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Sea blessing ritual revived aboard historic steamship Shieldhall

7 June 2024

Historic steamship Shieldhall, which is crewed by seafarer volunteers, has revived a 'Rogation of the Seas' service tradition.

Traditionally held the fifth Sunday following Easter, the blessing of the waters service was first revived in 2023 after many years of absence in the Port of Southampton.

This year it was conducted on Shieldhall's open deck in the heart of Southampton's historic docks and overseen by chaplain Father Anthony Chiatu along with the Lord Mayor of Southampton, and Councillor Valerie Laurent. One of the mayoral roles is Admiral of the Port and the service represents one of the final acts of the mayoral year.

Shieldhall chairman Martin Phipps thanked Associated British Ports for accommodating Shieldhall within the port. He noted that Shieldhall's home of 110 Berth allowed the ship to host community events such as Rogation Sunday, together with their sailing programme, which continues on Sat 8 and Sun 9 June with trips marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Shieldhall is a fully operational cargo-passenger steamship which is included in the National Historic Fleet. Its boilers and steam engines are original and of a similar configuration to those of far earlier vessels, such as RMS Titanic. It was built and launched on the Clyde in 1955, to a classic pre-Second World War design. It had a long and successful first career with Glasgow Corporation – carrying treated sludge out to sea and, in the summer, taking passengers on pleasure trips. Bought in 1977 by Southern Water the vessel was finally withdrawn from commercial service in 1985, but saved and purchased in 1988 by the Charity that still owns it today.


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