I don’t know about you, but I’ve really been enjoying the Pictures From The Past supplement in The News every Saturday.
There is a vast archive of photographs being published alphabetically by subject and it’s a case of the farther back the better for me.
Seeing how Portsmouth used to look before Gunwharf Quays, the Tricorn Centre and the M275 is fascinating.
The building of the motorway in the 1970s really did change the landscape and I’d love to see more of the construction work itself.
The other week, the most stunning photograph stood out. It was taken from the Round Tower in 1970, looking over the mouth of the harbour.
Heading in was the old Sealink diesel passenger ferry Southsea and heading out for the very last time was the paddle steamer Ryde.
She was on her way to her final resting place on the River Medina, where she would become a nightclub.
A series of fires and financial problems saw the ship end up derelict. She is now a rusting piece of metal, slowly falling apart. A shameful end for a fine ship.
She entered service in 1937, then served as a minesweeper during the Second World War and played a part in the Dunkirk evacuations – a plaque proudly told of her role.
The Southsea also met an undignified end. Mothballed in 1988 after serving Pompey for 40 years, she languished in Falmouth, Bristol and Southampton as attempts were made to preserve her.
She returned to Portsmouth under tow in 2003, only to head off to Denmark for scrapping in 2005 when a last-minute attempt to secure her future failed.
My favourite story of those ships was told by my great-aunt. In the route’s heyday, six such ships ran non-stop between Portsmouth and Ryde, carrying up to 60,000 passengers a day.
One Saturday in the 1950s an elderly lady sat all afternoon as ship after ship left the dock. A worried ticket clerk asked if she was okay.
The lady replied: ‘I’ve seen ships going to Ryde, Southsea, Shanklin, Brading, Whippingham and Sandown but I’m still waiting for one going to Newport.’