Manchester Liners was formed in 1897, three years after the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 and as a partner to Furness Withy & Co. Sailings were mainly to Canada particularly for the cattle trade, but Galveston and New Orleans sailings were also made for the cotton trade to the Lancashire mills. In 1901 a joint service with R. W. Leyland & Co to Philadelphia was inaugurated and in 1906 a service to the River Plate commenced, but these were not a success and regular sailings ceased. Services to the Great Lakes started in 1952 and in 1970 Manchester Liners became a subsidiary of Furness Withy & Co.
Manchester Liners was associated with Furness Withy right from the start, as Sir Christopher Furness took up 150,000 pounds of the company’s shares on incorporation in 1898. The remaining 200,000 pounds required was raised by Manchester interests, including the Ship Canal Company.
The Line’s first two vessels were acquired for 60,000 pounds en bloc from Elder Dempster in 1898 and these also had Furness Withy connections. Built in 1889/90 for Johnston Line as QUEENSMORE and PARKMORE, Elder Dempster took over the ships in 1896/7, together with the Avonmouth-Canada service on which they operated, and took the opportunity to sell them on to ML in 1898 as the Avonmouth service was not proving a success. At 360 feet the QUEENSMORE was the largest ship to reach Manchester from Canada, and just 10 feet short of what conventional wisdom believed was the maximum safe length for the canal.