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LOSS OF THE ELLAN VANNIN

of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company 

 

The Ellan Vannin was originally built as an iron paddle steamer and named Mona's Isle [2]. Constructed in Scotland by Tod & MacGregor at Meadowside, Glasgow in 1860 at a cost of 10,673UKL.

Dscf0749.jpg (79612 bytes)She had a gross tonnage on building of 339 tons, top speed of 12 knots and an overall length of 63.09metres. She was launched on 10 April 1860. In 1883 the Mona's Isle [2] was converted to a twin screw steamer by Westray, Copeland and Co. of Barrow and renamed Ellan Vannin on 16 November 1883. Ellan Vannin is the Gaelic for "Isle of Man".

After conversion there was a small increase in tonnage to 375 tons and speed increased to 12.5 knots.

The Ellan Vannin could carry up to 300 passengers (50 1st Class) and had a usual crew of 14.

By the time of her loss the Ellan Vannin was one of the smallest and oldest members of the IoMSPCo fleet. In her latter years many of her sailings were from Ramsey in the north of the Isle of Man to Whitehaven, Liverpool and Scotland. Despite her small size and age she was considered to be a strong ship and often put to sea in many a storm which had caused other ships to run for the shelter of Ramsey Bay.

On the morning of 3rd December 1909 she left Ramsey at 01.13 bound for Liverpool. She carried 15 passengers, 21 crew plus mail and 60 tons of cargo, which included sheep, pigs and vegetables. Her master was Captain James Teare of Douglas with 18 year experience.

On departure the weather was moderate, and though the barometric pressure was falling, the captain did not expect any significant deterioration of the weather.

As the passage progressed the weather rapidly deteriorated and by 06.35 when she arrived at the Mersey Bar the wind had risen to force 11 with waves exceeding 7 metres. She foundered between the Mersey Bar and the Q1 buoy on the Mersey approach channel when it is assumed that she was broached on being swept before the seas. She filled with water and sank by the stern. All passengers and crew were lost.

After the foundering her masts broke the surface. Divers inspecting the ship found damage to the bows and that the lifeboat davits had been swung out ready for lowering. The Board of Trade inquiry found that no blame attached to the Captain and that the cause of the disaster was the extreme weather. Soon after the disaster the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board demolished the wreck using explosives as it was causing a hazard.

Captain Tear's body was washed ashore on Ainsdale Beach near Southport in January 1910. His body was subsequently returned to the Isle of Man for burial. A disaster fund was established to provide for the dependants of the deceased, to which the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company donated £1,000.

In 1976 the disaster was brought to public attention again by a BBC documentary in which the Spinners folk group performed the song "Ellan Vannin" commemorating the disaster.

Since the disaster, The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has never used the name "Ellan Vannin " as a ship's name even thought the company has a tradition of reusing old names. However, in 1996 a Manx registered sail training vessel SOUTHERN CROSS was renamed ELLAN VANNIN. 

LYRICS to the Folk Song - "Loss of The Ellan Vannin"

THE LOSS OF THE ELLAN VANNIN
(Ellan Vannin tragedy)

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Snaefell, Tynwald, Ben My Chree

Fourteen ships had sailed the sea

Proudly bearing a Manx name

But there’s one will never again

Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company

Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

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At one a.m. in Ramsey bay

Captain Teare was heard to say

"Our contract said deliver the mail

in this rough weather we must not fail"

Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company

Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

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Ocean liners sheltered from the storm

Ellan Vannin on the wave was borne

Her hold was full and battened down

As she sailed towards far Liverpool Town

Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company

Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

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With a crew of twenty-one Manxmen

Her passengers Liverpool businessmen

Farewell Mona's Isle farewell

This little ship was bound for hell

Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company

Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

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Less than a mile from the Bar lightship

By a mighty wave Ellan Vannin was hit

She sank in the waters of Liverpool Bay

There she lies until this day

Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company

Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

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Few Manxmen now remember

The third day of the month December

The terrible storm in Nineteen-nine

Ellan Vannin sailed for the very last time

Oh Ellan Vannin, of the Isle of Man Company

Oh Ellan Vannin, lost in the Irish Sea

EVStory.jpg (51853 bytes)

ELLAN VANNIN STORY

The Manx Heritage Foundation has published a book "The Ellan Vannin Story – An Account of The Loss of the SS Ellan Vannin" by Richard Stafford - ISBN 0952 401964. Price £12.99

The book is in A4 format with 103 pages. The foreword is by Hamish Ross, present managing director of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. The book is a thorough piece of work, including not only full details of the disaster, but also provides for a snapshot of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company during the early part of the 20th Century. The subsequent Public Inquiry technical details of the vessel and biographies of all the passengers and crew are also included.

If you wish to obtain a copy quickly may I suggest you give the Lexicon Bookshop at Douglas a call. Their phone number is 01624 673004 and they will take credit card orders. Postage is around £2.00. 

 

 

 

 

Sources of Information:

Life and Times of the Steam Packet [1994]

Wrecks of Liverpool Bay [1994]

 

 

 

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