• December 2, 2023

Just after 1am on 3rd December 1909 the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s vessel Ellan Vannin departed from Ramsey. The ship was under the command of Captain James Teare, a man with 18 years of experience with the company eventually reaching the position of Master. On the morning she left, Ellan Vannin was carrying 14 passengers and 21 crew, mail and 60 tonnes of cargo including a number of sheep. Her destination was Liverpool. Two of those who perished in the Ellan Vannin tragedy were stonemasons working on the new church Our Lady Star of the Sea & St Maughold Church in Ramsey Daniel Newall and Walter Williams. There is a memorial plaque in the church in memory of them written in both Manx Gaelic (below) and English:

“Ayns cooinaghtyn jeh

Daniel Newall . Walter Williams

Lurg cooney y chur lesh troggal yn cheeill shoh.

hooar baase ayns mooirçhooir yn ghaaltan

“ELLAN VANNIN”, er e varrinys yerrinagh voish

Rhumsaa gys Lerphoyll. 3ss laa, mee ny Nollick, 1909″

On departure weather conditions were reported as moderate but deteriorated as her journey continued. To such an extent that when the ship arrived at the Mersey Bar lightship, which was a lightship which lit the way for vessels entering and leaving the River Mersey, the wind had risen to a reported Hurricane Force 12, with waves of more than 24 feet (7m) in height. She was forced off course and believed to have hit a sandbank. It is then thought that she was overwhelmed by a large wave and sank with the loss of all passengers and crew. The ship’s home port was Ramsey and a memorial stands on the town’s quayside near the point of her departure with the names of all of those that perished. Every year on the 3rd December a Service of Remembrance is held at the memorial.

The vessel was originally named Mona’s Isle and was built as a paddle steamer by Tod and McGregor Ltd, Glasgow and entered service with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in June 1860. She sailed under the name Mona’s Isle for 23 years. Then in 1883 she underwent a rebuild and conversion to a propeller-driven ship. It was at this point that she was renamed Ellan Vannin. The ship underwent a further overhaul in 1891. Ellan Vannin was highly regarded and respected before the tragedy for her ability to cope with the rough sea conditions experienced in the north of the Irish Sea.

Image: SS ‘Ellan Vannin’ by Frederick Gill (1863–1917) courtesy of Manx National Heritage

Alastair Kneale

DOI Celtic League (2nd December 2023)

Gill, Frederick; SS ‘Ellan Vannin’; Manx National Heritage; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/ss-ellan-vannin-149781
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Alastair Kneale

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