LYME REGIS: A tall ship with an equally tall tale to tell has been fascinating onlookers in Lyme Regis.
The Irene docked in the harbour overnight on her way to a tall ships regatta in Falmouth and caused quite a stir in the harbour.
Harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw said: “She is a former old fishing boat on her way down to Falmouth for the tall ships regatta, a boat called The Irene.
“She has dropped off some passengers here and taken on some more down to Falmouth.
“She is 120ft in length and is the kind of vessel that would have traded out of here 150 years ago.
“They had no trouble coming into the harbour and came in effortlessly.
“We have had lots of people coming to have a look at her, she’s been very popular, it’s good to see.”
The Irene’s is a fascinating story.
Irene has had many different careers since her launch in 1907 in Bridgwater, Somerset, Built by F.J. Carver and Son, she is a “West Country trading ketch,” a fine seagoing ship designed to be beached along riverbanks so loads could be easily transferred to carts drawn by horses; goods were then sent off to small communities up and down the river valleys.
Irene carried bricks, clay and tiles between England and Ireland.
She was called up in both world and was part of the British fleet of Merchant Ships. By 1960 Irene was retired and resold several times. Within five years she had been abandoned and forgotten.
In 1965 Irene was in a severe state of disrepair she was bought by Dr Leslie Morrish for an amount that would barely buy a second hand car today.
He spent 15 years restoring her, initially into a houseboat of sorts for his family in Middlesex.
For much of the 1980s and ’90s Irene was a media darling. She was often booked for fashion shoots, commercials and even movies. She portrayed the Flying Dutchman in the film about composer Richard Wagner. Irene appears briefly somewhere behind Johnny Depp in the film Pirates of the Caribbean.
By the ’90s Irene was doing exclusive charters, crossing the Atlantic and hosting guests such as Mick Jagger and Pierce Brosnan.
In 2003 a catastrophic fire sunk her in the harbour of Marigot, St. Martin.
Undeterred Dr Morrish towed her back across the Atlantic to Cornwall and spent four more years rebuilding her.
In 2012 she joined the ‘slow food’ movement carrying organic beer from Devon to France, olive oil from Spain to Brazil and brought cocoa, coffee, Amazonian ‘superfoods’ and rum from South America and the Caribbean back to the UK.
As well as commercial work Irene takes passengers who want to cruise or learn to sail.