The Mannin (Floating Dredger) - by Roy Kissack
Memories of the Mannin and my Father - Edward [Eddie] Kissack by Roy Kissack
(Eddie Kissack in the cab aboard Mannin)
I was born Edward Roy in 1934, and at that time we lived in Drinkwater Street before moving to Hatfield Grove.
I believe that Dad worked for the Harbour Board before becoming involved with the Mannin, in that he was the "timekeeper" for the building of the "Viaduct" a covered walkway that joined the King Edward and Victoria piers.
In 1936 he went to Glasgow apparently to receive instructions on the use of the crane and grab, and this was the same year and dock yard that the Queen Mary was launched. I recall many years later, Dad showed me a piece of mahogany wood which apparently came from the Captains table.
I seem to remember from what he told me that the Mannin was delivered by a Scottish crew, as the Manx seaman did not fancy sailing a flat bottom boat with a big hole in the middle and a large crane amidships.
Most of the dredging work took place in Douglas harbour keeping the deep berths open for the numerous IOM Steam Packet boats plying their trade between the "mainland" and our Island.
They were also detached to far away places like Laxey, Peel and Ramsey, to keep their Harbours open, and if they were lucky and could afford it, they managed to get home to Douglas on Wednesday nights by bus, train or electric railway.
As a boy the Mannin fascinated me, in that a boat with huge doors under the keel covering the hopper could open and release all the sand and mud without sinking!!!
I recall it's battleship grey profile with plumes of black smoke emerging from its' funnel, very slowly leaving the harbour to beyond the south of Douglas Head to deposit the mud etc.
(Eddie Kissack climbs the jib)
When I was a bit older, Dad let me onboard and I was taken below to see their very cramped living quarters with 5 bunks (there was no discrimination between Captain and crew), the damp conditions, as there was nothing between the hull and the living area which was always cold even in the summer. I often observed them putting fire bricks in the coal fired oven to use as warmers in the bunks instead of water bottles. Mugs of tea were always on the go, and I recall the comradeship and friendly nature of all the crew.
My finest memory of the Mannin was Dad telling me that they (the Mannin crew) on returning from one of their detachments at Peel, and with good weather expected, would head south and pass through the Sound. I recall that magic moment seeing this old grey flat bo ttomed boat, black smoke pouring from the funnel, probably going flat out to defeat the currents and lit up by the sun, a wonderful site. (How I got to the Sound is beyond me, I might have cycled there with my brother Allan and sisters Anne and Monica, or gone by train to Port Erin and walked, as the family had no car.)
When at home in Douglas, Dad very often came home with the fruits of the sea from the many fishermen that he knew, flounders, crab, lobsters, herring and queenies, these to our poor family were like a gift from heaven, herrings grilled on two pokers over the open range, those that were left were pickled for later.
I remember him telling me of how he was thanked (rewarded) by a visiting lady tourist, who on alighting from one of the boats, dropped her handbag overboard, and on the following day, or when the boat departed to the mainland he used the grab and recovered her purse.
A more serious event however befell him in that looking into the hopper to assess the spread of the mud he sneezed and lost his teeth, and I don't think that this time he used the grab to recover them!!!
The memory of my Dad, at sea, was that he was always attired in overalls,with a captains type hat perched at an angle on his head, his favourite pipe in the corner of his mouth with the lovely smell of Robin Redbreast tobacco, a piece of cotton waste in his hands smelling of oil, and the all pervading smell of the coal smoke from the funnel, but I am sure that he enjoyed his time on the Mannin and I believe that when he retired in 1961 he lost the love of his life.
(Eddie [2nd from right] in 1961 at retirement)
How sad the boat looks now in Ellesmere port, still in it's ever lasting battleship grey paint, an old lady now, born in 1936 and to this day still bearing the name MANNIN and apparently still available for "private operating" after a lifetime of over 35 years in the service of the Harbour Board.
A replacement Mannin in brighterer colours, with a new crane and jib, seen in Padstow harbour a couple of years ago can never replace what I feel about my Dads Mannin for it was not only part of his life, but part of our family life too.
Roy Kissack - 2004