The First S.S. Tynwald

Isle of Man - Scott #543 (1993)
Isle of Man – Scott #543 (1993)

For “random stamp days”, my favorite subjects tend to be animals or plants as these seem to be the easiest to prepare. However, a fine-looking watercraft — anything from a canoe to a dhow to a ferry and on up to the largest ocean liners — will always catch my eye. The liner articles tend to be some of the most involved here on ASAD as there is simply so much information available and I can spend hours just accumulating awesome images to include. I recently (May 11) sought out a different subject for a planned article about the S.S. France (1962) on the anniversary of her launch as I simply didn’t want to devote the vast amount of time involved in preparation and production (don’t worry — the France article will appear next February on the anniversary of her maiden voyage by which time I’ll have a much better stamp to highlight).

This morning, Scott #543 from the Isle of Man caught my eye as did several others in the same 1993-1996 series — a stamp with the Red Ensign bearing the three-legged Manx triskelion coming a close second in todays stamp choice. I couldn’t find much information about the steam ferry and image searches turned up only two of decent resolution. In other words, it’s a perfect choice for a lazy Sunday in the middle of southern Thailand’s monsoon season when going outside involves a bit of risk…

Painting of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company paddle steamer Tynwald (I).. Artist and date unknown.
Painting of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company paddle steamer Tynwald (I).. Artist and date unknown.

SS Tynwald was an iron paddle-steamer which served with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company between 1846 and 1886. Bearing the British Official Number No. 21921, she was the first of six vessels in the Company to bear the name. Tynwald was rigged as a barquentine, with a clipper bow. She had three masts, with the funnel abaft of the paddle boxes. A conspicuous feature was a full length figurehead of a Manx Scandinavian king in armor.

There had been various shipping companies serving the Isle of Man in the early 19th century but their crossings were irregular and vessels used were unreliable. As a result the island could be cut off for weeks at a time. The Manx people felt it was essential they should have their own dedicated service. A meeting was held in Douglas in 1829, from which was formed a committee charged investigating the cost of acquiring a steam packet.

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company advertising poster.
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company advertising poster.

On June 30, 1830, the brand new vessel Mona’s Isle, built at a cost of £7,250, sailed from Douglas to Liverpool on its very first sailing. From the inauguration of the service until January 1832, the company was known as the Mona’s Isle Company. Briefly the company then traded as the Isle of Man United Steam Packet, before assuming the name Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Limited (Sheshaght Phaggad Bree Ellan Vannin in Manx) in July 1832. Abbreviated to IoMSPCo., the company is currently  the oldest continuously operating passenger shipping company in the world, celebrating its 180th anniversary in 2010.

The company’s first Tynwald was built by Robert Napier and Sons —firm of shipbuilders and marine engineers at Govan, Glasgow, Scotland founded in 1826 as the first shipyard on the River Clyde. Tynwald has the dubious distinction of being the first steam packet vessel whose launch was delayed by a strike in the shipbuilding yard. She had a gross registered tonnage of 700 GRT and was 188 feet (57 meters) long with a beam of 27 feet (8.2 m) and a draught of 13.5 feet (4.1 m). Tynwald had a 280-horsepower (210 kW) oscillating steam engine and recorded a speed of 16 knots (18 miles per hour) on her sea trials. She had a capacity of 781 passengers.

Upon her completion, Tynwald was taken under the command of the Commodore of the Line, Captain William Gill and made passage from Glasgow to Douglas in a time of 12 hours.

Tynwald berthed at the Coffee Palace Berth in Douglas, Isle of Man. Unknown photographer and date.
Tynwald berthed at the Coffee Palace Berth in Douglas, Isle of Man. Unknown photographer and date.

Tynwald‘s  first voyage from Liverpool to Douglas — a distance of 84 miles (135 km) — was completed in 4 hours and 18 minutes. Her arrival was celebrated in the local newspaper:

This magnificent steam ship arrived last night in Douglas Bay about a quarter to twelve o’clock, having made the passage from Greenock. A salute was fired from the Fort Ann Hotel, and a number of people were assembled on the pier, but the moonlight did not enable us to notice her proportions, farther than her rig. She will come into the harbour at an early hour this morning, and will sail to Dublin on a pleasure excursion with the shareholders and other friends exclusively, on Thursday night at 11 o’clock, and return on Friday evening at 8 o’clock.”
— Mona’s Herald. Wednesday, September 2, 1846.

Tynwald operated the passenger and cargo service between Liverpool and Douglas on the Isle of Man.  Her cabins were elegantly furnished and decorated and there was a large deck saloon. She was a reliable vessel. A local newspaper would describe her as being ‘as sure as a mountain goat’.

The view from Douglas Head, Isle of Man, towards the harbor with the ferry terminal of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in the center. Photo taken on August 11, 2009.
The view from Douglas Head, Isle of Man, towards the harbor with the ferry terminal of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in the center. Photo taken on August 11, 2009.

On Thursday, December 31, 1846, when on charter to the Liverpool and Belfast Company and under the command of Captain William Gill, Tynwald collided with the Admiralty steam vessel Urgent and damaged a paddle box. The collision occurred in the River Mersey in the vicinity of the Formby Lightship. Captain Gill was exonerated by the directors as the accident had occurred in dense fog. It is noted in the Company minutes that a provision of £386 (equivalent to £34,304 in 2016) was to be set aside to meet repairs to the damage suffered by the vessel. This did not prevent the directors from later claiming £2,004 (equivalent to £178,097 in 2016) in compensation for damage and loss of earnings, and then, on legal advice, settling for £1,489.

During the winter season in 1850, Tynwald was chartered to go to the Mediterranean and called at Gibraltar, Genoa and Leghorn, making the round trip in 30 days. In 1861, she carried the new appointed Lieutenant Governor Pigott to his new home in Douglas.

Isle of Man 1-crown coin issued in 2005 to mark the 175th anniversary of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Isle of Man 1-crown coin issued in 2005 to mark the 175th anniversary of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

In December 1863, she collided with the Royal Navy brig Wild Wave, the settlement after a long wrangle costing the Steam Packet Company £1,128 (equivalent to £100,246 in 2016). After 1863, she was only used as cargo vessel.

After an eventful career of 40 years, in 1886 Tynwald was sold to Caird & Company for £5,000 (equivalent to £499,851 in 2016) in part payment for her successor, Tynwald (II). She was scrapped soon afterward.

First day cover of the low values - 1p, 2p, 4p, 5p, 20p and 21p - in the 1993 Historic Ships definitive series issued by the Isle of Man on January 4, 1993 (Scott #531-534 and #543-544). Blenham cachet. Image from eBay [NMIC: 2018]
First day cover of the low values – 1p, 2p, 4p, 5p, 20p and 21p – in the 1993 Historic Ships definitive series issued by the Isle of Man on January 4, 1993 (Scott #531-534 and #543-544). Blenham cachet. Image from eBay [NMIC: 2018]

Scott #543 depicting Tynwald at the quay in Douglas was released by Isle of Man Post on January 4, 1991, as part of a multi-year set of ship definitives that would eventually number 19 designs (Scott #531-553C).  Most of these was released in sheets but there were a few booklet panes and souvenir sheets as well. The low and some of the medium values, including the 20-Manx pence Tynwald stamp, were designed by Anthony Theobald. These were printed in lithography by Enschedé. Printed in sheets of 50, Scott #543 alternated rows with Scott #547 depicting the sailboat Francis Drake, perforated 13½ x 13. The stamp remained on sale until November 30, 1998, The stamp was reprinted with a 1995 year date inscribed in the lower margin (Scott #543a).

The Stamps of the World website has a nice page dedicated to this issue, illustrating all of the stamps in the series as well as selected first day covers and presentation packs. There were also PHQ cards issued depicting each stamp.

Flag of the Isle of Man

Map of the Isle of Man

Red Ensign (Civil Ensign) of the Isle of ManCoat of arms of Isle of ManLogo of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

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