MV Royal Daffodil

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Royal Daffodil, River Mersey (geograph 2975347).jpg
MV Royal Daffodil on the River Mersey in May 2012
  • 1962-1999: Overchurch
  • 1999 onwards: Royal Daffodil
Owner: Mersey Ferries
  • 1962-1968: Birkenhead Corporation
  • 1968-1990: MPTE
  • 1990 onwards: Mersey Ferries
Port of registry: 1962 onwards: Liverpool,  United Kingdom
Builder: Cammell Laird, United Kingdom
Laid down: April 1961
Launched: November 1961
Christened: November 1961
Completed: March 1962
Maiden voyage: April 1962
In service: April 1962 - December 2012
Out of service: January 2013
Identification: MHWB2
Fate: Out of service
Status: Laid up
General characteristics
Class and type: Class IV with seasonal class III
Tonnage: 751 GT
Length: 44m
Beam: 12m
Draught: 3.5m
Decks: 4 - bridge deck, promenade deck, main deck, lower deck
Installed power: 2 x Cummins - Wärtsilä 170 diesel engines
Speed: 12–15 knots (22–28 km/h; 14–17 mph)
Capacity: 860 on ferry duties, 370 on cruises
Crew: captain, mate, engineer, seapersons x 2, catering assistant

MV Royal Daffodil is a ferry based on the River Mersey, England. She is currently laid up due to cost cutting measures. From launch until a major refit in 1998, she was named MV Overchurch, she began service for Birkenhead Corporation Ferries in 1962, and was withdrawn from regular service by Mersey Ferries in 1990 where she saw minimal active work until 1999, when she was extensively refurbished. Despite her extensive re-build, the ship still retains a similar profile. Royal Daffodil was withdrawn from regular service in December 2012 and returned to the ferries berth at Duke St, Birkenhead. The ship has remained idle since her dry docking and survey in January 2013 and is currently laid up.

MV Overchurch[edit]

The vessel was built for Birkenhead Corporation in 1962 at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. She was named after one of the town's post-war overspill housing developments.[1]

The ferry was the first of the fleet to be of all-welded construction and she is currently the last Mersey Ferry to be built. The Overchurch was popular with its Captains and Mates as its navigation bridge spanned the whole ship, rather than having a wheelhouse and side cabs such as Mountwood and Woodchurch used. A model of the ship by builders Cammel Laird is on display in the Williamson Gallery in Birkenhead. The wheelhouse was spacious with a single binnacle and brass wheel. Most of the ship's control instruments were fitted into specially-built stand alone units, including the telegraph heads. Unlike Mountwood and Woodchurch, there was no central set of telegraphs next to the helm, so the crew were required to move to either of the bridge wings to control the engines. Her bridge was modern, unlike the compact and relatively cluttered bridges on the Overchurch's two near sisters, where most of the instruments were attached to the bulkheads. It was a handsome vessel, with clean and smooth lines and a stout funnel. Her original livery was Birkenhead's orange and black, with a flame red band above the rubbing strake.

The Overchurch contained identical engines to Mountwood and Woodchuch, however, with a gross tonnage of 468,[2] the ship was slightly heavier than its two near sisters and was therefore a little slower when running against a strong tide. The original plan was to have a third ferry built to the designs of Mountwood and Woodchurch, however, Birkenhead Corporation decided to design a completely new vessel.

Overchurch was fitted with a small deck area just behind the bridge and around the rakish funnel. The funnel was joined to the bridge at the front and was quite high, giving the ferry a top heavy look. There were also sheltering bulkheads beneath the bridge wings. When built, she was somewhat more advanced than the two sisters. As well as the completely enclosed navigation bridge, she also had a more advanced radio system, a loudaphone system and three window wipers. Her wheelhouse was also much warmer as she was enclosed, making it more favorable for the crew who did not need to venture outside.

Engines & Maneuverability[edit]

The two medium speed Crossley diesel engines developed over 1,400 bhp combined and could easily propel the vessel over 12 knots against the flow of the tide. Both engines were controlled by Chadburn 'Synchrostep' telegraphs on the bridge. Like her near sisters, these were fitted with custom command dials which allowed for greater speed control ahead and astern and quick direction change by a 'brake' position which stopped the engines rapidly. Despite the concise level of control over her engines, she could be difficult to handle in strong winds. This was due to a design flaw which saw the front of her high funnel joined to the bridge. As such, airflow was blocked and this could create a 'sail' type effect under certain conditions meaning bringing her alongside could become troublesome. In addition, the flare of her bow was different to her two near sisters, her having a tendency to throw water over her forward observation deck in a strong swell.

In service[edit]

Her first official duty was in 1962, when she conveyed Princess Alexandra to open the new Cammell Laird dry dock.[2]

Overchurch was a popular ferry with passengers and was described as "the warm one" by many familiar with her. Why she was warmer is unknown. Overchurch was operational throughout the late 1960s where cost cutting enforcements meant that her sisters Mountwood, Woodchurch and former Wallasey boats Leasowe and Egremont were docked in the East Float for some considerable time. Overchurch and the larger Royal Daffodil and Royal Iris operated the service.

Overchurch was chosen to operate a new service to Otterspool Promenade during the 1984 International Garden Festival, when all the ferries were given a new livery of red white and blue, replacing the black and green livery given in the mid 1970s. She operated alone throughout the Mountwood and Woodchurch refurbishment, her last full season was 1989.[1]

In 1991, she was used until the two sisters returned in time for Queen Elizabeth 2's first visit to Liverpool. After the summer season, she was moved to Bootle and underwent cosmetic refurbishments. A cafe was installed in her upper deck shelter. She was then placed as a standby vessel, ready in case one of the two sisters broke down. This had a somewhat detrimental effect on the ferry. Mountwood and Woodchurch were reliable boats and worked on an interchanging rota with around two weeks of operational service and then two weeks of repairs and maintenance. This meant that Overchurch underwent lengthy periods of disuse, being laid up in the East Float of Birkenhead Docks.

Overchurch saw most of her active service at peak times and during the summer months when special cruises were operated. In 1996 plans were afoot to refurbish Overchurch to allow her provision for operating dance and party cruises. The plans were developed and funding sourced to secure the refit. In 1998 she journeyed to Manchester to undergo a major refit.


MV Royal Daffodil engine specifications plaque, added during the 1998-99 refit

The Overchurch was given her major refit in 1998 at Lengthline Ship Repairers in Manchester, which resulted in a major rebuilding of all decks. Her funnel and bridge were removed and placed in storage. the rest of her superstructure was modernised and refurbished. New engines and navigation equipment were fitted and the resulting transformation was spectacular. Her original funnel and bridge, including binnacle and brass helm, were retained, albeit with some minor additions. The ferry also retains its original pair of Kockums Supertyfon TA 150/185 air horns. They sound at F sharp and are a slightly different model to her sisters.

MV Royal Daffodil[edit]

She was renamed Royal Daffodil and was back in service by 1999. Yet, close examination of her bows and stern, the name "Overchurch" could still be seen beneath the black paint. In March 2011 the ferry had her bows re-plated and now carries her name in Birkenhead Corporation style cursive font. The Royal Daffodil changed considerably from her previous guise. The lower main and forward saloons were gutted and extensively re-built, spanning to whole width of the ship. Catering and bar facilities were installed plus fabric seating, carpets and tables and chairs. The upper saloon was also enclosed and extended, with a dance floor fitted and another bar area. The bridge deck was also extended to the full width of the ship. Immediately behind the bridge a small crew room was installed. Below decks there is another large dance floor in the former smoke room and there is crew accommodation at the stern of the vessel. The engine room was completely gutted during the refit, and major re-structuring work took place within it. The new engines were fitted further back to allow greater space around them for additional machinery. The engine room also contains a control centre which includes a set of telegraphs, a large switch board and radar screen. The main deck stairwell was also covered over with a shelter-like structure.

Royal Daffodil is often used for functions and party or special cruises as well as regular cross river service. Her rebuild differed from the other ships in the fleet, as she was re-built primarily for cruising. Whereas, the Mountwood (Royal Iris of the Mersey) and the Woodchurch (Snowdrop) have been re-built as standard multi-purpose ferries.

From 2007, the Daff as she is affectionately known by Ferries staff and enthusiasts, begin to see less regular use on the river. The reasons cited by Merseytravel was persistent engine problems, which was a direct result of her engines no longer being in production, despite only being several years old.


The Royal Daffodil was withdrawn from service in December 2012 and travelled to the ferries berth at Duke Street. On a snowy morning in January 2013, she made the short journey to Cammell Laird's shipyard where she underwent dry docking and a full survey, including re application of anti-foul painting to her hull. After her return to Duke Street she was laid up. The ferry has remained at Duke St since this time. Her life saving equipment and rescue boat have been removed and as of October 2014 there are no plans to return the vessel to service. She is undergoing a basic maintenance programme which includes weekly 'turning' of the engines and testing of the generators and other such equipment. Cosmetically, the vessel is dirty and certain areas of the paintwork are showing considerable markings from rust.


As of October 2014 there is no definite answer from Mersey Ferries concerning the future of the vessel, and as at 3 October 2015 was still laid up at Duke Street.

Near Miss[edit]

On 23 October 2009, the Royal Daffodil was carrying a full load of passengers to witness the aviation display to celebrate the visit of HMS Illustrious to the Mersey. The ferry appeared to be on a direct course across the bows of the approaching oil tanker Ramira. Evasive action was taken by both vessels after the Ramira sounded her whistle. Some passengers were shocked and upset but nobody sustained any injuries. An investigation by the Liverpool Harbour Master and the MCA concluded the Captain of the ferry to be at fault, and both Captain and Mate were disciplined.


  1. ^ a b Maund, TB (1991). Mersey Ferries - Volume 1. Transport Publishing Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-86317-166-4. 
  2. ^ a b Emmerson, JC (1982). The Mersey At Work: Ferries. Countryvise Ltd. ISBN 0-907768-35-0. 

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