SHE IS the historic Hampshire vessel that was saved from the breaker's yard after an emergency appeal raised £80,000. Now the Southampton-based cruise ship SS Shieldhall has secured a £250 grant after winning one of three accolades awarded by the National Historic Ships UK. The organisation has recognised the success of various vessels around the country by handing out one National Flagship and two Regional Flagship awards. Shieldhall was its first National Flagship in 2009 has now landed one of its Regional Flagship titles.
A National Historic Ships spokesman said: "She has been awarded regional status in recognition of her continual and extensive sailing programme in the Solent area which has seen passenger numbers increase each year." Shieldhall is thought to be the largest working steamship in Northern Europe. She was built at Renfrew in 1955 and used by Glasgow Corporation to take treated sludge to dumping grounds near the Firth of Clyde. She performed a similar task for Southern Water between 1980-1985, transporting sludge from Marchwood, Millbrook and Woolston to an area off the Isle of Wight, before being withdrawn from service because of rising fuel costs.
Thirty years ago Shieldhall was bought by the Solent Steam Packet charity, which recognised her heritage value and continues to operate her today. In 2010 a massive funding shortfall left her in danger of being scrapped but she was saved by generosity of the public. Announcing the three awards Hannah Cunliffe, director of National Historic Ships, said: "I'm delighted that we're able to publicise the range of cruising programmes which these vessels are planning for the coming season. "Our three Flagships have all shown their enthusiasm for raising the profile of UK maritime heritage and we look forward to working closely with them in the months ahead." Each vessel will be presented with a pennant by a member of the National Historic Ships team.