Photographic memories of a golden age of travel

PRECIOUS ARCHIVE: Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward, above left, and library and archive services officer at Manx National Heritage Paul Weatherall, right, receive the collection of images from Victoria Wood, centre left, and captain Jack Ronan, centre right.

PRECIOUS ARCHIVE: Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward, above left, and library and archive services officer at Manx National Heritage Paul Weatherall, right, receive the collection of images from Victoria Wood, centre left, and captain Jack Ronan, centre right.

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PRESERVED between layers of tissue paper for 90 years, a collection of photographs taken of Steam Packet crew during the 1920s and 1930s has been discoved in the attic of a house in Lewisham, south-east London.

Victoria Wood, granddaughter of London-based ship enthusiast and amateur photographer William Edward ‘Ted’ Groom, who travelled to the Isle of Man many times during the period, discovered the images when she began writing her grandfather’s history.

Steam Packet staff put Victoria in touch with captain Jack Ronan, who worked for the Steam Packet company for 40 years and was a captain for 20.

By coincidence, Captain Ronan had been given copies of some of Ted’s collection and was delighted to discover Victoria had the original photographs.

Victoria said: ‘When I found the images I thought they were too important not to be in an archive.

‘Captain Ronan has done a wonderful job researching the images and I’m so glad my grandfather’s pictures now form part of such a fascinating collection.’

Captain Ronan said: ‘Initially we just planned to contact the relatives of the crew in the pictures, but after speaking to the Steam Packet, it was decided the collection would be archived and made available to the public. These photographs were taken at a time when there were very few cameras around, so Ted’s photographs provide a rare and unique record of that period.

‘I think the fact they survived more than three-quarters of a century is nothing short of a miracle.’

The collection also contains a number of images taken by Ted which have been donated by other people, including memorable stills of crew on the Mona’s Queen before she left for Dunkirk in 1939, which are owned by island resident Andrew Moore.

Archivist Wendy Thirkettle, from Manx National Heritage, has provided expert help with the collection.

Steam Packet chief executive Mark Woodward said: ‘We are extremely grateful to Victoria for donating these images, which represent an important part of the company’s history.’

The collection will be available to view online at www.steam-packet.com/TedGroom and via screens outside the travel shop at the Sea Terminal in Douglas.

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