10th June 1823

Guernsey welcomed its first steam ship

The first steam ship to ever arrive at Guernsey was the Medina, which hoved into view on 10 June 1823. It wasn’t huge by any means, weighing around 100 tons. Titanic weighed around 50,000 tons, which is about the same as a cross-channel ferry.

Onboard were Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas George Fitzgerald and his family, who had expressly hired the vessel for the journey. Fitzgerald was the commanding officer of the 72nd Regiment of Foot.

Otherwise known as the Highland Regiment or the Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders, the 72nd Regiment of Foot was formed in Scotland and served in India and Africa. It also spent time on both Guernsey and Jersey, hence Fitzgerald’s need to travel to the island.

A notable occasion

The Medina’s arrival from Southampton was a moment of great excitement for Guernsey residents. As The Guernsey and Jersey magazine wrote at the time, having never seen a ship of such advanced technology, “as will easily be supposed, the pier and the various eminences were crowded [with locals hoping] to have a view of her as she came in”. The journey from the mainland had taken 15-hours. It can now be completed in around a quarter of that time.

Locals had to wait three months to see the next steam vessel arrive, but wouldn’t have been disappointed. Where the Medina had been a 100-ton ship, the next – the Royal George – had weighed in at 387 tons. That’s still small by modern standards, almost four times the weight of the one that had previously excited them.

A popular name

The Medina was still a very new ship. She had been launched the previous year and would remain in service until 1848. She was the first steamer to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight, and occasionally made channel crossings to Le Havre.

Another paddle steamer of the same name, the PS Medina (I) was built four years after this ship was scrapped, by J White of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. At 104 tonnes, she was slightly heavier than the original Medina. PS Medina (I) was in service for 21 years, being withdrawn in 1882 and scrapped 12 months later.


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