Life of Bryan by Nicky Bryan

The billing for this excellent evening was ‘spot on’! “Nicky is a Manxman from a long line of movers and shifters. Nicky has worked since he was 15 in the family removal business. He has seen and heard first hand the huge social and economic changes to which his family firm has continually adapted to, including horse and man- power. This mystery Tour through the history of the Island and the Bryan family from the late 1700s to the present day includes some slightly naughty episodes of some of his relatives.”

I was so impressed when Nicky said that he remembered me from when he moved us back to the Island in about 1992, from a remote Cambridgeshire village. We had just about filled a ten bedroom old rectory in Croydon cum Clopton over a 26- year period. The move required two large pantechnicons.

We didn’t pay particular attention to a news item on the radio, saying that Northampton should be avoided as a lorry had broken on a town centre roundabout bringing the place to a standstill. A subsequent phone call told us that this was our removal van. The engine crankshaft had snapped and our van plus furniture was backed up to the wall of a friendly, local remover!

Nicky’s presentation was very professional, with outstanding illustrations, many quite new to us. These were seamlessly presented with the amusing opening accompaniment of music from the Life of Brian!

We began in the early days of the company, between 1773 and 1825. This was a period when only four out of nine children survived, here. The founder of the company, Edward, was a barrow boy. We saw a photograph of him and were delighted that despite an exceedingly hard life, he beat the odds to live until he was ninety-five.

Between 1847 – 51, poverty was such that many left the Island and went to the USA. By 1880, wages rose a little as so many had died from a typhus outbreak that there was a labour shortage.

In the 1880’s, tourism was developing and money was made by carrying luggage to and from the steamers. Carriage rides to developing attractions around the island became popular. In 1904 they were fined for touting for business! In 1909, they were doing long distance removals – to Castletown!

In 1910, Bryans had an H.Q, in Nelson Street and tours around the Island were popular. They also acquired one of the first telephones and a motor vehicle.
The First World War was survived and by 1921 they had acquired a Daimler 20- seat charabanc, MN 1541. I wonder if that survives somewhere.

1919 saw a national depression but, perversely, the War brought a large increase in business carrying equipment for the construction of the railway from Peel Quayside to Knockaloe Internment Camp.

The Second World War saw another big increase in business, transporting owners’ belongings from boarding houses that had been requisitioned for more internees.

In 1979, the Usury Act had been amended so that bank mortgages could be offered, resulting in more house sales and removals. Vehicle movements on and off the Island became possible with the establishment of Geoff Duke’s Ro-Ro service.

In 1987, Jersey decided to cap population so many firms moved here, creating a mass of business and personal removals. The whole enterprise had to develop a mass of sophisticated skills to meet new regulations and to keep the workforce up to date with training courses.

With expansion into Europe, a whole new mass of regulations had to be met and agents set up worldwide. This vibrant company , history and activities deserve a whole book.. Nicky closed by saying that he loves his job. Long may he continue!

Our next meeting in the Centenary Centre is on Wednesday, September 18th at 7.30pm when Jill Quirk will recount stories of WW2 in Peel.