‘Peggy’ of Castletown

'Peggy', Manx Nautical Museum, Castletown, Isle of Man (2014)

‘Peggy’, Manx Nautical Museum, Castletown, Isle of Man (2014)

The Isle of Man is rich in romantic stories, some of them true, and none more palpably true than the saga of Peggy, George Quayle’s armed yacht, which recently saw the light of day for the first time in perhaps 180 years.

George Quayle (1751-1835) was a trader, banker and Member of the House of Keys, the Manx parliament, in the lively period of the late eighteenth century when the island’s economy struggled against the Westminster government’s opposition to the Manx habit of smuggling.

Peggy, which was built in 1791, was berthed in a purpose-built basement boathouse beside the harbour in Castletown, within sight of Castle Rushen. She would have had no difficulty in sneaking out to sea from her private dock under cover of darkness: https://vimeo.com/95281569.

After George Quayle died Peggy seems never to have sailed again. Indeed, for almost a century she was apparently forgotten.

By the time word of her existence got about she was the oldest Manx boat in existence, three times unique as the oldest surviving schooner, of shallop construction, and fitted with sliding keels: http://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/register/1125/peggy.

After the death of George Quayle’s descendant, Emily Quayle, in 1935, Peggy and her boathouse was bequeathed to the Manx nation and became the centrepiece of the Manx Nautical Museum, which opened in 1951.

She was very gently restored after the Second World War, and has rested intact and largely untouched until 2014, when a series of super-tides threatened her location.

To safeguard her and to assist her long-term conservation Peggy has been craned out of her berth and taken to a climate-controlled environment in Douglas: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-31049837.

The archaeological investigation and preservation process is expected to take at least five years.

What will happen to Peggy at the end of the project remains to be seen, though a recent Manx Heritage statement said, “The intimate links between Peggy and her boathouse are so very important that the final stages of the project will look at ways of housing her there when the conservation work is completed.”

The Manx Nautical Museum reopens, in Peggy‘s absence, in May 2015:  http://www.manxnationalheritage.im/attractions/nautical-museum

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