[From The Manxman, #11 1913]
You know that we were an opposition ourselves for the first few months, when we won the battle and the St. George's Steam-packet Company retired in our favour from the Manx station. We then had five years of steady trade. The directors always knew their own minds, and if a minority disagreed they had to go. There was, as I have explained before, one occasion on which the shareholders dismissed all the directors, except one, on account of their having dismissed Captain Gill. Some of these dismissed directors thought they would like to have a boat of their own. Accordingly, on December 10th, the prospectus of "The Isle of Man and Liverpool Steam Navigation Co." was issued. It set forth that in consequence of the original intention in the formation of the Isle of Man Steam-Packet Co. having, in a great measure, been lost sight of, they intended to build a vessel of the highest class, stability, speed, and accommodation.
This prospectus was signed by G. Torrance, Wm. Duff, and T. Garrett, Jun. The signatures of the two former I append, so that you may know what Manx caligraphy was like seventy-eight years ago. At that time James, a brother of William Duff, was agent at Liverpool. Mr. Mark Quayle had been the original agent appointed in 1830. He died at Penzance, having retired there on account of ill-health, on November 28th, 1833. James Duff came next. Well, with his brother an opposition director, he, too, had to go, and, as from the first of January, 1836, Messrs. Moore and Christian, of Redcross Street, were appointed. The late Mr. Thomas Orford had been clerk to Duff, and therefore, so early as that in the service of our firm. He did not go over to Moore and Christian, but he succeeded them as agent in 1851, and he and his sons have remained so ever since.
Directors' Signature=., 1833.
You will not forget that, with a large number of schooners and smacks in the Manx trade there were many agents also. An official list dated 1832, gives the following :-For Castletown, M. Quayle & Son, 15, Nova, Scotia. For Douglas-the same. For "Isleman "-James: Duff, 18, Brunswick Street. Quayle's were also agents for the traders to Peel and. others to Ramsey. To this latter place there were opposition sailing packets, and for these Moore ard Christian, 6, Strand Street, were agents, as they likewise were for a second " line" to Douglas viz.:-The Douglas, Earl of Surrey, Edward Jessie, and Phoenix. Now at that time Thomas Oxford & Son were agents for the Cork Limerick, Galway, and Waterford boats, so I suppose that our Mr Orford (Clerk, to James Duff) was in some way related to them.
We thus clear up another point. The short reign of Duff seems to have been a personal appointment, due to influence in Douglas, but the others were drawn from those already in the Manx trade, those probably best able to influence cargo in a highly competitive age.
You will see that I have outlined above our first opposition. When the prospectus reached the public, a good deal of fun was made at its expense. They charged the "old" Company with not having " carried out the original intentions." The people promptly said that they had been the directors of the "old " Company, and dismissed for not having done so ! They were going to do the same thing over again, so that it was the new directors of the "old" Company who would carry out the original intentions!
But the matter was a serious one, no joking about it. On Tuesday, January 26th, 1836, a general meeting of our Company was held, at the Douglas office, and Twelve Thousand pounds ordered to be subscribed and lodged in the bank to meet contingencies !
I have often told you that Manxmen of the "thirties " knew how to conduct affairs on a sound and solid basis. Almost on the same day Captain Bacon and John Clark had been elected opposition directors. Omerod and Boscow were to be auditors, and Robert Boardman agent. The new steamer was to be called King of the Isle, but, so great was insular indignation at the "insult" to their Queen of the Isle, that, within ten days, the name was changed to Monarch.
I will deal with some other interesting features of this opposition another time. For to-day we must manage to be content with the fact that from various causes, the Monarch was not ready when the time arrived for her to sail, ard that the chartered steamer Clyde was announced to start instead, on August 13th, 1836.
Here is a curious fact. Twelve months afterwards the owners of the Clyde sued the new Company for their hire, but the Deemster decided that they were not liable. Those who actually ordered her must pay !
The moment activities began, down came the fares, I suppose on account of the £12,000 in the bank, and our Company issued the following announcement :
The Isle of Man Royal Mail Steampacket Company's vessels sash daily, from George's Dock Pierhead, as follows:
The Queen of the Isle, Wm. Gill. Commander, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 10 o'clock precisely. Cabin fare (including boat hire), 2s 6d. Steerage, 6d.
Also the Mona's Isle, E. Quayle, Commander, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Moore and Christian. N.B.-The public are not misled nor are FALSEHOODS told at these offices.
Had dear, old "Big Ned " been ticket collector in those days, I am sure he would have made some historic remarks about the total revenue derived from the steerage passengers!
One thousand persons were landed in one day, and fill, Mona's Isle alone brought two thousand during the week.
This statement appeared in the "Manx Sun." I doubt its correctness. Surely the Mona's could not have carried 660 on each trip, no mention being made of extra passages, besides there was no time for them.
On September 3rd, 1836, the shaft of the Clyde broke, when she was a few miles from Douglas, and Captain Gill turned the Queen of the Isle and took her in tow, for which he was highly praised by all.
Except the lawsuit, long afterwards, that appears to have been the end of the Clyde. On September 9th, 1836, the new steamer Monarch arrived. She anchored in Douglas Bay, and, in doing so, fouled the Mona and a, revenue cutter. On her first voyage to Liverpool her air pumps got choked, and Captain Gill turned and hailed her. She had then lost twelve minutes to the Queen of the Isle.
On the 19th September, the Monarch reached Douglas first, at 7 p.m. There were 1,500 people on the pier to see the race and the fun. As a rule, though, the Queen of the Isle managed just to gain the day. The new boat was a large and powerful one, remember.
There was tremendous excitement in Douglas. Here is a quaint little yarn which I have hunted up, one thoroughly illustrating the public feeling :
The Queen of the Isle, having some alterations effected, did not sail one day till night. A postman pretended to carry a bag of mails on board the Monarch. Before the hoax was found out the directors of the new concern had come rushing down in high glee. (In another occasion the Monarch approached Douglas with a red funnel ! Just when the partizans of the old Company were congratulating themselves on victory, the Monarch's crew, with mad energy, started to paint the funnel black again !
Now, let us turn from the Monarch to other equally interesting subjects. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that when the "Ben " or the new King Orry, or which you please, arrives at Douglas to-day there should not be sufficient water for the steamer to come alongside the pier. You would expect somebody to land you, and not to have to land yourself. I tell you what: you would expect an electric launch with crimson cushions on the seats, for everybody is very expecting now-a-days. Well, when the Company began, there was no pier at Douglas, and trippers had the option of waiting till high water or entering into a somewhat one-sided bargain with any of the speculative boatmen who would be wildly quoting their terms from the waves below. You can imagine that this was not an entirely satisfactory system. Accordingly, in 1832, the directors considered the matter, and resolved
That there shall be a reasonable fare charged, to be regulated by the directors, for putting the passengers to and from the vessels.
They would keep the accounts, pay the boatmen, and properly maintain the boats. If there was a profit it should go to the charities. Furthermore, they established a solidly-bound book, at the office, for "visitors to enter complaints in." Here is a, complaint exactly as it was written down :
Douglas, 18th May, 1833.-Mr, and Mrs. Matthews were passengers by the Mona's Isle on Saturday, the 4th inst., and. From King Orry II. returned on Friday, the 10th, front Liverpool. On both occasions the boat's crew at Liverpool refused to pit the luggage on shore. (1u giring, they lilt, Illo Ing;,rage on the sand at low water, and stated that that was landing it. Mr. M. begs to ask if this is the mode of landing intended by the Directors for the extra charge of 6d. each passenger?
Francis Matthews. From King Orry II.
" One of the Knut's"
Steering Wheel now in the Hall at Kinmel Park, Abergele, the residence of Col. H. B. L. Hughes.
On the sand ! At Liverpool'. Picture the luggage of 2,500 passengers piled up on the mud of the Mersey to-day ! The more we dip into the way this great business has been built up the more enticing it becomes.
I have already indicated the conditions of service of the early captains, the stewards, and others, including the first constable employed. But what about the engineers? From August, 1830, to March, 1832, one man alone did all the work. Then came the first relief :
March 6th, 1832. That the Engineer of the Mona',s Isle be empowered to engage an assistant at wages not exceeding thirty shillings per week.
Mr. John Robert Kelly and his big staff on the " Ben " will probably smile when they read this. Prior to the above resolution being passed engineers appear to have had rather a tough time of it, as witness :
That the Engineer of the Mona's Isle be paid .£3 10s. in consequence of illness incurred by him occasioned by a strain in working the engine.
And here is an interesting memorandum for present-day stewardesses :
That the stewardess of the Mona be paid £5 for her services during the winter.
Thus, I have now given every class of servant to-day an idea of the conditions under which their earliest predecessors worked. I have said that the directors of those times were shrewd, just, and generous. The present directorate worthily maintained the old firm's best traditions, by subscribing the Ben my-Chree to the King', mercantile review on the.Mersey. `They had precedent, of course, and now let me give an amusing little memorandum for directors :February 7th, 1832. That the passage money paid by the musicians engaged at the Coronation Ball, at Castletown, be returned to them, through Mr. Gawne.
You will remember that we have lived through four periods of royalty, William IV., Victoria, Edward VIL, and George V. But stay! the Coronation musicians appear to have wanted something to eat :
That Captain Gill be paid £10 towards the cost of boarding the musicians.
So that was all right, but you might be curious to know that the resolution concluded with the cautious proviso that "in future no payments be made without the directors' consent be obtained beforehand." How history does, indeed, repeat itself ! In 1832 we carry a band from Liverpool to play at a Coronation Ball. In 1913 we carry another from the Island to play " God Save the King " in the river Mersey ! I like this little fact almost as much as anything I have ever set down about the Company,
And now, let us have a memorandum for present-day tradesmen, so that they shall no' be left out in the cold :-
June 21st, 1836. That the tender sent in by Messrs. Caren & Hudson (painters), amount ing to 13 15s. for gilding the figure Head and legs o£ the Queen of tire Isle I: accepted, and that the work he complete without delay.
This gilding of the Queen's legs seems to tut" been It very important, matter, for the minute is signed hy Edward Gawne, 1'. Garrett, Lewis Crebbin, J. Wulff, and Samuel Harris, a copy of whose signatures I gave last month.
And now, let us have a memorandum) for steamship agents and charterers. What was the price of it special boat in those days?
January 22nd, 1833. That, in reply to Mr. Hutchinson, the agent, to inform him that the charge for the Mona, for landing his family at Whitehaven, about the 14th proximo, be £20, reserving to ourselves the chance of extra passengers.
This is the first occasion on which business of this kind cropped up. There have been many since.
And now, let us wind up these attractive little curiosities with a memorandum for Glasgow shipbuilders. They, and you, and me know very well indeed that Robert Napier, who built our first boats, and, ten years afterwards, the first Cunarders, became the greatest shipbuilder in the world-but he was evidently not above taking a smallish order :
February 7th, 1832. That Mr. Napier be requested to forward a meat safe for the Mona.
Oh! why were there no cinematographs in 1830? I believe the films are remarkably easy to make. What would I not give for specimens of life on each of our boats from Mona's Isle (I.) to King Orry (III.)-what, indeed?
Here is a curious incident well worth recording. In 1836 ten shares in the Isle of Man and Liverpool Bank and ten shares in the Isle of Man Steampacket Company were " called for sale " in the streets of Douglas bv the Town Crier, " but no bids were made for either." I can well understand the former, but the latter puzzles me.
During the last twenty years we have chartered ever so many steamers to help in the carrying of luggage and cargo. I suppose you would like to have the entry concerning the first occasion? On July 1st, 1836, the steamer Earl of Surrey was so chartered. This was regarded as a very strong hint to the Islanders that the business of their steamers was steadily increasing, and you can imagine the critical curiosity with which they examined the fresh boat.
And here is a singularity which might give present-day directors a little shock :
August 17th, 1830. It is intended, for some weeks to come, to receive any respectable individuals on board, after the arrival of the Mona's Isle from Liverpool, and give them a two or three hours' cruise about the coast, gratis.
I think we can wink at their generosity. She was the first steamer the Island ever owned, you know ! And they were very prud of her ! But I could see plenty of "respectable individuals " filling up the King Orry on the same terms !
Capt. Wm. Heatherington.
For the last two years it has been my custom to devote a portion of the August' issues to the gentleman who is known, almost throughout the world, as the oldest Manx passenger Captain William Heatherington, then a boy of nearly nine, sailed from Liverpool on August 17th, 1830, on the first Mona's Isle. He also went on August 17th, 1910, and on August 17th 1912. As I hope that we shall again be favoured with his company on August 18th next -the 17th falls on a Sunday this year-the reference to these, journeys, which are surprising almost beyond belief, and without a parallel it the history of the mercantile marine, can be better made next month. Besides, I have received a perfectly astounding piece of information, which I am trying to verify and then to report upon later. There is in Liverpool a well-known retired mariner, Captain Shimmin. His mother is still alive, and it is said that she crossed from Douglas by the first Mona's Isle, on August 16th, 1830. If so, we have both a lady and a gentleman, each original passengers, one the mother of a sea captain, and the other an old sea captain himself. After this I should call the sea a pretty healthy trade.
Next month, also, I hope to have something to say about the new King Orry. I don't want to repeat what has been written about her-it is too recent. But, as she is doing well and meeting with much public favour, that I will try' and get you something fresh.
Here, too, is another point. I have discovered that Ben-my-Chree (I), built 1845, is still doing duty. I believe she has some cement and concrete in her, and is now part of the breakwater at the entrance to the Bonny river, on the West Coast of Africa. I am trying to obtain a photograph for our next number. Ben-my-Chree (2) was partly broken up by hand and partly by a storm in Morecambe Bay. I have a picture of her, almost submerged.