[From Manx Quarterly, #9 1910]

1830- 1910.
Eightieth Anniversary of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

This Year celebrates the eightieth anniversary of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. On the 30th June, 1830, the Mona's Isle, the first steamer built for the Liverpool and Douglas service, was launched on the Clyde, and, after preliminary runs to Menai Straits, she accomplished her first voyage from the Mersey to Douglas on August 11th of that year. This quaint little steamer. with her tall, narrow funnel, her paddle boxes forward instead of amidships, and her crude-looking square cut stern was the genesis of a fleet of channel steamers that is almost without rival on the English coasts. Her gross tonnage was registered at 200, she was 116 feet long, and had 19 feet of beam, her average journey across the channel occupying eight hours. In these days there is nothing very magnificent in the foregoing dimensions, and the thought of an eight hours' voyage is enough to give some of us a severe attack of mal de mer; but eighty years ago things were different. The arrival in Douglas of the Mona's Isle was a sensational event. The townspeople flocked in hundreds to the harbour to view the noble craft. The newspapers waxed enthusiastic over her comfortable accommodation and her high speed. One cannot suppress a smile as he reads the glowing accounts of a vessel that might be comfortably tucked away on the boat deck of the Ben-my-Chree, and could scarcely give the Norah Creina, laden to the Plimsoll mark, a good race across the channel. But there was some justification for the enthusiasm. The arrival in Douglas, on that evening of August 14th, 1830, marked an epoch in the history of the Isle of Man. It is doubtful if anyone who witnessed the berthing of that modest little vessel in the Douglas harbour realised the extent to which the future prosperity of the Island was bound up in the Steam Packet Company. It has been left for history to prove how intimately the progress of that company has gone hand in hand with the development of the Isle of Man. When the Mona's Isle made its first laborious journey to Douglas, the Isle of Man was scarcely less obscure than one of the Outer Hebrides To-day it is known throughout the world, and the music halls of two continents are entertained with the exploits of its far-famed "Kelly." Largely owing to the constantly improving service of the company's steamers, plying between it and the three kingdoms, Douglas has been raised from a poor, mean village, to one of England's front-rank watering places, The inauguration of a steamer service between Liverpool and Douglas is indeed an event which Manx people have reason to look back to with satisfaction. The eightieth anniversary of that event should not be allowed to pass without some fitting celebration. From the humble little ill-equipped craft that first bore the name of Mona's Isle, to the wire less-fitted mammoth Ben-my-Chree that scuds across the channel in a little over three hours, or to the still more recent and luxuriously appointed Snaefell, is a big span, and represents a period during which the science of navigation has made its most important strides. The records of the Manx company demonstrated to the full these striking advances. Its eighty years have seen the rise and decline of the paddle. Reciprocating engines have had their day in the swifter class of Boats in the company's service. And one of the first steamship owners to adopt the turbine type of engine was the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. But not only in the engine-room and in the matter of how best to propel vessels across the lively seas that run in the Irish Channel have this company taken the lead. With every addition to its fleet, more and more has been done to minister to the comfort and convenience of passengers; and in proof of this we cannot do better than point to the new steamer Snaefell, which was welcomed to Douglas so enthusiastically last week. And to refer to a more important agency, and one that lately has seized the public imagination in a most startling fashion, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company have not been slow to adopt the wonderful invention of Marconi, and on most of the larger vessels of the fleet, including the Ben-my-Chree, the wireless telegraphy is installed.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002