[From History of IoMSPCo, 1904]
THE Winter Service, which we have described, at last proved too much for the patience of the Manx people. Though the population of the Island, in 1767, when the mail service was first established, was 20,000, and, in 1829, 40,000, the communication during the winter was but little better at the end than at the beginning of that period. The steamers were, of course, somewhat more reliable than the sailing vessels, but their accommodation was quite as miserable. Such was the general cause of the formation of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, but, according to the writer of a pamphlet entitled " Little Alice; or, a Narrative of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company," which was published in 1881, " Little Alice's " statement of her " sufferings on board one of these steamers was the immediate cause " of this event. " Two old gentlemen," she says, " called to learn the full particulars of my voyage. They questioned me very closely, and I answered them as minutely; after which these two gentlemen went down to the Pier and related the circumstances to others. Great was the excitement caused thereby, and such was the indignation expressed, that a meeting was immediately called in the Court-house, and a subscription resolved to be got up at once to send off to Glasgow, in order to have a steamer of our own built."
A meeting was certainly held, but in Dixon & Steele's sale rooms, which were on the site of the present Steam Packet stables, not at the Courthouse; and, since contemporary accounts make no reference to the good lady's sufferings as the main cause of the origin of the new Company, it is possible that, after an interval of fifty-two years, her memory cannot be relied upon! This meeting, which took place on the 17th of December, 1829, was presided over by James Quirk, High-Bailiff of Douglas. No record of the speeches has been preserved, but the following were appointed a Committee " with instructions to ascertain the probable cost of a steam packet ": Edward Gawne (of Kentraugh), G. Geneste, W. Wood (shipbuilder, Glasgow), W. Duff, James Moore (of Cronkbourne), James Cain, William Steele, J. Wulff (banker), Edward Forbes (banker), Captain Banks (of Howstrake, or Balnahow, as it was then usually called), Dr. Garrett, L. Crebbin, W. Quiggin, and W. Hinds. The sum of £4,500 was subscribed in the room. The Committee at once set to work to ask for tenders. They wrote to Sir John Tobin (1), General Goldie, and others, asking them to subscribe, and they sent a deputation to Lord Strathallan, who, during the summer, lived in the then new terrace named after him, to thank him for endeavouring to procure the mail Contract for the new Company. It was decided that the steamer should be called the " Mona's Isle," a minority having been in favour of the name " Princess Victoria."
We propose to survey the history of the Company under the following headings:
(1) ITS STEAMERS.
(2) ITS OPPONENTS.
(3) ITS PERSONNEL, BUILDINGS, ETC.
(4) ITS TRAFFIC, FINANCE, ETC.
But, before doing so, we should mention that it was not till July, 1832, that it was known by its present title of " THE ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY." Prior to January of that year it was called " The Mona's Isle Company," and then, for six months, " The Isle of Man United Steam Packet Company."
(1) See ' Manx Worthies" (A. W. Moore), page 164.