[From Merchantile Manxland, 1900]
The village of Tromode, about two miles from Douglas, is the home of the largest and most important industry pursued on the island, namely, the manufacture of sailcloth. The Tromode sailcloth factory dates back to 1790, and is undoubtedly the oldest business concern on the island. From the very inception of the firm of Moore, of Tromode, the sound and sterling quality of the canvas made was widely recognised, and we believe that we are quite within the mark in saying that no sailcloth in the world has a higher fame than that which is still produced at the Tromode Sailcloth Works of W. F. Moore & Son.
By the courtesy of the principal, we had recently the privilege of witnessing the whole process of manufacture as carried on at Tromode. Passing through a warehouse filled with bales of flax, selected apparently with great care from the finest growths of Irish, Dutch, and Russian flax fields, we enter a range of lofty stone-built sheds, where the various preparing processes are carried on. In the first process, "heckling" the fine, long fibre of the flax employed is at once apparent. Length and strength of fibre, it will be readily understood, are essential to the production of first-class sailcloth, and the practice of this firm from the beginning of using the best and strongest qualities of flax only has never been deviated from to this day. " Drawing," " roving," "spinning," and "reeling" come next, and then we follow the 'hanks into the boiling room, where they are subjected to a lengthy boiling in large steam pots, or kiers, in order that all extraneous vegetable matter may be extracted. After washing and squeezing, the hanks now present that silky appearance which best flax alone can show, and are now ready for the drying process. This is conducted in a spacious open-air' drying ground, where the hanks are suspended on poles, and dried by currents of pure mountain air from Snaefell or sea breezes from the coast; the while they are partially bleached by the brilliant sunshine of this favoured spot in Mona. When we add that every day about 5,000 hanks of various counts, aggregating in weight over a ton and a half, arff` handled, it will be seen that the operation is tedious, but it produces the best results, and only in wet weather are the yarns dried by artificial means.
After drying and bleaching, the hanks are returned to another shed, where they are re-wound on bobbins previous to warping, the weft being softened by a "beating" process. The yarn is now ready for the weaving shed, whither we follow it. The place is enlivened by the cheery voices of the weavers, singing snatches of songs as they deftly mind their "ends" to the accompaniment of the rattle and clatter of rows of looms. Watching the operations, one is struck with the wondrous uniformity and evenness of the production ; nor would he fail to notice the blue and red line which runs through the middle of the canvas-the ancient mark of the house. After being duly " calendered," we follow the " webs " into the warehouse, there to be measured, and stamped, every five yards of it, with the name of the firm; then to be rolled or lapped, and to receive its final outside stamp of genuineness the Crown the three legs in a diamond, with the date 1790, and the words, "All Long Flax." Packed in a canvas bag, the web is now ready for despatch to all the corners of the earth, and Tromode sees it no more.
Having such a valuable and long-standing repute, a very large output is necessitated in order to provide effectually and satisfactorily with the steady and constant demands made upon the resources of the firm by its widespread connections in almost every shipping centre at home and abroad.
Needless to state, the mechanical equipment of the factory is of the most approved modern design, the motive power being supplied by a powerful beam-engine, supplemented by several splendid water-wheels fed by the river Glas, which flows through the estate, the total force available being close on 300-h.p. As an instance of the up-to-dateness of the plant, it may not be out of place to state that the whole of the works have, since 1882, been illuminated by electricity derived from one of Crompton's noted dynamos, having a voltage of 110 of 200 ampėres, working at 880 revolutions a minute. The adjoining village of Tromode is populated by the hands engaged on the works some 150, together with their families for whom a cosy reading-room is provided, a flourishing cricket club affording summer relaxation.
Himself the largest employer of labour on the island, exclusive of the mines, no person has done more to develop the industries of the island than Mr. Arthur W. Moore, the head of the firm of W. F. Moore & Son. He has ever taken a deep and abiding interest in all matters affecting the social and material welfare of the island, and, amongst other offices, holds the distinguished position of Speaker of the Insular Parliament, or, as it is termed, the House of Keys. Telegraphic address-" Mooreson, Douglas, Mann."
There are few more charming sights from a pedestrian's point of view than a fine, dashing equipage bowling swiftly along, drawn by a pair of prancing steeds bedight in handsome harness ; and as all the leading residents of the island are noted for the smartness of their turn-outs, the roadways of Ellan Vannin are always attractive.
Naturally, in Douglas, the chief centre of supply, able exponents of the ancient crafts of harness-making and saddlering are much in demand. A typical house, who, from the commencement of the century, have held the leading position in the trade, is that of Joseph Cubbon & Son, whose extensive premises are centrally and conveniently situated at the corner of Market Hill and Lord Street, Douglas. Ever since they were first established, this firm have had the honour of supplying the requirements of the leading official, professional, and landed gentry of the island.
Many are the handsome sets of single, double, tandem,, and four-in-hand harness, together with well-made riding, hunting, and polo saddles, that leave these premises in the course of the year; and a large stock of seasoned goods of all kinds is always on hand, ready for immediate use. Heavy harness, suited for farmers and tradesmen, is also made.
On a recent visit to this place, we had the pleasure of seeing, in process of making, the plaited reins for which the firm is justly noted both at home and abroad. Owing to their peculiar formation, affording such a splendid grip, it is impossible for these reins to slip in any weather, giving users the most perfect control over their horses ; and, as they also possess. immense strength, combined with durability, this useful speciality is in strong demand. For the convenience of customers, heavy stocks of stable requisites of all kinds are available, as well as driving whips (Swaine & Adney's make), hogskin leggings, hunting crops, spurs, leads and couples, etc.
The workmanship generally is of the most reliable character, being all done on the premises by men of wide experience, who, by reason of their long practice, can turn out work fully equal to the productions of London or any other town, Messrs. Cubbon being of opinion that a good name is worth preserving, and they do it. Telephone No. 159.
In a popular and populous place like Douglas, the centre of commerce on the island, one naturally expects to find prominent exponents of all the domestic arts. Of these, that of the worker in metals is undoubtedly most useful to the community. In Douglas we have a striking instance in the firm of Todhunter and Elliot, whose lofty business premises form one of the features of busy Duke Street. The showrooms, which are crowded with one of the most thoughtfully diversified collections of furnishing and builders' ironmongery and general hardware we have ever seen in any provincial town, are the most extensive of any on the island. There can be no doubt that the wideness of range and infinity of choice, so well calculated to supply the wants of all classes, for which this firm is noted, have formed the principal factors to the success of the house the oldest establishment of its kind in Manxland, dating from 1802.
From time to time, as occasion arose, working branches have been added, and at the present moment there exists no completer or more diversified staff of skilled mechanics on the island. The list of artizans include blacksmiths and workers in wrought iron and steel, locksmiths, plumbers, gasfitters, tin and coppersmiths, brassfounders and workers, hot-water engineers, etc. ; so that, as will readily be seen; this firm are totally independent of outside assistance, and are consequently in a position to execute all work with promptness and economy.
The workshops of the firm are situate in Cambrian Place at the rear of the Duke Street premises, and are notable as having in gone-by days been occupied by Government officials for the issue of permits to leave the island. The premises are put to better use now, as we notice in traversing the well equipped workshops. Amongst the variety of jobs in hand we notice a lot of hot-water heating plant, the firm having fitted many of the churches, chapels, schools, and public buildings throughout the island. In another department we came across a number of Elliot's Improved Lift-pumps in hand. These, we found, were of a type which is becoming very popular in the island on account of their simplicity and durability. The lift-chamber, being composed of brass, lasts much longer than iron, and does not cut the leather in anything like the same proportion as imported iron pumps do, though when that occurs any labourer can fix a new leather in a moment.
In the Barrack Street Stores are held large quantities of bar and sheet iron and steel in all the most useful sizes and gauges, whilst at the magazines at Walberry Head are deposited ample quantities of explosives for miners' use, such as Curtis and Harvey's gunpowper, Nobel's dynamite, etc.
Native labour has so few outlets, unfortunately, that a firm whose wages roll reaches close on £1,600 a year all of which is spent on the island may justly lay a claim to insular support, and it must be admitted that the energetic efforts of Todhunter & Elliot to develop the material resources of the island have found widespread recognition from supporters in all parts of the island. The future progress of this go-ahead firm may be safely left in the able and enterprising hands of Mr. Graham Elliot, whose thirty years' connection with the business befits him well as its present sole proprietor. In conclusion, we may state that the telegraphic address of the firm is, rather appropriately, " .Iron, Douglas." Telephone No. 15.
Are now in a very flourishing state, the demand for their sound, well-made bricks increasing concurrently with the activity of building operations on all hands. Their fine pressed bricks, it will be noted, are being used in some of the largest modern erections ; the colour, a soft grey, being very agreeable to the eye, and the quality, excellent. .
There are innumerable exigencies in the daily life of a flourishing town like Douglas in which the auxiliary aid of a large and well-organised firm like that of Quiggin & Co. becomes indispensable in its many-sided sphere of utility, whilst, in connection with the building trade, we know of no better equipped house in the whole of the island.
This fact will be rendered apparent to anyone who takes the trouble to pay a visit to the spacious yards of the firm, which, with saw-mills and stores, etc., cover an area of over four acres, and adjoin the Douglas Railway Station. Contiguity to the harbbur affords superior landing facilities for materials of all kinds, and for timber, of which heavy cargoes are regularly imported direct from the Baltic and from North and South American ports.
The extensive timber stores are specially noteworthy, containing, as they do, a most comprehensive assortment of plain and manufactured timber for all purposes connected with the building and other local trades, all properly seasoned for immediate use. No expense has been spared in fitting up the steam sawing and moulding mills with a modern plant of machinery of the most powerful and effective character, enabling the firm to compete in the matter of wood-working with all comers. We have not space to enumerate the details of the various stocks which are held, amongst which slates, pipes, bricks, and every requisite for the trade are prominent-in fact, Messrs. Quiggin & Co. pride themselves on being able to supply rapidly, and in any quantity, every item used in building, with the exception of ironwork, which they leave to those who make its production a speciality.
The firm of Quiggin & Co. is undoubtedly one of the oldest concerns on the island, having had a continuous existence, under the same name, for almost eighty years. On the decease of Mr. Edward Todd Quiggin, in January last, the business was acquired by Mr. J. J. Taggart, for over 30 years its active manager. He has an able partner in the person of Mr. Ed. Cannell, for many years chief cashier of the I. O. M. Bank, who superintends the financial and official operations of the firm.
There is no doubt that the constant attention paid to all business details by both principals, and the great care manifested in the selection and purchase of stock, are factors which have largely contributed to the success of the firm, which, besides being one of the largest employers of labour, is justly regarded as being one of the principal representatives of commerce on the island. The other department of this firm's business is
A very old-established industry, which has flourished in Douglas for generations, is that of rope-making. Indeed, the name of Quiggin & Co. is known all over the world as leading makers of ropes for ships' use. Possessing, a5 they do, superior facilities of production by means of the most upto-date plant obtainable, and importing direct from abroad the most suitable descriptions of raw material in the form of best Russian and Manilla hemp, the operations of the firm are naturally most extensive ; the ropes, of various sizes, made by the firm being distributed through the large export housės in Liverpool, Glasgow, and other ports to all parts of the globe. It is satisfactory to note that the demand for this important article of Manx production is constantly on the increase, no efforts being spared by the firm to maintain the high reputation for soundness and general reliability of the whole of the production of Quiggin's well-known Douglas Ropery. Telephone No. i ; Telegrams, " Roperie, Douglas."
In reviewing the commercial prospects of the island, it is satisfactory to note that the business of the port of Douglas shows a gratifying increase year by year. This, of course, is mainly due to the swelling of the passenger and general goods traffic to the island ; but it must be also remembered that, from its central position, Douglas is a very convenient port of call for steamers and other vessels engaged in the Manx, Scotch, and Irish fisheries. Douglas is also the principal source of supply for steam fishing gear of all kinds, this interesting and beneficial industry having been established in Douglas some forty years ago by Mr. Wm. Knox. To this eminent engineer the island owes the introduction of ingenious net-making machinery, which has totally superseded . the old slow hand process, and a vastly improved system of net-hauling, by means of most skilfully-dovised gear, adapted for either hand or steam. This system has almost come into universal use, over 800 boats engaged in various fisheries having been already fitted with Knox's Steam Net-hauling and other gear, a variety of complete sets being at present in hand for many distant fishing centres.
The working expenses of steam gear being so much less than those of a man, in a bad season it would pay an engine to fish when it would not pay a man, even supposing that each did their work in an equally efficacious manner; but, as a matter of fact, the gear can be got by the aid of steam-power when manual labour would be totally inadequate for its' recovery, so that the nets are often shot in rough water, and a good haul of fish may be taken by means of the engine, which without its aid would have been lost. Again, if a storm should arise when the nets are shot and the boat is riding to them, steam can be raised and the gear recovered with ease, whereas it might take eight or ten hours to do the work by hand, and in the end possibly only half the train would be got on board. It is the old tale: manual labour cannot compete with steam for doing heavy work, and centralisation is the order of the day. It appears as if fishing is likely to follow in the wake of many other industries, and soon only the large boats with steam gear will be able to make a living, so that the primitive fisherman, owning his own boat and depending upon his own labour and that of his family, will be before many years as much a relic of the past at is the hand-loom and fishing-net weaver.
Knox's marine engineering and boiler-making works are situated close by Douglas Railway Station, and only a few yards from the head of the harbour, where day by day staffs of men are engaged in fixing engines, capstans, winches, and other gear on cargo steamers, steam trawlers, and other vessels, repairing and renovating the hulls and boilers, and overhauling generally. At the works-which are models of equipment from an engineering point of view-constant employment is found for a large staff of skilled turners, fitters, boiler-makers, ironfounders, and machine-men, and every year sees a most gratifying increase in the output of the firm. It is needless to state that, whenever exhibited, the specialities of this firm have gained high honours; being awarded a silver medal the highest award at the International Fisheries Exhibition, London, 1883, a gold medal at the Liverpool International Exhibition, 1886 ; and various other awards. It is not surprising, therefore, that the name of Knox is widely and favourably known throughout the principal fisheries for the perfection to which they have brought their steam net-hauling and other ear, and for the general reliability of all their productions. " The operations of this well-known firm, which, indeed, forms one of the most important factors in the industrial life of the island, are conducted with conspicuous enterprise, Mr. Wm. Knox, its ingenious founder, being ably assisted in the management by his two sons Mr. Wm. Knox, Jun., and Mr. John Knox who have both had the advantage of a thoroughly practical training, fitting them for the position they occupy in the engineering world. The telegraphic address of the firm is, Knox, Engineer, Douglas, Man," and the telephone number, 130. In concluding our notice of this thriving firm, we can only observe that, taking into consideration the convenient situation of the works, the energy of its management, and the aptitude of the staff generally, there is every augury of an enhanced prospective success.
Somewhere about three-quarters of a century ago, ironfounding one of the most important auxiliary branches of the engineering and kindred trades-was introduced into the island, with commendable foresight, by Mr. Richard Gelling, in a compact little foundry on the South Quay, Douglas.
Steadily growing in importance and usefulness, coincident with the progress of the town, it was found necessary to extend the capacity of the foundry, a sound company being formed some 20 years ago for that purpose. Under careful management, a constant and steady growth has been maintained; and, at the present day, there exists no more useful institution on the island than Gelling's Foundry, Limited.
Practical men, generally, admit that the equipment of the foundry is of the most modern and approved character, the working staff having everything at hand which tends to facilitate the production of the varied styles of castings to which the firm devote their attention. There are two medium-sized cupolas, which are used alternately ; and, as we noticed upon a recent visit to the foundry, the fine skin, finish, and general soundness of the different general castings in hand were fully equal to the best class of castings produced on the other side. Heavy castings, such as propellors and large crushing rollers chilled by special process, for the use of mining companies-form prominent features of the output, which is really of a most comprehensive character, embracing every. variety of engineering, mining, shipping, agricultural, domestic and architectural ironwork, both wrought and cast. The company, for the convenience of many of their principal clients, also factor all classes of grates, ranges, and stoves, from the most inexpensive to the highest class, their showrooms being well worthy the attention of all connected with the building trade. The company are in connection with the National relephone, their number being 13. Telegrams: "Gelling's Foundry, Douglas."
The coal trade of Douglas, the principal port of the Isle of Man, increases by leaps and bounds year by year, coincident with the growing prosperity of the island. In the handling of this useful commodity, the well-known firm of Joseph Sharp & Co., steamship owners and coal merchants, of Fort Street, take by far the leading position, having during the period they have been in operation-nearly twenty years established a first-class record for sound and straightforward methods of business, and for promptness in execution and reliability of quality. As far as prices are concerned, the heavy contracts of the firm enable them to successfully compete with one and all. To facilitate delivery the firm employ their own vessels, and a better found little craft than the "Sarah Blanche," a fine steel-built screw steamer of 250 tons capacity, it would be difficult to meet with. Darting swiftly across the channel to Garston Dock, her loading place, she easily does four journeys a week, so that almost any day she may be seen discharging at the Douglas Gas Works or coaling a steamer. In this connection we may state that this firm regularly coal many of the steamers using the harbour, having held the contract for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. for 14 years in succession. On other days she lands cargoes of house, steam, and other coal for the firm's own stores, or takes a trip to Laxey to land a supply for the Snaefel Mines, etc.
The growth of the trade has necessitated additional store room so a fine lofty shed capable of storing over 2,000 tons has this year been erected facing the older stores, which can accommodate another 1,000 tons. A speciality deserving notice is the "New Moss" coal, introduced on the island by this firm. On trial it has shewn itself to be the finest coal raised for domestic purposes, and is noted for its brightness, heating power, and cleanness, there being remarkably little ash left after burning. There are, of course, other varieties of coal held largely for the use of brick, engineering, and other works. All coals are delivered to hotels and private residences by the firm's own carts, and, as they employ only steady, sober men of experience, who don't make a big mess all over the place, and are civil and obliging, the firm naturally do a very large and high-class trade in household coals, all round. The newly-erected offices of the firm are undoubtedly the finest of their class in Douglas, and are also notable as occupying part of the site of the Old Hospital in Fort Street. This flourishing business is conducted with conspicuous energy and ability by the two principals, Mr. Joseph Sharp and Mr. William Albert Waid, both well known in insular mercantile circles as leaders of the coal trade of Douglas. Telegrams, " Coal, Douglas, Man." Telephone No. 44.
Almost the first objects one notices Roller Mills, on leaving Douglas by the Castletown Douglas. Road are the extensive "Nunnery Flour Mills" of W. and T. Quine. To those acquainted with the religious history of the island these mills will be more interesting than any other building in Douglas, standing as they do upon the site of an ancient grist mill, founded by the good St. Bridget, for the supply of the adjoining priory as far back as the sixth century. Many mills have no doubt succeeded the first one, those at present in use dating back to the early years of the present century. Still, the silver stream of the "Dubhglaise" flows on, gently but forcibly revolving the massive water-wheel as in the days long gone by, reminding us of the words of the poet: " Men may come and mills may go, but I flow on for ever." In these days of progressive changes, the Nunnery Mills have been changed too. The old water-wheel has been supplemented by a powerful steam engine, and the roller system has been adopted.
One of the most interesting industries of Douglas is that of the nurseryman, seedsman, and market gardener, all of which businesses are extensively carried on by Mr. Herbert Kershaw, at the Spring Valley and Ballaughton Nurseries, just on the outskirts of the town. Growing rapidly in extent year by year, these nurseries, which at first consisted of 40 acres only, now cover an area of 120 acres of what is perhaps the finest growing land on the island, 70 acres of which are devoted to the raising of flowers, fruits, and vegetables for the Douglas market. It is generally considered that there are few men on the island possessing a wider practical knowledge of horticulture and kindred subjects than the energetic proprietor, who is thus enabled to select always the most suitable seeds for sowing and the most favourable form of cultivation, and his judgment is rarely at fault, as is witnessed by the fineness of the fruit he grows and the size, flavour, and quality of the vegetables he cultivates on his estate. From the operation of the same cause, Mr. Kershaw is invariably the first to place each season's specialities on the market, and he has the happy knack also of knowing how to secure a continuous supply when all other growers are, as it were, dried up. For instance, this season (1899) has been hot and dry, and consequently inimical to the growth of garden peas; but, by a careful selection of varieties and a judicious management of the plants, he has actually contrived to supply the market for the whole of the twelve weeks of the season at the rate of over i,000 pecks per week, his crop aggregating 15,000 pecks. This year, too, has been the heaviest on record for the production of the cooling cucumber and the wholesome tomato, Mr. Kershaw having succeeded in producing a really fine strain of the latter, which fully deserves the title it bears, Kershaw's " Mona's Pride," for decidedly a finer tomato is not produced on the island.
Visitors who happen to be in the neighbourhood of the Quarter Bridge at any time during the summer should not fail to take a peep at Kershaw's lovely flower gardens, which at that period are ablaze with colour, the air being laden with the perfurne of myriads of roses and other sweet-scented flowers. It may interest our readers to learn that there are several thousands of fine dwarf rose trees available for cutting, any of the plants being also for sale in connection with the large nursery business which is conducted by Mr. Kershaw. A rich variety of flowering and other shrubsconiferae forest and ornamental trees, fruit trees, especially apples, of which the finest strain are produced-are . all largely grown here, and being all acclimatised, as it were, are most suited for planting on the island; indeed, we are sure that the Arborical Society and all interested in afforesting and beautifying the island could find no better ally than Mr. Kershaw, who has devoted years to the study of the question. For decorative plants-such as palms, ferns, and foliage plants-Kershaw's, we may add, are widely noted. Every requirement of the garden is, indeed, available, from the fertile seed or bulb down to the humble, necessary flower-pot, not forgetting the plant food and the insecticide, etc. In respect to seeds of all kinds, Mr. Kershaw, being the largest grower of flowers and vegetables on the island, may always be relied upon for a genuine supply.
The flourishing condition of the Spring Valley and Ballaughton Nurseries fully proves what was stated so emphatically during the meeting of the Industrial Commission in Douglas this year, viz., that intelligent manipulation of land, combined with judicious cultivation, can always be made to pay its proprietor, and also to benefit the public by increasing the quantity and improving the quality of the food stuffs available for their daily consumption.