Ship-Building

Articles from the Isle of Man Part 2 of 2

Ship Building in the Isle of Man

(The following article was sent to me by Meg Turville-Heitz of Wisconsin who found it in a box of family history "goodies" left to her by her grandmother, Margaret Olive Qualtrough Turvill. It was written in February 1919 by A.E.Rothwell and originally published as a reprint in "The Manx Quarterly" Vol 22 July 1920. The article is quoted in part below.)

Note: Place yourself in the year in which the article was written – 1919- as all the references to "the past" are circumspect from that year.

Once upon a time –and not that very long ago – shipbuilding was a fairly flourishing industry in the port of Douglas. …

Mr William Qualtrough*, a Manx shipwright was a pioneer in connection with the Australian gold-diggings and in this capacity he amassed money which he used, on his return to Douglas in establishing a shipyard on the southern bank of the Douglas river, immediately adjoining Douglas Old Bridge.

The yard is still in existence and is still carried on by a company formed by Mr Qualtrough. For many years past however, it has lain idle, in consequence of the depression, which overtook the shipbuilding trade, so far as the Isle of Man is concerned, about three decades ago. But in his day the late Mr Qualtrough built many staunch craft which were famous for the excellence of their material and workmanship and seagoing quality, combined with a fair turn of speed. Principally, Mr Qualtrough devoted himself to topsail schooners, and among vessels of this class which he turned out were the Yarra-Yarra, the Emu, the Kangaroo, the Goldseeker, the Phoenician, and the William Berey.

It will be noticed that the nomenclature of four of these craft was evidently inspired by the builder’s sojourn under the Southern Cross. The William Berey was named after a gentleman who had the principal ship-broking connection in the Isle of Man and who was for many years Lloyd’s agent for the Island.

These schooners were mainly engaged in the home trade, but on occasions they voyaged to the Baltic, to Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, and the Azores or Western Islands. Their cargoes from the Azores consisted of oranges – in those days the European fruit trade was almost invariably confined to medium-sized sailing vessels. The schooners were commanded by Manx sailors and manned by Manx crews sl long as ownership remained in the Isle of Man; but as the years went on the vessels were sold to other quarters, and with their passing the golden age of Douglas merchant shipping ended.

Mr Qualtrough also built several nickeys and other fishing craft which proved very remunerative to their owners during the prosperous years of the Manx herring fishery. Likewise he designed and constructed numerous small pleasure craft. Among these was the twenty-ton cutter yacht Annie built to the order to the late Mr Sam Lomas, sometimes proprietor of the Royal Hotel, Douglas. Annie had beautiful lines and was delightfully fitted. Her owner…….. was inordinately proud of her and he was never so happy as when, accompanied by a party of friends, he was cruising the Manx waters in her. …

Other pleasure craft built by Mr Qualtrough were used for the recreation of holiday-makers. The late Mr William Curphey, whose shipyard was also on the bank of the Douglas river, also built a number of small sailing craft……….

The article then continues with the discussion of other shipbuilders in Douglas and the shipbuilding industry in general in the Isle of Man in the 1800s and it ends with comments on the rejuvenation of the industry after the depression of the early 1900s and finishes with the launching of a new venture in shipbuilding….

More power then to the new venture. All being well, Manx people should within the next few months have the opportunity afforded them of witnessing a ship passing over well-greased ways laid from the yard into Douglas river. And a launch is a site well worth seeing.

And sea! She stirs!

She starts, - she moves, - she seems to feel

The thrill of life along her keel,

And, spurning with her foot the ground,

With one exulting joyous bound,

She leaps into the ocean’s arms!

A.E.Rothwell February 1919

*William Qualtrough, shipwright was born in Arbory, Isle of Man in 1824, son of William Qualtrough and Elizabeth Caine (See Chart 14 ). In the early 1850s he ventured to Australia, specifically Victoria, where he "amassed money" in the Victorian Goldrush. Records show that he met his wife while there, a Manx lass, Eleanor Gawne who had emigrated to Victoria with her father Thomas Gawne. William & Eleanor were married at the Mission House Geelong, Victoria, in 1854 and after the birth of their eldest daughter Isabella in 1856, they returned to Douglas, Isle of Man where William established the shipbuilding firm discussed in the above article. Wiliam died in Douglas in 1878 and is buried in Arbory Churchyard, Isle of Man.

Further comments: The above William Qualtrough was not the only Qualtrough involved in the shipbuilding industry in the Isle of Man. Another notable shipwright was Joseph Qualtrough who began his shipbuilding business in Port St Mary, later moving to Douglas and establishing a shipyard there as well. This Joseph Qualtrough was known by the nickname of "Joe Bill Joe" – remember the article written by John K Qualtrough of Port St Mary for the July 2001 Newsletter!

February 2002

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