Following the flame: Isle of Man - Miss Corris does 'extraordinarily well'
02 Jun 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
The Isle of Man Insurance Company, later part of Aviva, was established in 1882. A trade directory for 1889 proudly lists it under the section heading "Insular Insurance Company". By this date the company was based at 10 Athol Street and F E Horton was the manager and secretary. A year later the board minutes of Commercial Union discussed the potential acquisition of the company and in 1891 it was acquired by a future Commercial Union subsidiary, Palatine Insurance Company.
The island in 1882 must have seemed an ideal place for a local insurance company as by 1881 at least 26 insurance companies were operating there including six which later became part of Aviva. Accident Insurance Company was represented by W E Young and Lancashire and Yorkshire Accident by H C Wood.
Yet another accident insurance specialist, Railway Passengers Assurance , had two agents in Douglas; William Isdale at the Post Office and J D Rogers of Bank Chambers Prospect Hill. Commercial Union and Ocean Accident and Guarantee were represented by brewer J W Clinch and Norwich Union by William Clarke whose family had been representing the company since the 1840s.
The archive contains a fire policy ledger for the agency covering the dates 1838-1869. The ledger is a mine of information on who was living where on the island and what their occupations were. Among the entries we have this for the agent Archibald Clarke himself in 1841...
...this for Robert Thompson, grocer, baker and dealer in wines and spirits in Peel, in 1842...
...and this for Margaret Clucas, bonnet maker of Douglas in 1840.
Despite the long association, the Clarke family were not Norwich Union's first agents on the island. The earliest recorded agency dates to 1818 when John Grave was acting as agent for Norwich Union Life .
It is likely that he also represented Norwich Union Fire whose Douglas fire losses for 1818 were £18 6s 6d. According to local trade directories by 1837 John Grave had been replaced by his wife who had also taken over the running of the Post Office. It seems to be theme of our history on the Isle of Man for women to take over the role of selling insurance and this is what also happened to the General Accident Douglas office when its resident secretary was called up in the Second World War.
General Accident had opened a branch at 54 Athol Street in 1936 managed by Mr Handley who had previously represented the company from his home address. By 1942 the income from the office was £2,398 pa and the combined salaries of Mr Handley and his typist, Miss Corris, were £365. When Mr Handley joined the war effort and Miss Corris took the reins local representatives of Commercial Union and Norwich Union...
...were among those who offered to help and give her any advice necessary. With such support and that of the local Road Transport and General inspector, J E Taylor, her manager in Liverpool reported she had done "extraordinarily well" and was "very popular with our agents". By 1949, when Mr Handley was back in charge, General Accident had the "second largest income of any company operating on the island."
I'll end with our only photographs related to the island, a couple of mug shots of Commercial Union's staff there in 1970s.
I would love to hear from anyone with more photographs or information on our history here especially anything related to the Isle of Man Insurance Company.