[From Brown's Directory, 1881/2]

[Historical Chapter]

[Harbour Works]

We have already pointed out the great advances which the various great industries of the Island had made during the past half century. We have now to direct the reader’s attention, as fully as our limits will allow, to the several movements which ultimately resulted in the carrying out of those great harbour works whose erection has exerted so beneficial an influence upon the progress and prosperity of the Manx people. Under the rule of the Stanleys, whose policy had made it penal to leave the Island or export any commodity out of it without a special licence, and whose treatment of foreigners wishing to settle in the Island or to trade with its inhabitants was even harsher still, the once famous fleets of the Manx had become reduced to a few coasting vessels of small size, and a number of half-decked, ill-found fishing boats, for the accommodation of which no special harbour works were required. The necessities of the great smuggling trade during the reign ef the last lords of the House of Stanley and the first of the House of Atholl, caused the erection of rude piers and quays in the most frequented ports of the Island, but with the collapse of this profitable trade this stimulus to harbour improvements was removed, and these hastily planned and roughly built structures were allowed to fall into a ruinous condition. The Commissioners appointed by the English Government, in 1791, to make an inquiry into certain matters respecting the Isle of Man, reported that the harbour of Douglas had fallen into a bad condition, that a great part of the pier had been carried away by tempests, and that if not immediately attended to, the whole would soon go to ruin. They further recommended that the harbour of Douglas should be repaired and enlarged so as to fit it to shelter the shipping of Great Britain and Ireland, and pointed out that this work would be for the benefit "not only of the Isle of Man but of the nation in general." These recommendations met with no adequate response from the Imperial Government, which was just then entering into that terrible struggle with the French revolutionary authorities which only terminated in 1815. The Insular Government, however, were instructed to carry out such harbour works as were absolutely necessary to accommodate the existing trade of the Island, and accordingly, on July 24th, 1793, the Duke of Atholl laid the foundation stone of the old or Red Pier, which was completed in 1801. This pier is 540 feet long, and its breadth 40 feet, except at its extremity, where it is 90 feet broad. It is built of free stone brought from Runcorn, in Cheshire. The greater part of its cost (£22,000) was defrayed by "The British Society for extending the Fisheries and improving the Sea Coasts of the Kingdom," of which the Duke of Atholl was one of the Commissioners. this society also expended large sums in improving the various fishing stations of the Island. This pier, though so badly planned that with an east wind the sea rolled into the harbour with such unbroken strength as often to drive the vessels from their moorings, was a great addition to the harbour accommodation of Douglas, and the trade of the town, fostered by the practical removal of the vexatious restrictions which an ignorant legislation had placed upon its intercourse with the neighbouring countries, steadily improved, until in 1830 it had become so important that a company was formed in Douglas for running a line of steampackets regularly throughout the year between Douglas and Liverpool. In 1835, the Harbour Commissioners memorialised the English Government for a breakwater, the want of which had long been felt; and a series of meetings were also held in Liverpool in support of this memorial. In 1837 the small pier on the south of the entrance into the harbour, known as Fort Anne Jetty, was erected to lessen the force of the sea in the harbour when agitated by an inshore wind ; but no steps were taken towards protecting the anchorage outside the harbour itself. In 1844, a bill (7 and 8 Vic. cap. 43) for Amending the Laws relating to the Customs in the Isle of Nan, drawn up by Messrs Greene, Gladstone, and Sutton, was introduced into the house of Commons on the 24th May, and, having passed its third reading on July 5th, received the royal assent on July 19th. This bill, which conferred great advantages upon the Island, was carried mainly through the unwearied exertions of Dr. (afterwards, Sir John) Bowring, M.P., who, in consequence, on his visit in September of the same year, was received by all classes of the Islanders with extraordinary demonstrations of welcome. As one result of the passing of this Act, though directly through the provisions of an Act passed by the Imperial Parliament in the following year (1845), the Receiver-General, on behalf of the Harbour Commissioners, was ordered to be paid the annual sum of £2,300 out of the surplus revenue of the Island to defray the cost of keeping the Manx harbours in repair. In 1846, the Harbour Board again addressed the Government, setting forth the exposed condition of Douglas Bay and Harbour, and the necessity for affording a safe asylum in the bay at all times of the tide. In 1848, an evasive reply was received, to the effect that the Harbour Board had no funds available to pay the interest on the necessary advances for such works. In 1853, in concession to the continued and urgent representa tions of the Manx people, and also in deference to the evident necessities of the case, one-ninth of the gross revenue of the Island was granted to the Manx Legislature for harbour improvements by " The Customs Consolidation Act" of that year, and the necessary funds being thus provided, steps were soon after taken to inaugurate the much-needed works. In 1856, Mr Walker, C. E., of Great George-street, Westminster, drew up plans, together with a report, and recommended that a breakwater, based upon a "rubble" foundation, should be run out from the Little head in an E.N.E. direction for a distance of 200 yards, at an estimated cost of £23,000. This recommendation was formally approved by the Tynwald Court, but certain modifications were introduced into Mr Walker’s plans which increased the estimated cost of the work to £32,000. Certain objections to these plans were, however, raised by the Admiralty in a letter addressed to the Lieut.-Governor, dated 25th June, 1858, in which it was suggested that, instead of the rubble foundation of the work being raised to low water mark, as suggested in Mr Walker’s plans, it should stop at 12 feet below low water, and that the upright wall of the breakwater should be built from that depth. In consequence of these objections, and of certain other considerations, all further proceedings in connection with the proposed work were suspended, at the recommendation of the Treasury, until the report of the Commissioners on Harbours of Refuge should be made. In October, 1860, Mr Walker suggested further modifications of his original plans, and ultimately, after considerable discussion, the Tynwald Court increased the sum allowed for the work to £50,000, a similar sum having been recommended to be applied by the Government from the general revenue. In 1861, after a further lengthy consideration of the subject by the Tynwald Court, it was decided to adopt the plans of Sir Abernethy, C.E., for breakwaters at Douglas, Peel, and Ramsey. These works were to consist of a rubble foundation, with a superstructure of creosoted timber; and the estimated cast was, for Douglas £54,000, and for Peel and Ramsey about £10,000 each. In accordance with a resolution of the Court, contracts for the work were advertised for, and, after due consideration, that of Mr Jackson, of London, for £48,000, was accepted May 16th, 1862. The work was almost immediately commenced and continued steadily throughout this and the following year; and, in connection with it, operations were also begun for forming an "Approach Road" to the new work along the south side of the harbour. The works at Peel and Ramsey were also begun without any unnecessary delay, the laying of the foundation stone of the Peel breakwater by Governor Loch on the 6th June, 1863, being made an occasion of great public rejoicing at the head quarters of the Manx fisheries. For a short time the Douglas work was carried on with apparent success, but when it had made some progress, and begun to oppose a considerable surface to the action of the sea, it was found that its projector had not accurately calculated the strength of the sea in Douglas Bay, especially when increased by an inshore wind. During the winter of 1863, signs of weakness began to show themselves, and in May, 1864, several of the piles which supported the timber framework, gave way. Alarmed by this failure of his scheme, Mr Abernethy came over and inspected the work, and various attempts were made, at his suggestion, to strengthen it. But in vain. During the summer it continued to give way, the waves washing away the loose rubble foundation, and the great weight of the stone-laden frames breaking down the supporting piles and the frames themselves. So evidently was it a complete failure that, though it had not attained half its proposed length (it had only been carried out 510 feet, instead of 1,100), at a Tynwald Court, held on July 26th, the Governor expressed his opinion that it ought not to be extended any further. The wisdom of this suggestion was seen during the ensuing winter, which proved to be unusually stormy. In November a heavy gale swept over the Island, doing great damage to the breakwater, many of the heavy frames being washed away and others seriously injured. A Tynwald Court was held on November 24th, at which a correspondence which had passed between the Lieut.-Governor and the Harbour Commissioners was read, together with the report of Mr Hawkshaw, who had been asked by the Governor to examine and report upon the condition of the breakwater and the harbour accommodation generally. Mr Hawkshaw, in his report, recom mended that the breakwater should be strengthened by adding to its rubble foundation, and by casing it with stone; and, to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic of the port, that a jetty should be constructed from the Red Pier to low water. After a lengthy debate, the Court adopted resolutions in accordance with these recommendations, and appointed a committee (including the Lieut.- Governor) to take evidence and report to the Court. This committee met in the Court House, Douglas, on November 30th, and examined a number of witnesses, whose evidence was generally in favour of Mr Hawkshaw’s suggestions. But, before anything could be done to restore or strengthen the damaged breakwater, another storm swept over the country, and carried away with it the last poor fragments of this unfortunate work. On Sunday and Monday, January 29th and 30th, 1865, a storm of almost unexampled violence from the SE. raged along the Manx coasts, causing great destiuction of property both on land and sea. But the greatest damage was done to the Douglas breakwater, which was almost completely destroyed by the tremendous waves which dashed over it, twenty-one out of forty-five timber frames forming the wooden superstructure which remained standing being washed away, their broken fragments strewing the neighbouring coast for many miles, and of the twenty-four left standing, only five were undamaged, the rest being more or less injured. The damage thus done to the breakwater was estimated at £20,000, and, in addition, more than £1,000 worth of the contractor’s working plant was destroyed or washed out to sea. Nor was this all. During some rough weather which followed the great storm a few days later the whole of the woodwork left standing was carried away and nothing remained of the work which had cost so much, and from which so much was expected, but the rubble bank upon which it had been built, and a few broken, jagged beams standing out of the sea at low water, at the end of which a lightship had to be moored to mark its position.

At a Tynwald Court held on the 6th February, the Lieut.-Governor laid before the Court the report of the committee appointed to take evidence upon Mr Hawkshaw’s suggestions. This report, which had been drawn up before the late storms had so completely obliterated the breakwater, substantially adopted the works suggested; but, in presenting it, the Governor said that when he came to the Island he found the Court committed to the Abernethy scheme, and, consequently, did not feel called upon to interfere, especially as it had been twice favourably reported upon. But now, when it had utterly failed, he considered the question re-opened; and that fresh plans should be prepared, and for a larger, and more permanent work. With regard to the proposed low water jetty, he added, since the destruction of the breakwater, he had asked Mr Hawkshaw’s opinion as to the advisability of its being built without the protection of the destroyed breakwater, and Mr Hawkshaw had replied unfavourably. This announcement of the Governor caused considerable excitement in the country, and further particulars respecting his intentions were anxiously awaited. On Tynwald Day, July 5th, he informed the Court, and through it the country, that he was nego tiating on the subject with the Imperial Government, but that no conclusion had yet been arrived at. Again, on the 22nd of November, he entered into some further explanations, and assured the Court that, though he was, as yet, unable to lay any definite scheme before it, he had not been negligent in the matter. On the 15th March, 1866, the Governor laid before the Tynwald Court the results of his long-continued negotiations with the Home Department. The failure of the Abernethy scheme having absorbed the greater part of the meagre funds available for harbour purposes, and the small amount accruing from the one-ninth of the revenue being inadequate to the requirements of the country, it had become a matter of urgent necessity to devise some other arrangement by which the necessary funds for the development of the resources of the country and the improvement of its harbours could be raised. After considerable difficulty this had at length been done, and a scheme had been elaborated with the Treasury which, if adopted by the Court, would give ample funds for these necessary purposes. He then proceeded to lay before the Court his great scheme of financial and constitutional reform, which, he estimated, would place at the disposal of the Court an annual sum of at least from £20,000 to £25,000 for harbour works and other much-needed improvements. After debating the matter (the Lower House with closed doors), the scheme, as proposed, was accepted by the Tynwald Court, and the necessary steps taken to carry it out. This course received the cordial support of the country, and it is not too much to say that to the policy thus boldly inaugurated by the Governor, and successfully followed up by the Legislature, the country owes all its subsequent prosperity. -

The measures necessary for the carrying into effect of these reforms, together with the excitement attending the election of the new House of Keys, necessarily diverted the attention of the Legislature from the further consideration of the new harbour works ; but on the 21st November a committee, which had been appointed at the previous Tynwald Court, sat in the Court House, Douglas, under the presidency of the Lieut. .Governor, and examined a number of witnesses as to the position and character of the proposed Low Water Landing Pier. Mr Coode, the chief engineer of the Port Erin works, was present and exhibited plans of the proposed work, and the great bulk of the evidence was in favour of a pier from the Pollock Rocks, parallel, or nearly so, to the Red Pier. At a Tynwald Court, held on the 23rd November, this committee presented its report, in which it was recommended to construct the pro posed work from these rocks. Mr Coode was examined by the Court, and explained the plans of the projected pier, and ultimately it was resolved almost unanimously to proceed with this work on the lines indicated, and that it be formed of concrete blocks at a cost not exceening £25,000. As thus accepted, this greatly needed pier was to be a composite work, 400 feet in length, 200 feet being of built concrete blocks, and 200 feet of a timber viaduct, and its estimated cost was to be £21,000. The consent of the Insular Legislature to its construction being thus obtained, its erection was proceeded with without further delay. Within a few days the engineering staff were at work, taking the necessary soundings in the bay, and laying out the direction of the pier, and in the course of a few weeks a large number of workmen were actively engaged and, with the exception of a short stoppage in the ensuing summer caused by a dispute respecting the ownership of part of the land required for the work, continued it uninterruptedly until its completion.

But to the active and far-reaching mind of Governor Loch this work, important and costly as it was, formed only a small part of a much greater scheme of harbour improvements, which included not only the requirements of the capital, but also of the entire Island; and, accordingly, he instructed Mr Coode, to prepare plans, in the first instance, of a complete system of harbour works for the protection of Douglas Bay. The first elections to the reformed House of Keys took place in April, 1867; and on the 12th June, when the excitement attending this unusual event had somewhat calmed down, he laid before the Tynwald Ccurt the scheme thus elaborated. As thus pro. posed, this scheme consisted of three distinct but mutually dependent works—a pier upon the site of the Abernethy breakwater, a pier running out to meet it from the Connister Rock, and a central breakwater covering up the opening between the two, leaving only a narrow passage at either extremity. Plans of these proposed works were exhibited to the Court by Mr Coode, and fully explained by him; and after a long debate a committee was appointed to consider Mr Coode’s plans and to report. On the 15th November this committee made its report and recommended the construction of two out of the three proposed works—the Battery Pier on the site of the Abernethy failure, and the central breakwater— at an estimated cost of £173,000. A long and warm discussion followed the reading of this report, which was terminated by a resolution that the report be printed and circulated among the members, and that its further consideration be adjourned. On the 21st November, the discussion of the report was resumed, and ultimately a motion was carried that the Battery Pier was to be begun, but the central work held in abeyance. This was vetoed by the Governor, who proposed a series of resolutions, which were somewhat incongruously adopted almost unanimously, binding the Court to Mr Coode’s plans if they were approved Icy another eminent engineer. Finally, the Governor was authorised by the Court to procure the services of some eminent engineer to report upon these plans. In accordance with this resolution, Mr Hawkshaw came over and inspected the bay and harbour in connection with Mr Coode’s plans ; and on the 27th January, 1868, his report was laid before the Tynwald Court, and the discussion of the question resumed, to be again adjourned. On the 26th March, the Tynwald Court accepted a proposed modification of the plans for the Douglas Low Water Landing Pier, by which the portion of the pier which was to have been an open wooden viaduct, was to be constructed like the rest of the work of built concrete blocks. The additional cost caused by this alteration was estimated at £5,000. At the same time another very important matter was taken up by the Court; Mr Coode was directed to draw up plans for a road to connect the New Pier with the old Red Pier. It was also further resolved to begin at once with the Battery Pier, but to defer for the present the commencement of any further works in Douglas Bay. Notwithstanding the changes which had been made in its construction, it was stated by the Receiver-General at a meeting of the Harbour Commissioners, held on the 26th January, 1869, that the New Pier was sufficiently advanced to admit of its being used by the steamers during the coming season. Its cost to the 31st December, 1868, had been £23,110. On the 2nd March, 1869, at a Tynwald Court, held at Castletown, the expenditure upon the Insular harbour works was again under discussion. The debate, which was a long and animated one, was prefaced by a lengthy explanation from the Governor, after which Mr E. C. Farrant moved that

"Until a complete plan of harbour works be adopted (in accordance with the 5th resolution agreed to by the Tynwald Court on the 26th March, 1868), and the probable cost of the whole of such works be ascertained, it is not expedient to grant any further sum out of the local revenue for any harbours for the Isle of Man."

This was seconded by Mr J. S. Moore, upon which an amendment was moved by the Clerk of the Rolls to adjourn the further discussion of the motion. After further debate the amendment was carried, and the discussion adjourned. The condition of the Douglas New Pier was then brought before the Court, and an additional sum of £10,000 was voted for its completion, making £35,000 altogether voted for this work. The condition of the breakwaters at Peel and Ramsey, which had been constructed upon the Abernethy plan—a superstructure of creosoted timber ballasted with stone resting upon a loose rubble foundation, was next discussed, and a sum of £5,500 was voted for the casing of the Peel work,’ and £9,900 to case the Ramsey work. In consequence of Mr Coode’s non-residence in the Island, and the necessity of having a resident engineer to superintend the construction of the extensive and costly harbour works actually or prospectively in progress, it was during this month (March, 1869), resolved by the Government to appoint Mr W. Powell, C.E., then resident engineer of the Port Erin works, to be the engineer in charge of the Insular harbour works, a sub-engineer being put in charge of the Port Erin breakwater. In May this appointment was formally confirmed at a salary of £1,200 per annum and allowances. In May, 1869, the plans for the Douglas Bay harbour works were again materially modified. It will be remembered that all the three proposed works in the bay—the two short arms from the Head below the battery and from the Connister Rock, and the central breakwater between the two—were to rest upon mounds of loose rubble. Hitherto it had been maintained that such foundations were as safe and as permanent as foundations built up from the sea-bed, while they possessed the additional advantage of being much less costly; but evidence recently acquired had cast great doubts upon these assertions. The experience of such a foundation in Port Erin Bay, for example, was very far from being satisfactory, and, in consequence, it was decided to abandon the idea of a central work in the bay, and of the arm from the Connister Rock; and, in place of these discarded works, to lengthen the Battery Pier and the new Landing Pier, the united cost of these two works, with their approaches, to be about the same as the estimated cost of the original works, £175,000. These proposals were formally brought before the Court on Tynwald Day (July 5th), and warmly debated; but no conclusion was arrived at on that day, and the debate was adjourned. A vote, however, was made for the Approach-road to the Battery Pier of £8,550. On July 8th, the Court again assembled in the Court House, Douglas, and the debate was resumed, a motion being ultimately adopted that the "work A" should be abandoned, that the "work B" (the Battery Pier, on the site of the Abernethy breakwater) should be extended to a length of between 430 feet and 450 feet, and then again considered by the Court; and that £10,000 (making £45,000 voted altogether for this work) be voted to complete the new Landing Pier. This motion was moved by Mr Christian, seconded by Mr Dumbell, and carried by a majority of 19 to 4. A committee was also appointed at the same time to consider the question of what further harbour works were required for Ramsey. The report of this committee was brought up on the 25th of November, and ordered to be printed. On the 8th of December, at a Tynwald Court held at Castletown, the proposed connecting road between the new pier and the old pier was again lengthily debated; but the resistance of the "economists" was too determined, and this much-needed improvement was again shelved.

Contemporaneously with these great harbour works thus carried out by the Insular Government, and paid for entirely out of the Insular revenues, an attempt was being made by the Imperial Government to convert the beautiful land-locked bay of Port Erin, on the southwestern coast, into a harbour of refuge by constructing a breakwater across its narrow opening. The want of such a harbour had long been felt. As is well known, the west coast of the Isle of Man is peculiarly dangerous. Along its entire length, from the Point of Ayre to the Calf, there are only two inlets (Peel Bay and Port Erin Bay) in which it is possible for sea-going vessels to find shelter in rough weather; and, lying, as it does, in the direct track of the traffic across the Irish sea, disastrous wrecks, often attended with, great loss of life, were frequently occurring kr the want of such a harbour of refuge. Again and again, since the revestment of the Island in the English Crown, the formation of harbours of refuge along the Manx coasts, and especially at Port Erin, for the shelter of the shipping of Great Britain and Ireland from the violence of storms, has been urged upon the Government as an object of interest not to the Isle of Man only, but to the nation in general. In 1791, the Commissioners appointed by his Majesty George III. to make an inquiry into certain matters respecting the Isle of Man, strongly supported "the proposal to construct a harbour at Port Iron or Erin, which is so much desired that the trades of Whitehaven, Workington, and other ports in the West of England, as well as in the Isle of Man, would, it is said, voluntarily contribute to it." This proposal was also advocated by numerous other public bodies and influential individuals, including the Duke of Atholl; but no attempt was made at that time to carry out the proposed works. In 1835, the Commissioners appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland to institute an inquiry respecting the state of the Irish fisheries, reported that "Port-le-Murray is the only refuge for the English, Irish, and Manx boats engaged in the fisheries, when a gale sets in from the westward; and very considerable risk and loss of time are sometimes caused by their being obliged to run for it, for want of shelter on the west side of the Calf, where the fishing is most productive. Evidence was also given before the Commissioners by fishermen and others belonging to the locality in favour of a harbour being formed at Port Erin. In the year 1847, some of the fishermen sent a delegate to London to solicit the Government to provide accommodation for them at Port Erin’; and the expanses connected with this mission, amounting to about £60, were paid by contributions from the fishermen; and a further sum was afterwards paid on the same account. At a meeting held at Port Erin on the 14th August, 1855, Edwd. M. Gawne, Esq., in the chair, it was resolved— "That subscriptions should be raised for the purpose of building a quay, and for the Improvement of the harbour."

And a committee was formed for that purpose. During the autumn and winter, subscriptions were given by the fishermen and other inhabitants to over £800. In 1856, Thomas Walker, Esq., CE,, in his report on the Insular harbours says—" A pier, 115 yards in length, carried out in an east by north direction, from Cregneish, as shown in the plan attached to the report, would reach low water nearly, and might shelter 100 luggers at neap tides." This report appeared on the 26th January, and on the 11th of February, a memorial from the inhabitants of Rushen, and others, was presented to the Harbour Commissioners; on whose records the following Minute with reference to it appears :—" Read, a memorial, numerously signed by inhabitants of the southern parishes, addressed to this Board, and stating that a sum of £700 has been subscribed towards the erection of the new pier at Port Erin proposed by Mr Walker, CE.; and the Board recommend the subject to the consideration of the Tynwald Court." On the 17th April, 1856, a memorial was presented to the Tynwald Court, signed by 331 fishermen and others, praying that a sum of money might be appropriated for the erection of a quay and the improvement of the bay. In connection with this memorial, Mr Walker’s report was considered by the Court, and his proposal favourably received. On the 24th of July, a memorial was presented to the Admiralty in favour of the same proposal, and praying that the works might be proceeded with without delay. In November, Capt. Veitch, in his report, spoke favourably of the capabilities of this bay; and recommended the construction of a pier from the south shore for a distance of 600 feet. Wedded apparently to no special plan, and anxious only to obtain those harbour facilities which they believed so necessary to the safety and success of their calling, the southern fishermen caught at Capt. Veitch’s proposal as eagerly as they had done the year before at Mr Walker’s; and on the 19th March, 1857, a memorial from them was presented to the Tynwald Court praying that a breakwater, as recommended by Capt. Veitch, should be constructed in Port Erin Bay. On the 3rd October, 1857, a public meeting of several hundreds of fishermen and others was held at Port Erin, at which resolutions were passed in favour of Capt. Veitch’s plan, and also engaging to submit to the payment of dues not exceeding £2 per boat per season on all vessels entering such harbour of refuge. On the 26th January, 1858, a memorial was presented to the Board of Trade, to which were attached copies of the above resolutions. Other memorials were presented to the Earl of Derby, First Lord of the Treasury; and on the 3rd March, 1859, the Royal Commissioners, in their report, recommended the erection of a pier from the south shore. In January, 1860, a memorial signed by 1021 fishermen was presented to the Queen by the Earl of Derby, praying that her Majesty would facilitate the erection of such a work; and in February of the same year, a memorial signed by upwards of 1000 fishermen was presented to the House of Commons, with the same object. In May, 1861, two memorials, one signed by about 200 merchants of Liverpool, and the other by 406 merchants, bankers, manufacturers, and others, of Manchester, were presented to the Board of Trade, On the 16th December, 1861, a memorial, which was signed in a few hours by 644 fishermen, was presented to the Tynwald Court, praying that the Court would endeavour to obtain a loan from the Government for the purpose of constructing a breakwater at Port Erin, and agreeing to pay dues up to £2 per boat towards the repayment of the loan. On the motion of Deemster Drinkwater, seconded by P. Killey, Esq., a committee was appointed to consider what steps could be taken to carry out the views of the petitioners; which committee, at a Tynwald Court held on the 16th April, 1863, reported:— That the undersigned, being a committee of the Tynwald Court, appointed on the 16th of December, 1861, to consider what steps should be taken to carry out the views of a large number of fishermen and others, who had petitioned the Tynwald Court with respect to the construction of a pier at Port Erin, having duly met and considered the above question, have the honour to report to the Tynwald Court as follows :—The petitioners expressed themselves desirous that the Tynwald Court would endeavour to obtain a loan from her Majesty’s Government for the construction of a pier or breakwater at Port Erin on the plan recommended by Captain Veitch to the Royal Commissioners; and the petitioners (about 634 in number) likewise agreed to pay an annual rate not exceeding £2 for each fishing boat entering the harbour, and proportionate rates for other vessels, until the amount to be expended in the erection of the pier should be discharged. That this committee, after some delay, unavoidable on their part, have obtained the consent of the Board of Trade to introduce a bill into the Imperial Parliament, at the expense of the Board of Trade, legalising a bill for the construction of the breakwater required by the petitioners,

This bill has been printed at the instance of the Board of Trade, and is to be brought into Parliament immediately. This committee have read a proof of the bill, and they now confidently hope that the wishes of the numerous petitioners will shortly be carried out.


In consideration of the above recited memorials and petitions, and of the urgent representations of the Insular Legislature, the Imperial Government authorised the passing of "The Isle of Man Harbours Act, 1863", and "The Isle of Man Harbours Amendment Act, 1864", under which the works at Port Erin were commenced, and for the building of which the Imperial Government advanced, ultimately, a sum of nearly £60,000. On October 20th, 1863, a correspondence with the Board of Trade respecting the Port Erin breakwater, was read by the Receiver-General to the Harbour Commissioners, in which it was suggested that the work should be at least 600 feet long; and also a letter from the Governor, in which he recommended the erection of a stone breakwater 800 feet long, and running from the extreme point of the south side of the bay called the Castles Rock. This suggestion was adopted by the Board, and on the 26th of October, 1864, the work was commenced amid great popular rejoicings. The Governor took part in the proceedings, and hundreds of fishermen and others were present, and afterward partook of a dinner provided by Mr Milner, of Liverpool and Port Erin, through whose unceasing exertions the long-continued agitation for this work had mainly been brought to a successful issue. The work, thus begun, was pushed on with great energy under the superintendence of Mr Coode, C.E., above 200 workmen being employed in quarrying stone and placing it in the sea upon the site of the breakwater to form its rubble foundation, in making roads along the south side of the bay, in erecting the necessary timber staging above the rubble mound, and afterwards, as the work progressed, in forming the huge concrete blocks of which the main body of the work was to be constructed, and placing them upon the rubble foundation. The stone used in the construction of this work, both for making the rubble mound and for forming the concrete blocks, was obtained by quarrying the cliff at the south-western extremity of the bay, opposite to the end of the breakwater; and occasionally immense quantities of powder were used in the necessary blasting operations. On June 5th, 1867, for example, a huge blast was fired, in which one and a. half tons of gunpowder were used. Operations of such a character and on so large a scale were hitherto unknown in the country; and they naturally excited great interest and curiosity, great crowds gathering from all parts of the Island to watch the great blasts and to inspect the works. At this time, Mr Coode’s other engagements had necessitated his absence in England, and the management of the works had been, consequently, entrusted to Mr W. Powell, C.E., under whose superintendence they were afterwards completed. This great marine work, lying in great part in deep water and exposed to the full force of the heavy storms which, throughout the winter and occasionally even in summer, rage along the west coasts of the Island, was not completed without undergoing its full share of the disasters which have so often befallen the Insular harbour works during their construction. In February, 1868, it was visited by a succession of severe gales, which washed away a considerable part of the timber piles and staging, and did great damage also to the rubble foundation. The full extent of the damage thus done to the body of the breakwater was not known for some time; but, as the weather became less stormy, more accurate soundings were taken, and it was ascertained that, in addition to other damage, seven or eight feet of the rubble foundation had been washed away, and that it would require at least £12,000 to repair the damage done. From a return made by the Harbour Commissioners, on the 13th April, 1869, it appeared that the cost of this work to the 31st March, 1869, was £49,860. On the 7th July, 1869, the Tynwald Court adjourned from Castletown to Port Erin, to inspect the breakwater works. After carefully examining the different portions of the work, the Court assembled in a large store room on the quay, where a model of the breakwater was exhibited, and where it held a secret session. On the admission of the public the Governor said that, for reasons which he had laid before the Court, he thought it would be wise to complete the work to its full length of 900 feet; and proposed that a sum of £13,000 should be voted for the purpose. This proposal was spoken to by Mr Dumbell and several other speakers, and then adjourned to Castletown. After lunching at the Falcon’s Nest Hotel, Port Erin, the members of the Court returned to Castletown, where the debate on the proposed vote of £13,000 to complete the Port Erin breakwater was renewed, and ultimately the vote was carried by a majority of 15 to 4.


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