by John Slater.
Barbara Greenwood’s account in her book, Melbourne Bound – From the Neb to the Yarra, is such a tale of such derring-do, that it is hard to believe, yet it is true and started here in Peel. We were delighted to welcome her as speaker at our last meeting and we enjoyed both talk and illustrations.
I can do no better than to quote from the text. In the introduction we considered how the expanding population sent many Manx adventurers overseas, fuelled by stories of gold and untold riches in Australia and elsewhere.
Peel was the main shipbuilding town on the west coast and the book tells the true story of two Peel-built boats that made the journey to Australia : Vixen (1851 – 64), which set off in 1853, was a 93 foot schooner and Peveril (1848 – 85), a 59 ton cutter which sailed in 1854.
Barbara says that her interest in these ships was prompted by the fact that the Peveril’s first master was John Mylchreest, her two times great grandfather. Two of his sons, Thomas and John were on the epic Australian voyage. A younger son, travelled later, joining his brothers in Australia before travelling to New Zealand, North and South America. Finally, he ended up in Kimberley in S.Africa. In 12 years he went from penniless to wealthy, returning to Peel as the “Diamond King”.
The much smaller Peveril arrived safely, as well, and continued working in Australian waters. Incredible seamanship for young men – one master, Thomas Mylchreest, was only 24. One vessel sailed non-stop without sighting land on the way. They had been taught in our own School of Navigation, still to be seen adjoining the main car park. These trips would be regarded as hazardous, today, even armed with electronic aids such as GPS. Thomas Mylchreests sextant and telescope may be viewed in Peel’s Leece Museum on the quay.
The Vixen actually returned for a second, return journey to carry out more passengers. Many of these were miners, Manx, Welsh and Cornish who had been working here but were lured out to Australia to the goldfields.
Melbourne Bound is a fascinating, well-illustrated book, published by Peel Heritage Trust and Peel City Guardian. It is available locally and in many bookshops.
Our next meeting is on Wednesday, 18th April in The Centenary Centre. Ivor Ramsden, curator of the Manx Aviation and Military Museum, is parachuting in to give us an intriguing talk on some of the items on display and our military and aviation involvement.
This is our year for Peel’s Secret Gardens. This is a non-competitive event giving people from all over the island a chance to share and enjoy gardens, new and old and to make and renew friendships. It is on the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th July. We can slot in a few more. Just ring Vicki Gillings 844891 or Nikki Sperring on 845623 for information or to be tempted!