[Appendix D(17) 1792 Report of Commissioners of Inquiry]

N° 17.

The EXAMINATION of Mr. NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN, Harbour Master of the Port of Douglas, in the Isle of Man, taken the 3d, 10th, and 11th Days of October 1791.


The Examinant saith, that he has been Harbour Master of the port of Douglas for about nine years, under a written appointment from the Receiver General, at a salary of ten pounds sterling per annum, and a poundage of five per cent. upon the harbour dues. The duty of his office is, to give the ships their proper births in the harbour, and to collect the harbour dues from them. For about a year last past Robert Macadam has been appointed a Deputy Harbour Mastrer by the Deputy Receiver General, at a salary of five pounds per annum, The harbour dues are two-pence per ton upon all loaded vessels belonging to His Majesty’s subjects that enter the harbour, and three halfpence per ton upon all such vessels that enter in ballast ; and two-pence per ton on all foreign vessels in ballast, and three-pence per ton if laden ; and if they discharge or break bulk, two-pence per ton more : and all goods imported here, and entered at the Custom-house, likewise pay to the harbour a quarter per cent. upon the entered value of such goods. These harbour dues extend to all vessels, except the herring-fishing boats. The harbour extends from the bridge to low-water mark beyond the pier. In spring tides the water flowed twenty-two feet upon an average at the lower end of the pier as it formerly stood, and in neap tides about sixteen feet ; and at the extremity of the present pier, on an average, in spring tides, eighteen, and in neap tides eleven feet : at the ships in the harbour, where the largest vessels are discharged, there is in spring tides upon an average about fifteen feet of water, and in neap tides from eight to nine feet.

The harbour is capable of admitting vessels of five hundred tons, and of holding half a score such vessels : before the destruction of the pier he has seen thirty sail of square-rigged vessels in the harbour, with upwards of three hundred and fifty smacks and boats ; but since the destruction of the pier he has not seen more than ten square rigged vessels in the harbour at one time. The harbour at present is in a very bad state, the whole of the pier being built of small stones, and after every hard gale of easterly wind necessary to be repaired.

In 1787 eighty-four yards of the lowest end of the pier, with a light-house thereon, was destroyed by a violont gale of easterly wind, and has not since been rebuilt. The only light at present to direct vessels into the harbour is a lanthorn upon a pole erected at the extremity of the remains of the former pier which was destroyed in 1787. Since the destruction of the lower end of the pier he has never seen vessels of above two hundred and fifty tons enter the harbour ; and on account of the foundation and remains of the old pier being under water, which has been left there in expectation of the old pier being rebuilt, he does not think that larger vessels could venture to enter into the harbour with safety. At low water this harbour is entirely dry, and, before the destruction of the pier, was reckoned the best dry harbour in St. George’s Channel ; it then was an harbour of refuge in hard gales of wind for vessels from five hundred tons downwards , but since the destruction of the pier no vessel of above two hundred and fifty tons has ventured to take shelter here He thinks the reinstatement of the pier and light-house to their former state, the material improvement now wanting to this harbour ; but that if the pier was rebuilt, and carried about twenty yards farther into the sea than it was before, it would afford refuge for small vessels of fifty or sixty tons burthen; in ballast, and vessels of twenty tons laden at low water ; and at half tide for vessels in ballast of sixty or seventy tons, and for laden vessels of fifty tons burden if in neap tides. The former light-house was a brick building between thirty and forty feet high, lighted each night by seven or eight half-pound candles, with a tin circular reflector behind them of about eight feet diameter, and could be seen at the distance of four or five leagues at sea : he thinks the present light cannot be seen above a mile at sea. There is no person to attend the present light through the night ; but about twelve or one o’clock a person goes to trim and put fresh oil in the lamp.

The paper delivered in, and signed by him, contains a Plan of the Harbour of Douglas, from the bridges to low-water mark.


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