SS Ellan Vannin

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Mona's Isle at Ramsey
Mona's Isle
Name: Mona's Isle
Owner: Isle of Man Steam Packet Company
Operator: IoMSPCo
Port of registry: Isle of Man Douglas, Isle of Man
Route: Various
Builder: Tod & McGregor Ltd. Meadowside, Glasgow
Cost: £10,673 (£848,836 in 2014).[1]
Way number: 27260
Launched: April 10th, 1860
Completed: 1860
Reclassified: 1883
Homeport: Ramsey
Identification: Official Number 27260.
Fate: 1883: converted to screw-driven vessel
General characteristics as Mona's Isle
Type: Paddle steamer
Tonnage: 339 GT (gross tonnage)
Length: 198 ft 6 in (60.5 m)
Beam: 22 ft 2 in (6.8 m)
Depth: 10 ft 7 in (3.2 m)
Installed power: oscillating engines, manufactured by Tod and McGregor Ltd
Propulsion: Side paddles
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Crew: 14
RMS Ellan Vannin pictured entering Ramsey Harbour.
Ellan Vannin
Name: Ellan Vannin
Namesake: the Manx name for the Isle of Man
Renamed: 16 November 1883
Identification: Official Number 27260
Code Letters P Q M G
ICS Papa.svgICS Quebec.svgICS Mike.svgICS Golf.svg
Nickname: "The Li'l Daisy"[3]
Fate: 3 December 1909: sank in a storm between the Bar Lightship and the Q1 Buoy, River Mersey LAT:53°32'N LON:003°17'W.
General characteristics as Ellan Vannin
Type: Packet Steamer
Tonnage: 375 GT (gross tonnage)
Installed power: two-cylinder compound steam engine made by Westray, Copeland and Co.
Propulsion: 2 shafts
twin-screw 600 ihp (450 kW)
Speed: 12.5 knots (23 km/h)
Capacity: 299 passengers: 134 first class, 165 third class. Cabin capacity for 28 passengers (first class) and 25 (third class).
Crew: 21

SS (RMS) Ellan Vannin (the Manx name for the Isle of Man) was built as an iron paddle steamer in 1860 at Meadowside, Glasgow, and originally named Mona's Isle - the second ship in the Company's history to be so named.

Mona's Isle[edit]

The crew of Mona's Isle. First Officer James Teare, who would later go on to become a Master of the line (and command Ellan Vannin on her ill-fated voyage), can be seen seated at the far left of the photograph. The woman in the center of the photograph is Florence Helena Cowell.

Mona's Isle was built by Tod and McGregor Ltd, Glasgow, at a cost of £10,673 (£848,836 in 2014).[1] She entered service with the Steam Packet Fleet in June 1860.

Mona's Isle is important in the history of the line, as she was the first vessel to be fitted with oscillating engines, which were also manufactured by Tod and McGregor Ltd. Until 1860 the Company had always used the side-lever engine so favoured by Robert Napier & Co. The oscillating engines possessed a number of advantages over the side-lever, as it occupied less space and had fewer working parts. A further enhancement was the addition of improved feathering floats which were fitted to the paddle wheels.

There was no requirement for a connecting rod, and the upper end of the piston rod was fitted with a bearing which worked directly on to the crankpin. The cylinder was placed vertically under the crankshaft and could pivot through a small arc, permitting the rod to follow the movement of the crank.

When launched, Mona's Isle had a registered tonnage of 339 tonnes (GRT), and with 600 ihp (450 kW). This gave her a speed of approximately 12 knots.

after 23 years service, Mona's Isle was laid up at Ramsey and subsequently was taken under tow to Barrow by the Fenella in order to undergo her rebuild, on Friday January 19, 1883.[4]

Ellan Vannin[edit]

Rebuilt in 1883, her weight was increased to 375 tonnes and her speed to 12.5 knots (23.2 km/h). She was renamed Ellan Vannin (the Manx translation for Mona's Isle) on 16 November 1883, following her conversion to a propeller-driven ship. Ellan Vannin was a twin-screw vessel driven by a two cylinder compound steam engine made by Westray, Copeland and Co. at Barrow. Her boiler pressure was raised to 80 pounds per square inch (550 kPa).

She was capable of carrying 300 passengers and normally had a crew of 14. Ellan Vannin primarily operated out of Ramsey to Whitehaven, Liverpool and Scotland. She gave 26 years more service, and became the main mail carrier out of Ramsey. In December 1891, she completed a special overhaul at the Naval Construction Works at Barrow, costing £2,913 (£269,366 in 2014).[1]

Capt. James Teare.

By 1909 she was the smallest and oldest ship in the Steam Packet Fleet. Ellan Vannin was considered an exceptionally fine vessel in bad weather, carrying out the daily mail contract when other vessels were safe in harbour.

Indeed stormy weather appeared to be no deterrent to her, and it is reported that when up to 12 ocean liners had been taking shelter in Ramsey Bay, Ellan Vannin steamed through them as she made passage to Whitehaven and returned in the evening, the completion of her voyage being heralded by the ships sheltering in the bay sounding their whistles.[5]

Ellan Vannin became looked upon as a mascot of the Steam Packet fleet,[6] and known by Manx sailors as the Li'l Daisy.


Headline in the Ramsey Courier, Saturday December 10, 1909.

On 3 December 1909, Ellan Vannin left her home port of Ramsey at 01:13hrs, under the command of her Master, Captain James Teare, who had some 18 years of experience. She was carrying 15 passengers and 21 crew as well as mail and 60 tonnes of cargo.

The weather on departure was moderate, and though the barometric pressure was falling, the Captain did not expect a significant deterioration in the weather. However, the weather rapidly worsened and by 06:35hrs, when the ship arrived at the Mersey bar light ship, the wind had risen to a Hurricane Force 12, and waves were reported to be exceeding 24 feet (7 m) in height.[7]

The ship foundered, (a nautical term for filling with water and sinking), between the bar light ship and the Q1 buoy in the Mersey approach channel (at 53°32′0″N 3°17′0″W / 53.53333°N 3.28333°W / 53.53333; -3.28333).[8] It is believed she was broached by a large wave, which overwhelmed the ship. She was swept by heavy seas and filled, sinking by the stern with the loss of all passengers and crew.

News of the disaster reached Douglas on the Friday evening, and the directors sat in almost continuous session until Monday. Communication was by telegram and information was difficult to ascertain.

Lifebuoy from RMS Ellan Vannin.

Then the Liverpool agent reported that two lifebuoys, bags of turnips and a piano had been sighted floating near the Formby lightship. It was five days after the ship went down that the first bodies were recovered.

In January 1910, Captain Teare's body was found washed ashore on Ainsdale beach in Southport. It was subsequently returned to the Isle of Man for burial.

Some of the crew and passengers of the RMS Ellan Vannin.


The Board of Trade inquiry found that the Captain was not to blame for the disaster and the cause was extreme weather. The official inquiry referred to waves 24 feet (7 m) high and declared the ship to have been in good condition and fully seaworthy. After the foundering, her masts broke the surface. Divers inspecting the ship found damage to the bows and that the lifeboat davits had been swung out ready for lowering. Soon after the disaster the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board destroyed the wreck using explosives, as it was causing a hazard to shipping in the channel.

A disaster fund was established for those who were dependants of the deceased, the Steam Packet contributed £1,000 (£88,260 in 2014)[1] to this fund. The crew of 21 included one woman, a Mrs. Callister, of Crosby, Isle of Man, who left one child. The 20 men were survived by 18 widows and 70 children. All but two of the crew lived on the Isle of Man. Five of the passengers came from the mainland, the rest from the north of the Island. The last beneficiary of the fund was a Miss Benson of Ramsey, the daughter of one of the crew. She was 20 at the time of the disaster and was in very poor health. It was most unlikely that she would be the last to benefit from the fund, but she was, dying in 1974 at the age of 85.

Although the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has a tradition of reusing ship names, they have never reused the name Ellan Vannin.

A song written by Hughie Jones of The Spinners commemorates the disaster.



Name Position
Teare, Capt. James Captain
Craine, Mr. John First Officer
Kinley, Mr. John Thomas Second Officer
Bellis, Mr. Edward Chief Engineer
Craine, Mr. Frederick Second Engineer
Cannell, Mr. Walter Fireman
Crellin, Mr. Joseph Fireman
Shimmin, Mr. William Fireman
Taubman, Mr. John, Clegg Fireman
Rydings, Mr. Servetus Donkeyman
Cunningham, Mr. James Shepherd Carpenter
Cook, Mr. John William Able Seaman
Benson, Mr. John Seaman
Clague, Mr. Richard Alfred Seaman
Crawley, Mr. James Lambert Seaman
Corkish, Mr. Thomas Seaman
Kelly, Mr. William Seaman
Burke, Mr. Edward Ship's Cook
Stubbs, Mr. Thomas Chief Steward
Holland, Mr. Herbert Holden Second Steward
Collister, Mrs. Eliza Stewardess


Name Age
Mrs. John Allen -
Mstr. Earnest Allen 15
Mr. Edgar John Blevin -
Mrs. William Crix -
Baby Crix 10 months
Miss. Louis Findlay 21
Miss. Eleanor Fisher -
Mr. Christopher Thomas Heaton-Johnson -
Mrs. Heaton-Johnson -
Mr. William Edward Higginbottom -
Mr. Mark Henry Joughin -
Mr. Daniel Newell -
Mr. Thomas Henry Quayle -
Mr. Walter Williams -


RMS Ellan Vannin.
Ellan Vannin pictured departing Douglas. 
Ellan Vannin. 
RMS Ellan Vannin pictured passing the Red Pier, Douglas. 


  1. ^ a b c d UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2013), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  2. ^ Ships of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (Fred Henry) p.64
  3. ^ Ships of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (Fred Henry, 1973) p.10
  4. ^ The Isle of Man Examiner. Saturday January 20, 1883.
  5. ^ Ships of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (Fred Henry, 1973) p.10
  6. ^ Ships of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (Fred Henry, 1973) p.10
  7. ^ Ships of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (Fred Henry, 1973) p.10
  8. ^ "SS Ellan Vannin [+1909]". Wreck site. Retrieved 6 October 2013. (registration required (help)). 

External links[edit]