At a recent Cork City Council meeting, it was decided that a monument should be erected in Cork, on Penrose Quay to almost the one million people who emigrated on the five ships that bore the name “Innisfallen,” (better know in Cork as D’Innis) who were run by the City of Cork S.P. Co and B&I Line.

 The first vessel to carry the name Innisfallen
The first vessel to carry the name Innisfallen

The first Innisfallen (1,400 gross tons) was built in 1896 and served with the City of Cork Steam Packet Company until she became a war causality in 1918. She was built at Newcastle and measured 272 feet long. She served on the Cork Fishguard route.

 The first vessel to carry the name Innisfallen
The first vessel to carry the name Innisfallen

After WW1 the company was acquired by the Coast Lines group. In 1930 a new Innisfallen was launched. She was built in Belfast and was a half sister to the Ulster Monarch. She had diesel engines and had a gross tonnage of 3,019tonnes. At the time she was the only motor passenger vessel running to South Wales and proved very popular with the Cork-Fishguard passengers and in 1938 was the ship that took the last British soldiers based at Spike Island home. By the outbreak of WW2 theInnisfallen was flying the tri-colour and hence was neutral. Coast Lines had transferred the Cork operations to B&I Line in

British troop transferring to D'Innis after leaving Spike Island on the tender An Saorsart in the summer of 1938
British troop transferring to D’Innis after leaving Spike Island on the tender An Saorsart in the summer of 1938

1936 but Coast lines (who were anything but neutral) switched the ship to Dublin Liverpool and on December 21st 1940, tragedy again struck. While outbound from Liverpool she struck a magnetic mine off Wirral shore near New Brighton and went down with the loss of 4 lives. Fortunately no passengers were killed and all 157 and the rest of the crew were rescued.

For many years B&I and its predecessor had used the advertising slogan “Travel the Innisfallen Way” and from 1948 it was again possible when B&I introduced the third Innisfallen. The ship brought a new style and class to the Lee with her dark green hull, cream upper works and green, white, and black funnel along with her new lively made a mockery of the prophecies that D’Innis was too big for the route. She was 3,705 gross tons and 340 feet over all. She had Denny Brown stabilisers also, a great advance on her predecessors. As before, the service fromCork was on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

What for many people was the real "D'Innis"
What for many people was the real “D’Innis”

with returns from Fishguard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The ship layed over during the day at Penrose Quay, Cork and Fishguard putting to sea at night. She carried livestock and general cargo in addition to her passengers. In 1953 Coast Lines again decide to change ownership, and D’Innis transferred to City of Cork Steam Packed Co. She was repainted with a black hull, white superstructure and funnel with black top and she kept the service going until 1967.

In February 1965 Coast Lines concluded an agreement with the Irish Government which provided for Coast Lines sale of it’s shares in B&I to the Government. Irish interests had been anxious to purchase B&I for many years and the war had proved that an independent nation that was also an island needed some control over shipping. The new ownership made little difference to the Cork-Fishguard service at first at first appart from a slight change in the funnel’s colours. But changes were a coming…

In 1967, B&I announced that new car ferries were on their way to Cork, and their 3 post-war ships would be disposed of. A new Innisfallen was ordered in Germany and would be a sister to the new Leinster (that was being built at Cork), but more changes came when British Rail gave notice of termination of agreement that allowed Cork ships use Fishguard. Now, B&I proposed a new ferry service to Swansea from Cork. In 1967 the old Innisfallen was sold to Greek interests and, since Penrose Quay was in the city centre and unsuitable for a ferry terminal Cork Harbour Commissioners developed new facilities at Tivoli. Meanwhile over in Wales a link span was built at the mouth of the River Tawe. The new Innisfallen made her maiden voyage in 1969 and changed the service. Daily sailings, seven days each week replaced the old leisurely ways. There were fast trains running from Swansea and motorists could now drive straight off on arrival.

A typical afternoon scene from the seventies on the Lee with D'Innis heading for Swansea
A typical afternoon scene from the seventies on the Lee with D’Innis heading for Swansea

The fourth Innisfallen (4,848 gross tons) brought a new class to the Southern corridor; clean, fast, classless and with a service speed of 24.5knots was the fastest ferry in the world when she entered service. Her speed was specified to enable the ferry return journey every day and still allow significant time for her to turn around in port.

But the good times were coming to an end. In 1979 Innisfallen was moved to Dublin, but growing unrest in the North resulted in a massive falloff of passengers and a year later she was sold to Corsica. B&I, like many other companies in the early eighties began to feel the economic pressures. They were forced to use one ship on Cork Pembroke and Rosslare Pembroke. The Leinster was renamed Innisfallen and became the fifth and last ship to carry the name. With her tight schedule and slower speed than her predecessor sailings were often cancelled (usually the Cork ones!) and on February 2nd, 1983 B&I closed their sailings from Cork, ending a service that traced its self back to 1882, and decided to concentrate on their shorter routes from Dublin. In November 1986 the fifth Innisfallen was sold to Strintzis Line after her final sailing from Rosslare to Fishguard.

And so, Cork lost an old favourite, a name carried by five vessles was gone along with Cork’s link to the UK, which didnt reopen untill the councils in Cork and Swansea set up Swansea Cork Ferries, who operated the route until October 2006.