In 1906 Wallasey Corporation took delivery of two new ferries, built by Robert Stevenson and Company on the Tyne and named 'Iris' and 'Daffodil'. The boats were 159 feet long and could carry 1,735 passengers, the Iris was 491 tons and the Daffodil was 482 tons.
In 1915 both boats were requisitioned for service in the First World War, they were renamed 'H.M.S. Iris' and H.M.S. Daffodil', had armour plating fitted and were painted Grey.
They were used on the first commando raid on the Port of Zeebrugge, in Belgium, because of their double hulls and as they only drew eight foot six inches of water, they could sail over the minefields.
Both boats were badly damaged, 188 Officers and men had been killed with a further 16 reported missing. 'H.M.S. Iris' was able to return to the Mersey under her own steam, but 'H.M.S. Daffodil' had to be towed back.
The White Ensign, which had been flown from the masthead of 'H.M.S. Daffodil' was presented to the Ferries Department, it used to be displayed at Seacombe Ferry terminal.
The damaged 'H.M.S. Iris' back in the Mersey
The two boats were reconditioned and were allowed to use the prefix "Royal" in front of their names in recognition of their gallant action. Both vessels re-entered service as ferryboats, after being repaired at Chatham.
The Zeebrugge bronzes were displayed on the ferryboats. On these plates were the names of those men who had died in action in the raid. There was one that commemorated the bravery of Commander Valentine Gibbs of the Royal Navy, who commanded 'H.M.S. Iris', as he "lay mortally wounded, fighting and directing his ship to the last, whilst under the enemy's fire, upholding in his noble death the glorious traditions of the Great Service to which he belonged".
The 'Royal Iris' running pleasure cruises on the Mersey
The 'Royal Iris' was withdrawn from service and sold in 1932 to Palmer Brothers of Dublin. She was used as a cruise boat operating from Dublin under the same name. She was later used at Cork. In 1947 she was sold to the Cork Harbour Authority and renamed 'Blarney'.
The 'Royal Daffodil' at New Brighton Pier
The Medway Steam Packet Company bought the "Royal Daffodil" in 1933. She took up duties on the Thames and eventually was sold for scrap.
In 1950 Wallasey Corporatin took delivery of 'Royal Iris II', she had been built by William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton, she was 1234 tons and 159 feet long. She was unique amongst the ferries as she had diesel electric engines. She also had a unique superstructure design.
The 'Royal Iris II'
The 'Royal Iris II' was withdrawn from service in 1993 and sold for use as a night club in Cardiff, following an unsuccessful period there she was moved to the River Thames in 2002. She remains afloat in an increasingly derelict condition.
The 'Royal Iris II on the Thames'
The 'Royal Daffodil II' was the last ferry to be built for Wallasey Corporation, she was built by James Lamont & Company of Greenock in 1957. She was 609 tons and 159 feet 6 inches long.
The 'Royal Daffodil II'
The 'Royal Daffodil II' was withdrawn from service in 1977 and sold to Greek owners who renamed her IOULIS KEAS II. On 7 November 2007 she sank about 20 miles off Cape Andreas, Cyprus after ingress of water and steering gear failure in heavy weather on passage from Mersin to Famagusta; 8 crew were rescued but her captain and 1st mate were lost.
In 2000 Mersey Ferries withdrew the former Birkenhead Corporation ferry 'Overchurch' from service, and after a major overhaul she was renamed 'Royal Daffodil'
The 'Royal Daffodil III'
The 'Overchurch' (or 'Royal Daffodil III') was built by Cammell Laird
Two years later, in 2002 the former Birkenhead Corporation ferry 'Mountwood' was overhauled and renamed 'Royal Iris of the Mersey' (the name 'Royal Iris' is still registered to 'Royal Iris II).
The 'Royal Iris of the Mersey'
The 'Mountwood' (or 'Royal Iris of the Mersey' was built by Philip & Son of Dartmouth in 1960.