Geoff opened his fascinating talk from when he joined the Steam Packet, straight from school, in 1969, in the parcels department. He remembered the winter cold in the unheated building and the poor lighting, absence of any aids such as computers or calculators.
Dougie Cowley, all 25 stone of him, was his boss so that alone put an end to any disputes! When inquiring as to when he might take a holiday, he was told to wait until informed. This turned out to be the end of October and the start of November.
Deliveries were by the 3-wheeled scarab tractor units and trailers, immensely popular at railway stations, as they were so easy to manoeuvre.
The bulk of cargo traffic was to and from Liverpool – no Heysham Harbour, then. Calves were wrapped in sacking with their heads sticking out. Coffins were loaded into a large box on the deck before the live passengers arrived and used it for seating. I recall a group of bikers being asked by a rather intense lady to desist playing cards on it as her husband hated cards and he was under the pack!
Telex was the means whereby information about the actual sailing time, number of passengers and cargo was communicated.
Drugs for chemists were sent in tea chests with no special security needed in those happier days. Now sniffer dogs have to be used to check passengers and freight. Why were our precious standards abandoned so lightly?
In the season, boats were packed with trippers, the Wakes Weeks being particularly popular. Porters raced with handcarts between the boats and hotels, (we have a restored one in the Manx Transport Museum, in Peel.) Many of the men got little further than the now-demolished Yates’s Wine Lodge!
Manxman, King Orry, Ben-my-Chree, Lady of Mann, Tynwald tripped off the tongue. We all loved these lovely, dignified vessels with their evocative smells of steam, kippers, polish and Brasso. One could go on. I used to love watching the log spinning in the water with the flickering needle showing our speed. No doubt, all electronic, now.
The restaurants with silver service have never been replaced. What a pity. Courtesy was such that a sailing could be delayed for a few moments whilst some soul threw family and luggage on-board before leaping on as the last rope splashed into the sea. Oh Mr Health and Safety, what now?
Even peoples’ ashes were scattered at sea by the captain. The details of this were amusing.
The illustrious service in two world wars was covered, as was the development of car ferries and fast craft. As for the hot air, well that’s Tynwald!
Next, 19th June – be at Lynague, 10.15 for 10.30am. Share cars where possible and use special car park for Rev Ian Fauld’s conducted tour. Cancel, if wet as path tricky, so walking shoes, please. Timing is to suit the tides for cave exploration – terrific place!