the fruit importing Superior International coasters, opening a figurative new chapter in the port's history.

The couple's 1975 Norfolk Line ticket book.The couple's 1975 Norfolk Line ticket book.

The 246ft Duke of Holland and her eventual successors - like the Nicarao, Duke of Norfolk and Duchess of Holland - provided daily sailings, satisfying exporters, importers and also vehicle drivers travelling to and from mainland Europe.

It was a red-letter day when the Duke of Holland, carrying 18 articulated trailers, culminated her six-hour crossing by entering our harbour to a hose-pipe greeting from the port tug Hector Read spraying water as a welcome gesture.

The further development of cargo trade and the promotion of tourism between Yarmouth and Scheveningen were envisaged by speakers at a celebratory lunch given by Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners at the Carlton Hotel to mark the launch of the Norfolk Line service and the opening of its Atlas Wharf.

To an Anglo-Dutch gathering representing a range of individuals and businesses involved in the project, commissioners' chairman A D Truman said: "This is a real red-letter day for the port indeed!"

Comings and goings...the Duke of Holland and Duke of Norfolk pass in the River Yare at Yarmouth, probably in 1975.Comings and goings...the Duke of Holland and Duke of Norfolk pass in the River Yare at Yarmouth, probably in 1975.

He recalled its 1959 beginning with an experimental cargo shipped by Superior International of 135 tons of fruit and vegetables.

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Within two years the company was paying £1,000 a year in cargo tolls. Now they were paying more than ten times that amount, a most remarkable growth.

Mr L Remeeus. director of the Dutch parent company, claimed the door-to-door delivery offered by Norfolk Line was unique.

The daily services between Yarmouth and Scheveningen not only accentuated the ports' importance as gateways to producer and consumer markets in mid-England and south Holland but would help to develop economic relations between the UK and Holland.

The Dutch were probably the strongest advocates for Britain's entry into the European Common Market, and he hoped they would soon be able to welcome Britain as a member of that economic unit.

That was a half-century ago. And as we well know, our Europe membership probably has only weeks to run.

All this rekindled memories for me because in my reporting days, I regularly covered Norfolk Line's activities for the Mercury and our two sister newspapers, the Eastern Daily Press and Eastern Evening News.

A bonus occasion was in the 1970s when I accompanied a VIP group that flew by private aircraft to Holland where the shipping line's latest ferry, the Duke of Norfolk, was being launched at the port of Makkum.

Lady Mary Fitzalan Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, performed that ceremony which, it transpired, was "du-different" in good old Norfolk tradition.

The newcomer was built in a basin under cover, and instead of a traditional launch, water gushed in until she floated.

Screens fell away, revealing her name and official port of registration... but this had erroneously been painted on her side as "Great Yarmouth".

Great Yarmouth is not a registration port, so there was a hiatus while "Great" was obliterated to leave "Yarmouth"...not centred beneath the ship's name, but well to the right.

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