[Taken from the Ramsey Courier 17 Jan 1930]

Ramsey over half a Century Ago


Foreign Sailors poisoning tragedy

Royal Albert Brewery burnt down

Reverting to my school days in Ramsey, other schools in the town in addition to those I mentioned last week, were Macauley's school in the old Wesleyan Chapel premises in Strand Street, and Coates' school, in Lezayre Terrace, which I attended for a time ; also a school kept by Rev. Airey behind the present St. Olave's Church. St Olave's of course, was not built in those days, but in one part of the long barn wherein Mr Airey had his school Church services were held, the meeting place being known as Sandy Road Church. This part of the town was not developed to any great extent in those days, and the Mooragh was a stretch of waste land with a solitary cottage at the north end belonging to Mr Tom Cottier, who grazed sheep on the land. At an earlier period, the Mooragh river joined the sea, to the Old Cross. The Harbour, as we know it now, was constructed later. A wooden dale was used for the purpose of crossing the river from West Street to the Shipyard, and a much narrower bridge than the present stone one connected the rest of the West End to the town. In addition to the vessels previously detailed, which were built by Mr T. C. Gibson at the Shipyard, there was another viz.: Pilot boat No. 9, for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, which was constructed here. Besides his activities in Ramsey, Mr Gibson had a mill at the Dog Mills for crushing bones, which were converted into bone manure.

Three Sailors poisoned

An incident which caused a painful sensation occurred when a Prussian brig, loaded with bones, entered the harbour and making for the old River, stuck on the bank and broke her back. She became a total wreck and had to be discharged. The members of the crew, including the master and his son, stayed at Miss Jane Duke's house in Strand Street. They prepared for themselves a supper, of which arrowroot was part of the menu. When supper was ready they apprised the captain, who was, fortunately detained with Mr Brown, Lloyd's agent. The men proceeded with the meal, and shortly after, three of them, including the captain's son died from poisoning. It was discovered that the arrowroot had become infected by arsenic. The affair awakened great sympathy, and the funeral was one of the largest seen in the Island in those days. I remember, along with the late J.M. Cruickshank and other school-fellows, noting that the cortege on the way to Maughold reached from Folieu down to Port-e-Vuillen. [presumeably 18 March 1860 - Charles F.W. Behrmt (17), C. Ghrahl & C. Hemmies.]

I remember passengers from the steamers being landed at the wooden jetty off the South Shore, opposite where Auckland House stands. The town, it must be remembered, was not incorporated at this time, and there were no Town Commisioners, the head of the town being the High-Bailiff. The Gas and Water undertakings were started by local companies, I think in the fifties. Prior to that, the inhabitants drew their supplies of water from wells, one of which was off Parliament Street, where Court Row now is ; another was in Tower Street, and a third at the Old Cross, opposite where the Swan Hotel is situate at the present time. In addition, the south end of the town was served by "Jack the Waterman", who sold and delivered supplies of water to the inhabitants in cans.

While the Crimean War was in progress I remember a big bazaar being held at Milntown, then occupied by Rev. W.B. Christian, Vicar of Lezayre, and a member of the self-elected House of Keys, the object being to raise funds to provide comforts for the troops. It was a beautifully fine day, and one incident that impressed itself on my youthful mind was the appearance of the late John Hughes of Ballaugh, attired in the brilliant uniform of an officer of the Zouaves. Hughes later went to America

A Circus in the Town

Ramsey was quite lively in the way of amusements in those days, and I recollect a huge circus coming to the town, and giving performances in a large marquee at the end of Albion Terrace. High-class concerts were often held in the Court House, from where there was raised seating sloping from the back of the building. This was before the days of the oft-recalled Penny Readings, which I will refer to later.

St Paul's Church and the Wesleyan Chapel were standing as they do today, and in the case of the Presbyterian Church, which had also been built, my grandfather William Hardie, purchased the ground for its erection, the founders of the church being: Capt McWhannell (Glenduff), Mr Brown (ship's chandler), Mr Dow (steward at Ballamoar, Jurby) and my grandfather, who lived at Ballachrink. The first pastor, to my knowledge was Rev, Towers, a noted man, who afterwards went to Birkenhead. The Roman Catholics held their services at the warehouse of Pat Lenaghan, chandler, in College Street, and in Chapel Lane was the original "Ranters" Chapel, beneath which there was still another day school kept by "Josy" Reardon.

While living in Auckland Terrace, I remember one night being awakened by unusual flashes of light, which turned out to be from the Royal Albert Brewery in Tower Street, which was in flames. This brewery was largely engaged in brewing beerfor Liverpool, whither it was exported in hogsheads. The premises were totally destroyed by the fire, and it was said there was an abundant supply of cheap beer in Ramsey that night, the liquor flowing out into the street. I was too young myself to be interested in that aspect of the incident.


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