190 Years: A look back at the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s vessels

In the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s 190th anniversary year, it has been heartening to take time out to look back and reflect on our long and diverse history. It is with great pride that we commemorate this special milestone and have enjoyed a number of anniversary celebrations in recent months, including dressing our fleet and sounding the whistles on 30th June – the day our very first wooden paddle steamer was launched all those years ago.

In June, we also shared a blog which looked back at nine key moments in the Steam Packet Company’s history. From our very first crossing in 1830 to the Isle of Man Government agreeing a deal to purchase the Company in 2018 – the waters we have navigated, often into uncharted territory, have provided an unbroken lifeline for the Manx people for approaching two centuries.

To mark the anniversary of our first crossing, which took passengers from Douglas to Liverpool on 17th August 1830, we have been reminiscing about yesteryear and our historic fleet, which comprises 72 past and current vessels – from the wooden paddle steamers of the 19th century to the fast crafts and conventional ferries of today.

Fast craft Manannan and Ben-my-Chree in Douglas Harbour

OUR VESSELS

Let’s take a look at some of our past vessels and their stories and journeys.

Mona’s Isle [1] – 1830

Mona’s Isle [1], our first ever vessel, was a wooden paddle steamer built in Glasgow. Considered a very fine vessel of her time, she was the first ship to serve the Isle of Man designed with passenger comfort in mind, rather than solely the transportation of freight. She served the Manx people well for 21 years, until she was sold for breaking up in 1851.  

A painting of Mona’s Isle in choppy waters by artist Samuel Walters. ©Manx National Heritage (1956/0405)

King Orry [1] – 1842

King Orry [1] was the final wooden paddle steamer of the Steam Packet Company fleet, with sturdier iron paddle steamers replacing the traditional wooden steamships. She holds a special place in the Company’s heart as the only vessel to be built in the Isle of Man. King Orry was later sold for part payment of a new iron paddle steamer, the Douglas [1].   

Ben-my-Chree [3] – 1908

Ben-my-Chree [3], the third vessel to bear this name, was purpose-built in 1907 for the Steam Packet Company, but later requisitioned by the Royal Navy in 1915 for the First World War and converted to a seaplane carrier. Sadly, while anchored at the Greek island of Kastellorizo, she was shot at and set on fire before sinking in shallow water.

Ben-my-Chree [3]. Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage (PG/13621/5) © Vickers, Sons & Maxim Ltd.

Manx Maid [2] – 1962

The arrival of the Manx Maid in 1962, the Steam Packet Company’s first car ferry, created excitement for the Manx people and drew large crowds at Douglas Harbour. For the first time, passengers could travel with their vehicles with ease! The highly successful Manx Maid, also the first of our vessels to be fitted with stabilisers, was sold in 1985 and later broken up.

Norman Wisdom stood next to the Manx Maid [2] in Douglas, 1977. ©Manx National Heritage (PG/13633/1/1977/5931)

Ben-my-Chree [5] – 1965

Following the success of the Manx Maid, our second car ferry and the fifth vessel to bear the name Ben-my-Chree (Manx Gaelic for ‘girl of my heart’), was launched in 1965. Similar to the Manx Maid in many ways and considered her sister ship, she was the Company’s last steamer and the last vessel to be built with her passenger accommodation designed for two classes. She was sold, then chartered back to the Steam Packet Company for the busy peak TT period in 1985, and finally re-sold for breaking up in 1989.

The Ben-my-Chree [5] leaving Douglas for Liverpool. Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage (PG/7389/97)

ISLE OF MAN STEAM PACKET COMPANY VESSELS

1830 – 2020 (and beyond)

  1. Mona’s Isle [1] / wooden paddle steamer / Launched: 1830
  2. Mona [1] / Wooden paddle steamer / Launched: 1832
  3. Queen of the Isle / Wooden paddle steamer / Launched: 1834
  4. King Orry [1] / Wooden paddle steamer / Launched: 1842
  5. Ben-my-Chree [1] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1845
  6. Tynwald [1] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1846
  7. Mona’ Queen [1] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1852
  8. Douglas [1] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1858
  9. Mona’s Isle [2] / Ellan Vannin – Built as an iron paddle steamer and converted into twin screw steamer / Launched: 1860
  10. Snaefell [1] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1863
  11. Douglas [2] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1864
  12. Tynwald [2] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched:  1866
  13. King Orry [2] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1871
  14. Ben-my-Chree [2] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1875
  15. Snaefell [2] / Iron paddle steamer / Launched: 1876
  16. Mona [2] / Iron single screw steamer / Launched: 1878
  17. Fenella [1] / Iron twin screw steamer / Launched: 1881
  18. Mona’s Isle [3] / Steel paddle steamer / Launched: 1882
  19. Peveril [1] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1884
  20. Mona’s Queen [2] / Steel paddle steamer / Launched: 1885
  21. Prince of Wales / Steel paddle steamer / Launched: 1887
  22. Queen Victoria / Steal paddle steamer / Launched: 1887
  23. Tynwald [3] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1891
  24. Empress Queen / Steel paddle steamer / Launched: 1897
  25. Douglas [3] / Steel single screw steamer / Launched: 1889
  26. Mona [3] / Steel paddle steamer / Launched: 1889
  27. Viking – Steel triple screw direct drive turbine steamer – Launched: 1905
  28. Ben-my-Chree [3] / Steel triple screw direct drive turbine steamer / Launched: 1908
  29. Snaefell [3] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1910
  30. Tyrconnel / Steel single screw steamer / Launched: 1892
  31. The Ramsey / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1895
  32. Peel Castle / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1894
  33. King Orry [3] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1913
  34. Mona [4] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1907
  35. Manxman [1] / Steel triple screw steamer / Launched: 1904
  36. Mona’s Isle [4] / Steel triple screw steamer / Launched: 1905
  37. Snaefell [4] / Steel triple screw steamer / Launched: 1906
  38. Cushag / Steel single screw steamer / Launched: 1908
  39. Manx Maid [1] / Steel triple screw steamer / Launched: 1910
  40. Ben-my-Chree [4] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1927
  41. Victoria / Steel triple screw steamer / Launched: 1907
  42. Ramsey Town / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1904
  43. Rushen Castle / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1898
  44. Peveril [2] / Steel single screw steamer / Launched: 1929
  45. Lady of Mann [1] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1930
  46. Conister [1] / Steel single screw steamer / Launched: 1921
  47. Mona’s Queen [3] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1934
  48. Fenella [2] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1936
  49. Tynwald [4] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1936
  50. King Orry [4] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1945
  51. Mona’s Queen [4] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1946
  52. Tynwald [5] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1947
  53. Snaefell [5] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1948
  54. Mona’s Isle [5] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1950
  55. Fenella [3] / Steel single screw diesel motorship / Launched: 1951
  56. Manxman [2] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1955
  57. Manx Maid [2] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1962
  58. Peveril [3] / Steel single screw diesel motorship / Launched: 1963
  59. Ramsey / Steel single screw diesel motorship / Launched: 1964
  60. Ben-my-Chree [5] / Steel twin screw steamer / Launched: 1965
  61. Mona’s Queen [5] / Steel twin screw 10 Cyl. Pielstick diesel motorship / Launched: 1972
  62. Conister [2] / Steel single screw Sulzer motorship / Acquired by IOMSPC: 1973
  63. Lady of Mann [2] / Steel twin screw 12 Cyl. Pielstick diesel motorship / Launched: 1975
  64. Peveril [4] / Steel twin screw Pielstick diesel motorship / Acquired by IOMSPC: 1993
  65. Mona’s Isle [6] / Steel twin screw M.A.N diesel motorship / Acquired by IOMSPC: 1984
  66. Manx Viking / Steel twin screw Pielstick diesel motorship / Acquired by IOMSPC: 1978
  67. Tynwald [6] / Steel twin screw Pielstick diesel motorship / Launched: 1967
  68. King Orry [5] / Steel twin screw Pielstick diesel motorship / Acquired by IOMSPC: 1990
  69. Belard / Steel single screw MaK diesel motorship / Chartered to IOMSPC: 2002
  70. SeaCat Isle of Man (later renamed Snaefell) / Aluminium hulled fast craft catamaran / Chartered to IOMSPC from 1994
  71. SuperSeaCat Two (later renamed Viking) / Monohull fast craft catamaran / Chartered to IOMSPC from 1998 and later purchased
  72. Ben-my-Chree [6] / Roll on/roll off passenger ferry / Launched in 1998 and still in service today
  73. Manannan / Fast craft catamaran / Acquired by IOMSPC in 2008 and still in service today
  74. TBC – a new purpose-built vessel expected to commence service in spring 2023 – find out more

Note that the launch dates mentioned are not necessarily when the Steam Packet Company’s connection with the vessels began, i.e. some were purpose-built for the Company whereas others were acquired or chartered at a later date from their launch. Other vessels have also been chartered by the Company during this time, such as MV Arrow, which is currently on long-term charter, and previous vessels including Rapide and Riverdance.

LOOKING AHEAD

While it’s fascinating to look back on the rich and wide-ranging history of our fleet, it is also enjoyable to look ahead to the next chapter. In July 2020, our Board of Directors signed a contract with one of the world’s major shipbuilders, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, based in South Korea. This marks an important milestone in our history and the next step in securing a replacement vessel for conventional ferry Ben-my-Chree [6].

Expected to commence service in spring 2023, the new addition will play an important part in our future plans, bringing high levels of passenger and on-board facilities and enhanced freight capability.

A computer-aided design of the new vessel

This truly is an exciting time in our history and, in the year we mark our 190th anniversary, we’re excited about the new vessel which will take us to our 200th year and beyond.

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