New lease of life for former Shields ferry now carrying passengers in Ireland

The Freda Cunningham served as a cross-Tyne Shields Ferry from 1972 to 1993. Picture circa 1984.
The Freda Cunningham served as a cross-Tyne Shields Ferry from 1972 to 1993. Picture circa 1984.

A ferry which carried passengers across the Tyne for two decades has been found enjoying a new lease of life in Ireland.

The Freda Cunningham, which served as a cross-Tyne Shields Ferry from 1972 to 1993, has been discovered in good working order and carrying passengers in the Republic of Ireland.

The Freda Cunningham has been renamed Mystic Waters.

The Freda Cunningham has been renamed Mystic Waters.

Nexus, which owns and operates the service, sold the vessel in 1993 when Pride of the Tyne entered service.

And since then her whereabouts had remained something of a mystery – until now.

The mystery was solved when her Irish owners, Carbery Island Ferries Ltd, conducted some research into her service history.

It has emerged that since 2006 the Freda Cunningham has been operating between West Cork and the tiny Island of Sherkin, which is a popular tourist destination on the south west coast of Ireland.

It’s really wonderful to see that the Freda Cunningham is still carrying passengers after all these years.

Shields Ferry manager, Carol Timlin

Her new lease of life means that she has been in service for 44 years.

The ferry has since been renamed Mystic Waters. She only operates during the summer months, connecting Sherkin Island with a small fishing port called Baltimore in County Cork on the Irish mainland.

Shields Ferry manager, Carol Timlin, said: “It’s really wonderful to see that the Freda Cunningham is 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 just off the Irish coast.

The Freda Cunningham has been renamed Mystic Waters.

The Freda Cunningham has been renamed Mystic Waters.

“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.”

Owner of the Sherkin Ferry, 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 arrive in Ireland, but a bit of research showed us that she used to serve the River Tyne.

“She’s a great little vessel. 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.

She was named after the wife of North East Labour Party leader Andy Cunningham, whose son was the politician and cabinet minister, Jack Cunningham.