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All Aboard For a Swift One.

Updated: Jan 24

Here's a post, and a pub, with a bit of a difference. It was early summer in 1983 and I'd popped back to Gorleston from Derby to see Mum and Dad for a couple of days. After crossing the water into Great Yarmouth one evening I returned to Hall Quay to catch the bus back when, having just seen a number 10 pull away, I decided to have a swift one in, or as we'll see in a minute, on the Celtic Surveyor. From memory, I believe it was a Tolly Cobbold brew, which made a change from the usual Norwich Brewery/Watney's and Whitbread offerings that the vast majority of the town's establishments had to offer in those days.

What brought up this memory? Crawling through X (Should that be X, previously known as Twitter?) and this old tweet – or whatever it is that X calls folks' posts nowadays – popped up.

I've tried to contact the photographer to ask to use a large version of the image but have yet to have a reply. If you wish to see one you can if you click here.

As the tweet – or whatever it is – informs us, just as in the case of X, the Celtic Surveyor had an earlier name – the Earl of Zetland.

The Earl of Zetland was built in Aberdeen by Hall, Russell & Co. in1939, and as the archaic spelling in her name may suggest, was to serve as a ferry to Scotland's northern isles for the North of Scotland & Orkney & Shetland Steam Navigation Co. The little matter of the quarrel between a couple of European neighbours which occurred a few weeks after her completion delayed her starting on her original planned duties, but after her war service was over which, a number of sources suggest, included involvement in the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk, she settled down to her intended role.

Having fulfilled a quarter of a century of ferrying,... 1972 she acquired a new role as a survey and diving support vessel, and to go with this she was given a new name – Celtic Surveyor. By the early 1980s she'd been hulked and was about to enter yet another phase of her life – as a floating pub and/or restaurant.

My stay on the Celtic Surveyor wasn't long as another bus soon appeared and her stay in Great Yarmouth wasn't long either. She'd only been open for a couple of weeks prior to my visit and she closed in the January of the following year. However, that wasn't to be the end of her pub days.

She soon found herself in London's docks serving as a restaurant ship for the Daily Telegraph before being towed to the south coast where she was berthed in Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour earning her keep as a floating diner. By this time she'd reverted to her original name, although she may also have been known as La Passerelle for a while whilst there.

Her final move was to North Shields' Royal Quays in 1998 where she continued with her role as a pub/restaurant venue.

Royal Quays Marina at North Shields was to be her final port of call, especially as the lock was reduced in width after her arrival, meaning that the only way she'd get out of there would be in pieces. Covid seems to have put paid to a planned new venture and the decision was made to break her up, which started in 2020. This began whilst she was afloat...

...before her keel was finally lifted from the water for dismantling ashore.

And that's the end of the Earl of Zetland and the end of this post. I can assure any landlubbers that the next bygone boozer will be one on dry land, so there's no need to reach for the cinnarizine or the ginger.

Thanks to Ian Stubbs, Chris Neal and David Pearson for the use of their images.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.


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