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Canal Archive: Bridging the Years

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A New Year Celebration

The formal opening of the Canal was conducted by Queen Victoria in May 1894, but before this royal visit an earlier opening had taken place that year on New Years' Day which was just as well celebrated.

At 10 o'clock, on the sounding of a steam whistle, a procession of vessels led by Samuel Platt's grand steam yacht 'Norseman' carrying the Company Directors set out on a journey along the Canal from Latchford. Thousands had travelled to see the New Year event and on the signal of the whistle, as described by Sir Bosdin Leech, 'a mighty sound of cheers was given, but this was quickly drowned out by the combined efforts of scores of steam whistles and sirens, it was perfect pandemonium''

The procession was cheered along the whole route of the Canal, 'Norseman' being followed by various vessels, including 'Snowdrop' carrying representatives of Manchester City Council and 'Crocus' containing ladies' and directors' friends
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Members of Manchester Arts Club sailed on the 'Claughton', onboard which a poem was read which had been specially composed for the day, an extract of which follows;

To cross no mighty ocean to seek no foreign shore,
The merchant ships of England their anchors weigh once more.
Today they sail our Ship Canal, to celebrate the worth
Of British pluck and energy, this triumph of the North.

Seagulls were seen following the boats, a sight said by many to be a good omen for the Canal

Over 50,000 tickets had been issued by the Manchester Ship Canal Company for viewing points on the dock premises at Old Trafford. The tickets were free, but so great was the demand that two men were accused of producing forgeries.

On that first day a steamer owned by the Co-Operative Wholesale Society, the 'Pioneer', unloaded its cargo of sugar from Rouen, claiming the honour of being the first merchant vessel to be registered in the Port of Manchester.

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This is page 1 of The Opening of the Manchester Ship Canal.
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The 'Norseman' leading from Latchford on New Year's Day 1894

The 'Norseman' leading from Latchford on New Year's Day 1894
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An admission ticket for one of the steamers which took part in the New Year's Day procession

An admission ticket for one of the steamers which took part in the New Year's Day procession
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An illustration of the S.S 'Pioneer', the first vessel to register in the Port of Manchester

An illustration of the S.S 'Pioneer', the first vessel to register in the Port of Manchester
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