The Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena departed on her final voyage from St Helena Island on Saturday, 10 February 2018, having loyally served St Helena for the past 27 years.
Various celebrations, leading up to the final voyage, were organised by the RMS Farewell Working Group to ensure that the RMS got the ‘send-off’ she deserved.
The celebrations started in Cape Town on Tuesday, 23 January 2018, when a reception was held on board the RMS, hosted by Captain Adam Williams and Directors of St Helena Line, Mrs Kedell Worboys MBE, and Mr John Marden.
On Wednesday, 24 January 2018, passengers embarked the RMS. A reception was held in the Passenger Terminal. Thereafter, a number of invited guest and members of the public were allowed to witness the final sailing of the RMS from the quayside.
To mark the RMS St Helena’s 27 years of service, a 27ft ‘paying off’ pennant was carried by a number of RMS Officers and Crew to the dockside, where the pennant was presented to Captain Adam Williams by the Director of St Helena Line, Mrs Kedell Worboys MBE. The pennant was flown from the main mask of the RMS as she sailed from ‘F Berth’.
Dignitaries and others then waved goodbye to the vessel in a cloud of confetti and to the sounds of the Cape Town Caledonian Pipe Band.
The RMS arrived in James Bay on Monday, 29 January 2018. During her call to St Helena, a number of receptions were held on board for both past and present crew members and their families, as well as invited guest.
The RMS departed St Helena on Thursday, 1 February 2018 for Ascension Island. During her visit to Ascension, an RMS open day was held followed by an official cocktail party on-board, where Captain Adam Williams presented a plaque to the Administrator, Mr Nick Kennedy. In the evening, there was a farewell party held ashore, hosted by the Saints Club in George Town.
The RMS arrived back to St Helena on Tuesday, 6 February 2018, in time for the farewell celebrations to begin.
At 7pm on Tuesday, 6 February 2018, an ecumenical service of thanksgiving was held at a jammed packed St James’ Church. At 6.20pm there was a Church Parade from the Canister to St James’ Church by the Scouts, Cubs, Beavers, Girl Guides, Brownies, Rainbows and Pathfinders. The current RMS Crew joined the procession at St James’ Church.
During the service, a bible, which was given to the first RMS at Christmas in 1978 by St Paul’s Cathedral, was presented to the Bishop of St Helena by Captain Adam Williams to be returned to the Cathedral.
After the service, attendees proceeded to the Seafront. At the Cenotaph, Basil George read a poem and a hymn was sung by the Ship’s choir, before the Blessing by Bishop Richard Fenwick.
A ‘memory wall’ was placed in various locations throughout the week for members of the public to share their memories of the RMS. Some quoted:
“The RMS brought me to St Helena to start my new job and new life in March 2014. The voyage was a wonderful introduction to St Helena, so many great memories – the amazing crew, the fab food, the fun and laughter. Thank you for the memories RMS.”
“To me the RMS St Helena is my saviour. I departed on the RMS when I was only four days old to undergo heart surgery in Cape Town. Without the RMS, I wouldn’t be here today! Therefore, I owe the RMS a big thank you!”
On Wednesday, 7 February 2018, HE Governor Lisa Phillips hosted a special ‘thank you’ reception at Plantation House to paid tribute to the Master, Officers and Crew of the RMS St Helena and those involved with the RMS over the years.
In her speech, HE Governor Lisa mentioned:
“I have boarded the RMS surrounded by strangers and disembarked having found new friends.”
The main Farewell Celebrations took place on Friday, 9 February 2018, a Public Holiday declared by HE Governor Lisa Phillips for the Island, with an RMS open day and celebrations on the Seafront.
The RMS open day allowed visitors to gain a bird’s eye view of the cargo decks and open deck spaces from the Bridge. A lifeboat was also opened for visitors to see what they looked like inside. Visitors also saw the Sundeck and pool area, Sun Lounge, Main lounge, Dinning Saloon, Hospital and a selection of cabins on all three decks.
The celebrations on the seafront began at 3pm, and included a local market, novelty sports, live music and an exciting comedy performance by the RMS Amateur Dramatics Society.
At 6pm, a presentation was made to the competition winners from the Island schools, who were encouraged to submit a drawing, collage, poem or short description of their memories of the RMS, as well as the judging of the ‘Fancy Hat’ competition.
Speeches by HE Governor Lisa Phillips, Captain Adam Williams and Mrs Kedell Worboys MBE were made at 7pm.
After, a cake moulded to the shape of the RMS St Helena, made by St Helenian, Steve Yon was unveiled and shared amongst the public.
At 8pm, there was a comedy performance entitled ‘Final Act of Stupidity’ by the RMS Amateur Dramatics Society.
Afterwards, there was a fireworks display and a release of Chinese lanterns.
Live music was provided by local bands, Island Politics, who performed a cover of ‘My St Helena Island’ – St Helena’s unofficial anthem (listen here), and the Big Easy for the remainder of the night.
The celebrations continued on Saturday, 10 February 2018.
At 9am, the current RMS Crew, accompanied by the Scouts and Girl Guides, paraded from the Canister to the Seafront. A large number of people turned up to say their last goodbyes to the current crew of the RMS.
Passenger embarkation commenced at 10am.
At 2pm, spectators began to gather at the Lower Wharf to witness the final Farewell Celebrations.
Before the RMS sailed, the competition winners carried the 27ft ‘paying off’ pennant from the Customs Building to the Lower Wharf, where the pennant was presented to Captain Adam Williams by the Director of St Helena Line, Kedell Worboys MBE.
Thereafter, a flotilla of boats, jet skis and yachts circled the anchored RMS, while the St Helena Fire & Rescue Service saluted the RMS with a water arch.
The RMS then pulled up her anchor and made her way to Buttermilk Point, before turning around and steaming past the harbour, sounding her horn for the last time to an emotional crowd.
For those of you who have travelled on the RMS, whether it be to St Helena, Ascension Island, Cape Town, UK or Tristan da Cunha, will know just how special this lifeline is. By the time you’ve reached your destination, you would have been well-fed and rested and will have made friends for life. The RMS has without a doubt done our Island proud, looked after our people, like a mother watching over her young. She is and will always be a part of our Islands history, and will always have a special place in our hearts. The RMS St Helena is not just a ship, she is a true Saint … she is (ohana)family.
#StHelena #RMSStHelena #Farewell #ThankYou