[From The Manxman, #12 1913]

The Oldest Manx Passenger and his Island Ancestors

William Heatherington
Capt. Wm. Heatherington

A unique record.

Last month this section of the "Three-Legged Magazine " was devoted to the celebration of the Steampacket Company's Eighty-second Birthday. Let us, therefore, this month at all events, preface any ancient Steampacket lore which we may have by some of the wonderfully interesting data which clings round both the ancestors and the career of Captain William Heatherington, now famous throughout the world as The Oldest Manx Passenger. Of course every shipping company has its oldest passenger. There was a statement published recently that the Cunard Company had found theirs-a gentleman who had travelled fifty-eight years ago. This is a very fine record indeed, but, when you come to compare it with eighty-two years, it fades into a mere commonplace. You must remember that the Manx Company is ten years older than the Cunard, and it is scarcely too much to say that the probabilities of Captain Heatherington's feat ever being exceeded (except by himself) is not likely to occur in the history of the mercantile marine.

The young old man.

Good; but who is this wonderful young, old man of 91, who looked after his daughters and grand-daughters when the ship rolled-they were supposed to be looking after him, you know-in great style; had no spectacles or crutch, can eat with the teeth nature gave him; trotted with a firm step round the slippery, sloping, rain-covered deck, marched into Capt. Reid's room, and, while we were waiting outside for the "Ben's" berth. cheerfully informed him that " she was falling to leeward," a remark which the smiling master of the Empress Queen-the best-known man on the Island-gaily enjoyed.

Well, although he bears an English name, considerably more than half of him appears to be Manx. His mother was formerly Miss Vondy, of Ramsey. Although married to a Britisher, like a true Manx woman, she saw that her son lived as much on the Island as she could manage, that he was taught the native language, and likewise learned the rudiments of his sailoring there. He became the O.M.P. solely by his mother's love. There was a cholera scare in Liverpool in 1830. She knew Captain Gill very well (for he was a Ramsey man), and what more natural than she should ask him to take her little lad to his grandmother, out of the ravages of the plague? By this accident he travelled on the second trip of the original Mona's Isle. Then don't forget that he is also Liverpool's oldest sea captain-. furthermore, he has sufficient confidence yet to take a ship across the ocean if the need. arose.

Beat the Clarence Dock.

He did not cross on the Mona's Isle before omnibusses first ran in Liverpool, because they had been at work three months and four days. The bells of St. Peter's Church lead also rung on eighteen Sundays, so that both these beat him. But he beat the Clarence Dock, in Regent Road, which was then Liverpool's most Northerly enclosure-for it was not opened till a month after he sailed'. and he beat the opening of the Liverpool and 'Manchester Railway by a month, and, for anything I know to the contrary, might have been present when Sir William Huskisson, M.P., was killed on that fatal first day !

1765 licence

But it is through his Manx ancestors that the most fascinating lore is obtained. He, still a living man, has spoken to a relative who took out an Isle of Man license as far back as 1765. I present you with a photographed copy of it. Is this wonderful or.is it not? He has preserved many old family documents, which he has allowed one to. " pur a sight on," as the Manx say. One is a particularly singular deed. I quote from it: "We whose names are subscribed being a jury of enquiry sworn by Wm. Corkill, Lockman of Kk. Maughold, by virtue of an Execution issued by the late Deemster Lace,to find out and discover the goods and effects of Edward Martin, of the town of Ramsey, to satisfy and make up a pawn that the said Lockman was to take at the suit of Thomas Vondy, of the town aforesaid, for the sum of Seventeen Shillings Debt, Eleven pence fees awarded by the Deemster and two pence fees for taking of the said pawn." Deemsters and Lockman didn't seem to be overpaid in those days!

What the jury found.

Well, the worthy lock man " having taken the examination upon oath of several neighbours " found " a chair which we appraise to four pence, an Old Tub two pence, a Crock two pence, the roundings of two Roodings-[this beats me entirely. T. E. E.]-two pence, one old Earthen Bottle one penny." But there were more- besides, viz. :
Three Glass Bottles,
A Cup.
An old Tankard.
An old imperfect Copper,
An iron Weight.
An old Hair Rope, and
the Stock of a Bed.

These were "all the moveables which we have found and discovered by the enquiry." By the war, the iron weight was to be at a half-penny, the hair rope one penny, and the copper four pence per lb. Next they " discovered "-or would have done so only that " Jane, the wife of John Callow; of Ramsey, she being a sister, 'having refused to give her oath for the discovery of her said brother's effects "-that the debtor was " Intitled in times past to the twelfth part of the concerns of a certain house in Ramsey." Jane, the loyal sister, is specially mentioned, viz. :-' We leave lyable as the Law doth or shall direct. And this we return for our answer this 25th of June, 1768."
Jon. Balley my x
Jon. Gawne my x
Edw. Cortin my x
Henry Quayle my x

So that none of the jury were able to write. But did this very carefully-engrossed deed come out of the Deemster's eleven, or the Lockman's two, pence? It is all very charming and very funny. and shows (what I have often stated) the great purchasing power of Manx money in those days.

Queer law Court.

The Manx were-some of them tell me they are yet-fond of litigation. Captain Heatherington has paper after paper to show that his Vondys have sued others, or others have sued them. Both parties, however, seem to have paid up in good style. One was " hereby required to appear at a Court to be holden at Chrs. Kewin's, in the Parish of Kirk Bride." This would probably be a court in a farm house. The issuer was "John Crellin, Vicar-General of the Rt. Revd. Father in God, Claudius, by Divine permission Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man." The date was 26th January, 1805.

Another, 26th May, 1788, " Presented by John Stowell, Cor. of Garff, that by virtue of Deemster Moore's authority, he charged Thomas Tear to appear before his Worship to answer the suit of Thomas Vondy and John Vondy, but he did not appear therefore stands in mercy of a Fine." Then comes this singular endorsement : " A constable is awarded hereon D. Dawson. Exd. by John Quayle, C.R." So here the Clerk of the Rolls comes in.

On May 11th, 1802-evidently one day before it was due-Wm. Vondy pays 8 5s. 0d. for " one year's rent of land he holds of the estate of Milltown." This will give Manx people an idea of what rents were then. Here is a curious order:-" Please -Mr. William Joughin, Curiner [?coroner] of Lezare to Pay unto John Lord, of said, the full and just sum of thirteen shillings and sixpence, British, please. The same to me account. Wm. Vondy."

Young Tomy's Rum.

Long credits were then much in vogue, that is between the Manx, who well knew one another. All were duly paid, but at wide periods. Thomas Shimmin sends Wm, Vondy in a bill which runs from February, 1791, to November, 1796. At the foot is the following

" Received 2nd February, 1797, the contents in full, 4 3s. 7d. Britt." Here are some of the prices. Bundles of thatch, 2d. each; 100 horse nails, 10d.; 2 ozs. bohea and half pound sugar, 9d. A tub of salt was 1s. One ounce each of leek and onion seed was 7d. Two " Barrells Liverpool Coals" were 6s. The "Acct. furnished for Duffle, &c., for little boy's coat " was 3s. 7½d., and " one thawle for Daughter Peg " was 5s. 6d. Here is something which appears to me to be remarkably cheap : " To horse and cart at Mill twice and 2 loads of potatoes from field 1s. 6d." and " to half lb. of thick tobacco, pr. John, 7d." On the same occasion John also seems to have a glass of rum for which Thomas is charged three half-pence. Rum appears at other times. A quart was two shillings, but there was " a noggin with Tom Braydon 3;d." and " 1½ noggin with Cook Brewer 5d.." and "To 1 quart rum for young Tomy 2s." Meat comes in so-" To 1 quarter veil. 15 lb. at 3d., 3s. 9d." while beef seems to be the same figure.

Ale and Allowances.

Remember this was in 1796. Previously (1767) the Vondys had much the same sort of account then with John Lewhellin. Rum was cheaper then, only 4s. per gallon. with brandy charged exactly the same figure. " Small rope was 4d. per lb., while " "graising your cow" was 1 2s. 0d. Here is an item worth quoting" To a gallon Brandy when you had the Soldiers, 4s. 6d." Sixpence extra was certainly put on, but who were the soldiers? Can anybody tell me? The date was October 23, 1767. So much, therefore, for these pleasant, homely old accounts, the reason that they are given here being that a living man knew most of the parties concerned. Is it not really extraordinary? I wish I could have found space for many more quotations, as an " anckor " was charged at 5½d. per lb., and then there were " To allowances at the Building of the New Boat, at Sandy, £2. 5s. 0d.," and " To ale for yourself, at Sandy, 9s. 6d.,'" also during the building of the new boat. Hope she turned out a good one, as Manx boats generally are.

Curious Marriage Contract

And now shall I show you the careful, thrifty 'habits of another age as opposed to our slipshod wars of doing things? Our O.M.P. has a most alluring document admirable executed on good parchment paper, " ARTICLES of Marriage concluded condesconded and agreed upon by and betwixt Wm. Vondy and Catherine Vondy, als. Hewn, his wife, of Jurby parish, for an in behalf of their son Thomas Vondy, on the one part, and Margrott Kermeen, als. Teare, widow; in the Town of Ramsey, for and in behalf of her Daughter Ann. Kermeen on the other part as follows:

The said young couple Thos. Vondy and Ann Kermeen is to Enter. into the Holy Estate of Matrimony on or before the twelfth Inst., God and the Holy Church allowing the same.

The afforesd. Wm. Vondy and Catherine his wife doth hereby Endow and Settle upon the afforesd. young couple the Just and Competent sum of Ten pounds Sterln., to be payd within one Twelve Months time or on demand with an Incalfe Cow in present possession.

The aforesaid Margrott Kermeen doth hereby endow and settle en the afforesd. young couple the Third part of all her part of her houses, Back sides and garden. in Ramsey, to be by them possessed after her Decease. And further that, in case the young couple Do build on any place on the front of the premises, that they are allowed and not to be disturbed for the same for ever hereafter, with a furnished feather Bed Immediately. And lastly, to the true and faithfull performance of all and singular the above sd. articles and agreements all parties have bound themselves each to the other their Heyrs. Exrs. Adms. and Assigns under the penalty or forfeiture of One Hundred Pounds Sterlg. money to be levy'd and pay'd according to law and practice within. this Isle. In Testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hands and marks this 5th July, 1751.

Signed and Delivered Will. Vondy.
in presence of Cath. Vondy my x
Edwd. Curghey x Margrott Kermeen my x
John Woods. Thomas Vondy my x
Aun Kermeen my x

At a Standing Court holden at Douglas the 21st May. 1753, the within articles of Marriage being; Acknowledged before the Deemster and now openly published in Court and no objection offered agt. it Is therefore allowed off and Confired according to Law. Dan Mclrea. Jon. Taubman Jon. Quayle. Dan. Mclrea.
Exd. by John Quayle, C.R.

I can make nothing of the period of two years between these dates, but I believe the " young couple " (or one of them) were alive when our Oldest Manx Passenger-their direct descendent-was born in 1821. The whole thing is perfectly charming, and Oh! Trippers, I bid you remember what a splendid, venerable Island you visit each summer. It is steeped in old lore and ancient customs for you to enjoy.

Three times shipwrecked.

So much has been published in the newspapers about the personal career of our O.M.P. that little need be said here. He was educated in Liverpool, but learned Manx at Ramsey. He went to sea, at the age of 16, in the Sarah, a home trade schooner belonging to a Mr. Taggert, a Manxman who traded from the Mersey. His " foreign " career was chiefly in Canadian waters, which he sailed for many years. He was three times shipwrecked. With the late "Tom" Bryden, Harbour Master of Ramsey, he was capsized in the Pearl, off Ramsey; they were the only two saved. He had the late Captain Webb, the Channel hero, under him. also the present Commodore of the Cunard Line. Mr. Sankey, the once famous evangelist, was under him, as mate, for a -while. He narrowly missed being frozen to death in the Arctic regions, for he tried to " sign on " as one of Sir John Franklin's crew. His first Canadian ship was the Mersey, and he came across her 50 years afterwards; she was then " tramping " gravel from Jersey to London.

Finally he watched the Britannia, the first Cunarder, leave Liverpool, July 4th. 1840, and. in the same year, saw the fourth Manx steamer, the first King Orry (built in Douglas) towed through Ramsey Bay on her way to Glasgow to receive the engines which good, old Robert Napier had built for her.

Robert Napier
The "proved friend of the Company"

I have now very little space left for the isle of Man Steampacket Company. But, speaking of Robert Napier, who in his time was the leading shipbuilder of the world, and the founder of that great industry on the Clyde, reminds me that I can give, with singular pleasure, a photographic reproduction of one of the original shares which he held in the Isle of Man Company. I have older scrip, but Napier's is the more renowned. Observe how simple was the transfer of shares in those days and through what homely hands they passed.

Mr. Robert Napier s original scrip in the Isle of Man Steampacket Company

Mr. Robert Napier s original scrip in the Isle of Man Steampacket Company.

Tranfer signatures etc on Scrip

Observe how simply this share was transferred from one to another.


Mrs. Crellin who christened the original Mona's Isle

Mrs Crellin

In our June issue there was a portrait of Mrs. J. C. Crellin, the lady who I thought christened the first Mona's Isle, in 1830. It appears, however, that there are grave doubts about the fact, and the belief is held by relatives alive to-day that it was Mrs. Crellin, the wife of the late Deemster Crellin, who really christened the historical ship. As my ambition is to gradually collect together an absolutely unimpeachable history of the Steampacket Co., I now, publish the proper portrait, for which I return my most grateful thanks to Mrs. Lucy M. Jeffcott, of Castletown, who very kindly writes:-- Mr grandmother left Castletown on the death of her husband, Deemster Crellin. in 1816. She lived in Douglas for fourteen years, interesting herself in its welfare both before and after the Packet Co. started. She lived with her daughter and son-in-law, ',William Leece Drinkwater, on the North Quay, Douglas." I am, and I am sure my readers are, very greatly obliged. By the way, I believe I have an entry somewhere of the actual day on which the late Sir W. L. Drinkwater who died, richly honoured, as Queen Victoria's oldest judge-first landed in Douglas. I wonder if anyone will be so good as to lend me a copy of his portrait' We have no right to leave anything undone which would make this Manx record still more interesting.

Lister Ellis
The late Mr. Lister Ellis who managed the "tickets" as a hobby

Another unique portrait in connection with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co., now given, is that of the late Mr. Lister Ellis. He was a highly educated retired gentleman, and for a hobby used many years ago to devote much of his time to sorting the tickets and compiling statistics concerning them in order to assist the " office," which had then but few clerks. Imagine a voluntary service with to-day's perfectly enormous mass of detail ! T. E. E.

Mr Lister Ellis b 1814 at Shule, England was living in 1851 at Shule Cottage, Onchan (on the Crescent) - married with a seven year old married with a seven year old daughter Olivia & a four year old son Graham (another daughter Florence Alma born in 1855 ), described as a landed proprietor. Married Eliza Clark at Braddan on 23 Sep 1842. Though he appears in the 1857 and 1863 directories he does not appear to be in 1861 census. Son Graham is noted as having attended King William's College between 1857 and 1862 (then became Architect & surveyor) so looks as if family may have left the Island c. 1863.




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