[From The Manxman, #4 1911]

Steam Packet Score 81 Not Out To-day

Please to look forward, pleased to look behind.
And count each birthday with a grateful mind --Pope.

On August 17th, 1830, the first steam packet, Mona's Isle," made its first passage from Liverpool to Douglas, so that, accordingly, it is the Company's 81st birthday. Last year Mr. William Heatherington, the oldest passenger for he had crossed with Captain Gill, in the Mona's Isle," in August, 1830-crossed again, eighty years afterwards, this time with Captain Keig, on the great turbine steamer " Ben-my-Chree." To say that such an astounding record is wonderful, but mildly expresses the fact. It is due entirely to the strikes that the Company have been compelled to postpone their invitation for to dad'. Think for a moment what distant events this most charming " Oldest Manx Passenger," born in 1822, connects us with. His grandfather, born in 1752, used to take him for little walks at Oxton, near Birkenhead. What, therefore, was the world like about 1750:France then owned Canada and " claimed all the rest of what is now the United States." George II was King, and Pitt, Fox, Pelham and the Duke of Newcastle (Prime Minister, 1754) led political affairs. George III died in 1820, Mr. Heatherington entering this life in the reign of George IV. Strange as it may appear, in 1752 Liverpool boasted no fewer than 437 vessels, viz:

In the African Trade

83 ships

West Indian, American and foreign


On charter in different parts of Europe


In London Cheese Trade


Coasters and Fish Traders

101 ,,

Sloops and Flats in the river .

80 ,,

but two of to-day's big steamers equal their total tonnage. In 1750, the spire of St. Nicholas' Church-mentioned in " Seabreezes"-was built, at a cost of 310, but it fell down on Sunday, February 11th, 1810, at twenty-three minutes pa-ten o'clock, and killed twenty-two persons. When Mr. Heatherington was born the valuation for the rates in Liverpool was 584,000, and for -Manchester 343,000, and the St. George's Steampacket Co. (now long since defunct) then just established. It was this powerful concern whim the first Manx steamer was built to oppose. In 1836 young Heatherington went to sea, ultimately becoming a most successful captain-three times shipwrecked, by the way-and spending many years in the Canadian trade. Asked, a few months back, about early maritime recollections. he said he remembered a " ship called the 'Pilot ' upset in Ramsey Bay, and four men drowned, Another, called the 'Orwell,' ashore on the north side of the Island, and brought into Ramsey for repairs; the same thing happening to the 'Delosy Castle.' " He was long associated with Ramsey. He remembered the " St. Peter " breaking her anchor chain there, when all her crew perished, and a smack, in the same gale, likewise losing all hands. Then there was the s.s. " Victoria," the first steamer running between Fleetwood and Belfast, ashore at Port Moar : later, the loss of the "Tiger " and all on board, but before that the wreck of a brig (he forgot her name) on Langness, when the coastguard, in the dark, shot Fitzsimmons dead: by failed to give the pass-word. This was in the early thirties. Imagine a gentleman, active amongst its, and still remembering these faroff events.

But this is the 81th birthday of the steamers. Let us look back a moment! On, or shortly after the 21st birthday, the firm were then strong on their feet and branching out. InAugust, 1853, they ran the " Moana's Queen " (new steamer), " Tynwald " and " Ben-my-Chree," daily each way-the " King Orry " carried cargo-" the average passage being six hours," The passengers then landed " always " at Liverpool, and " generally " at Douglas, " without the inconvenience of small boats." By the forty-first birthday the " Douglas " (I) " Snaefell," " Douglas " (II), and " Tynwald ' (II) had been added; by the sixty-first birthday the Company had ten steamers running, with many additional services and new stations opened, while to-day, on the eighty-first, they have no fewer than thirteen vessels, most of them enormously bigger and more powerful than the older ones, a steady march of progress probably unmatched by any other shipping firm. Let us take a glance at the difference between the firs " Mona's Isle " and the present " Ben-my-Chree," outside the length, breadth, &c., given last month : -



" Isle.'.




Weight (in lbs.) of steering wheel



Carries coal (tons)



Crew (persons)



Mainmast, height, in feet



Circumference of funnel(feet)



Length of funnel (feet)



Carries passengers



There are many other matters in which it is impossible to snake a comparison, for the simple reason that the " Mona's Isle " had none at all, such as turbines, tubular boilers, bow rudder, smoke rooms, Marconi apparatus, ladies' boudoir, and private .state rooms.

Next, let me use the occasion of this birthday to give, for future reference, some dates, very few of which are generally known :

First Meeting of the Company-January 5th, 1830.
" Mona's Isle " launched-June 10th, 1830.
Capt Gill appointed-July 20th, 1830.
First advert issued- July 27th 1830.
First arrival in Douglas-August 15th, 1830.
First regular sailing-August 17th, 1830.
First cheap excursion-August 24th, 1830.
First carried the mails--December 20th, 1830.
Received H.M. (King William IV.) mail contract-July 12th, 1831.
Proclaimed "Royal Mail " steamer-July 19th, 1831.
First sailed to Whitehaven-May 12th, 1832.
First trip Round the Island-May 29th, 1833.
First carried cargo-March 22nd, 1834.
First call at Port St. Mary May 3d, 1834.
First Scottish excursion-June 20th, 1834.
Firt mishap.- A crank pin cracked December 1st, 1834.
First chartered a cargo steamer, the " Earl of Surrey "-July 1st, 1836.
Smuggling first detected on board-December 24th, 1834.
First collision, " Queen of the Isle ' and " Irishman --March 25th, 1835.
First Irish excursion-May 8th, 1835.
First race : " Queen of the Isle " beat H.M. packet " Richmond "-May 27th, 1835.

Leaving captains who are still alive out of account, the longest services (in command) of the old masters are :

Captain Alex. McQueen, 37 years.
Captain John Kermode, 29 years.
Captain Ed. Quayle, 27 years.

There have, of course, been many long-service men who have risen from one position to another; in this connection there are living to-day several distinguished examples, such as Mr. John Casement, an engineer who has ceased sailing, but now occupies a position ashore in " the shops " where repairs are conducted. Mr. Tate, of the " Mona's Queen," is the longest-service chief engineer still sailing, and of any member of the crews, still afloat, Captain Alex. Reid, of the " Empress Queen," is the head. Mr. Little is, I believe, the longest-service chief steward, but from first to last, at the top of the tree, is Mr. Edward Skillicorn, aged 80, still active and undertaking small duties for the Company, in whose service he has spent nearly all his working life. Mention cannot here be made of many others who richly- deserve it, but one name, among the agents, stands out quite alone. It is that of Orford, a name honoured wherever the Manx service is known. The late Mr. Thomas Orford, who died a few years back, aged over 90, spent more or less all his business years in connection with the Manx boats, his sons, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Joseph, carrying on the same fine old traditions to-day.


Mr. Ed. Moore: first manager, 1830.

As full particulars of the start of the Isle of Mail Steam-packet Co. have been given in previous issues, I need not repeat them here. Enough, however, is stated to show what an old and venerable and yet young and healthy co-partnership the Steam-packet concern is. They have carried over 20,000,000 passengers to or from the Island, and their losses of life and property, in proportion to the length of time and the number of travellers, is by far the smallest in the history of the mercantile marine. No ships have ever been navigated with better skill or more cautious care. Taking the average fastest boat, from 1830 onwards, no such speedy fleet has, likewise, ever before existed. Since the packets began, their story is really the history of the Isle of Man, which, in its modern sense, they have made entirely. Such, therefore, is in outline the now greatest coasting service in the world -as well as the world's oldest sea mail carriers-who celebrate their eighty-first birthday to-day, receiving the good wishes, not merely of the thousands of British holiday makers, but of very many others spread out to the uttermost ends of the earth.

IoMSPCO Douglas

Most famous Manx boat! The Original "Douglas."
She did nearly 18 knots and was (1858) fastest ship afloat.
As the "Margaret and Jessie" she ran the blockade in the U.S. war


A Valuable Loan,

Mrs. J. C. Crellin

Mrs. J. C. Crellin, who christened-the original Mona 's Isle., 1830.

In the May number I gave a letter which was written by Miss C. G. Crellin, Redleaf, Guernsey, in which she stated that her grandmother had christened the original " Mona's Isle," in 1830. Since then she has been good enough to follow up her generosity with the photograph now re-produced. I thank her most gratefully, and I am sure that every official of the Company will consider this the greatest pictorial "find " yet. " Enclosed is the only photograph existing of my grandmother, Catherine Quayle, of West Hill, Castletown," writes Miss Crellin. " She died in 1866 (I believe). She married John Christian Crellin, of Orry's Dale [sic Orrisdale], Kirk Michael. He had a commission in the Dragoon Guards, and then exchanged into the 4th 'King's Own.' There is a good deal of interest attached to him. Later on perhaps I can tell you of his going to Ireland for big strong men, for the Manx Fencibles, to quell the Corn Riots during Bishop Murray's episcopate. When the regiment was disbanded, the then Duke of Athol presented my grandmother with the colours, which are now in the possession of my brother, but I daresay you can, if of sufficient interest, make enough of this rough sketch for your paper. If possible, I will try for a photograph of the slop basin when my nephews are home for the holidays." For those who did not see the May issue,' I might add that the slop basin referred to formed part of the original cabin outfit of the first " Mona's Isle." Great, small boat ! Little did those alive then think what history she would make ! T. E. E.





Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2005