MV Princess Victoria documents and photographs available to view as part of PRONI’s regional tour of local libraries

Date published: 19 January 2024

Statements from survivors of the MV Princess Victoria disaster and rare historical photographs of the ship are to be put on display as part of an ongoing regional tour of libraries by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

MV Princess Victoria backing into a pier at Stranraer in September 1949 in black and white

The documents, including testimonies of passengers, crew, rescuers, and maritime experts connected with the formal investigation into the loss of the ferry in treacherous waters in the Irish Sea in 1953, will go on show at Larne Library on 22 January.

A selection of black and white photographs of the Princess Victoria between 1949 and 1953, and a poster advertising a fundraising raffle in aid of the subsequent disaster fund will also be available to view.

PRONI’s visit to Larne Library follows recent successful exhibitions at Derry Central Library and Enniskillen Library, with a further visit planned for Lurgan Library on 20 February.

The innovative roadshow, which is being run in partnership with Libraries NI, is part of a schedule of events to mark the centenary of PRONI, the official archive of Northern Ireland and a division of the Department for Communities.

David Huddleston, Acting Director of PRONI, said:

“Following on from the success of our visits to Derry Central Library and Enniskillen Library at the end of last year, we are delighted to be visiting Larne Library to engage new audiences with a fascinating range of archives.

“The records on display relate to the Princess Victoria disaster, local schools, the workhouse and tourism, and we hope the people of Larne and surrounding areas take the opportunity to interact with these unique and original historical records in their local library.”

Other documents of local interest to view at Larne Library on 22 January include: -

  • A register of pupils who attended Larne and Inver National School between January 1862 and November 1873 (digital copy available).
  • An indoor register of Larne Workhouse noting the names of those who spent time there between September 1845 and March 1852 (digital copy available).
  • A typescript radio play titled ‘At the Cinema’ written by well-known actor, writer and musician Richard Hayward, c. 1940-1960.
  • A 1926 brochure from the Northern Counties Committee titled ‘Tours and Excursions’ noting excursion routes, railway timetables and ticket fares.
  • A highly detailed and colourful map of Larne in 1878, including a reference list showing who lived at each plot (digital version only).

Film clips of Larne from the 1960s, taken from the UTV archive, which are held at PRONI, will also be shown, including a feature on the Larne Starlight Rally and an interview with Nikolai Poliakoff, better known as Coco the Clown, one of the most renowned circus performers of the 20th century.

Libraries NI Chief Executive Jim O’Hagan said:

“We are delighted to build on the great response to the recent PRONI exhibitions where participants have enjoyed the chance to explore unique records, uncovering fascinating details about their ancestors and the community they belong to whilst in the familiar surroundings of their local library.

“This partnership provides the perfect opportunity to bring these historical records closer to members of the local community and we are looking forward to the upcoming exhibition in Larne Library.”

PRONI officials will be available on the day to help visitors to Larne Library uncover details of their family tree, delve into the history of the local area, and answer questions about the vast array of records held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Image caption 1 – MV Princess Victoria backing into a pier at Stranraer in September 1949; Image caption 2 – A poster advertising a fundraising raffle to win a television in aid of the Princess Victoria Disaster Fund, 1953.
  2. The loss of the Stranraer-Larne ferry MV Princess Victoria, which sank on 31st January 1953 with the loss of more than 130 lives, remains one of the worst maritime disasters to happen in British and Irish coastal waters.
  3. PRONI will visit Larne Library on Monday, 22 January, 10am to 4pm.
  4. The Libraries NI regional tour is just one event of a year-long programme of activities to mark the centenary of PRONI which was established on 22nd June 1923 and opened its doors to the public on 3rd March 1924.
  5. PRONI is based at 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast. For details on opening hours, see NI Direct or call 028 90 534800.
  6. The Department for Communities funds the public library service, which since 1st April 2009 has been administered by the Northern Ireland Library Authority, known as Libraries NI.
  7. Media enquiries to DFC Press Office
  8. Follow the Department on X @CommunitiesNI
  9. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekend and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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