F75/15 Calf of Man

Calf as viewd from Mull Hills

The Calf is a small island off the southern extremity of Man. For long it was in the possession of the Stevensons of Balladoole but was requisitioned by James 7th Earl of Derby during the civil war with an eye to garrisioning it. At the restoration the Stevensons petitioned for its return.

Some legends associated with Thomas Bushell's stay on the Calf entered Manx folklore.

Another was the Penitent - see Manx Soc vol 21

It would appear to have become a visitor attraction in 1901 as an article in the Isle of Man Times of 3rd August 1901 under the heading "Amusements in Douglas" contains:


The most novel excursion open to visitors to Mona this season is that to tbe Calf of Man, an islet lying off the southern end of the Island. which receives its name on account of some fancied resemblance between its position towards the Isle of Man and that of a calf to its mother Up to last year the exclusiveness of the gentleman who owned the Calf barred all but a favoured few from landing on its rocky shores, but that gentleman recently died, and the romantic spot is now being opened out to visitors. There is no fear that its wild scenery will be changed for the gentlemen who have the place in hand are cute enough to know that the chief charm of such a place is its natural untamed beauty. Boats may be taken from Port Erin or Port St. Mary - no more interesting sea trip is possible than that from the latter harbour, skirting the tremondous cliffs, honey-combed with caves, and haunted by thousands of screaming wild fowl. The Calf within its five-mile circumference is crammed full of little hills amazingly like real mountains, and the visitor will find it hard to believe that the highest spot is only 420 feet above the sea level. Here the naval authorities have a signal station for a watcher during naval manoeuvres, and close by there are the remains of a cottage in which many years ago a recluse spent the later years of his life, maintaining himself on the rough produce of his sea-girt home. There are two disused light-houses on the Calf, and a mile or so away the Chickens Rock lighthouse stands boldly up out of the waves. A most enjoyable day can easily be spent wandering round the rough country, and exploring about the cliffs, though the latter requires to be indulged in with the greatest care. An immense variety of wild flowers grow here, and the species peculiar to cliff soil are in remarkable profusion. Honey-scented heather is there by the acre, bracken waist high, and in the glades the merry rabbits skip and play. Much interest can be aroused in watching passing vessels, all the traffic between England and Dublin and the southern Irish ports coming in sight. Of the Isle of Man a wonderful panoramic view is obtained, and last but not least there is keen delight in gulping down deep breaths of the pure sweet, air, sweeping in off the open sea. A trip to the Calf is one that can be recommended, and will live on in one's memory as a pleasant recollection.

In 1937 given to the UK National Trust, it became a bird sanctuary; later transferred to Manx National Heritage.


Online Pages:

Bishop Wilson gave a brief description in his History of the Island. concentrating on the 'puffins' caught there.

P G Ralfe Birds of the Isle of Man contains under puffin an extract from Townley describing a visit there in 1780 as well as considerable history of the Calf..

G Head A Continuation of a Home Tour 1836 describes a visit there in 1832

Some discussion re Bushell's house & geology in Proc IoMNH&AS0c 3 #5 pp504 et seq

Lighthouses on the Calf.

Offline References

 W. Lockington Marshall The Calf of Man Shearwater Press (0-904980-19-7) 1978

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© F.Coakley , 2001