MANXLINK magazine was first published in May 1995. When I moved into my house the previous owner had left behind a typewriter. I had a few ideas spinning around, some of making a music fanzine. I then thought about doing a fanzine about IOMSPCo ships. I made enquiries as to whether anyone else was doing one and to my surprise no-one had bothered. I set about putting basic articles together. These were of my own experiences because starting from scratch I didn't have anyone else to contribute articles.
Originally I was going to just paste the articles and pictures into a magazine format and photocopy them on the works photocopier, but I don't suppose my then employers the Co-op Funeral Service would have approved of me using all of their toner in the machine. They had been very helpful in supplying all the paper I needed, albeit unknowingly. I was talking to my mate, Tony and he said that it would be better if it was printed. Coincidentally Tony was a printer. Before you could say "Foreigner" and "cash in hand" the first issue of MANXLINK was on the press. Done when his former boss was away.
There were 150 copies of the first issue printed and these quickly sold out, much to my surprise. Six months later issue 2 emerged. As with issue one all the articles were written by myself as at that time I had no contributors. Early readers who contacted the mag were Ted Capstick, Kev Bennett and John Entwistle and lasting friendships emerged from this. By issue 5 the decision was made to go into colour. This move boosted sales and gave a more professional look.
Issue 7 was reviewed in the Manx Independent and more outlets began to stock it on the Island. A colour cover and colour centrespread certainly made a difference and even people who had not bothered with the mag before were full of praise. The magazine was now available on board Steam Packet Ships, a feat in itself as the then Onboard Services Manager was not interested in selling the mag.
Issue 9 had even more colour inside and prestigiously had an interview with Steam Packet MD, Hamish Ross. Here is where MANXLINK temporarily ground to a halt. During production of issue 9 I had a lot going on at work and home. I was finding it hard to keep a job, have a relationship, have a life, etc, etc, etc. I did not really know when issue 10 would be coming out.
Issue 10 will come out, but at the moment it is on hold. It may not come out in the magazine format, it may be a hard bound annual coming out once a year. Watch this space.
Here are some articles from earlier issues of MANXLINK.
Contract ticket sailings in the 80's
printed in issue number 1
Between 1981 and 1983 a lot of Sundays and odd weekdays were spent on Steam Packet ships. Having one of the Contracts which were then available allowed you to take as many trips as you wanted. For me this was only valid from Fleetwood, but that didn't matter because we didn't have a car so we couldn't travel from any other port anyway.
The Sunday trips meant a very early start, catching a tram hours before the ship was due to leave. This journey on a tram to meet up with a ship like the Manxman might have seemed nostalgic to an enthusiast keen on old types of transport, but as I was only interested in the ships this part of the day was hated and something to be endured. A great thing was when the tram turned onto the promenade at Fleetwood and seeing the ship for the first time, as you wouldn't know which oneit would be until this moment.
There were always the same faces around on the crossings and they usually sat at the back on the motor vessels, just where the exhaust vents are on the car deck. It was alwayswarm sat here. The only disadvantage of being here was that you tended to get covered in soot and dirt from the mainmast funnel above. The Mona's Queen, unlike the Lady of Mann had the boat deck overhanging slightly so you didn't get so dirty, this also saved you from getting soaked in the rain and bad weather.
Most of the time ashore was spent either wandering around Douglas looking around the shops or sitting up on Douglas Head watching the then large fleet arriving. Once back at the Sea Terminal you had to look at the destination boards to see which pier you wopuld be leaving from. One thing that intrigued me was that the weekly sailing arrangements sheets issued internally within the Company had "Private and not for circulation" on them, yet quite a lot of the regulars had them. Maybe they had a contact in Imperial Buildings.
Once on board it was first come, first served for the orange chairs, or the even older wooden ones. Again, it was usually the same crowd sat at the back. In high summer the sun would be on the boat's stern all the way home and it would be roasting with the sun and heat from the vents. We used to pass the Manx Viking in either her inward or outward trip and you would sometimes see a Steam Packet ship on the horizon. Once back in Fleetwood there was the nightmare tram journey and that was it until the following week.
SeaCat Isle of Man's return sailing to Fleetwood (Capt. Crellin) on June 27th was delayed half an hour after fighting broke out in the Sea Terminal departure lounge. As the passengers were waiting to board a couple of members of Blackpoo Central Working Mens Club started arguing, then fighting amongst themselves. A member of security turned up, as did a Policeman. Things cooled down for a few minutes then they started again and were separated. It went quiet , then all hell broke loose.
Tables and chairs went flying and more Police turned up. On board the SeaCat Captain Crellinannoubnced the troublemakers (all middle-aged men, not youngsters) had been left behind. The Blackpool Evening Gazette ran a story some days later. The club refused to comment on the matter. The Gazette said that 27 members of the club had been left behind and many had to sleep rough in Douglas.
Mona's Queen's incredible journeyThe Mona's Queen, the Steam Packet's third side-loader built in 1972, is now in the Philippines. George Anderson, an Engineer on the Peveril travelled out on her. She was renamed Mary the Queen and registered in San Lorenzo. Here is a brief account of the voyage.
The vessel left Liverpool on December 4th 1995, she arrived in Malta on December 14th for bunkering. On the 17th she arrived at Port Said and bunkered, then she travelled through the Suez Canal and arrived at Djibouti, Sudan on Christmas Day. She then went on to Colombo, Sri Lanka and arrived there on New Years Day. The next port of call was Singapore, which was reached on January 6th 1996. The final destination, Manila, was reached on January 10th.
The total mileage for the trip was 9,700 nautical miles, with deviation for bunkering, also bear in mind that she was steered by hand all the way. The average speed was around 15.3 knots and fuel consumption worked out at around 14 metric tonnes per day.
For a ship that hadn't moved in five years, to get her to the Far East in 37 days was a job well done.
Steam Packet Snippets
Mr Francis Kitts has sent in two amusing articles about events happening on the old steamers. The first one dates back to the 1940's.
A south-easterly crippler, ship wallowing and labouring at under ten knots in confused seas, thumping solid walls of green water, crockery going everywhere, and once I saw a poor soul, glazed of eye and wanting to die, being slowly and sympaathetically driven by two officers, stagger into a corner on deck where he came to a standstill. There, unconscious on his feet, the two officers, as from a penny dip, frisked him for his ticket!
The next is from the 1950's
On a winter trip to Liverpool, having got down early to sleep in my favourite steerage sleeper, I was awakened by the purser who came for my ticket. I fumbled, tore it in half and got my head down again. Some time later, he awakened me again, saying: "Sorry to trouble you again, but you gave me the wrong half." "How", I asked, "Out of the hundreds on board, did you know it was me?" Came the reply: " because at this end , you're the only one on board!!"