Lady Mary Wood



Lady Mary Wood was a 49-metre long paddle wheel steamer  launched in 1841 and registered in 1842. It is said to be named after the wife of Charles Wood, who was England’s secretary to the Admiralty.1 The steamer had a gross tonnage of 556 and horsepower of 250.2 In 1845, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) established the first regular monthly mail service under a new contract with the British government that required the company to convey mails to China via Ceylon, Penang, Singapore and Hong Kong. Lady Mary Wood was the first mail steamer dispatched to the Far East. It arrived in Singapore on 4 August 1845.3

First mail steamer
P&O was a profitable business entity when it was awarded the mail contract between England and Alexandria, and the route between Suez and Calcutta. Securing the contract to Singapore and Hong Kong further established its position in the region.4 At the time, steamers would take 140 hours to travel from Ceylon to Penang, 45 hours from Penang to Singapore, make a 48-hour stopover in Singapore, before completing its journey to Hong Kong in another 170 hours.5


Lady Mary Wood began its maiden voyage from London on 24 June 1845 arriving in Singapore on 4 August 1845, after an eight-day passage from Point de Galle, Sri Lanka. It brought mail from London in a record time of 41 days. On its return journey, the mail steamer carried a total of 4,757 letters from Singapore, the bulk of which were bound for Great Britain and Europe.6

The monthly arrival of letters made a significant impact on Singapore’s economic and social landscape, as it kept the British colony up-to-date with happenings on the other side of the world. Such contacts grew as the frequency of mail increased from once to twice per month in 1853.7

Cruise ship
The early cruise industry was dominated by P&O. Cruising was an innovation that came with the introduction of steamships. Previously, people travelled by sea, primarily for economic and commercial reasons. Seeing the potential in sea travel for leisure, P&O charged a passage fee of £160 on board the Lady Mary Wood, which included transit in Egypt and steward’s fees.8


To promote the novel idea of pleasure voyages for the wealthy, P&O invited English poet and writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Mediterranean, and to pen his adventures in a book.9 Thackeray was on board Lady Mary Wood for a week. During this time, he recorded his favourable impressions of the voyage from Southampton to Egypt in his travelogue titled Notes on a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, which was published under the pseudonym Michael Angelo Titmarsh. In the publication, he disclosed that P&O had arranged for the excursion on the Lady Mary Wood.10

Other uses
P&O’s eastern route between Point de Galle and Hong Kong via Singapore had commenced by 1845. Two vessels were used initially: Lady Mary Wood and Braganza.11


Besides functioning as a mail steamer and passenger cruise liner, it is said that the Lady Mary Wood was also used to ferry troops from India to control the 1848 rebellion in Ceylon.12



Authors
Marsita Omar & Kartini Saparudin



References
1. Remembering the grand, old lady. (1990, August 4). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; P&O. (2017). Lady Mary Wood (1842). Retrieved 2017, November 13 from P&O Heritage website: http://www.poheritage.com/Upload/Mimsy/Media/factsheet/93628LADY-MARY-WOOD-1842pdf.pdf
2. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867 (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 425. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Davies, D. (1957, August 18). G.P.O. ‘missed’ the first mail steamer. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Moore, D., & Moore, J. (1969). The first 150 years of Singapore. Singapore: Donald Moore Press, p. 253. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 MOO-[HIS]); Wright, A., & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya. Singapore: G. Brash, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 TWE)
4. A tale of a carrier and a city. (1990, July 3). The Business Times, p. 20; Remembering the grand, old lady. (1990, August 4). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867 (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 425. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
6. Bastin, J. (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. xiv. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS]); Wright, A., & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya. Singapore: G. Brash, p. 43. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 TWE); Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867 (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 425. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
7. Bastin, J. (1994). Travellers’ Singapore: An anthology. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. xiv. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705 TRA-[HIS])
8. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867 (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 425. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
9. Remembering the grand, old lady. (1990, August 4). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.; P&O. (2017). Lady Mary Wood (1842). Retrieved 2017, November 13 from P&O Heritage website: http://www.poheritage.com/Upload/Mimsy/Media/factsheet/93628LADY-MARY-WOOD-1842pdf.pdf; Thackeray, W. M. (1872). The Paris sketch book; the Irish sketch book; and Notes of a journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo. London: Smith, Elder, pp. 345–373 (Call no.: RCLOS 914.436 THA-[ET])
10. Remembering the grand, old lady. (1990, August 4). The Business Times, p. 11. “Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Thackeray, W. M. (1872). The Paris sketch book; the Irish sketch book; and Notes of a journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo. London: Smith, Elder, pp. 345–373. (Call no.: RCLOS 914.436 THA-[ET])
11. A tale of a carrier and a city. (1990, July 3). The Business Times, p. 20; Remembering the grand, old lady. (1990, August 4). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 111–113. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
12. Remembering the grand, old lady. (1990, August 4). The Business Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 111–113. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])



The information in this article is as valid as at 2008 and correct as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Commerce and Industry>>Transportation
Paddle steamers--Great Britain
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Transportation and logistics
Transportation
Paddle steamers--Singapore