Southend’s summer season of 1961 was a bright one.

This year the town went the extra mile to host a dazzling light display.

The illumination theme for the season was ‘circus in lights’ which included 100 set pieces on show at the pier and lights set up along the seafront for miles.

Some 160,000 lights, 1,000 floodlights, 40 miles of cable and enough extra electricity to power a small town ensured Southend produced an unforgettable luminescence each night from August through to October.

A highlight of the entertainment was ‘candlestick town’ as well as ‘The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’ illumination both located in The Shrubbery along the seafront.

But the main attraction this year was a 40-foot-long replica of a famous ship.

The two-ton model of the Dutch liner, The Rotterdam, was made on scale of 1 to 120 and could be fully illuminated thanks to its 900 portholes, 800 windows, 29 spotlights, and 50 fluorescent tubes.

Read more >>> Memories of one of the most remarkable events in Southend’s history in 1909

Echo: The Rotterdam model was the largest replica ship ever built at the timeThe Rotterdam model was the largest replica ship ever built at the time

The model was placed at the entrance to the pier for the duration of the summer season and proved to be a big hit with visitors.

It was the largest replica of a ship ever made and was owned by the Holland America line, of which the Rotterdam was their flagship liner.

The actual Rotterdam was the largest liner to ever be built in the Netherlands.

On the subject of Rotterdam, a week after the model went on show the Southend Carnival queen suddenly went missing.

The family of Helena Upson, aged 19, were frantic with worry- until the teenager turned up... in Rotterdam.

Helena, of Stromness Place, Southend had decided to go to Rotterdam in Holland on the spur of the moment. She had left a note for her mother, explaining where she was going, but the mum had apparently not seen it when the alarm was raised.

Helena was expected appear at a number of pre-carnival events and her impromptu holiday did not go down well with everyone.

Whether Helena was inspired by the ship or the name put the idea in her head, we do not know, but she was less than impressed with the drama surrounding her ‘disappearance’.

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” she said.

“I’ll certainly be back in Southend for the start of the carnival.”