The Town

It is natural that Peel would turn to the sea for its livelihood, so for many years fishing, trading and shipbuilding were mainstays, providing full-time employment for most of the population.

Peel-built schooners traded around northwest Europe and the Mediterranean, while Peel fishing boats fished around the southern coast of Ireland and near Shetland, as well as round the Isle of man. Probably the most daring voyage was that of the schooner Vixen, which sailed off in 1853, with 37 young adventurers hoping for luck in the newly discovered gold fields of Australia. Some returned to Peel, having had some success.

It was in 1840 that the initiative of entrepreneur Robert Corrin resulted in many Manx fishing boats sailing in the early summer to seek the mackerel shoals off the south coast of Ireland, mainly around Kinsale. Later in the summer, Peel boats set off to Shetland for herring, returning to the shoals in Manx waters. To accommodate the growing numbers of fishing boats and the trading schooners, the Harbour and Breakwater were gradually being improved. Peel became a prosperous place, with a large part of its income deriving from the export of salted herring, mainly to northern Europe. Also there was much demand for the famous Manx kipper. By the time of the peak in the 1880s, fishing had become the main source of income for the Town, when almost 3,000 men and boys were going off to the herrings. Ancillary businesses such as ship building, net and rope making, chandlering plus fish buying and curing gave employment to hundreds more. Catches and herring prices were jubilantly recorded in the Peel City Guardian. With hindsight, it is easy to denounce the decline in catches as the inevitable consequence of over fishing. The numbers of boats sailing to Ireland gradually decreased from the 300 of 1880, to the handful setting off for Ireland in 1915. One of these, the Wanderer, no. PL 11, was the first on the scene after the Lusitania was torpedoed, and rescued over 160 survivors. For their brave action, the six fishermen were given rewards and medals.