Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past: Introducing Pride of Ailsa

This weeks “Blast from the Past” takes us back to 1992, and the introduction of P&O European Ferries’ “new” ferry PRIDE OF AILSA on the Larne to Cairnryan route.  At the time P&O European Ferries had a newspaper onboard for passengers called “Welcome aboard”, which was carried over from the days Townsend Thoresen on the route.  “Welcome aboard” would later become a full-colour glossy magazine under P&O Irish Sea.  Below is a photograph of the front page of the 1992 edition of “Welcome aboard”, with the headline article about the introduction of PRIDE OF AILSA on the Larne to Cairnryan route.

Photograph of the front page of P&O's "Welcome Aboard" onboard newsletter from 1992, featuring the introduction of PRIDE OF AILSA. NIFS archive.
Photograph of the front page of P&O’s “Welcome Aboard” onboard newsletter from 1992, featuring the introduction of PRIDE OF AILSA. NIFS archive.

For those with smaller screen sizes, the text from the PRIDE OF AILSA article is as follows:

Pride of Ailsa… Bigger and better

THE “Pride of Ailsa”, the larger and more spacious ferry now operating on the Larne – Cairnryan route, was officially named by Major Edward Stuart Orr Ewing, Lord Lieutenant for the Commission Area of the Wigtown District.

Following a tour of the vessel, Mr John Palmer, Managing Director, P&O European Ferries (Felixstowe) Ltd, formally requested the Lord Lieutenant to unveil a commemorative plaque on the main passenger deck.


Top feature of the “Pride of Ailsa” is the Club Class Lounge with Steward service, private bar and complementary tea, coffee, and daily newspapers.  Other onboard facilities include comfortable lounges, selfservice restaurant, video lounge, commercial drivers restaurant, and a soft Disney-themed play area for children.

With the accent on space and comfort “Pride of Ailsa” can carry 630 passengers and some 200 vehicles.

A sister-ship, the “Pride of Rathlin” is scheduled to be introduced on the route by early Summer.”

The PRIDE OF AILSA and PRIDE OF RATHLIN were very successful replacements for the ageing but popular EUROPIC FERRY and IONIC FERRY (later EUROPEAN FREIGHTER also for P&O at Larne).  The PRIDE OF AILSA only stayed on the Cairnryan service until 1996 when she was sold after the arrival of the fast-craft JETLINER.  PRIDE OF RATHLIN meanwhile remained on the Larne service until the arrival of the brand-new EUROPEAN CAUSEWAY in 2000.

Both vessels were unfortunately lost following their sale to other operators, having been heavily modified for their new services, with PRIDE OF RATHLIN lasting the longest until July 2015 when she sank in mysterious circumstances named BSP III with no reported loss of life. The former PRIDE OF AILSA, by now renamed PRIDE OF AL SALAM ’95, was lost some years earlier after a 5 metre wide hole was left in her hull near her engine room as a result of being hit by a cargo vessel in the Red Sea.  Thankfully the majority of passengers (though not all) survived as they were able to transfer to the cargo vessel before it pulled away.  Once the cargo vessel pulled away from the PRIDE OF AL SALAM ’95, the former North Channel favourite (which had additional superstructure added after she left our shores for the last time, among other changes, to increase her passenger capacity to 2500!) sank in less than 4 minutes.  She is now a popular attraction for divers.



Steven Tarbox

Steven is a former retail professional and a ferry writer and photographer. He created NI Ferry Site as a web design project in 2014 to be a news and information source for everyone with an interest in ferries, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland. Steven is the editor of the website and looks after all of the technical aspects.
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