[From Brown's Directory, 1881]

[Historical Chapter]

[1876-1880 Poor Law etc.]

On the 6th, 1876, a Memorandum was published by the Governor showing the unsatisfactory character of the existing arrangements for the relief of the poor, and suggested the passing of a measure to authorise a compulsory rate in aid of the voluntary relief. In July, 1878, the Governor issued a second Minute, in which he summed up the position of the question, and announced the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry. This Commission made an extended investigation into the various funds applicable for the relief of the poor, and the rules by which they were distributed, visiting the different districts and taking a voluminous body of evidence. In October, 1879, they published their report, and in it made various suggestions for the effective administration of the existing funds, and the better relief of the poor. Connected with this desire to improve the administration of poor relief was the equally philanthropic wish to improve the public medical institutions of the Island. In October, 1877, a Government Minute was published, which proposed the establishment of a new hospital, and recommended the grant by the Tynwald Court of £3,000 in aid of the work. It was also proposed in connection with this central hospital to establish dispensaries in all the principal villages throughout the Island,

On the 2nd November the Sanitary Commission, appointed in consequence of a serious outbreak of small-pox, gave in its report, recommending compulsory vaccination, the compulsory removal to the hospital of persons suffering from infectious diseases. Impressed by the results of this inquiry, and by the overcrowding of the labouring classes in Douglas, in consequence of the town improvements, the Governor suggested to the Tynwald Court the advisability of assisting in the erection of houses suitable for the artizan class. On the 7th November the Court adopted a resolution in favour of compulsory vaccination, and on the 22nd the Keys unanimously agreed to a motion in favour of a new hospital, and to a vote of £3,000 towards its erection. Various sites for the new building was proposed, and a committee of inquiry appointed, but after a tedious wrangle over the proposal, the scheme collapsed and ended in the retention of the old building ; but no doubt ere long this question will be revived.

On Sunday, the 21st April, 1878, the town of Douglas was excited by the report of a great robbery of about £9,000 at the Bank of Mona Late the previous night the cashier, it was said, was proceeding home along a lonely part of the Peel-road just outside the town boundaries, when he was set upon by two men who fired several shots at him, and afterward drugged him with chloroform. Then taking the bank keys out of his pockets they effected an entry with them into the bank pre. misesand carried off a sum of about £9,000 in gold. Such was the sensational story told by the cashier, A. W. Gray, but from the first this account was received with great suspicion by the bank authorities and the police, and a few hours after the discovery of the robbery, Gray and two of his intimate acquaintances — Roberts and Nix — were arrested. On the 23rd they were brought before the High-Bailiff, and after an inquiry extending over eleven consecutive days, Gray was committed for trial, and Roberts and Nix discharged. On the 22rd May, the preliminary trial commenced before Deemster Diinkwater and a special jury, which occupied five days, and terminated in a verdict of committal for trial—a verdict equivalent to the finding a true bill by an English grand jury. The actual trial before the Governor, assisted by his legal assessors, Deernsters Drinkwater and Stephen, the Clerk of the Rolls, and the Water-Bailiff, began on the 24th June, occupied nine days, and concluded with a verdict of guilty and a sentence of ten years’ penal servitude, Led iato the commission of this crime by exceptional Oircum stances rather than by deliberate wickedness, Gray, in August, revealed to the Bank authorities the position of the stolen money, and in conse quence the whole of it was recovered. This act of restitution increased the feeling of commiseration which, from the first, had been generally excited in his favour, and subsequently several petitions numerously signed were sent to the Home Secretary praying for a mitigation of his sentence. Up to the present time, December 1879, however, no answer has been returned to these memorials.

In October, 1878, the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone paid a short visit to the Island, crossing from Liverpool with his son, Rev. S. Gladstone, on the 1st, and after spending several days wandering among its beautiful scenery, meeting everywhere an enthusiastic welcome, he returned to Liverpool on the 7th.

In the beginning of October, 1878, the Bank of Mona collapsed in consequence of the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank, of which it was a branch. This disastrous event produced a serious effect upon the financial condition of the Island during the winter, a large proportion of its small capital being locked up in the defunct establishment.

In November, 1878, the triennial School Board elections took place throughout the Island ; they excited little attention, and passed off quietly.

On the 28th November, 1878, a great meeting was held in Ramsey in favour of a low-water pier at that port.

On the 6th December, the new school in Peel, built by the Cloth Workers Company in connection with the bequests of Philip Christian, at a cost of £4,000, and endowed by them with an annual payment of £280, was opened with great ceremony, addresses being delivered on educational and local topics by the Governor, the Attorney-General, the High-Bailiff of Peel, and others.

The proceedings of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, the Trustees of the Crown rights of the Isle of Man were, throughout, characterised by a narrow, grasping spirit, their sole object being, apparently to maintain, and when possible to extend every right to which they could lay the shadow of a claim. Thus, of late years, they had required and enforced payment for all the stone quarried even by public bodies—as the Town Commissioners, and even the Crown nominees, the Harbour Board. At Laxey and at Ramsey they had leased the "right" to sell sand and gravel off the shore, and at Douglas they had sold for considerable sums the " foreshore " of the bay ; the recent termination of the Great Laxey Mining Company’s lease had been made the opportunity of largely increasing their unearned profits out of that mine ; in short, everything they could lay their hands upon was turned by them into a source of revenue, and relying upon the uncertainty and the costliness of resistance to proceedings, they were generally as arbitrary in their demands, and as tenacious in maintaining them, as they were grasping and unscrupulous in making them. One of the most flagrant examples of this all-embracing policy of the Crown was that known as "The Great Clay Case." The claim of the Crown to all metalliferous minerals was unquestioned, but, not content with this, a new claim was set up to the clay and sand also. In pursuance of this pretended right, the Crown (February 1867) leased the right to take clay and sand on the estate of Ballabarra, near Peel, to Messrs Moore and others. On the 25th June, Mr. Thos. Mylechreest, the owner of the estate, filed a bill in the Manx Court of Chancery to restrain the lessees from working under this lease, and a decree was made against the Crown, and an order to the Crown lessees to pay to Mylechreest the amount of profit made by their working. in consequence, the Crown lessees surrendered their lease, and took a new one under Mylechreest, and were working under it when the Crown filed an appeal to the Privy Council, having failed to carry their point in the Manx Courts. Mr. Gorst, Q.C., and Sir J. Gell ( Attorney-General for the Isle of Man) appeared for the Crown, and Mr. Jos. Brown, Q.C., and Mr. Sherwood (of the Manx Bar), for the respondent Mylchreest. A large amount of evidence was given by old residents as to the local usage, and the ancient constitution of the Island was appealed to by both parties in support of their arguments ; and ultimately the judgment of the Manx Court was affirmed, and the Crown’s appeal dismissed. This was a substantial victory for the Island and for the Insular Legislature, which had taken the case up, because of its great public importance ; but, by a strange perversion of justice, the costs fell upon the respondents (that is upon the Insular reveuue), who had been most unwillingly dragged from court to court in defence of their rights by the grasping greed of the Crown officials. On the 14th October, 1879, the question of the payment of costs incurred in this case came before the House of Keys ; and, on the motion of Mr. Quayle, seconded by Mr. Christian, the House resolved to support any resolution for the payment of such extra costs which might be brought into the Tynwald Court, and that the Governor be asked to support the House in this matter.

On the 24th March, 1879, the workmen at the Great Laxey Mines once more struck work, this time against a readjustment of wages and the imposition of increased hours of labour, and other conditions which the directors declared to be necessary in the depressed condition of the lead market, but which the men declared to be both unnecessary and irritating For eighteen or nineteen weeks the mines remained totally closed. Many of the men left the Island, and others sought for other employments, and all attempts to import foreign labour failed, notwithstanding the depressed state of the labour market elsewhere ; but at length the men yielded and recommenced work at the end of July.

The winter of 1878/9 proved long and unusually severe, inflicting great hardships upon the people ; which were only very partially mitigated in Douglas by the benevolence of Mr. Dumbell, H.K., who, at his own expense, provided two substantial meals a day throughout the winter for ever poor woman and child who would come for them. The summer following this severe winter proved extraordinarily wet and cold, so that the crops could not properly develope or ripen ; and, in consequence, the harvest was late and much below the average in quantity and quality, the potatoe and turnip crops especially being failures, Partly from the unfavourable weather and partly from the severe distress which is prevailing in England, the visiting season in the towns has also been greatly below the average; and thus, in town and country alike, there is great distress and suffering, and the winter of 1879-80 threatens to be one of the most severe on record ; Mr Dumbell, recognizing this fact, again resumed the free breakfasts and dinners for poor women and children.

We have now traced as far as possible the eventful story of this interesting country. We have seen it, successively, wrapped in the quiet security of its lonely and misty seas, and the battle-field of the surrounding nations, the prey of each in turn; again rising, we have seen it the centre of a powerful naval state, whose galleys carried terror over all the neighbouring seas, and whose princes were among the most powerful of their time ; and again we have seen it after a brief but unavailing struggle sink under foreign domination, and, under the selfish rule of absentee lords, lose all its vigour and prosperity ; lastly, we have seen it partake of the great social and political advances of recent times, and, under the firm and energetic guidance of such an enlightened ruler, like his Excellency Governor Loch, make steady progress in all which make up the inner life of modern nations. We leave it now in a hopeful condition, and with a bright and prosperous future before it. Placed by nature in an advantageous position which fits it to become the centre of a great foreign trade, and gifted with pellucid seas and varied scenery, which make it one of the most attractive spots within the reach of the wearied dwellers in the bustling cities of the neighbouring countries, its future is in its own hands. With energy and self-denial its prosperity and its progress are assured.


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