Farewell RMS St Helena
Governor Lisa Phillips declared Friday, 9 February 2018 a public holiday on St Helena to allow the island to bid farewell to the RMS St Helena, which set sail on its final voyage to Cape Town on Saturday, 10 February having served the island for 27 years.
Public celebrations commenced on Friday, with an open day on board the RMS for members of the public. Tickets were a much sought-after commodity as many wanted to bid farewell to St Helena’s beloved vessel. Tours around the RMS were conducted by crew members and consisted of visits to the cabins, decks, and lounges as well as the bridge, were some guests had the opportunity to peer over the ship’s wheel towards St Helena.
Celebrations on shore side kicked off at 3pm. James Bay seafront was decorated in red, white and blue to mark the occasion. A local market selling all things RMS St Helena stretched beneath a large marquee, and local bands played an array of music throughout the afternoon. Food, drink and ice cream were also on sale, and despite the heat of a St Helena’s summer afternoon, hundreds gathered to celebrate what has been dubbed “the end of an era”. An incredible cake made by a talented local baker depicting the RMS in detail was presented and shared with the crowd. Those with a good view of the stage also got to witness the Fancy Hat competition and RMS Memories prize winners.
As the first day’s celebrations drew to a close the much anticipated “RMS Amateur Dramatics Society” performance saw the large crowd erupt into fits of laughter as the ship’s crew, past and present, including the Captain presented an array of comedy sketches, dances and songs. In true St Helena style the acts performed well into the night, ending with a farewell song followed by a magnificent fireworks display. The lower seafront was lit up by children with sparklers and the releasing of Chinese lanterns into the night sky. The party then picked up as live music continued until midnight.
Saturday, 10 February was an emotional day for many. At 9 am the RMS St Helena crew accompanied by uniformed contingents paraded through Jamestown and across the seafront to the wharf. The sound of the Scouts band brought Jamestown to life once again with crowds of onlookers lining the streets.
The carrying of the 27ft pennant followed, with the winners of the ‘RMS Memories’ school competition taking the pennant from the Customs building to the lower wharf where it was handed to Captain Adam Williams by Director of St Helena Line, Kedell Worboys MBE.
A replica of the RMS Funnel sprayed confetti out towards the crowd. The RMS then made her way to Buttermilk Point, accompanied by a flotilla, before turning around and steaming past the harbour with speed as the crowd cheered and waved to all on board.
Notes: The RMS returned to the island due to an emergency and sounded her horn for the very last time when she departed again on Monday 12 February.