This film is part of Free

Duke of Lancaster

Experience luxury afloat as the Duke of Lancaster embarks on its maiden voyage. Behold the splendour of the ill-fated Funship during it’s heyday with the British Railways fleet.

Sponsored film 1956 7 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Northern Ireland Screen


Travel up Belfast Lough and glimpse the sleeping giant on Cavehill, which inspired Gulliver’s Travels. Sail the choppy Irish Sea before returning to the slipways of Belfast Harbour. Retired from service in 1979 it became ‘The Funship’, a floating leisure complex born from a loophole in Sunday trading laws. Thwarted by bureaucracy this venture is locked in a Sisyphean battle with the local council. The campaign to continues, whilst this majestic vessel slowly decays.

Built in 1956 by Harland & Wolff this was one of the last passenger steam constructed for British Railways. The Duke of Lancaster served the Heysham to Belfast route as a passenger ferry. It was luxurious enough to be frequently used as a European cruise ship. In 1970 the vessel was converted into a car passenger ferry. Beached at Llanerch-y-Mor, as ‘The Funship’ in the 1980s the car decks were transformed again into a flea market and bingo hall. These colour rushes were generated by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, capturing the region at an intriguing time, post-World War Two and pre-Troubles. This material comes from the collection of National Museums Northern Ireland.