[From Manx Quarterly, #9 1910]
It is interesting to read, in the columns of the "Manchester City News," an account of one of the earliest passages by steamer to the Island. The voyage was made during the first year of the company's existence. We cannot do better than give the whole of the article from our esteemed contemporary:-
Rummaging amongst a number of old papers in his possession a short time ago, one of our correspondents came across an age-worn and faded document, which proved to be an account of a July holiday spent by the writer in Liverpool and the Isle of Man seventy-nine years ago. In these days of express trains and fast steamers there is much that is decidedly quaint in the narrative, together with several trivial and commonplace details which are of little moment to the present-day reader. Omitting these latter, a few extracts may not be uninteresting to the many thousands of our readers who have made the journey which Mr John Clayton (for so the writer was named) undertook on July 26th, 1831.
After a good breakfast at Messrs Ashton's, Roe Cross, the writer and his companions set out on foot "for the great seaport town of Liverpool."
Directing our steps down the declining plain of Staley, and looking with natural affection on the surrounding hills, where we first drew our breath caused that animation to rise in our breasts which cheered our spirits and swiftly brought us to the manufacturing and flourishing town of Staley Bridge, and while gazing at several of the factories and surrounding neighbourhood, instantly our eyes were cast on that beautiful structure, the Market House, which is in building for the inhabitants of the town.
Proceeding towards Ashton-under-Lyne, the mansions or country seats belonging to the respectable tradesmen of :Stalybridge attracted attention, " some of which are decorated with great taste and splendour." At Ashton the travellers took their seats in the market coach, arriving, after an hour's ride, at the Talbot Inn, Manchester. It was then nine o'clock in the morning, and the party dispersed to business, meeting again at noon, and at half-past twelve had taken their places in the railway carriages for Liverpool. The railway was then a novelty, and Mr Clayton's description had better be given in his own words.
EARLY DAYS OF THE RAILWAY.
After being seated a few minutes in the carriages the signal or trumpet sounded for the first time, and a minute or two, later the trumpet [this was before the guard's whistle was brought into use] sounded for a start. Then the wonderful power of the engine was put to work which dragged us at the rapid speed of a mile and a half in five minutes, at which speed we soon lost sight of Manchester. Then our attention was taken with seeing the immense cuttings of earth and many arches which we gassed under. After travel-ling half an hour we had a delightful view of the country all down towards Warrington. . . Soon we entered on that moss which is in its appearance something like the moss at Ashton-under-Lyne. We found that it was with great difficulty that the road across this moss was made sufficiently firm to bear the immense weight of the carriages by seeing the large blocks of timber which were laid all across the road under the rails to support and preserve the road from sinking, of which we saw it was in danger through the numerous bogs which surround the road.
A halt was made at the Chat Moss Tavern (can any of our readers locate it?), where our travellers had " a gill of beer and an Eccles cake," and another for the engine to take in water, at "the place where the much-lamented Mr Huskisoon, M.P., was accidentally killed on the opening of the railway," and when the journey was continued to Liverpool, the deep cuttings through the rocks, and the tunnel at Rainhill, through which the carriages were hauled by a rope into the station at Liverpool, excited wide-eyed wonder and admiration. Lodgings being secured, "tea, with a little addition to it" (probably " Lancashire tea") was ordered, and then our strenuous holdiay-makers, although " much fatigued through the Journey, business, and heat of the day," sallied forth to see the principal docks and vessels, retiring at night " very tired."
FROM LAND TO LAND.
Up early next morning and enjoying a walk along the North Shore before break-fast, our travellers, after doing justice to that meal, went down to the pier head and took a ticket for the Isle of Man, each paving five shillings for it, and soon found themselves on board the " Mona's Isle." which is described as " a very fine steam vessel." This was the first boat built for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, and our readers who are familiar with the magnificent steamers which now daily make the double trip to and from the Island may be interested to compare them with the illustration we give of the " Mona's Isle," which seventy-nine years ago made the single trip in eight hours-provided the weather was fine
At ten o'clock in the forenoon we set sail at a rapid pace, soon losing eight of the pier head. . . We sailed along with a very fine calm sea, which gave us a good opportunity of viewing a part of Cheshire, and particularly the Welsh mountains, of which we had a good prospect for about two hours, when we lost sight of all land. With the exception of a few sea fowl which were hovering about, and some females who were affected with sailing, no particular circumstances occurred for about four hours, when a cry of " Land! land" was heard at the head of the vessel, which was the Isle of Man. Sailing, then for two hours more, we arrived at the pier-head front of the Island, and, after an eight hours' sail, with the assistance of a ferry boat, we stepped once more on terra firma in front of a small town called Douglas, a town which is much visited by strangers in the summer time.
We went into the town to procure lodgings, and with a little inquiry found the house to which we had been recommended in King-street. After tea, meeting with some friends from Huddersfield, we fell into conversation respecting the Island and its inhabitants, for we found that our friends had been there for a fortnight, and thought that they were likely persons to obtain a little information from. But they gave us very poor encouragement to stay on the Island, on account of the indifference of the victuals, cooks, and beds which they had experienced, so we concluded to return by the " Mona's isle " in the morning. We then prepared for our beds, to which we were conducted by our hostess up a great quantity of steps. Our retiring pillow was not one of the largest of rooms, but it was sufficiently large to hold the bed which was there placed with not a deal of room to spare. Our hammock being so small, curiosity led us to measure the bed on which we lay, Which we supposed as near as we could tell to be about one yard by three-quarters and the timber in proportion.
The smallness of this bed needs some explanation, but perhaps the mention of timber supplies it, in which case we would understand it to mean a plank bed with a small bolster. Needless to say, the travellers did not sleep very well and were astir early next morning, paying a visit to the shore and admiring the clearness of the water, and then ascending the hill on the left of Douglas to view the town and country " the fields were very barren and the cattle very rough and lean."
TINY BANKING PREMISES.
Our attention was suddenly taken by a small building, over the door of which there was in large characters B-A-N-K. Being rather astonished at the sight, curiosity led us to measure it, which we found to be nine feet high at one end, and about six feet high at the other, and six yards long. The roof was about two slates in length, and the entrance door appeased to be more like a garden door than a door opening into a banking house. we left this sight very much gratified and went through several streets, which are very narrow and dirty, to our lodging house to breakfast. The time for the return journey being at hand, the travellers fortified themselves for the sea voyage by laying in stores," which consisted of a bottle of brandy costing 2s 6d, and a bottle of sherry, for which 2s 3d was paid. Good need there seems to have been for any comfort which this liquid refreshment could afford, for the run home was a long and eventful one. The morning was very misty, and with a heavy sea running, the waves dashed over the little steamer, causing the passengers to huddle together wherever shelter could be found. Many were sea sick, and the sailors were kept running about the deck with mops, buckets, and fresh water."
After we had been sailing about eight hours the vessel struck on a sand bank about a mile and a half below Black Rock (seawards of New Brighton), where we remained for about two hours, and were then taken on board the Eclipse steamer, and with great ingenuity and care of the pilot we arrived safe at the pier-head, Liverpool, about nine o'clock, thirteen hours after leaving Douglas.
The next four days were spent at Liverpool, visiting the docks and shipping, crossing the river to Seacombe and Birkenhead, and rambling in the pleasant country on the Cheshire side of the Mersey. On the Sunday Mr Clayton went to Leeds-street Chapel morning and Evening, and carefully records the texts from which " well-studied and evangelical " sermons were preached. On the Tuesday the homeward journey was resumed, and after transacting a little business at Manchester, Roe Cross was reached at half-past seven in the evening, the writer quoting at the end of his record, " There's no place like home."