[From 1897 Examiner Annual]


THE departure of Governor Sir West Ridgeway, K.C.B., K.C.S.I., upon his appointment to the Governorship of Ceylon, cast a gloom upon the opening days of 1896 in the Isle of Man. For Sir West was both an amiable and able Governor, and in a brief space of time had ingratiated himself with the people of the Island. His popularity was enhanced by the graces of Lady Ridgeway, who was a very acceptable leader of Manx Society. Sir West’s successor, the Right Hon. Lord Henniker, arrived at Douglas upon the 23rd January, and upon the following day he was installed as Governor within the ancient walls of Castle Rushen, according to the custom and with all the pomp of olden time. His Lordship has had little opportunity, so far, of showing what manner of statesman he is. His rather pessimistic budget speech delivered in Tynwald upon the 16th May was approved by some and warmly disapproved by others. Socially, Lord Henniker’s appointment has been a decided success. He has proved himself the possessor of a kindly disposition, and is evidently imbued with a desire to promote the happiness and well-being of all classes of the community. His Lordship being a widower, the duties of chatelaine of Government House have been discharged by his accomplished eldest daughter, the Hon. A. Margaret Henniker, with conspicuous tact. Miss Henniker has taken a leading part in many social functions, and evidently intends to have a good try at making Manx life smarter and brighter—The first election of Town Councillors for Douglas under the provisions of the Douglas Municipal Incorporation Act was held in February, and occasioned much feeling and excitement. In each of the six wards there were contests—that in No. 3 Ward, in which Messrs J. W. Clinch, R. Clucas, and A. Caley opposed Messrs J. A. Brown, R. D. Cowin, and R. Curphey, being so fiercely fought that it will probably become historic. The three last named candidates suffered a crushing defeat. The election of the Town Council being ended, there was some feeling displayed at the Council with regard to the appointment of six Aldermen, but eventually the following faithful and long-tried public servants were appointed —Messrs Thomas Keig, Samuel Webb, John Curphey, Alex. Lewthwaite, Joseph Hall, and William Goldsmith. Mr Keig was unanimously appointed as first Mayor of Douglas, but did not live long to enjoy the civic honour. After a brief and painful illness, borne with exemplary fortitude, he died on April 13th. His funeral partook of a semi-public character, and was probably attended by a greater number of people than had ever previously gathered in the Isle of Man to pay the last tribute of respect to the dead. In succession to Alderman Keig, Major R. S. Stephen, J.P., H.K., was appointed as mayor, though a very influential section of the Town Council endeavoured to secure the election of Alderman Samuel Webb. The new mayor appointed Alderman Webb as deputy mayor.

—Three important events affecting Castletown occurred during the year 1896. The first was the trial of the action of Fargher v. Qualtrough and others, which involved the question of whether the parishioners of Malew had a right to use the Racecourse at Langness for purposes of recreation The trial ended in a verdict to the effect that no such right had been proved being returned. The second was the withdrawal of the military garrison, which from time immemorial had been stationed at Castletown —alas, the glories of Ballacashtal are rapidly departing. The third, and perhaps the most important event affecting the ancient metropolis of Man, was the opening of the park so generously presented to the town by Mrs Poulsom, a native of Castletown, who is the wife of Mr William Poulsom, J.P. , ex-Mayor of Bootle. The day of opening was observed as a holiday, and festivity and rejoicing were general. About the time of the opening of the Poulsom Park, too, the inhabitants of Port St Mary were gladdened by the announcement that Mr George D. L. Cary, of the Calf of Man, had decided to present to the Port a recreation ground well and conveniently situated at Gansey.—Mention should not be omitted in this brief chronicle of the mildness of the winter of 1895-96. This mildness was decidedly a feature of the year. There was very little snow, and what fell speedily vanished, while of frost there was none worthy of mention. The average temperature of the winter was 42·74 degrees, which is 1·74 degrees above the mean—In the spring Mr W. S. Caine, the great temperance advocate and legislator, visited the Island, and addressed several meetings of a large and enthusiastic character.—His injunction to conserve the Manx institution of Sunday closing of public houses was timely, in view of other developments ; for during the visiting season a petition to the Insular Legislature, organised by the Manx Licensed Victuallers’ Association, and asking that the opening of public houses on Sunday should be legalised, was issued for signature by visitors to the Island. 26,000 visitors are said to have signed the petition. In the autumn of the year the Licensed Victuallers promoted another and a similar petition for signature by residents of the Island. Up to the time of going to press this last mentioned petition had been but indifferently signed—In the springtime, Mr T. Goldsmith, of Douglas, a veteran and consistent temperance advocate and prominent Wesleyan Methodist, joined the majority.— Upon April 23rd the fine swing bridge across Douglas Harbour was opened for traffic.

—The Central Promenade was completed in June, but its ceremonial opening was delayed until the completion of the cable tramway to Upper Douglas and the widening of Prospect-hill. All these were completed during the season, and the opening day was one that will long be remembered in Douglas in connection with the magnificence that marked the decoration and illumination of the town. The indomitable energy that Mr Alexander Bruce, J.P., displayed in connection with the construction of the cable tramway and in other matters affecting the welfare of the town that arose during the year, will surely be gratefully remembered by the people of Douglas for many years to come. Mr Bruce’s services in regard to the inception and carrying out of the Snaefell Mountain Railway were marked by the grateful members of the Snaefell Railway Association, who presented Mr Bruce with a splendid service of plate in token of their gratitude—In early summer, the Douglas Town Council arranged for the provision of a new cemetery for the town, and for the erection of a new Town Hall upon a site in Ridgeway-street.—The Manx boats engaged at the Irish mackerel fishery during the spring returned and reported indifferent fishings. The Manx herring fishery, too, was anything but a success.— The Port St Mary right of way trial commenced at the Hilary Common Law sitting, and, at the time of going to press, was still sub judice.—A Port Erin sensation during the season was the alleged drowning by the capsizing of a boat in the bay of Mr Thomas Johnson, a Yorkshire visitor. The body was never recovered, although carefully searched for. It transpired that Johnson was insured for some £15,000, and this fact, conjoined with the non-recovery of the body, was much commented upon.—In the autumn there were many interesting discussions at meetings of the Douglas Town Council with regard to the better lighting of the town. The advocates respectively of gas and electricity were keen in their advocacy,- and ultimately it was decided to obtain an expert’s report upon the question.—Traie Fogog bathing place, which was constructed close to Peel by Mr Robert Archer, of Douglas, the gentleman to whom the famous Port Skillion owes its development, was opened by the High-Bailiff of Peel in August, and the ceremony was attended with considerable eclat.—The passenger tax returns issued in October demonstrated that the season was the most prosperous ever enjoyed by Douglas, with the exception of the memorable season of Jubilee year (1887). The arrivals during May, June, July, August, and September. 1896, numbered 305,525, as against 292,249, which was the total of the arrivals for the corresponding period of 1895. The arrivals during Jubilee season totalled 310,916. The arrivals at Douglas during the summer of 1896 were 37,273 in excess of the average for the ten years’ 1887-1896. The other ports, with the exception of Peel, shared in the prosperity of Douglas. The storms and floods that marked the beginning of October occasioned considerable damage to property and shipping, and will long be remembered—The triennial school committee elections took place during October. With the exception of that at Douglas, they were very uninteresting. At Douglas there was a bitter contest between the Educationists and the Reactionists, which ended in the total rout of the latter party—The Municipal elections in November occasioned no excitement, the retiring Councillors who had only held office since the previous February, being returned unopposed. Major Stephen was unanimously re-elected as Mayor—Just as we go to Press the Baume Trustees have announced that they have realised the estate. The trustees propose to grant the following gifts —Nine Scholarships to King William’s College, £3,000 ; School of Navigation, &c., Peel £3,000 ; School of Art, £300 ; Scholarship to Royal College of Music, £300 ; and the payment of the debt on the Industrial Home (£2,000).


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