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Thursday October 23rd



Good morning doesn’t really seem appropriate this morning, unless you are parked before a roaring fire and don’t have to go out. The wind is blowing from the Southwest at about force 8. The weather forecasters say it will increase to force 9 by lunch time. It is also raining and they are saying we will have maybe an inch of rain.


The so-called super seacat isn’t very super and is tied up in Douglas harbour; she neither fights like a Viking nor performs like superman. Meanwhile the Ben My Chree is making a steady 16 knots on passage for Heysham. The Ben has made that fruitcake that wrote that poem about her look a tad foolish on days like this. J Well at least M & S and Tescos will have food on their shelves tomorrow as it seems just one day without the Ben sailing, empties their entire store. I guess this wind is bad enough, however back in the days of the Ramsey Steamships fleet of small steamers, one of their notorious skippers was Captain John Dan Kelly. He was known by his friends as John Dan. I have a cassette tape of him where he is describing the foul weather conditions as he tried to coal lighthouses in the Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland. John said “The wind is that powerful out here, you would be afraid to open your mouth for fear you would not be able to close it again!” The men who crewed these little steamers were hardy souls. In rough weather, sometimes they would have to go the whole voyage of 10 or even 20 hours without a hot drink. The steam engines were completely open, with no safety guards in those days. Once on passage from the Island to Liverpool, a stoker stumbled into the works of the engine and the crew could not stop the engine for fear of losing the ship, so they had to carry on to Liverpool with the stoker getting chopped up in to smaller and smaller pieces until they reached Liverpool. I am told that all that could be found on arrival in Liverpool was a boot and some clothing. During the height of the troubles in Ireland, the IRA mistook the Ben Vooar for a UK vessel and planted a bomb on her in Cork harbour. The bomb went off at around 3 a.m waking most of the population of Cork and blowing the mast out of the Ben Vooar. Her captain was an Irish man funnily enough, by the name of George McGavick who liked a drink or two. He slept in his cabin right throughout the whole business and never heard a thing. Of course it was always nice when you could go ashore and have a few beers. A vessel once arrived in Castletown with 200 ton of coal. They came along side at around 3 in the morning, so they decided they would get their heads down for a few hours and then enjoy the day ashore in Castletown. The problem was, it was in the middle of the Southern 100 races and to avoid having to work around closed roads later that afternoon, a team of Dockers was onboard discharging the boat by 4 a.m. and by about 10 a.m. the vessel was empty and on her way to Liverpool again.


Well that is about it for today folks. I will be back tomorrow with more stories from the Lord knows where. Anyway enjoy the rest of your day, and be grateful that you are not being tossed about on a tiny steamer in the middle of the Irish Sea.


Tom Glassey, on the banks of the Silverburn River.


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