The MV Royal Iris is a diesel-electric, former Mersey Ferry built in 1950 at a cost of £256,000.
The Royal Iris was licensed to carry 2,296 passengers on normal ferry duties, or 1,000 for cruising. Onboard amenities included a dancefloor and stage, tea room, buffet, cocktail bar, even a fish and chip saloon. The latter giving the Royal Iris the nickname “the fish and chip boat”.
In 1951 the battleship HMS Duke of York was under tow on her way to being broken up at Gareloch when she collided with the Royal Iris. Some passengers enjoying a cruise were hospitalised as a result of the accident.
During the 1960s numerous acts associated with the Merseybeat scene performed on the ferry, Duke Duval played on the first Cavern Cruise, followed by The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers.
After a refit at Harland and Wolff in Bootle in 1971 she was mainly used as a cruise vessel. A new steak bar and dining area replaced the original fish and ship saloon.
In 1977, the Royal Iris carried The Queen & The Duke of Edinburgh on their Silver Jubilee Mersey Review.The ship was used by Granada Television during the summer of 1979 as the setting for the ITV Saturday morning children’s television series The Mersey Pirate.
The Royal Iris ran a farewell evening cruise in 1991, prior to being taken out of service & sold to a consortium for conversion into a floating nightclub, restaurant and conference centre, based in Liverpool under the name of ‘Mr Smith’s Nightclub’.After abortive plans to move her to Cardiff she was moved to her current site on the Thames in Woolwich awaiting a possible refit as a floating Thames nightclub.Since then she has severely deteriorated & is flooding at high tide and resting on her hull at low water which is putting more strain on her structure. Campaigns have been made to take her back home the cost of taking the vessel back to Merseyside is now estimated to be in 6 figures.
Squatters are currently living on the upper levels of the Royal Iris gaining access via a home made portable bridge structure which they remove once onboard thus preventing anyone else casually boarding the vessel. These pics of the Royal Iris were taken in November 2015.