[From Brown's Directory, 1881]

[Historical Chapter]

[Education Act]

Among the many measures introduced by the Government during this period for the social improvement of the Island, the most important were those relating to the elementary education of the people. At a Tynwald Court held in Douglas on the 25th November, 1869, the Governor gave notice of his intention to lay before the Court a Bill for improving elementary education in the Island. On the 4th December, the draft of this Bill was printed, and on the 9th February, 1870, it was considered by the Council, and ultimately rejected by a small minority of that body, because it embodied the principle of compulsory attendance at school. On the 27th February, the Governor announced this result to the Tynwald, and added that, believing that the general feeling in the Island was in favour of the extension of education, and that the general features of the measure were approved by the country, he was not prepared to accept the decision of the Council as final, and he had, therefore, caused the Bill, slightly altered, to be laid before the House of Keys for consideration. This Bill was, consequently, read a first time by the House, on that day, and ordered to be printed in its amended form. On the 15th March, the Bill came on for its second reading, when a number of petitions were presented against it from the various dissenting bodies, signed by about 6,000 inhabitants, complaining that, by section 20, the incumbent and wardens of each parish were ex officio members of the school committees, and also that by section 27, the religious instruction to be given in the national schools was to be in accordance with the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England. This, the petitioners declared to be a gross injustice to the Nonconformists of the Island, and they prayed that the school committees should be elected by the rate-payers, and that the religious instruction given in the public schools should be regulated by the school committees. After an animated debate an amended preamble, proposed by Mr. Sherwood— Whereas it is desirable provision should be made by law for the regulation and improvement of public elementary education in the Island, was agreed to, and the further consideration of the Bill adjourned to the 2nd May. On that day the consideration of the Bill was resumed. A petition against it was presented from the ratepayers of Jurby by Mr. Crellin, who supported its objections. Mr. W. F. Moore thought that the House was not in possession of sufficient information, and ought to wait until the nature of the English Bill had been determined, and moved, therefore, that the further consideration of the Bill be adjourned for six months. Mr. Callister objected to the adjournment as undignified and likely to form a bad precedent. Mr. Farrant seconded the motion for adjournment because the Bill before the House was too much like the English Bill, and unsuitable to the requirements of the Island. Mr. Dumbell could not see any real grounds for postponing the consideration of the measure. Mr. Stevenson supported the adjournment because the Bill was not wanted by the country. Mr. Sherwood also supported the adjournment because the country had not had time to consider the matter, and because the House was not possessed of sufficient or reliable information to enable it to legislate safely on the subject. Mr. Christian was likewise in favour of an adjournment on much the same grounds as Mr. Moore. The Secretary (Mr. R. J. Moore) objected to the adjournment as it would mean a rejection of the measure. Capt. Goldie objected to the measure as unsuitable to the wants of the country, and because it would compel parents to take their children from work and send them to school. The House then divided on the motion for the adjournment of the debate, when 16 voted for the adjournment and 6 against it; majority for the adjournment 10. In consequence of this decision, which was generally accepted as decisive of the fate of the measure in its present form, on the 12th May a resolution was passed by the House, on the motion of Messrs Dumbell and Callister, that an address be presented to the Governor requesting him to appoint a commission to make further inquiries into the present state of education in the Island. On the 9th February, 1871, after an interval of ‘ nine months, a message from the Governor was read, requesting the House to appoint two of its members to be associated with a third person, to be appointed by himself, to act as a Commission to make certain inquiries relative to the state of education in the Island. In consequence of this message the House nominated Messrs E. Gell and W. B. Christian, and with these the Governor associated the Attorney-General. On the 29th May the Governor explained to the Court that, in consequence of the fresh statistics accessible through the recent census, it had become evident that the Education Bill was defective in its present form, and that he wished, with the consent of the Keys, to withdraw it in order to re-introduce it again in an amended form. On their adjournment to their own House, the Keys, on the motion of Mr. Dumbell, formally gave this leave, and the Bill was withdrawn.’ On the 2nd September, the new Bill was printed, and proved to be, with certain important alterations, a copy of the English Act of the preceding year. In some respects it even went beyond the English Act, especially in the following points :—By it the entire Island was divided into 21 educational districts (the 17 parishes and the 4 towns) ; in each district it established an educational body, called in the Draft Bill a school board, " elected by the ratepayers of the district, to levy an education rate in its district," to provide it with school accommodation, and to manage its public schools ; the work of superintending the whole was, by the Draft Bill, vested in the Education Department, but in its passage through the Legislature this proposal was rejected, and a Manx Educational Department, called the Board of Education, was created, to regulate Insular educational affairs, and to distribute the Insular educational vote ; a clause was introduced into section 7, by which, in all public elementary schools, except those belonging to the Roman Church, provision should be made " for instruction in religious subjects, and for the reading of the Holy Bible, accompanied by such explanation thereof and instruction therefrom as may be suited for the capacities of children ;" and it also proposed the enactment of compulsory attendance at school for all children between the ages of 5 and 13 years, but this proposal was afterwards modified, the age for compulsory attendance being raised to 7 years, and a qualifying clause being also introduced (" for at least such number of times as may by the Minutes of the Education Department for the time being in force be requisite in order to entitle a public elementary school to obtain a Government grant for the children attending the same "), which was afterwards found practically to vitiate the whole principle.

In the interval between the publication of the Draft of the Bill and its consideration by the Legislature, several of the more prominent members of the House publicly expressed their views respecting it. Among them were Messrs Farrant and Christian. Mr. E. C. Farrant, at the Andreas Harvest Home, said that if the provision of schools were increased the then existing system would do very well, and he did not think so many changes as were contemplated were wanted. He was strongly opposed to the compulsory system, and he also thought the Conscience Clause entirely unnecessary here, as there was really no difference between the tenets of Churchmen and Wesleyans. Mr. W. B. Christian, on the same occasion, said that he was sorry to differ from Mr. Farrant as to the necessity of the Compulsory Clause, because he did not think it right that children should suffer for the negligence of their parents. Among the general public, too, as might have been expected, the Bill excited considerable attention, and was freely handled by numerous speakers at most of the harvest festivals.

On the 20th October, the Bill was read a first time ; and on the 22nd November, the House proceeded to discuss it. At first, there seemed to be considerable doubt whether the Bill should be taken as it stood, and amended so as to make it more acceptable, or whether it should be rejected and progress made by way of abstract resolutions ; but, after a warm debate, it was agreed, by a majority of two, that the consideration of the Bill should be proceeded with. The early clauses were then taken in order and rapidly disposed of, with the exception of that portion of clause 2 which nominated the Education Department as the governing educational authority—the consideration of which was adjourned. On arriving again at clause 7, Mr. Stevenson moved, and Mr. Farrant seconded, the omission from it of what is usually called " The Conscience Clause." A warm debate followed, and, on a division, 10 (Messrs Corrin, Sherwood, E. Gell, Dalrymple, Penketh, Watterson, W. F. Moore, Christian, Jeffcott, and Taubman) voted for the retention of the clause ; and 8 (Messrs J. S. Moore, Farrant, Rowe, LaMothe, Goldie, Stevenson, Dumbell, and H. J. Moore) voted for its omission; majority for retaining the Conscience Clause—2. The House then divided on a new motion by Mr. Dumbell, seconded by Mr. Jeffcott, that the latter part of the clause after the word " Worship " be omitted—the effect of which would have been to take away the right of a parent to withdraw his child from any religious instruction he disapproved; and so evenly balanced was the House, that this attempt at religious intolerance was defeated by the casting vote of the speaker, J. S. G.~Taubman. The debate was resumed on the following day by Mr. Stevenson moving, and Mr. Dumbell seconding, that the latter part of the clause, giving power to a parent to withdraw his child during the time for religious instruction, be struck out. Mr. Dalrymple moved, and Mr. Corrin seconded, that the clause be retained :as it stood. In the debate upon this motion, Mr. Dumbell asserted that members of the House opposed to the motion were in favour of " excluding the Bible altogether " out of schools. Mr. Dalrymple denied this, and said that what they contended for was the exclusion of " denominational teaching." Mr. Dumbell reasserted his statement, and declared that though no one was more anxious to have an education bill for the Island than he was, " he would put his hand into the fire before he would sign a bill which did not insist on the Bible being read in schools." Mr. Christian interposed to calm the heat of the debate, and to remind hon. members that they were wandering from the point before the House, which was not whether or not the Bible should be read in the schools, but whether a parent should have the power to withdraw his child from any religious instruction he disapproved of. Mr. Sherwood followed with a personal explanation; and the debate was wound up by Mr. Farrant reiterating his belief that the Wesleyans would not object to being taught the Church Catechism. The House then divided, and decided, by a majority of 5, to adhere to its decision that the clause be retained as it stood. Several other amendments were agreed to by the House without a division, all indirectly strengthening the hold of the Bill over scholars during the time of religious instruction ; but as they were all afterwards abandoned by the House, and the clause restored to its first form, it is not necessary to detail them more particularly. The House next agreed to clauses 8 and 9, relating to the supply of schools, without a division ; but with regard to clause 10, which made it compulsory on every school district to elect its school " board," Mr. Stevenson pointed out that this clause was different from the English Act, which gave districts the option of having a school board or not; and moved that the clause be so altered that it should not be obligatory on a district to have a school " board " where it was not required, Mr. LaMothe seconded the motion. Mr. Christian said that to leave this point optional " would be to take away the very life out of the Bill." Mr. Dumbell did not think that the amendment would be any benefit or improvement to the Bill. Mr. Dalrymple thought that districts already well supplied with schools should not be put to the expense of electing school " boards." On a division, the House was again equally divided, and the Speaker again gave his casting vote against the motion, and in favour of the compulsory election of school " boards" in every school district. Clauses 11 and 12 were then agreed to. Clause 13 was then read, and the "religious difficulty " again cropped up. Mr. Stevenson moved that the latter part of the clause—" No religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught in the school "—be struck out ; contending that if it were retained, they would have no religious education at all in the schools. Mr. LaMothe seconded the motion, saying he would have gone further, and said that No religious catechism should be taught except that of the Church of England." Mr. Dalrymple said that the principle of the clause had already been admitted by the House, and moved as an amendment, that the part of the clause objected to be retained. Mr. Craine seconded the amendment. Mr. Dumbell thought the clause was not required. Mr. Christian reminded the House that it was considering what was required for Board schools only, that is for schools built by rates contributed by all. The question before the House had been thoroughly discussed in England, and the only compromise which could be arrived at was that provided by the clause under discussion. Mr. Jeffcott was of opinion the clause should be left in. The Secretary was a Churchman, but no bigot, and thought it would be bad policy to force the Church catechism, or any other distinctive teaching of the Established Church, upon people who did not agree with them. Mr. Sherwood argued in favour of the clause. Mr. Stevenson replied, and the House divided, 14 voting for the retention of the clause, and 4 (Messrs Farrant, LaMothe, Stevenson, and Dumbell) voted against it—majority for the clause 10. The House then accepted, without objection, as far as clause 22, and then adjourned to the next day—Friday, November 24th. On that day the House reassembled, and continued its examination of the Education Bill. Clauses 23—26 were adopted. With regard to 27, which provided for the popular election of school boards, Mr. Sherwood moved, and Mr. LaMothe seconded, that all such elections, after the first, should be held by the captain of the parish assisted by the clerk to the School Board—the object being to reduce the expense of such elections. The House, on a division, adopted this motion. Mr. Sherwood then moved, and Mr. Corrin seconded, that in the case of town districts, the election should be held by the High Bailiffs.. This motion was also adopted. In the further discussion of clause 27, another attempt was made by the obstructionists to make the election of school boards optional ; but it was defeated by a majority of 8. Clauses 28-41 were then passed without objection. To clause 42, relating to the " school fund," Mr. Sherwood raised an objection, and carried an amendment, which was afterward rescinded. A second amendment proposed to save special endowments to education, was carried by the Secretary and retained in the Bill. On 28th November, the House resumed the consideration of the Bill at Castletown, and adopted to clause 63 without much objection ; but another great fight was made over clause 64, which provided for the compulsory attendance at school of all children between the ages of 5 and 13 years. Mr. Corrin said that this important clause would compel all children between 5 and 13 to attend school all the year round without even a break at seed-time or harvest (forgetting that there were such things as school holidays), and drew a doleful picture of the poverty and distress which would follow if it became law. He, therefore, moved that it be struck out. Mr. Craine seconded the motion. Mr. Stevenson felt as strongly on this point as the hon. member for Glanfaba, and moved, as an amendment, that the English clause be substituted for this clause. Mr. W. F. Moore said if the hon. member for Rushen had not proposed this amendment he would have done so, and it gave him great pleasure to second the amendment. He was in favour of a limited form of compulsion, but he was quite convinced, if the clause before the House became law, it would be inoperative, just as a law compelling people to attend a place of worship or to keep their houses clean would be. He would also like to see an industrial school established in the Island in connection with this Bill. Mr Dalrymple would support a moderate form of compulsion. Mr. Sherwood thought a limit should be placed upon the number of compulsory attendances, and also that the school age should be from 7 to 13. He also objected to the distance of two miles, and thought the English distance of three miles would suit the Island better. Mr. Christian hoped the House would not accept the amendment of the hon. member for Rushen. School Boards had to look after ignorant and uneducated children only; the districts which were already well cared for would go on as before. How were they to improve the present state of things except by compulsory education ? He had no doubt but that most of the difficulties conjured up by hon. members would completely vanish when the clause came into practical operation. Mr. Dumbell said the House would be wasting its time if it rejected this clause. The hon. member for Glanfaba was afraid of two things—that farmers would have to give more money for the tilling of their lands, and that parents would not be able to drive their children like slaves ; but he would ask the House to take a higher view of the subject, and to compel parents to give their children a fair education, and not allow them to condemn them to labour at too tender an age. He thought five years a proper age for a child to begin its education, and he objected to the attendance of children being limited to 100 days in the year. Would any member of that House allow his child to receive education only one day out of three ? Beside, Government grants were given in connection with attendance, and they would lose the schools these grants if they limited them to this number. Mr. Jeffcott was in favour of the English clause. Mr Farrant said this compulsion would release parents from their moral responsibilities towards their children, and would bring in its train all the evils of a poor law. Capt. Goldie thought the entire Bill unsuited to the Island. The Secretary thought they ought to educate the people to the full extent of their power, and believed the difficulties which hon. members foresaw would prove visionary. Mr. E. Gell could not agree with the clause as it now stood. On a division upon Mr. Stevenson’s amendment 5 (Messrs Dalrymple, Watterson, Stevenson, W. F. Moore, and H. J. Moore) voted for it ; and 14 against it. Mr. Sherwood then moved an amendment to the effect that children should be compelled to attend school from the age of 7 to 13 years, for 150 week-days in the year ; but that the School Board should have power to compel, or not, as they thought proper, and to allow exceptions as it should please them ; and that the distance to be walked to school by the children should not exceed three miles. Seconded by Mr. Christian, and after a short debate carried by a majority of 9. The House then rapidly passed over clauses 65-82, and then, on the motion of Mr. Sherwood, adopted a new clause defining the Board of Education.

On the 30th November, the House resumed the debate at Douglas, and the bill was finally passed, with slight alteration, by a majority of 10; the numbers being—for the passing of the bill, 15 ; against it, 5 (Messrs. Farrant, Goldie, Watterson, Stevenson, and H. J. Moore).

On the conclusion of the debate on this bill, Mr. W. F. Moore moved, and Mr. Stevenson seconded—" That his Excellency the Governor be requested to instruct. the Attorney-General to prepare clauses either to be introduced into the Elementary Education Bill, or, if thought more desirable, to procure another bill for the establishment of a reformatory industrial school or schools to meet the wants of the poor destitute children in the Island." This was unanimously agreed to.

After passing this bill, the House adjourned to the 7th February, 1872, to the neglect of the other business before them. In consequence, the Governor issued his precept for the House to meet, at Castletown, on the 19th December, and on that day 15 members assembled ; but, standing on what they asserted to be their ancient privileges, they refused to enter upon any business, and again adjourned to the 7th February. The Governor again issued his mandate for the House to meet, at Douglas, on the 30th January, 1872, and on that day 22 members were present. After receiving a message from the Governor respecting this long adjournment and the inconvenience caused by it to the public business, and also asking the House to consider the advisability of their sitting for fixed periods, the House adopted a resolution acknowledging his Excellency’s message and promising that, if he would prepare a definite proposal respecting sessional sittings of the House, it should be favourably considered. They then proceeded to business. On the 31st, the House took into consideration the amendments introduced by the Council into the Education Bill as passed by the Keys on the 30th November, 1871, the main object of which was to restore the connection of the Island with the Education Department in England, which had been virtually severed by the changes introduced by the Keys into the draft bill. Most of the Council’s amendments were accepted without any discussion : those to which objection was raised were with respect to teachers’ pensions, which the Council had fixed at a maximum of £15. The Keys raised the maximum to £30 ; and with regard to an amendment which gave the Governor power to nominate the chairman of the Board of Education, the Keys rejected this, but conceded him the right of vetoing the decisions of the Board with regard to certain items of expenditure. After sitting upon the bill for three days, the two branches of the Legislature came finally into agreement ; and on the 2nd February, 1872, it passed the House unanimously, on the motion of Messrs. Dumbell and Jeffcott. At six o’clock on the same day, a Tynwald Court was held, at which an estimate of the amount required for the Government grants for the ensuing year was laid before the Court, and a resolution was passed voting the required amount— £2,300. This fact is noteworthy, as it was the first time the Insular Legislature had ever voted a grant for educational purposes. The Court, after a short adjournment, again met and signed the bill. Being in due course returned with the Royal assent, it was formally promulgated at St. John’s on the 10th May, 1872, in company with a number of other bills.

This law, which had been enacted in order to assimilate the educational system of the Island with that which had been introduced into England in 1870, was speedily found to be defective and unworkable in many respects, while it had also the peculiarity that it was subordinate in matters of detail to the regulations of the Education Department. One great defect was its division of the country into so many educational districts, a result of which was that the school committees were frequently composed of men who took little or no interest in education, and who were in many ways ill-qualified for their duties. A second was that clause 65 had been so badly framed that it was soon found to be unworkable, and compulsion, though theoretically the law of the land, was practically disregarded : magistrates would not convict, and so school committees would not prosecute. A third defect arose from the age at which compulsion ought to have begun, being placed at seven years and ending at thirteen. Previously it had been a common practice throughout the Island to send children to school long before they were seven years old, and to continue them there much later than thirteen ; but the Act, and the authorities appointed under the Act, took no notice of any children outside these ages, and accordingly parents grew into the habit of thinking that they ought not to send their children to school before they were seven years of age, nor keep them there after they were thirteen. Practically, as might have been expected, they went a step further, and did not send them at all until they were much past seven, eight, or nine, or even ten years old ; sent them very irregularly ; and took them away for good as soon as they could find employment for them. And all this without regard for the law, or fear of it. So far from the Act increasing the attendance or improving the standard of education, it lessened the one and lowered the other ; and whatever partial improvements were effected in education during the next six years were the result of the action of the Department’s regulations, and not of the Education Act of 1872. In obedience to the orders issued by the Board of Education, of which the Attorney-General was chairman, school committees were elected in all the districts ; education rates were levied; school buildings, far superior to any which had existed before, were erected ; and the education vote steadily crept up year by year, until in 1878 it was more than twice the amount voted six years before ; but the school attendance had declined, and the general condition of education was unsatisfactory in the extreme. In his annual educational statement, on the 6th March, 1877, the Attorney-General (the Manx Minister of Education) fully admitted this—" There had not been obtained a proper return for that expenditure. It had been expected that when the compulsory clause was put in force there would be a very much extra attendance of children at schools. He did not think that was the case. In the annual report which was in the hands of members last year there was an increase ; but it was nothing like as large as the Board had a right to expect. In the report that would be in their hands that day, however, they would find that there was really a decrease in comparison with the last two returns that had been obtained. That ought not to be the case. If the law required compulsory attendance at school, it ought to be enforced. It could only be enforced through school committees. Speaking generally, the Board was satisfied that the compulsory clauses of the Education Act were not enforced efficiently. . . . he thought it the duty of those who had charge of the Act to enforce it. The Act should be fully worked by all concerned in it."

On the 21st April, the draft of the new Education Bill, announced by the Attorney-General in his annual statement as intended to remedy the evils he complained of, was printed. On the 8th November it left the Council, and on the 22nd it was read a first time by the Keys. The main objects proposed in this bill were—to amend the law relating to compulsion, so as to make it more effective ; to modify the " school age," so as to make it include infants from 5 years ; and to provide a system of examinations and grants for " dame schools," or schools under unqualified teachers. At the last moment a clause was hastily introduced establishing a system of compulsory examinations in religious knowledge. Some other less important changes were also embodied in the bill, with the intention of bringing the Manx school system up to the standard of the English Act of 1876. From the first, this bill was viewed with great distrust, and when it came on for its second reading, on the 20th February, 1878, a petition was presented by Mr. Sherwood on behalf of the Isle of Man Teachers’ Association strongly objecting to several of the proposed changes, especially to those relating to " dame schools," and the religious knowledge examinations, and praying that upon these and other points named the English system might be more closely followed. The reading of this petition was followed by a discursive debate on the general merits of the bill, in the course of which several members expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the arrangements proposed in it, especially with regard to compulsion and " dame schools," or, as they were styled in the draft bill, " certified efficient schools." Ultimately, on the motion of Messrs Sherwood and Joughin, the further consideration of the bill was adjourned to the next meeting of the House. On reassembling, on the 27th, after an abortive attempt on the part of certain dissatisfied members to throw the bill out, the House rapidly ran through the various clauses of the bill, and adopted them all, with a few verbal alterations. On the 5th March, the House discussed the usual question, whether the bill as amended do pass ; and after a long conversation, in which condemnations of it upon various grounds were freely indulged in, the House divided—13 voting for it, and 7 against it. It thus barely passed, a majority (13) of the whole House being required by the rules of the House of Keys to constitute a legal majority in such a case. On the 25th March, the bill was signed by the Tynwald Court, and, after a lengthened delay, received the Royal assent, and was promulgated on the 5th of July, 1878.

On the 19th October, 1878, a draft form of the byelaws of the Board of Education for regulating compulsory attendance was published ; and later it was formally adopted, and issued to the various school committees for their direction.

It was not to be expected that such great changes as were thus brought about—changes which came home to the interests and prejudices of every individual in the community—could be carried out without exciting a proportionate amount of opposition and agitation. Shortly after the passing of the Education Act of 1872, the Board of Education caused returns based upon the report of a commission of inquiry to be published, showing the deficiency of school accommodation in each district, and requiring the school committees to provide schools for a certain specified number of children. A few of them obeyed the requisitions and adopted means to supply the deficiency ; but the greater part raised objections of various kinds, and put off this duty as long as possible, and in some cases several years passed, and still nothing was done. At last the Board were compelled, in order to secure any progress, to declare such committees "in default," and appoint new committees in their places to do the necessary work. In this course the Board, with much tact and forbearance, persevered ; and at length got most of their orders carried into execution, and the educational requirements of the country fairly well supplied. But when a law is received with such sullen and determined dislike by those appointed to administer it, and when such extreme measures have to be adopted as the wholesale displacing of those duly elected to carry it out for persistently refusing to perform their duty, and the placing in their stead of a number of Government nominees, it cannot be expected to produce much effect; and it was not long before the necessity for an amended Act was generally felt, especially by the Board of Education, whose work became continually more arduous and even less satisfactory. This conviction led to the passing of the Act of 1878 ; and although since then little more than a year has passed, further modifications in the existing arrangements, some of them of a very radical character, are felt to be necessary and are impending in the not very distant future.

In the country districts this opposition to the Education Act was generally of a negative kind, consisting mainly of neglect and delay ; but in Douglas it took a much more active and belligerent form. This town, as might have been expected from its character and occupations, possesses a large and influential body of Nonconformists among its population—a body which has of late years made itself felt in many a determined stand for equal rights and privileges, and in many a noble work for benevolent or denominational objects. At the first election of school committees, in 1872, the Nonconformists contrived to get themselves fairly represented on the Douglas Board ; and, as a result, the Act was on the whole satisfactorily carried out in the town. Without unnecessary delay, offices were taken, a clerk appointed, and a school established in temporary premises, which, under the able management of the master (Mr. Meech), soon gave promise of being very successful, and of providing that opportunity of education for the " wastrel" and vagrant children of the town which they had not had before. But this fair prospect was soon clouded over. The various churches of the town, the Wesleyans, and the Roman Catholics already possessed schools of their own which had been in existence for many years ; and though these schools were, from various reasons, in a very unsatisfactory condition, and their managers, when applied to by the school committee, had distinctly stated that they were full and declined to receive any children sent by the committee, they now resented the intrusion into their midst of an undenominational school with lower fees and supported out of the town rate, while they also bitterly objected to any measure which would lessen their hold upon the rising generation of the town. In short, the same battle which was being fought out in England and elsewhere arose in Douglas, and soon the whole town was engaged in it. At first the principal part in this miserable struggle was taken by a large section of the Church party, under the leadership of the Rev. W. T. Hobson, incumbent of St. Barnabas’, an active and obstinate clergyman, lately settled in Douglas, whose curious discourses upon " conditional immortality" had recently startled the Island from its propriety. The Wesleyan Methodists, who possessed three schools in the town, at first seemed strongly to go with the Board School party, and an important section of them were in favour of handing their schools over to the Board ; but ultimately they took a more decided stand with the Church party, under the guidance of Mr. John Crellin, a leading member of their communion. The Roman Catholics were less prominent in the strife ; but their representative, Mr. Roney, took a leading part in the attack upon the Board school. Throughout the contest the rival parties were ably represented in the Manx press—the Clerical or Denominational party by the Manx Sun, and the Board School party by The Isle of Man Times and Mona’s Herald.

During the latter part of the administration of the first committee, a strong feeling against its proceedings had been organized by Mr. Hobson and his friends by representing to the ratepayers that the existing schools were quite enough for the requirements of the town, and that no Board school was needed ; by enlarging upon the expensiveness of the School Board system, and the cheapness of the voluntary system ; by frightening the town with the absurd canard that the School Committee was about to build a new Board school which would cost the town at least £10,000; by asserting the irreligious character of the Board school system ; and by calling the education given in the Board school " godless" ; and, lastly, by a course of gross personalities reflecting in the most shameless manner upon the private life and surroundings of those opposed to them, by which they hoped to drive them out of the contest, and in this to a great measure they succeeded. Under the influence of these representations a new committee was elected on the 19th October, 1875, when an almost complete change was effected, all those who had been most active in establishing and supporting the Board school being rejected, and a majority of the new members being more or less pledged to suppress it. It is noteworthy as an instance of the want of political spirit among the Manx that, at this election, notwithstanding the important issues which were at stake, only about one-fifth the constituency of the town recorded its vote, and that the election was ultimately decided by the Irish vote. The new committee were—Messrs. R. Archer, C. Cannell, R. Roney, W. Isdale, D. Corrin, T. Goldsmith, J. Dearden, R. Craine, and J. Crellin ; but of these Mr. Archer refused to accept the office. From the very first, the proceedings of this committee were directed to the extinguishment of the school under their care, which, in spite of having just changed masters, numbered 150 scholars. Their first step was to remodel the scale of fees paid at the Board school, with the intention of raising them ; and this, on a second application, they were allowed to do by the Board. On the 7th February, 1876, they imposed a penny rate upon the town ; and on the 3rd February, 1877, the rate was raised to three-halfpence. In consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the inspector’s report for 1876, the Education Department informed the committee that, unless more suitable premises were provided, the Government grants would not be continued. This intimation brought matters to a head, and divided the committee into two distinct parties— the majority openly wishing to close the school, and a minority ( Messrs Isdale, Goldsmith, and Craine) as openly wishing to remove it to more suitable premises, or, failing to procure these, to erect suitable school buildings. Every meeting was now a struggle in which this point, in some form or other, was wrangled over with great vehemence. On the 3rd February, 1877, Mr Dearden, weary of this constant fighting, resigned his seat on the Board ; and, on the 23rd, the Rev. W. T. Hobson and Mr. Turner were elected in place of Messrs. Archer and Dearden. The appearance of Mr. Hobson on the committee introduced a new and most unpleasant feature into their discussions. In reporting and commenting upon the proceedings of the committee, the Manx Sun (the organ of the denominational party) had for a long time past indulged in the grossest personalities ; but hitherto, in the actual discussions round the table in the committee-room, though there had been occasionally a great deal of warmth of argument shown on both sides, there had been none of those attacks on private reputation which had so disgraced the columns of the Sun. But this was now changed. Mr. Hobson, on entering the committee, at once assumed the leadership of his party, which he had hitherto directed from outside : more decisive measures were immediately adopted against the Board school ; and, to break down all opposition to them, and so give that appearance of unanimity which was necessary to the complete success of his plans, he gave the reins to a naturally warm and ill.regulated temper, and poured out upon all opposed to him, and especially upon Mr. Isdale, whom he rightly considered to be the leader of the minority, such torrents of invective and personal abuse that no ordinary opponent could have borne up against it. On the 15th May, notwithstanding the presentation of a petition against the step, signed by 246 ratepayers, a motion was proposed by Mr. Crellin, and seconded by Mr. Corrin, to repeal the resolution passed on the 17th February, 1875, against paying fees to denominational schools ; and, despite the strenuous opposition of the minority, was passed by a majority of 6 to 3. At their next meeting, on the 5th Jane, a letter was read from the Rev. Mr. Greenwood, superintendent minister of the Wesleyans, stating that a great majority of the managers of the Wesleyan schools were strongly opposed to the Board’s paying fees to denominational schools, and that as such a step on their part would probably end in closing the Wesleyan schools, he hoped the committee would adjourn the carrying out of their resolution for the present. After some characteristic remarks upon the propriety of this appeal, Mr. Hobson moved, and Mr. Crellin seconded, a motion for closing the Board school altogether, on the ground that the other schools in the town provided for all its requirernen ts. Mr. Isdale moved several amendments in opposition to this motion, but it was ultimately carried, all the committee except Messrs Isdale, Goldsmith, and Cannell voting for it. It was then decided to send a deputation, consisting of Messrs Hobson, Crellin, Roney, Isdale, and Goldsmith, to the Board of Education to explain their proceedings, and to obtain the Board’s consent to close the school. On the 20th June, a deputation from the Douglas Education Association—a body newly organized by the friends of the School Board system—consisting of Mr. Dalrymple, H.K., its president, and a number of ministers and gentlemen—had an interview with the Board of Education, to draw the Board’s attention to the illegality of the School Committee’s proceedings, and to urge the Board to restrain the committee from carrying its expressed intention into effect. On the same day, the deputation from the Douglas School Committee also had an interview with the Board, at which Mr. Hobson, with Mr. Crellin for his echo, endeavoured to convince it of the non-necessity for a Board school and to obtain its consent to closing it. After they had thus stated the views of the majority of the committee, Messrs Isdale and Goldsmith, notwithstanding the attempted opposition of Mr. Hobson, argued the case of the minority, and insisted upon the necesity of retaining the school, and of providing it with more suitable premises. In the course of this interview it was incidentally stated that the attendance at the Board school had sunk to 80; that is to about one-half its attendance eighteen months before, so successful had been the measures adopted by the School Committee to destroy it. On the 12th July, Mr. Finnis, the master of the Board School, intimated his intention of resigning his position at the end of three months. At a meeting of the committee, on the ‘7th August, Mr. Crellin moved, and Mr. Hobson seconded, that the Board School be closed at the expiration of Mr. Finnis’s notice, and the children be drafted into the other schools of the town. A disorderly debate followed, in the course of which some strong language was indulged in, during which Mr. Crellin’s motion was carried by the usual majority. Thus, the majority of the committee, without waiting for the consent of the Board, decided to close their school in October—an illegal step, which speedily brought its punishment with it. At their next meeting, their Chairman, Mr. Cannell, resigned his seat, and Mr. Hobson was immediately appointed to the vacant chair by his admiring fellowers. At this meeting, a communication was read, amid a chorus of jeers and laughter, from the Douglas Education Association, asking the committee to receive a deputation from the association. The Board inspector’s report on the condition of the Board School was also received. On the 2nd October, there were some lively passages between Mr. Isdale and the dominant majority respecting the prosecution of certain ratepayers (members of the Douglas Education Association) who had refused to pay their education rates so long as the committee paid school fees to denominational schools ; and also respecting the impending closing of the Board School. At the conclusion of these interludes, Mr. Isdale gave notice that he would lay the matter before the Board of Education, and Mr. Roney gave notice that he would move at the next meeting that the quorum be reduced from 5 to 3. It was then arranged to hold a special meeting on the 10th, to meet the parents of the children attending the Board: School, and settle with them what schools they would wish their children to attend. On the 10th, a communication from the Board of Education, dated the 5th instant, was read, asking whether the newspaper reports respecting the intended closing of the Board School were correct, and, if they were, reminding the committee that the school had been recognised by the Board and the Department, and that the Committee had not yet obtained the necessary consent of the Board to close it. Mr. Roney moved, and Mr.Crellin seconded, that a reply which had been drafted by Mr. Hobson should be sent to the Board ; but against this course both Mr. Isdale and Mr. Goldsmith protested, and, refusing to be parties to it, left the room. The matter was then adjourned, there not being a quorum present. A number of parents who had been waiting for some time were then called in, and were told by the Chairman that the school would be closed on Friday, and that they could send their children to any of the other town schools. On the 16th, a meeting of the Board of Education was held to consider a communication from the Douglas School Committee, announcing their closure of the Board School. A petition from a number of the pareritsof the children attending that school was also laid before the Board. After carefully considering the case, the Board unanimously resolved to address a requisition to the School Committee, requiring them to provide, within four months, a school for 200 children in place of the one they had illegally closed. This requisition was accordingly drawn up by the secretary to the Board, the Rev. E. Ferrier, and forwarded to the committee on the 18th. On the 19th, a meeting of the committee was held to receive the requisition. The chairman, however, determined to complete the work of closing the school, and, as afterwards appeared, hoping by some means to evade the order of the Board, refused to allow the requisition to be read until the parents of the scholars, who were again in waiting, had been seen ; and, being s’ipported by his still obedient party, he carried his point. The parents in waiting were then called in singly, and in every case the committee agreed to pay the school fees and for school stationery at the schools they were enticed to select. In the same way, they next dismissed the school teachers, and then the chairman consented that the communication from the Board should be read. This being done the chairman (Mr. Hobson) moved, and Mr. Crellin seconded, that it be acknowledged by the clerk, and that its consideration be adjourned. Ultimately, it was agreed to adjourn it until the 23rd. On that day, all the members of the committee (eight) were present, and it now became evident that the blind confidence which the majority had so far felt in their leader was beginning to give way to doubt and dismay, and that their compact array which had enabled them to have their own way was finally broken. The minority of two (Messrs Isdale and Goldsmith), which had so long withstood the majority, was from this point joined by Messrs Craine and Corrin, thus dividing the committee into two equal sections and leaving the decision of every question to the chairman’s casting vote—a privilege which he used unsparingly to carry his own views and to defeat his opponents’ aims. The proceedings on the 23rd were, as might have been expected, characterized by more than usual warmth, the strengthened minority being excited by the dawning hope of ultimate victory, while the majority were dismayed by a sense of coming defeat. The chairman moved, and (of course) Mr. Crellin seconded, that a deputation of the right colour should wait upon the Board and endeavour by an elaborate display of figures to persuade the Board to recal their requisition. Messrs Isdale and Corrin moved amendments to the effect that the committee set about carrying out the Board’s requisition ; but they were defeated, and the chairman’s motion was carried by the use of his casting vote. On application being made to the Board to receive the deputation, the Board declined on the ground of its being unnecessary. On the 13th November, Mr. Roney’s motion to reduce the quorum from 5 to 3 was carried by the chairman’s casting vote. An attempt was then made by several members to consider the Board’s requisition, the discussion of which had been adjourned under various pretexts ; but it was ingeniously evaded by the chairman ruling it out of order on a curious technical point. Two days later another special meeting was called, on the requisition of Messrs Isdale, Goldsmith, and Craine. These members only attended the meeting, and a motion was carried that a sub-committee of the whole Board be formed to make inquiries respecting school premises. On the 13th November, Mr. Hobson (without consulting the committee, but in the character of their chairman) addressed a long communication to Sir James Gell, the chairman of the Board, defending his view of the difficulty. On the 4th December, the committee held its next ordinary meeting ; but, on the motion of Mr. Crellin, it adjourned to the next day without doing any buthness. On the 5th, the adjourned meeting was held ; but it was, wasted in fruitless attempts to enter upon the business before them. On the 12th December, the chairman of the Board replied shortly to Mr. Hobson’s statements in his communication of the 13th ultimo ; and Mr Hobson, delighted to get into a paper war with Sir James, immediately replied with another article, which, like his first letter, was at once printed and sown broadcast over the’ town. On the 15th January, 1878, a communication was received from the Board consenting to the committee temporarily renting the Loch Parade Primitive Methodist Chapel schoolroom ; and, in consequence, they agreed to rent that room for one year. But, infatuated by his idea of overruling the Board, and blinded by his hatred of the Board school system, the chairman again disturbed the dawning peace of the town, and brought matters to a culmination by carrying a resolution to convert the school they were about to open in the Loch Parade schoolroom into an infant school instead of a mixed school.

Matters had now come to that point that the committee was split into two hostile camps of equal force, numerically ; but, owing to the circumstance of one section, including the chairman with his double vote and his official right of regulating the business of the committee, one party possessed enormous advantages over the other. Further, to facilitate the progress of their schemes, this party had now adopted the practice ( well known in America as the " caucus system ") of consulting together in private, and relying upon their power of forcing their will upon the rest of the committee, they now often transacted business of considerable importance without, in the first instance, obtaining the formal sanction of the committee. Of this, Mr. Hobson’s correspondence with Sir J. Gell was one example. He now furnished another example. He and his followers being doubtful as to the legality of their latest move, he wrote to the chairman of the Board asking whether the Board would accept an infant school as fulfilling the terms of their requisition. In reply, Sir James gave it as his opinion that they ,would not. This letter being unfavourable, was shown only to his own party, and when its existence leaked out, and the other members of the committee asked to see lt, their request was treated with contempt, and one of them, Mr. Isdale, was jeered at by Mr. Hobson for what he termed his " deficient education." On this occasion (14th February) Mr. Hobson, carrying out Mr. Laughton’s instructions, whom he had consulted, moved and Mr. Crellin seconded, that a communication be addressed to the Board stating the committee’s reasons for wishing to open the Board School as an infant school, and asking them to sanction it. This motion was carried against all opposition by means of the chairman’s casting vote. On the 22nd, a reply to this communication was received, refusing to assent to the proposed alteration in the character of the school. A second communication of the same date was also received from the Board, asking what steps the committee were taking to carry out the Board’s requisition. On the motion of Messrs Crellin and Turner, a reply, drawn up by Mr. Hobson, partly explanatory and partly evasive, was returned to the Board’s inquiry.

These proceedings of the majority of the Douglas School Committee, proceedings which were inflicting serious injury upon the educational interests of the town, and which were now fast landing them in default, attracted great notice, and were severely commented upon in the Liberal organs. Prominent among these comments were a series of humorous rhymes, mostly in the quaint Manx dialect, which appeared in The Isle of Man Times, but many of them far too good to be lost :in the fleeting columns of a newspaper. They were unsigned, but it was shrewdly suspected that they were the productions of the clever pen of the talented author of "Betsey Lee," " The Doctor," and other similar works. The following are examples of these clever productions :—

" Isdale by Charity (?) was educated—
Great nurse, crowned sister of the cherubim—
To her our Hobson’s clearly unrelated:
He does not know her, and she knows not him.


Hobson drives a pretty team—
Leaders Crellin, honey,
Willing beasts the cattle seem;
But one stubborn pony,
Isdale bight, contains his whacks,
Won’t be one of hobson’s hacks.


Produce the letter ~ What occasion?
It might have been an invitation
To tea, or dinner—Botheration !—Crellin’s Poems.
Private ! private!
Dear Hobson
Contrive it
The best way you can.
But, my good man I
You’ve played the fool
About this school
Long enough;
So don’t take the huff,
But come and dine.
Drop me a line
To say you’ll come.
It’s rather rum— We’ve got no birds;
But you don’t mind eating your own words— Epse pteroentce. Clever?
You see my Greek’s as fresh as ever.
Well, we’ll not be pressing:
And I’ve a splendid dressing
Ready for you ; and, as for sauce,
I fancy you’re never at a loss.
So you can only try,
And I’ve no doubt
We’ll make it out, With snub, and a bit of,humble pie.
Or we can have tea,
If you like it better.
Yours, ;r. a.
You can show this letter."



Dedicated, without Permission, to the Douglas School Committee.

Air—" Hunt the Wren."
" ‘ We’ll hey no Boerd School,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin:
‘ In spite of the Boord,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ There’s no childher for it,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ No childher at all,’ says every one.
‘ How’ll we ger it down ?‘ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ How’llwe ger it down ?‘ says Richie the Robin;
‘ How’llwe ger it down ?‘ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ How’ll we ger it down I’ says every one.
‘ By my castin’ vote,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ Aye, your castin’ vote,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ That’s the ticket,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ That’s jus’ the ticket,’ says every one.
‘ Where’ll we hide it ?‘ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ Where’ll we bury It ?‘ says .Etichie the Robin;
‘ Where’s a deep hole !’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ A deep, dark hole !’ says every one.
‘ In the Primitive Chapel,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ Undher the chapel,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ Down in the cellar,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ Down in the cellar,’ says every one.
‘ How’ll we ger it thear I’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ Howl! we ger it thear ?‘ says Richie the Robin;
‘ How’ll we ger it thear ?‘ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ How’ll we ger it thear ?‘ says every one.
‘ I’ll make the coffin,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ An’ I’ll put a nail in,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ An’ I’ll carry it theer,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ An’ we’ll all len’ a han’, says every one.
‘ Theer’s that nasty owl’ Boord,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ They’ll be afther our tails,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ They’ll be down on us hard,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ That nasty owl’ Boord,’ says every one.
‘ They’re here at our heels,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ An’ a Boord School at them,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ A big Boord School,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ A threminjous big school,’ says every one.
‘ Worth ten thousan’ pounds,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ Aw, bless me sowl,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ Ten thousan’, at least, says Jacky the Lan;
‘ Enough for the Bishop,’ says every one.
‘ An’ the gran’ schools we hey’, says Hobbin the Bobbin;
: ‘ An’ St. B—’s’ school in,’ says Itichie the Robin;
‘ An’ the sweet an’ the clans,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ It’s a scandalous shame,’ says every one.
‘ They’re only Manx childher,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ What more do they want,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ It’s what we all hed,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ An’ the fine men we are now,’ says every one.
‘ But the Boord School they’ll hey,’ says Hobbin the Bobbin;
‘ In spite of us all,’ says Richie the Robin;
‘ An’ we’re in the muck,’ says Jacky the Lan;
‘ We’re all in the muck,’ says every one."

On the 28th March, an extraordinary meeting of the committee was held on the requisition of Messrs Hobson, Crellin, and Roney, to authorise the taking of counsel’s opinion on the present position of the committee. Mr. Isdale moved, and Mr. Craine seconded, that it was not necessary to incur the cost of obtaining legal advice how to evade providing for the educational requirements of Douglas as requested by the Education Board. The chairman, notwithstanding the representation of three of the committee, refused to put this motion to the meeting; but moved instead that the committee authorise the taking of counsel’s opinion. This was seconded by Mr. Crellin, and carried by the chairman’s casting vote. Mr. Laughton’s opinion, which was already obtained and in the chairman’s possession, was then produced and read, after some " hard hitting" between the opposing parties in the committee. The meeting concluded with another, and as it proved, a last fight between Messrs Isdale and Hobson, the latter gentleman being supported in the wordy war by his alter ego, Mr. Crellin. This was the climax. On the 5th April, the Board of Education declared this refractory committee " in default," and nominated in their stead a new committee consisting of Messrs C. Cleator, John J. Davidson, John E. Hunt, Alexander J. Steele, and W. Todhunter, who immediately entered upon the duties of their new office. The displaced committee were dismayed by the suddenness of the blow which, though it had been long foreseen by every one else, seems to have been unexpected, and to have taken them by surprise. After an abortive attempt on the part of the majority to retain possession of their office, they consulted with their legal adviser, Mr. Laughton, and the result was an appeal to the Court of Chancery against the legality of the Board’s proceedings. This appeal, which was nominally brought by six aggrieved ratepayers, P. Killey, and others, came on for hearing on the 19th June, and continued throughout that and the greater part of the following day. Messrs Adams and Laughton were for the appellants, and Mr. Sherwood for the defendants, the Education Board and the Douglas School Committee. Ultimately the appeal was dismissed on technical grounds. This decision practically settled the matter. An attempt to raise the necessary funds for carrying on the contest utterly failed, and thus these gentlemen, who from conscientious but pitiable motives, had used their opportunities to destroy a useful and a flourishing school committed to their charge, who had hindred educational progress in the town they represented, and had sown discord and dissension among its inhabitants, were compelled perforce to give up the position they had so abased, and to retire into private life.

During the first twelve months of their official existence the proceedings of the new committee excited comparatively little notice. They went on their way unobtrusively, working and not talking ; slowly but surely undoing the evil worked by their predecessors. Their first chairman was Mr. C. Cleator, a well-known and universally respected tradesman in the town ; and, on his death on the 19th September, 1878, they elected Mr. Todhunter to the vacant office—a post which he has since most efficiently occupied. On Mr. Cleator’s death, Captain Rowe, H.K., was nominated to the committee , and in February, 1879, Mr. W. Kelly was appointed in place of Mr. Shaw, who had resigned. On the 15th May, 1878, the committee opened the Board School in the Loch Parade school-room, under the charge of Mr. H. Nicholls—the late master of St. George’s National School, Douglas, and one of the most earnest and successful teachers in the Island ; and from that date, they, by an unanimous resolution, ceased to pay fees in denominational schools. So successful was the Board School, under the careful management of Mr. Nicholls, that nine months after its opening it numbered between 300 and 400 scholars; while, according to a series of elaborate statistics prepared by the committee’s clerk, Mr. Christopher, the older schools in the town had not suffered in any appreciable degree. To relieve the mixed school, as well as to provide a much felt want in the town, the committee, in March 1879, opened an infant school under a properly qualified mistress ; and, altogether, the proceedings of the committee and the results they had thus far produced, were in the strongest possible contrast to those of the late committee ; and in November, 1879, the attendance at the mixed school still continuing to increase, the committee decided on opening a girls’ school.

But it did not suit the policy of the Denominational party to allow the School Board system to establish itself quietly in the town. Beyond advertising unsuccessfully for a suitable site for the intended new school buildings, no steps had yet been taken towards erecting a permanent school. Still it loomed in the distance, and the positions and conditions of most of the Denominational schools were so unsatisfactory that their managers reasonably feared that the establishment of a well-placed, well-appointed Board School would necessitate a large expenditure upon their own schools, or their closure ; a prospect which, added to the Denominational zeal which had caused them to support their schools for so many years, was sufficient to rouse to fresh violence their hatred of’ the Board School and all who supported it. Thus, with the spring of 1879, new troubles began to grow up in connection with the Board School. The first signs of these appeared in the columns of the Manx Sun, the Denominational organ, which, unable to contradict the great success of the Board School, began to cry out that it had been obtained at the expense of the other town schools. This would probably soon have died out for want of fuel, but on the 4th March, the committee decided to take the necessary steps for obtaining a large plot of ground in the centre of the town (Hill-street) belonging to Mr. Noble, as a site for the new Board School ; and this step was eagerly seized by the anti-Board School party as a means of rousing public feeling against the school committee. A requisition, signed by certain " aggrieved ratepayers and inhabitants of the town of Douglas," was sent to the High-Bailiff asking him to call a public meeting to consider the facts that the town had been deprived of its right of electing a School Committee, ‘and that the town was being taxed by persons whom it had not elected. In response to this requisition the High-Bailiff convened a public meeting in the Victoria Hall for the 18th March, at eight o’clock in the evening. At the time named the Hall was filled, about 700 to 800 persons being present, and on the platform were Messrs R. Sherwood, Ring, Hobson, (Crellin, Craine, R. Archer, and others. The High-Bailiff took the chair, and, in so doing, expressed a hope that the meeting would be conducted in an orderly manner, and that both sides would be allowed a hearing. Mr. T. Kelly (auctioneer) then moved that the meeting, while abstaining from expressing any opinion upon the causes which led to the late School Committee being declared in default, and while recognising the necessity for a small Board School in Douglas, was of opinion that a great and substantial injustice had been inflicted upon the town of Douglas by taking away its right to elect its own School Committee, as by it the ratepayers were deprived of all voice in the election of their committee, and had no control over its actions; because the causes which had led to the late committee being placed in default were not matters over which the ratepayers had any control ; and, lastly, because the nominees of the Board were unsuitable persons, and their acts were repugnant to the wishes of the town. Mr. J. Quine seconded this motion in a speech in which, upon the evidence of figures which " had been given to him," he endeavoured to show that a Board School was not wanted. Mr. R. Craine, a member of the late committee, supported the motion, on the ground that at the very time they were declared in default they were going to provide a Board School. Mr. Crellin, Mr. Hobson’s echo in the late committee, also supported the motion in a characteristic speech. Mr. G. Ring, a young advocate, who had already made himself notorious on the denominational side in connection with the Manx Sun libel case, followed with a long, carefully prepared speech against the present School Committee and their doings. Mr. Kent (Congregational minister) defended the committee, and asserted that a Board School was required as most of the denominational schools were in a very unsatisfactory condition. He was succeeded by Mr. Hobson, who, amid mingled hisses and cheers, proceeded to defend the doings of himself and his fellow-committeemen, and said that " he had never been against a Board School if there had been any necessity for it." Messrs Robertson and Berrill defended the denominational schools, and in the course of their remarks violently assailed Mr. Kent " and his clique." Mr. R. Sherwood wanted to see something practical coming out of the meeting, and proposed, as a substitute for the latter part of the resolution, that a committee be appointed to communicate with the Board of Education, and represent the wishes of the meeting. This amendment being adopted by the mover and seconder of the motion, the High-Bailiff, after expressing his satisfaction that that part of the original motion which implied a vote of censure upon the present School Committee was proposed to be left out, put the motion to the meeting with the result that one person only voted against it. A numerous committee, including Messrs sherwood, Ring, Crellin, and Craine, was then appointed to communicate with the Board. A further motion, proposed by Mr. Sherwood, and seconded by Mr. D. B. Gelling, stating that, in the opinion of the meeting, no further steps towards obtaining a site for the new Board School should be taken for the present, and that the meeting disapproved of the ground belonging to Mr. Noble being taken for the purpose, was passed, after which the meeting dispersed. On the 20th, a deputation from this committee had an interview with the Board, at which they stated their objections to the Committee’s proceedings. The Board promised to consider their statements. On the 21st the School Committee, anxious to proceed cautiously, held an extraordinary meeting, to which a number of the town builders had been invited in order to afford them the benefit of their practical experience as to the best site for a Board School. On the 25th they had an interview with the Board to explain the steps they had taken ; and on the 26th they had a second meeting with the builders of the town. On the 19th April the Board addressed a communication to the committee appointed at the meeting of the 18th March, stating that they were willing to permit the ratepayers to appoint two members to act along with the present School Committee ; but this compromise was declined, as insufficient. Finding the Board unwilling to make further concessions, and thinking to intimidate them by a futher display of their forces, a second public meeting was called for the 14th May; but at the appointed time about ten persons of the general public only were present, and after waiting sometime the proceedings begun by the High-Bailiff again taking the chair. So far as popular support went, this meeting was a comparative failure, as at no time were there more than a hundred persons present. Mr. Ring again took the leading part, and in a long speech explained the proceedings of the committee appointed at the last meeting. He said, in conclusion, that they had drawn up a memorial which, if approved by that meeting, would be sent round for signatures and then laid before the Tynwald Court by Mr. Dumbell. This Memorial was then read. Mr. Kelly (auctioneer) moved, and Mr. Robertson seconded, that this Memorial be approved by the meeting, and, after being signed, sent to Mr. Dumbell to be presented to the Tynwald Court. This motion was carried, as was another continuing the committee in office. On the 5th July, Mr. W. Farrant, one of the members for Douglas, presented this memorial to the Tynwald, asserting that it had been signed by about 1,000 ratepayers ; and in reply to the President of the Court said, that on that on a future occasion, of which he would give due notice, he would propose a motion in terms of the memorial. This motion has not yet (Dec. 1879) been made, but pending it the Board have thought it advisable to suspend further proceedings towards providing new school buildings in Douglas, and thus for the present the matter stands. Though they have not succeeded in terrifying the Board of Education into rescinding their order of April 6th, 1878, the obstructionists have succeeded in causing great agitation and strife, and have again caused a stoppage of all attempts to improve the condition of education in the town of Douglas, and, through it, in the entire Island.

Minor educational troubles have disturbed the peace of other parts of the Island ; but they have not been so violent in their character, or so lasting in their effects, as those which for so long injured the prosperity of Douglas. In Castletown, much dissatisfaction has been felt for a long time on account of the great weight of the education rate in that town, owing to the smallness of its rateable property ; but it is now approaching a satisfactory settlement, probably by the union of the town with the neighbouring district of Malew. In the district of Marown, again, great delay arose over the selection of a suitable site for the new district Board school. Finally, the dispute was settled by a Committee of the Tynwald Court. In Jurby, again, owing to a dispute among the parishioners, the only school in the district was closed for more than a year ; but, by the interposition of the Legislature, the matter was arranged and the school re-opened. Among the many disagreeable results of the agitation produced by the Douglas educational disputes, probably the most disagreeable was the free use of personalities by the organ of that party—The Manx Sun. No opponent was safe from the grossest insults, and no matter, however remote from the subject, or however private its character, was sacred from its attack, if it could by any means be dragged into the quarrel In the Committee which took office in November, 1875, and of which Mr. Hobson ultimately became the chairman, Mr. Isdale, the postmaster of Douglas, took a leading part, as we have seen, in defence of the Board school. He was, in fact, the backbone of the opposition to the party which the Sun favoured ; and, consequently, he soon became the special object of its bitterest and most envenomed attacks, in the hope that, like others, he would be driven to resign his seat, or give up his opposition to Mr. Hobson and his party. At length the Sun assailed him in his character of postmaster of the Island, and sought to injure his official reputation; and he then brought an action for libel against Mrs Harriet Curphey, the proprietor of the Manx Sun. This case came on for trial on the 24th October, 1877, Messrs Adams, Sherwood, and Laughton being for the plaintiff, and Messrs Callow and Ring for the defendant. The case extended over five days ; and, on the 1st December, concluded with a verdict for the plaintiff, with £130 and costs. An appeal was lodged against this verdict on technical grounds ; but, after being argued before the Full Court of Common Law," judgment was again given in favour of Mr. Isdale, and a new trial refused. Thus was the Manx Sun once more heavily mulcted for its indiscreet maintenance of its principles.



Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000