Irish Ships and Shipping



B+I Masters

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Capt. Niall Kennedy 1958


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Captain William G. Cummins

Captain William G. Cummins, Viewmount Park, Waterford, retired this month as senior master and longest serving officer with Irish Ferries after 46 years at sea. In 1956, after doing his Leaving Certificate examination at De La Salle College, Waterford, he joined Irish Shipping on a four-year cadetship and attended the Irish Nautical College for three months.

He then joined the s.s. ‘Irish Poplar’, registered in Waterford and adopted by De La Salle College, on her maiden voyage in December 1956, at the age of 17. He then travelled the world in the course of his duties on trips varying from 6 weeks to 14 months to all continents. He served as 3rd and 2nd officer with Irish Shipping from 1959 to 1964, attending college at various intervals.

In 1964 he left Irish Shipping and joined the m.s. ‘Innisfallen’ of the City of Cork Steam Packet Co. (B. & I. Line) as third officer. He obtained his Masters in May 1968 and received his first command with the B& I Line in 1974 and commanded all their vessels. He joined their first ship on the Rosslare and Pembroke Dock service in 1980, having served on 17 ships on that service during that period, the first two in the last six years, these being the m.s. ‘Isle of Inishfree’ from January 1997 and presently the m.s. ‘Isle of Inishmore’ of 34,000 tons, two ships that could be classed as state of the art in their class. The latter ship is the newest and largest ship ever to enter Rosslare Harbour and can accommodate 2,200 passengers and crew.

Up to 1993 the service was doing very badly mostly because of unsuitable types of ships on the run, but when the Government disposed of the B& I Line, Irish Ferries took over under the helm of Eamon Rothwell and provided the most modern and up-to-date fleet on the Irish Sea. Capt. Cummins is thankful to him, John de Courcey Ireland and Tom McSweeney (‘Seascapes’, RTE) for their great endeavours in the cause of Irish maritime affairs. As an island maritime nation he considers it is a shame to see so many, if not all, Irish shipping companies sailing no more. When he left Irish Shipping in 1964 they had 21 ships, many of them carrying four cadets but that type of four year training is lost forever and successive Irish governments have failed to halt the situation, he says, and young men and women have now to go to foreign shipping companies to serve their apprenticeships. He loved the seagoing career for the past 46 years, especially the last six years on the two finest ships he ever commanded. He said he never feared the sea as he totally respected it and always kept in contact with the ‘man above’.

After completing his long service at sea, he now looks forward to his new position of retirement and time to catch up on sports such as hurling, football, World Cup soccer and, of course, his daughter Aine’s sport, hockey. He says he will finally have time to catch up on further studies in Law, Church History and go on some foreign holidays with his wife Brigid, sons Liam, Garvan and Emmet and daughter Aine.

On his final trip from Pembroke Dock to Rosslare, bells, sirens and horns were heard for miles around Milford Haven as a fleet of tugs with water cannon and spray and hose power escorted the m.s. ‘Isle of Inishman’ for seven miles down the Haven, bidding him farewell and a happy retirement. On arrival at Rosslare a large party awaited him and a very large gathering attended his party on board.

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Capt. Peter Ferguson - Master Of 'Ulysses' , 
The World's Largest Car Ferry Retires After 51 Years Of Distinguished Service

March 2003

One of the most distinguished sea captains in Irish maritime history - Capt. Peter Ferguson, Master of Irish Ferries Dublin - Holyhead cruise ferry Ulysses, the world's largest car ferry - is to retire from active service after a lifetime's career at sea.

Born in the Sandymount area of Dublin, Capt. Ferguson took to sea in 1952 at the age of 14 years when he began a Cadetship with the Royal Navy Reserve serving on the vessel
HMS Worcester based in the Thames Estuary. From there, he began full time work at sea serving on P&O cargo liners and passenger cruise ships - his first voyage having taken him around the world. He remained with P&O until he joined B&I Line - now Irish Ferries - in 1966.

His first commission was on the vessel m.v. Innisfallen operating on the Cork - Fishguard route. In 1969, he transferred to what was then the first of a new generation of roll-on/roll-off car ferries when he joined the m.v. Munster (B&I Line's first car ferry) on the Dublin - Holyhead route. It was on this vessel in 1970 that he was promoted to the position of Chief Officer.

Capt. Ferguson's first appointment as Master came in 1972 when he was placed in charge of the container vessel m.v. Sligo operating between Dublin, Rotterdam and Antwerp after which he served on other vessel in the B&I Line freight fleet. In 1980, he was at the forefront of another innovation in sea travel when he was appointed Master of the new B&I Line jetfoil 'Cu na Mara' - a vessel which many argue was the forerunner of the company's current high-speed ferry 'Dublin Swift'.

The encyclopaedic list of freight and passenger vessels on which Capt. Ferguson has served in the course of his illustrious career include the m.v. Meath, Kilkenny, Leinster, Tipperary, Connaught, St. Colum, St. Patrick, Viking, Earl Harold, Norrona, Senlac and Prins Philippe.

In more recent years, Capt. Ferguson is remembered for his pivotal role as Master of the new generation of cruise ferries introduced by Irish Ferries during the 1990s on their Ireland - UK routes. These are the Isle of Innisfree - launched in 1995 for the Dublin - Holyhead route and now operating under charter to P&O on their Portsmouth - France service. This was followed in 1997 by the Isle of Inishmore, also launched for the Dublin - Holyhead service and now operating on the Rosslare - Pembroke route and, more recently in 2001, by the present Dublin - Holyhead cruise ferry Ulysses, the world's largest car ferry.

Arguably one of the most recognised 'faces' in Irish shipping, Capt. Ferguson is familiar to thousands of Irish and UK television viewers and newspaper readers thanks to his 'ask any of our passengers' appearances in Irish Ferries commercials. Eleven years ago, he took up residence in Kilmore, Co. Wexford where he now lives. Holder of a private air pilot's licence, he includes the sport of parachute jumping amongst his many leisure interests.

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