When the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company - long since affectionately known as P. & O. - was founded in 1834, the two original partners (Brodie Willcox and Arthur Anderson) initially took the decision to hire ships rather than go to the expense of building their own. The first ship to be chartered for their new service to the Peninsular (Spain and Portugal) was the William Fawcett even though, in the event, she proved unsuitable for the notoriously rough Bay of Biscay crossings. The tiny vessel was a wooden paddle steamer of 206 tons built by Caleb Smith in Liverpool and engined there by Fawcett & Preston. Named after the man who had constructed her engines, she was launched in 1828 as a Mersey ferry but soon purchased by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company which, in turn, leased her to P. & O. In fact, she only ran on P. & O.'s primary route for a few years and, by 1838, had been relegated to their subsidiary service from Lisbon to Madeira. In the years ahead however, as the company established itself as the world's largest shipping group, the William Fawcett was able to claim the honour of being the very first vessel in that long line of splendid P. & O. ships which continues to this day.