AT THE launch last week of P&O European Ferries' new service from Portsmouth to Bilbao (see Departures, page 44, for more details), a question was raised about the company's previous ferry service to northern Spain.

While P&O had plenty of information about its first steamship service to northern Spain in the mid-1830s (the 206-ton paddle steamer William Fawcett), nobody could remember much about the P&O ferry that operated to Bilbao during the Seventies.

If memory serves, I believe it was called the Eagle and operated not only to Bilbao but also on to Lisbon and Tangier in Morocco. Ventures down holiday's memory lane usually unearth fascinating recollections. (Remember the vast correspondence on the car-carrying freighters from Lydd to Le Touquet a year ago?)

Did any readers travel on this now-forgotten P&O service to Spain (or North Africa) before it ended in the Seventies?

And while we are on the subject, there may be other ferry services that deserve remembering. Did anybody travel on the ferry service - which I think was called the Londoner - that used to operate from Tilbury to France?

In 1974, I travelled from Gothenburg to Tilbury on the Swedish Lloyd ferry - the Patricia, I seem to remember. Travelling on a car ferry to and from somewhere so near the centre of London was so convenient that I'm surprised nobody has tried to develop the idea. In the late Seventies, a Jetfoil passenger service ran from Tower Bridge to Belgium, but this experiment did not last long.

With the coming of the Channel tunnel, we may be witnessing the end of a ferry era. Perhaps P&O might be persuaded to offer a couple of free tickets on its new Bilbao service to the provider of the best ferry memory.