WHEN Mumbles pier opened in 1898 it contained a landing stage for passengers to board ships for pleasure cruises, such as the paddle steamer Brighton or the Glen Gower. Many readers will recall The White Funnel Fleet of the Bristol-based company P & A Campbell.
There are still pleasure cruises along the south Gower coast or to Ilfracombe or Lundy Island, in the sea-going paddle steamer Waverley or in Balmoral, though departing now from Swansea's King's Dock rather than from Mumbles pier. But in 1981 one pleasure cruise along the south Gower coast ended in disaster on Horton beach.
The M.V. Shanklin had been launched on Clydeside in 1951, and for thirty years provided a ferry service between Portsmouth and Ryde in the Isle of Wight.
After being renovated by the Firth of Clyde Steam Packet Company for pleasure cruises, she was re-named Prince Ivanhoe after the hero of Sir Walter Scott's novel. On her first excursion along the south Gower coast on 3rd August 1981 she sailed close to Port Eynon Point during the afternoon, and struck a submerged object — possibly a submerged wreck.
Since she was taking on water from a 25-metre gash in her hull, Prince Ivanhoe was run aground on Horton beach, so that the 450 passengers could be brought ashore, using an RAF air-sea rescue helicopter, with lifeboats from Horton, Port Eynon and Mumbles. Two persons suffered heart attacks, one of whom was declared dead on arrival at hospital.
Salvage attempts during subsequent years removed much of the wreck, though part still remains, and for many years two orange buoys marked the area of the shipwreck. In her earlier role as MV Shanklin, the ship had collided with Ryde Pier on three occasions. On one of these in 1973 amid heavy fog she destroyed 40 feet of the pier's roadway, causing a taxi to sink into the water, although there were no casualties. Evidently a later change of name failed to improve her safety record.