Manx Institutions that I love/hate!

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and its ships hold a special place in the hearts and minds (or should that be memories?) of most Manx residents and visitors. Horror stories of rough crossings  and the cancellation of services due to bad weather resulting in empty supermarkets are legendary. And it can be very rough even in mid-summer as I have experienced but you get used to it, and if you can’t there’s always the plane from Ronaldsway but that’s for another thread. Hi-speed craft link Befast/Dublin with the Isle of Man in approx 2 hours 45 minutes (subject to weather conditions), while the Liverpool service is also handled by a fast vessel. The Douglas/Heysham service is operated by a conventional ferry the “Ben-my-Chree” and takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. This is the flagship of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company but it seems to have been designed primarily for freight traffic with passengers very much of an afterthought. Despite several re-fits it remains unpopular especially when compared with earlier vessels such as the altogether more reliable “Lady of Mann” which sailed in the worst of conditions but with less discomfort to passengers. Certainly during the time when I lived on the island the Ben-my-Chree used to have its sailings cancelled at the first sign of bad weather which caused an anonymous local wit to compose this ditty:

Ode to the Olympic Flame

I’m lying here in Douglas; once again I did not sail

The Island has no papers and Marksies bread’s gone stale

I’m a brand new ship from Holland and the Ben-my-Chree’s my name

The slowest ship they’ve ever built and I’ve other claims to fame

I watch my little sister “The Lady” pass me by

She’s on her way to Liverpool, so why the hell can’t I?

She is 25 years my senior and only half my size

But I mustn’t go out there today, for fear I might capsize

I see the yachts out in the bay with all their sales unfurled

My chairman’s told my passengers I can sail throughout the World

To Tokyo or Sydney or even Santa Fe

But Liverpool and Heysham are just too far away

I lie here in the harbour, feeling so uneasy

My sailings have been cancelled because it is too breezy

I’m storm-bound here in Douglas and on my berth I lie

It really is embarrassing as a canoe goes paddling by

I’ve got another sister, she’s called a Super Cat

She takes day trippers to Liverpool but doesn’t bring them back

The Lady comes to the rescue; she always is on call

I avoid this situations by not leaving port at all

Now we’ve got a little system; it really is unique

It protects us from the elements when the weather is too bleak

My captains lights a candle and hangs it from my railings

And if the wind doth blow it out he cancels all my sailings


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