[From Manx Quarterly, #4 1908]
Glorious weather conditions obtained on the occasion of the launch, from the Naval Construction Works, Barrow, of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's new vessel, the Ben-my-Chree, on March 23rd. here was abundance of sunshine, and the air was of the balmy description supposed to be typical of spring. The new steamer took the water at half-past one o'clock in the afternoon, and as she smoothly glided down the ways and plunged into the Walney Channel, a great cheer was raised by the spectators. These chiefly consisted of employees of the builders, but there was a fair sprinkling of Manx folk, who had specially journeyed from the Island to Barrow to witness the launch. Mrs Cowell, wife of Mr John T. Cowell, H.K., J.P., one of the directors of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Ltd., had the honour of releasing the Ben-my-Chree from the stocks. First she dashed a bottle of the sparkling wine with considerable force against the nose of the vessel, at the same time naming the vessel and wishing her great success, and then pulled a lever which had the effect of setting the hull free. The launching party were photographed prior to the vessel being let go, and other cameras "snapped " the ship as she entered the element which is to be her home for the future.
Subsequently the party were entertained to luncheon, when Mr J. M. Hay, director cf :Messrs Vickers, Sons, and Maxim, presided. Amongst the others present were Mr D. Maitland, H.K., J.P. (chairman, Isle of Man Steam Packet Co.), Mr and Mrs J. T. Cowell, Dr and Mrs Barkla, Mr W. A. and Mrs Waid (director), Mr and Mrs W. A. Hutchinson (director), Mr and Mrs Walker, Miss Woodhead, Colonel Anderson, Mr C. T. W. Hughes-Games, Mr T. Stowell, Mr F. Edmondson, Mr Kissack, Mr J. M. Cruickshank, Mr G. H. Wood, Mr F. J. Baldwin (director), Miss Baldwin, Miss Ellison, Mr T. P. Ellison (secretary and manager), Mr H. C. Iwont, Mr J. and Mrs Blackburn, Mr and Mrs J. A. Kelly, Mr and Mrs Clay, Capt. Keig, Mrs Keig, Archdeacon Camp-bell, Mrs Campbell, Miss Campbell, Rev C. Postlethwaite, Mrs Postlethwaite, Miss Hutchinson, Mr Jas. McKechnie, Mr and Mrs Jas. H. Boolds, Mr and Mrs A. Miller.
The Chairman, in proposing "Success to the ship," said: The Ben-my-Chree is the fifth vessel which has been built for the Isle of Man Packet Company at the Barrow Shipyard, the others being the first Ben-my-Chree in 1875, the Fenella in 1881, the Mona's Queen in 1885, and the Peveril. Although I was not then connected with the shipbuilding interest, I was present on the trial of the first Ben-my-Chree, and I can remember she was then considered well ahead in paddle ship construction-her dimensions were 310ft. by 31ft., and her speed 17 knots-the ship launched . to-day is 375ft. by 46ft., and with the aid of her turbine machinery will have a speed of 25 knots, and she will carry 2,500 passengers. This shows the great advance in shipbuilding and engineering since the first Ben-my-Chree we built. I congratulate the Isle of Man Company in the enterprise they have shown in laying down the ship launched to-day, which not only will be a record ship for channel service, but will keep the company in a position to make any competition a serious matter for any other company which might like to cut at theitrade. I feel sure they will find the new vessel satisfactory in all respects, and also believe she will prove to be a financial success. I now ask you to drink success to the Ben-my-Chree, and on behalf of our directors I ask Mrs Cowell, who has successfully launched the Ben-my-Chree to accept this little souvenir, together. with our thanks, for the graceful manner in which she performed her duties (applause).
The gift to Mrs Cowell consisted of a diamond and pearl necklace.
Mr Maitland (chairman of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company), in reply, said: On behalf of my company, I beg to thank you for the cordial manner in which you have responded to the kind words Mr Hay has uttered in proposing success to the Ben-my-Chree. I am sure no vessel could have a better start than she has had to-day. I am told by Mr Boolds that the ship went down the slipway faster than any of:ier boat, and I hope she will continue to go faster in her traffic across the channel (applause). The :Ben-my-Chree is the third steamer of that name that the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company have owned. She is the twenty-eighth steamer which the company have either owned or acquired, and as Mr Hay has said already, she is the fifth steamer that has been built in the Barrow Yard for our company (hear, hear). The differences in speed and accommodation between the first and second and the last ship were very well pointed out by Mr Hay, and I was proud to hear him say that this Ben-my-Chree was going to be faster than any other channel steamer, and that we have shown great pluck in ordering such a beat. We have always aimed at keeping in the first rank, and we are determined to keep there, and any company that tries to give us the go-by will have to get a better ship than the Ben-my-Chree, and that will be a good day's work for any of them (laugh-ter and hear, hear). It has been a great pleasure to come to Barrow to-caay, and, wits Mr -ay, I hope it is not the last time we will come here on a similar errand. With gentlemen of such ability and skill as those connected with this firm's yard, there is not the slightest doubt in all competitions in the future they will be able to render a good account of themselves, and get a good share in the way of new shipbuilding. There is no better advertisement for a shipbuilding yard than to get a boat placed on the Liverpool and Douglas station. Anybody who wants to see anything novel or up-to-date in the way of shipbuilding wends his way to Liverpool, and there sees all that is latest and best in that direction. Now we hope that the Ben-my-Chree will not only be seen twice at morning and evening ,on the Mersey and in the channel, but also that she will be able to carry many people across, and that everybody would be a good advertising medium, and speak well of the good ship Ben-my-Chree, and of the rapid service between Liverpool and Douglas (applause). Coming to Barrow, he continued, is like coming home. We were proud to see the three legs of the Isle of Man floating over the Town Hall. It was said it was in honour of the deputation of the Steam Packet Company. Be that as it may, we are at home in Barrow, as some of us have been here before, and know something of the enterprise of Barrow builders. Of course, since. the advent of Vickers, Sons, and Maxim in Barrow, there have been great achieve-ments, and the introduction of all that is latest and most modern in machinery and appliances, and there is no reason why we should not have many of these pleasant excursions to the port of Barrow. I repeat what Mr Hay said on behalf of the company, and I am going to ask Mrs Cowell, on behalf of the company I represent, to accept this small token in remem-brance of the very efficient way in which she has to-day christened the good ship Ben-my-Chree (applause). The speaker then handed that lady a magnificent diamond ring on behalf of the company, and concluded by saying " I hope you may long be spared to wear it" (applause).
Mr Cowell, in responding on behalf of his wife, said: I come from a little Island where the ladies are not so far advanced as on this side of the channel (Voices " Far more advanced," and laughter)and when a speech has to be made the lady asks her husband to do it. I think perhaps it is a pity that on this side that has ever been departed from (laughter). However, on behalf of my wife, I have the greatest pleasure indeed, Mr Hay, in thanking you and your com-pany for this very valuable token, which, I am sure, she will appreciate fully, and also my colleagues for the honour they have done my wife in asking her to christen the Ben-my-Chree, and for the valuable memento they have given her of this occasion. I do not think any such gifts were necessary to keep in our remembrance this day, which will be a red letter day, and will live in the memory of my wife and myself for all the years that are to come. I can only add that I sincerely trust the Ben-my-Chree may answer all the prophetic words used, and I have no doubt in my mind that, as she has started on her career going oft faster than expected, she will keep that up, and when she comes upon the station some of us are very sanguine that the reputation which the Viking has made for herself upon the Liverpool station may be surpassed by the record of the Ben-my-Chree (applause). I have not the slightest doubt that all the anticipations in regard to this vessel will be surpassed (hear, hear). There is another purpose which we believe will be attained, and that is that not only will the Ben-my-Chree be the fastest vessel in the channel, but that she will be the most comfortable passenger boat from any part in this kingdom (applause). From what we have seen of the fittings this morning -the ladies, who are good judges in this matter, had an opportunity of seeing all the nice things we had provided for them -I am satisfied in my own mind that the vessel will be up-to-date, and the ladies' accommodation will be unsurpassed in any other vessel. Altogether we shall have a vessel which I believe not only the chair-man and the company he represents, as builders, will be proud of, but that it will be a better advertisement for the Isle of Man than we ever had, and will help us to attain the object we have in view, and that the number of visitors visiting that beautiful places place we think is the ideal place for holiday-making in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man-will increase and that we will succeed in attaining our object, and have at least one million visitors during the season (applause).
Mr Maitland next proposed " Success to Messrs Vickers, Sons, and Maxim." I am sure, he said, we all wish the firm every success in their huge business enterprise. It is a marvel to see their wonderful works, and I have no doubt the firm will continue to build many of the best and fastest boats (applause).
The Chairman: On behalf of the directors, I thank you for your kndi expression towards the company; and the same time I should like to say tha so far as the carrying out of the contract is concerned, we have all had the most pleasant relationships. Alluding to words of Mr Cowell, I may say that if ship does not come up to expectations,it will be the first built by Vickers, Sons and Maxim that has not (applause).
The company then dispersed.
All the Manx boats in the harbour were gaily beflagged, and the Manx ensgni floated from the flagstaff over the Town Hall.
DESCRIPTION OF THE NEW CRAFT
The Ben-my-Chree has been built meet the growing demands of the summer passenger traffic between the Isle of Man and " the adjacent Islands," and in pursuance of the company's policy to keep possession of the blue riband of the home waters. She promises to be the fastest passenger-carrying vessel afloat, her guaranteed speed being 25knots per hour. This is a knot and a half in excess of Viking's guarantee, and as the Tyne built ship considerably exceeded the speed to which her builders bound themselves, it is hoped that the Ben-my-Chree may beat 26 knots in service. To this end she will be fitted with very powerful machinery of the Parsons turbine type embodying all the latest improvements in design and construction, and to ensure high manoeuvring efficiency even in adverse weather. She will carry 2,500 passengers, and everything has been done to conduce to seaworthiness, steady running, and reliability, as well as comfort and speed.
The Ben-my-Chree is 40 feet longer feetlonger, 4 feet broader, and will carry 550 morepassengers than the Viking. The principal dimensions of the new vessel are: Length over all, 390 feet; length between perpendiculars, 375 feet; breadth, 46 feet; rpth to main deck, 18ft. 6in. The vessel has five decks, viz., lower, main, shelter, promenade, and boat decks. There is ample room for enjoying the sea passage, as the promenade deck extends for over two-thirds of the vessel's length. The shelter deck is carried right fore and aft, and on each side there is a fine promenade; the centre of this deck is given up to cabins and public rooms,w hile on the decks below, there are additional public saloons. There is an exceptionally wide companionway forward, communicating with all decks from the promenade to the lower decks, a range in height of between 40 and 45 feet. On the promenade deck, which will be the centre of attraction in fine weather, there has been built a spacious tea-room, with buffet attached. It is panelled in silver .grey sycamore and mahogany, and should .be the most popular resort in the ship. ,The ladies' saloon or lounge below will prove a strong competitor for the ladies' favour; it is finished in satinwood and walnut. There is a large smoking saloon, with adjacent bar, in the after part of the deckhouse. There is on the main deck a large saloon 80 feet long and 46 feet wide, lighted by large patent rectangular windows. Adjoining this large compartment is a ladies' saloon more brightly decorated in satin-wood and maple. On the lower deck there is a dining-saloon for about 120 passengers. having mahogany dado with oak panelling above. There will be in this saloon seven electric table fans. There is a large pantry, fitted up with Bain Maries, carving tables, etc., at the after end of the dining-saloon, with lifts from the gallery overhead. At the fore end of the dining-saloon, on the lower deck, a lounge is provided for first-class passengers. For those who prefer seclusion on the passage, there are eight private cabins in a house on the shelter deck.
The second-class accommodation is at the after end of the vessel. There is a large saloon on the main deck, and a dining-saloon on the lower deck, forward of which is a ladies' saloon. The lavatory accommodation is on an extensive scale, alike for first and second class passengers.
Every provision has been made against accident. The vessel is sub-divided into a large number of watertight compartments so proportioned that the ship will float with any two adjacent compartments flooded with water. The watertight doors throughout the ship are operated on the Stone-Lloyd system, which enables all the doors to be closed instantly and simultaneously from the bridge. Great con-sideration has been givn to life-saving appliances, and there will be twelve boats, ten of which will be of large capacity, and each fitted with patent disengaging gear.
A powerful steam windlass and capstan is placed forward on the shelter deck for working the anchors, which are arranged to stow in the hawse pipes. Two large steam capstans are fitted on the shelter deck aft for warping purposes. A combined steam and hand-steering engine is located aft, and this is controlled by telemotor gear from the navigating bridge. The vessel has a complete installation of electric light. A searchlight prejector is placed in the bows, and a system of electric bells is also fitted.
The propelling machinery consists of three sets of steam turbines of the Parsons' type, driving three shafts. The turbines have been manufactured by the Vickers Company. Steam is supplied to the turbines at a pressure of 170 lbs. per square inch by four large double-ended cylindrical boilers, each fitted with eight furnaces of the suspension type; there are four combustion chambers, each common to two furnaces - the shell plates and stays are of high tensile steel. Four steam-driven fans are fitted for supplying air to the boilers.