Messrs Moore Brothers

The Northern Whig of 26th May 1877 announced that Messrs Moore Brothers would have two boats on the Belfast-Bangor route. In addition to the spacious and excellent steamship Erin there was a new handsome and commodious saloon steamer, Bangor Castle, which had made her trial trip to Bangor the previous day.

However on the day of the trial trip, Alexander Thompson, a painter by trade, was arrested on board the Bangor Castle, by Constable Grey, under a warrant, while he was working at his trade. He was charged with deserting his wife and five children and leaving them chargeable on the rates of the Belfast Union from 4th November 1876. The prisoner’s wife and five children had entered the workhouse on that date. They remained there until March when his wife and one of the children left. On 16th May the other children also left the workhouse. Alexander Thompson was sentenced to 14 days of imprisonment [1].

A notice was published in the Northern Whig of 28th June 1879 announcing that tickets for the train and the favourite steamers, Erin and Bangor Castle could be purchased at the Central Railway Station. The steamers sailed daily to Bangor from the Queen’s Bridge Pier, located close by the Central Railway Station.

Mr William Moore of Messrs Moore Brothers died on 21st December 1882 at his home in 1 Wellington Park, Belfast. He had been suffering from typhoid fever. The ships on both sides of the river displayed their flags at half mast. Messrs Moore Brothers owned several vessels engaged in the coal trade and a number of steam-tugs as well as being proprietors of the Bangor steamers [2]. William Moore’s brother, John, continued trading as Messrs Moore Brothers.

A competing steamship service was introduced in June 1884 using the newly acquired powerful saloon passenger steamer Meg Merrilies [3]. The iron paddle steamer had been built the previous year by Barclay, Curle & Company Ltd., Glasgow. She was owned by Mr Samuel Wilson, Corporation Square, Belfast. Meg Merrilies set out from Belfast Quay on her trial trip at 3pm on Thursday, 1st June 1884, under the command of Captain Dewar. On board was a numerous company on the invitation of the new owner. Mr Wilson announced that he had endeavoured to get the best boat he could, and he might inform those present that he had succeeded in getting the finest obtainable in the three kingdoms.

However, the Meg Merrilies turned out to be luckless during her entire career and involved her successive owners in large periodic expenditure. After her first season in 1883 her previous owners had returned her to the builders as unsuitable. She was then given a new body underneath and chartered to run in Belfast Lough [4]. She only lasted one season on the Belfast- Bangor run. By 1885 she had been sold for the Glasgow-Kilmun service [5].

On Saturday 21st May 1887 the Bangor season was inaugurated by the commencing of the steamers Erin and Bangor Castle sailing between Belfast and Bangor. Unfortunately the weather was anything but that usually associated with the month of May. Not only was the air piercingly cold, but a strong wind prevailed, and at frequent intervals during the day heavy showers of rain and sleet fell. The two steamers, Erin and Bangor Castle, had recently undergone a complete overhauling. In addition a fine new steel saloon steamer, Clandeboye, which had been specially built by Workman, Clark & Co., Belfast for the purposes of the Bangor trade during the summer months, was expected to make her first trip the following Saturday [6].

Belfast, Bangor and Larne Steamboat Company

By 1887 the Bangor Steamers were being run by the Belfast, Bangor and Larne Steamboat Company. The company was formed that year for the purpose of purchasing and working the business of pleasure steamboat proprietors, which had been previously carried out by John Moore, trading as Moore Brothers. John Moore had agreed to sell to the new company his business and also the steamers, Erin, Bangor Castle and the Clandeboye along with the ticket boxes, gangways, fittings, fixtures and stores.

The price fixed by this agreement to be paid by the company to John Moore was £25,800. It was paid by allotting to Mr Moore 1,980 fully paid up shares of £10 each in the company and also paying him the sum of £6,000 in cash. John Moore was appointed managing director of the company with William Stewart, a linen merchant, James M. Barkley, a coal merchant and James A. MacNaughton, secretary for Workman, Clark & Co. appointed as directors. Robert Gray, who had been a clerk in the employment of Moore Brothers, was appointed secretary [7].

On 9th December 1889 Mr John Moore represented the company at a meeting with Mr R Ward, held at his residence, Bangor Castle. A large deputation of Bangor Town Commissioners along with others were there to lay before Mr Ward their views about the construction of a new pier at Bangor which Mr Ward was proposing to build [8].

It was recorded in the Belfast Newsletter of 19th April 1889 that the steamers Clandeboye, Erin and Bangor Castle were berthed in the Spencer Dock, Belfast, undergoing extensive repairs and improvements. Unlike other years they would not commence sailing at Easter but if the weather continued to be fine a start was expected to be made about 1st May.

It was announced that the vessels Clandeboye and Erin would not be under the command of the same officers in the coming season as during the previous one. Captain Hunsdale, who had been in charge of the Clandeboye since she was added to the service, was now in charge of the new Ayr steamer Mona and Captain McSherry, who commanded the Erin, had died suddenly a few days before. Captain Edward McSherry, who was aged 50, had been out in the city on 16th April and had barely entered his house, 11 Earl Street, when he dropped dead in front of his wife, Eliza. The cause of death was a brain haemorrhage.

Less than a month later, on 10th May, the Belfast Telegraph was announcing that the Clandeboye had been sold to a Copenhagen firm for £20,000. The newspaper added that although the Clandeboye had proved a safe and comfortable vessel, she had not fulfilled the expectations entertained by her former owners, who in catering for the public would like to have the speed of the service accelerated.

The Belfast Newsletter of 28th May 1889 announced that there would again be competition in the Bangor Steamboat Service. Mr Thomas McVeagh, jun., acting on behalf of a newly formed company, had chartered, at Glasgow, a paddle steamer called the Bonnie Doon for service between Belfast and Bangor during the season. The owners were to make an application to the Belfast Harbour Commissioners that day to have a place at the quay as a berth for her accommodation.

The Bonnie Doon had been built in 1876 by Thomas B. Seath & Company, Rutherglen. She had initially sailed in the Glasgow and Ayr excursion traffic where she earned the name BonnieBreakdoun as she hadn’t proved to be very reliable. However, by 12th June 1889 the Northern Whig was advertising that the Erin and Bangor Castle were supplemented by the Bonnie Doon on the Belfast, Bangor and Larne Steamship Company service to Bangor and Larne. A week later the Bonnie Doon lived up to her reputation. The Belfast Newsletter recorded that she had been temporarily withdrawn from service as she had to undergo some repairs owing to the machinery having slightly disarranged. By 12th February 1890 the Northern Whig announced the sale of the Bonnie Doon.

Bangor Boats Race

During the season in 1890 there was again competition on the sea route from Belfast to Bangor in the form of the new Bangor Boat Victoria advertised as from the Clyde. From Saturday 31st May 1890 there were three sailings a day from Queen’s Bridge, Belfast at 12, 3 and 5.30. The return sailings from Bangor were at 1, 4 and 8.30. On Sundays there were four sailings a day. Meanwhile Messrs Moore Brothers’ steamers Erin and Bangor Castle had been thoroughly overhauled in all departments by Messrs Workman, Clark and Co. Ltd. and Messrs Victor Coates and Co., Lagan Foundry in time for the beginning of the season on May 31st.

On 25th July 1890 the steamers Erin and Victoria were on their way to Bangor. At a short distance from that favourite watering place, the Victoria, which was commanded by Captain Cunningham, increased her speed, to try and overtake the Erin, which was under the command of Captain Hunsdale. Both steamers were going at a rapid pace when they collided as the large numbers of passengers watched anxiously from the crowded decks of both vessels.

In fact the steamers touched twice but when they immediately got clear of each other it was found that neither of them had sustained any real injury. Unfortunately for the two captains District Inspector Seddall was on board the Erin and had witnessed the collision. When the two steamers arrived back at Donegall Quay, District Inspector Seddall placed both captains under arrest and they were taken to the Police Office. James Cunningham, 17 Ship Street, 47 years of age, captain of the paddle steamer Victoria and Hans Hunsdale, 64 Paxton Street, 48 years of age, captain of the paddle steamer, Erin, were both charged with misconduct and endangering the lives and limbs of passengers on board the two paddle steamers. Mr Moore, managing director of the Belfast, Bangor and Larne Steamboat Company, had Captain Hunsdale released on bail and Mr Thomas McVeigh, managing director of the Victoria, also had Captain Cunningham released on bail [9].

The judgement later reached in court was that both parties were guilty. The Erin had been keeping her course along the County Down coastline and because the Victoria was the overtaking ship Captain Cunningham was guilty of the greater culpability. He had also not complied with Bangor harbour master’s regulations. Captain Cunningham was fined £20 and Captain Hunsdale £5.

It is hard to believe but there was a second collision between the two paddle steamers the day after the first one. It occurred in exactly the same way. This time Sergeant Walsh was on board the Erin. James Cunningham, captain of the steamer Victoria and William Hewitt, mate of the steamer Erin were charged at Bangor Petty Sessions with wilfully endangering the lives of passengers on their respective vessels while on a voyage from Belfast to Bangor. The verdict was that the conduct pursued by the Victoria could not be justified and Captain Cunningham was fined £10 and costs. The case against Mr Hewitt was dismissed.

Captain Cunningham was also summoned by Mr Robert Ward, owner and undertaker of Bangor Pier and Harbour, for violating the regulations of the harbour in respect of the arrival and departure at the pier of his steamer Victoria [10]. For breaching Bangor harbour regulations Captain Cunningham was fined 21s and 20s costs. The judgement and fine against Captain Hunsdale for the collision of the two steamers on 25th July must have been later dismissed on appeal because there was an address and presentation of money to Captains Hunsdale and Anderson of the steamers Erin and Bangor Castle dated 27th August 1890.

A large number of the passengers who had travelled on the vessels commanded by the two captains had subscribed to the fund to acknowledge their general satisfaction at the manner in which the two captains had performed their duties and to express their confidence in them as skilful and efficient officers. The address went on to congratulate Captain Hunsdale and Mate Hewitt on being honourably acquitted of the charges which had been recently brought against them and to assure both these officers that they had risen in their estimation since their skill and conduct had been shown to stand the test of searching investigation [11].

In an article about the Bangor Steamers in the Belfast Newsletter of 16th May 1891 it stated that Messrs Moore had run down all rivals and so far as could be ascertained they were in undisputed possession of the field. The syndicate that had run the paddle steamer Victoria the previous year had decided not to repeat the exercise. On 29th July 1891 Captain Hans Hunsdale of the Erin was again in court along with Captain Robert Anderson of the Bangor Castle. A number of summonses were heard against the masters of the Bangor steamers for taking aboard more passengers than the number allowed by law. The summonses were issued at the complaint of District Inspector Seddall. A fine of £5 was imposed.

Disembarking from the Bangor Castle, North Down Museum Collection Disembarking from the Bangor Castle (North Down Museum Collection)

On 17th August 1892 the captains of the Erin and Bangor Castle again had charges brought against them for taking aboard more passengers than the number allowed by law. The two captains appeared at Bangor Petty Sessions. This time Robert Anderson, 30 Spencer Street, Belfast was captain of the Erin and Neill McLoughlin, 18 Fleet Street, Belfast was captain of the Bangor Castle. A penalty of 40s and costs was imposed in each of the two cases [12].

Steamship Company Goes Bust

The Belfast, Bangor and Larne Steamboat Company went into liquidation in early 1893. The well-known pleasure passenger steamers Erin and Bangor Castle as well as the goodwill of the business of the company, with the ticket boxes, gangways, stores and other appliances were to be auctioned on 17th March at the Auction Mart of Messrs Clarke & Son, 51 Donegall Street, Belfast [13]. Mr John Moore, who for a number of years was the managing director of the firm who owned the steamers Erin and Bangor Castle, died at his residence, 3 Wellington Park, Belfast on 12th February 1894 at the age of 55. He had been suffering from dilation of the heart for 9 months and dropsical symptoms for over 3 months. Flags were flown at half mast on the steamers along Donegall Quay as a mark of respect [14]. It later emerged that Mr John Moore’s estate was insolvent.

It was reported in the Belfast Newsletter of 30th July 1895 that an application had been made that day to the Vice-Chancellor for his approval of a compromise of the claim made by Mr Edward Bailey, the liquidator of the Belfast, Bangor and Larne Steamboat Company, that Messrs William K. Stewart, James Barkley and James A. MacNaughton, late directors of the company, be declared jointly liable to contribute to the assets of the company the sum of £13,790, with interest at such a rate and from such a date as the Court might fix, as compensation for their misfeasance and breach of trust in respect of (1) the advance to John Moore, late director of the company, and now deceased, the sum of £5,500, the moneys of the company, without obtaining any security thereof, (2) the payment to the shareholders of the company of £1,290 for dividend or interest on their respective shares out of the capital of the company without obtaining proper or sufficient security for the repayment thereof, and (3) the enabling of the said John Moore to obtain sole control of the affairs of the company, whereby he obtained possession of £2,000.

Mr Kenny, Q.C. on behalf of Messrs Stewart, Barkley & MacNaughton said their offer of £3,400 was the utmost they could give, and if not accepted they would dispute liability and go to trial. The Vice Chancellor had called a special meeting of the shareholders. His Lordship told the assembled representatives of the shareholders that the liquidator had on due consideration thought it a prudent thing for them to accept the sum of £3,400. With the exception of Mr Carton’s client, Mr Wheeler, the shareholders present thought this proposal of the defendants was the best compromise that could be affected, The three directors would not participate in any dividend from this sum. The Vice Chancellor said he would sanction this compromise. He gave Mr Wheeler his costs, as it was the greatest satisfaction to his mind in a matter of discretion like the present to have an opposing interest represented, thus ensuring a full discussion. The liquidator would be allowed his costs but the three directors would have to abide their own costs.


  1. Belfast Newsletter, 26th May 1877.
  2. Belfast Newsletter, 23rd December 1882.
  3. Northern Whig, 7th June 1884.
  4. The Clyde Passenger Steamer Its Rise and Progress during the 19th Century by Captain James Williamson, published 1904 James MacLehose & Sons, Glasgow.
  6. Northern Whig, 23rd May 1887.
  7. Belfast Newsletter, 30th July 1895.
  8. Belfast Newsletter, 12th December 1889.
  9. Northern Whig, 26th July 1890.
  10. Northern Whig, 7th August 1890.
  11. Belfast Telegraph, 1st September 1890.
  12. Newtownards Chronicle, 20th August 1892. 13 Northern Whig, 15th March 1893.
  13. Northern Whig, 13th February 1894.