[From Brown's Directory, 1881/2]



From the earliest times this Island has been known as the Isle of Man ( Mona nesos—Ptolemy), and by this name, under one or other of its various forms, it has been known from the ancient writers downward. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it is generally supposed to have been derived from the Celtic Mon (Latinised by the Romans into Mona), meaning " Lonely." Cumming connects it with the Sanscrit Man, and is of opinion that the name was given to it on account of its reputed sacred character as the chief seat of the Druids. Following the sound, the Norse settlers called it Maun ; and from this the form Man was obtained. The modern Manx name is Ellan Vannin—the Isle of Man, or Ellan Vannin Veg Veen—the dear little Isle of Man.


The Isle of Man is situated in the centre of the Irish Sea, almost equally distant from the four neighbouring countries, all of which are clearly visible from its highest point. It lies between the parallels of 54 deg. 3 min. and 54 deg. 25 min. N., and of 4 deg. 18 min. and 4 deg. 47½ min. W. Its greatest length, from the Point of Ayre to Spanish Head is 33 miles ; and its greatest breadth, from Maughold Head to the Sound, is 25 miles ; but its direct breadth, from Clay Head to Contrary Head, is 13 miles. Its area is about 300 miles. Its position gives it peculiar advantages with regard to the neighbouring countries. Its possession is essential to their security; while its nearness to their coasts, and its situation in the direct lines of their chief trades, give it facilities which, if developed and improved, would make it the centre of a great carrying trade.


The physical conformation of the Isle of Man is extremely simple. Of an irregular, rhomboidal form, with its axis running N.E. and S.W., its coast line is singularly bold and rugged ; and, except in the north, broken by numerous inlets, among which are several fine bays affording ancho. rage and shelter to vessels of considerable size. The principal of these are on the East coast—Ramsey Bay, an extensive indentation sheltered by Maughold Head and the neighbouring highlands, but much encumbered with shallows and sand banks ; Laxey Bay, a wide but shallow and rocky inlet between Laxey Head and Clay Head ; Douglas Bay, a large and beautiful opening between the bluff headlands of Bank’s Howe and Douglas Head, with the port and town of Douglas, the modern capital of the Island, in its southern corner, under the shadow of Douglas Head ; and Derbyhaven, a fine natural harbour, sheltered by the peninsula of Langness and St. Michael’s Islet. On the South coast—Castletown Bay, a deep but exposed and dangerous inlet, with Castletown, the ancient capital, at its north-western extremity ; and Carrick Bay, a wide and shallow opening, containing Poolvash to the east and St. Mary’s Bay at its western angle. And on the West coast—Port Erin, a beautiful opening between the green Mull Hills and the rugged headland of Bradda, protected by a breakwater from its south.western horn ; and Peel Bay, a shallow indentation at the mouth of the river Neb, partially protected from the westerly winds by St. Patrick’s Islet and a small breakwater projected from the northern extremity of the islet. South of Peel the mountains form the coastline, and here the cliffs are high and precipitous, the average height of the south-western coast being about 700 feet, while in some places the mountains descend into the sea in huge precipices, 1,200 to 1,400 feet high. The most important points along the coast are—the Point of Ayre—the most north ; Maughold Head, the most east, 373 feet ; Clay Head ; Bank’s Howe, 398 feet ; Douglas Head, 320 feet ; St. Ann’s Head ; Langness Point, the most south ; Scarlet Point; Spanish Head (a corruption of Spaloret—its ancient name), 350 feet ; Bradda Head, 766 feet ; Dalby Point ; Contrary Head, 502 feet; Orrisdale Head ; Jurby Point.

Several small islands are found at different points of the coast, the largest being the Calf, a rugged waterworn islet, about five miles in circumference, situated off the S.W. extremity of the main island, and separated from it by the Kitterland Sound, a dangerous channel about 500 yards across. One mile S.W. of the Calf the Chicken Rock, a dangerous reef in the track of vessels navigating the channel, on which a magnificent lighthouse has been erected, whose light is visible at a distance of 18 miles.


With the exception of a low sandy tract in the north, the Isle of Man consists of a mass of rocky mountains, which traverse the Island from Maughold Head to the Calf, and form, in great part, its western coast line. In the north and centre, this mountain mass attains its greatest elevation and breadth, and here it is composed of three parallel chains of which the central one is the highest and most massive, culminating in Snaefell, 2,034 feet. In the South it consist of a single range which occupies the whole breadth of the Island, and attains its highest point in South Barrule, 1,585 feet. The general appearance of these mountains is rocky and picturesque. They rise from the coast in bold, rounded swells, their lower slopes generally under cultivation to the height of 600 to 700 feet. Above that, to the height of 1,000 to 1,200 feet, they are green with pasture, and, higher still, their sharp craggy peaks and bluff rocky tops soar aloft dark with purple heath and gray lichen. In many places, however, where the soil is thin, cultivation ends at much lower heights, and the rocky ground produces only gorse and heather and tall bracken ferns ; in other places again, especially in some of the northern and central districts, large tracts of the mountain sides have been planted with forest trees, which, while enriching the soil, add greatly to the beauty of the landscape.


These mountain ridges are separated from each other by narrow, longitudinal valleys, while the ridges themselves are pierced ifl all directions by deep winding glens of great beauty and fertility. The principal of these are—the Central Valley or Strath, which crosses the Island between Douglas and Peel, and which was, until times almost within historical grasp, an arm of the sea ; and branching out from this valley, to the north, the East and West Baldwin Glens, and Glen Mooav, with its continuation, Glen Helen, which separate towards the south the three ridges of the central mass. On the south side of the valley are— Glen Darragh (" The Vale of Oaks ")—the last refuge of the Druids, and Foxdale. with its great Lead mines and its granite quarries. On the north side of the mountains are—Ravensdale, called in its upper part Glen Dhu, and opening on to the great northern plain at Ballaugh; Glen Mooar (‘ The Great Glen "—a common name for the larger Manx glens), or Sulby Glen, extending from the roots of Sartfell on the west and Snaefell on the east to the Great Plain at the village of Sulby ; and Glen Auldyn, near Ramsey. These northern glens pierce the mountains where they attain their greatest elevation, and are celebrated for their wild mountain beauty. Along the east side numerous openings penetrate the mountains—Ballure Glen, Cornah Glen, Laxey Glen; all wild high-land glens, surrounded on all sides by rugged mountains, 1,800 to 2,000 feet high. In Laxey Glen are the celebrated Great Laxey Lead Mines. South of Douglas are—the Crogga Glen, and the Santonburn Glen. Along the west coast, south of Peel, are—Fleshwick Glen and Glen Meay—with its continuation, Glen Rushen; two highland glens celebrated for the grandeur of their scenery. North of Peel the mountains rapidly recede from the coast, which loses its high rocky character, and the few openings formed are generally shallow and uninteresting. Glen Wyllin, from the spurs of Sartfell to the Michael coast, is the finest.


Stretching from the northern slopes of the mountains to the sea in every direction is an extensive tract of nearly level country, occupying an area of about 50 square miles. Crossing its northern part is a range of low, rolling sandhiils ; between which and the mountains is the district of The Curragh (" The Bog ")—the dried-up basin of a series of ancient lakes, of whose former existence both history and tradition and the names of surrounding localities speak. In the south, the mountains recede from the south-eastern coasts, leaving, between them and the sea, an extensive tract of low, undulating land—the Plain of Castletown —which extends across the Island between Castletown and Port Erin.


Rising among the mountains and following the course of these glens are numerous streams, which, radiating in all directions, water the country in all parts except the extreme north. Being mountain streams, and of small size, they are in great part dried up in summer ; while in winter, and during heavy rains they are subject to sudden and destructive floods. The principal rivers are—The Sulby, the largest of the Manx rivers, 20 miles long, which drains Sulby Glen and the district along the northern foot of the mountains. It receives on its right bank the Glen Auldyn stream, and flows into the sea at Ramsey. The Douglas, 10 miles long, formed by the confluence of The Dhu (" The Dark River "), which rises on the western slopes of Greeba, and The Glas (" The Gray River"), which rises in the moorlands north of Garraghan. these two streams unite about one mile west of Douglas and form the river Douglas, which discharges itself into Douglas Bay. The Neb, 12 miles long, formed by the Rhennas, which begins on Sartfell and flowing through Glen Helen forms the beautiful Rhennas Waterfalls, and the Foxdale Stream. It is a rapid, mountain stream, and empties itself into Peel Bay. Other less important streams are—The Ravensdale Stream, draining the mountains of Michael ; the Laxey River, flowing down the eastern slopes of Snaefell; the Santonburn and the Silverburn, draining the south-eastern district; and the Glen Meay River, which drains the district between South Barrule and the sea and forms the celebrated Glen Meay Waterfall. In the north, The Lhen Mooar, the ancient estuary of the Sulby. Most of these are clear trout streams, much frequented by anglers, but unsuited for navigation.


There are now no lakes in the Isle of Man, but the country exhibits traces of several which it formerly possessed. The district along the northern base of the mountains, known as The Curragh (" The Bog ") is the dried up basin of a large lake ; as is that part of the Central Valley between Greebah and Slieau Whallin, known as the The Curragh Glas (" The Gray Bog ") ; and a map of the 16th century shows several smaller lakes in different parts of the Island, which are now filled up.


The climate is damp and foggy, but remarkably mild and healthy. Its annual temperature (48·8 deg.) is higher than that of any other country in Europe in the same latitude, and is very similar to that of the South of France or the North of Italy. Its reputation as a sanatorium is steadily growing, and increasing numbers of invalids and others resort to it on that account.


The soil in many places is poor. About two-thirds of the entire area of the Island are unenclosed mountain-land, covered with gorse and heath, and affording only a meagre pasturage for sheep. The most fertile parts are the low, sandy districts in the North, and South-east, the Central Valley, and some of the more sheltered glens. Owing to local circumstances agriculture was much neglected among the Manx until comparatively recent times. It is now, however, rapidly improving, and in some of the best-farmed districts the land is as carefully and as successfully cultivated as in any part of England or Scotland. The amount of land under cultivation has greatly increased during the last thirty years; while its quality has also been much improved by the introduction of better methods of cropping, of a more liberal and scientific use of manures, and of the more general use of machinery. The holdings are generally of small size, and are frequently worked by the proprietors, in whose families they have often been for long periods, sometimes even for centuries. The chief objects of culture are—wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips. Not nearly enough wheat is grown, and large quantities are imported from England. The amount of land under cul tivation in 1879 was—corn crops 25,342 acres, green crops 12,008, and pasture 21,021 ; while the live stock comprised—5,565 horses, 20,068 cattle, 61,584 sheep, and 13,564 pigs. In all of these figures there is a slight decrease, with the exception of the land under pasture ; a result of the great agricultural depression now existing (1879.)


There are no wild animals except those preserved for game. The domestic animals are the same as those of the neighbouring islands, with the exception of peculiar breeds of tailless cats and fowls.


The greater part of the Isle of Man is occupied by a series of slaty rocks of Cambrian age, in which scarcely any traces of life can be found. In the south and west, near Derbyhaven and Peel, are small patches of old red conglomerates and sandstones. Resting upon these, and, in the Southern district, occupying a considerable area, are thick beds of carboniferous limestones, abounding in their characteristic fossils. The superficial deposits consist of the drift sands, gravels, and clays, in their usual order. The Manx slate rocks form the common building stone in all parts, except in the South, where the local limestones are used. The clays, found in most parts, but especially in the Centre and West, make excellent bricks and tiles ; and several attempts have been made to work them, with partial success, Granite is found on the east side of South Barrule, near Foxdale, and on the east side of Slieau Ruy, near the Dhoon ; and has been largely worked. The Manx slates are highly metalliferous, and contain rich deposits of lead, copper, and blende. These veins have been worked for a long period, and two of the mines— the Foxdale and the Great Laxey—are among the most successful in the world.


The native Manx are of Celtic origin, but, owing to their conquest by the Northmen in the beginning of the 10th century, and again in the end of the 12th century, a considerable proportion of the inhabitants are of Teutonic race. The language is called Manx, and is a dialect of the Celtic, closely connected with the Erse (Irish) and the Gaelic. It is still spoken in the country districts, but almost all now speak English ; and, as Manx is not taught in the schools, it is fast becoming extinct.


The Isle of Man is divided into two parts called Districts—the North and the South—of which the Southern is the most important. Each district again is sub-divided into three sheadings, or counties—the three northern sheadings being Michael, Ayre, and Garif; and the three southern— Glanfaba, Middle, and Rushen. The country is further divided into seventeen parishes, of which eight are in the Northern District and nine in the Southern. The Northern parishes are—Michael, Ballaugh, and Jurby—in the sheading of Michael ; Lezayre, Andreas, and Bride—in the sheading of Ayre ; and Maughold and Lonan—in the sheading of Garff. The Southern parishes are—Patrick, German, and Marown—in the sheading of Glanfaba ; Onchan, Braddan, and Santon, in the sheading of Middle ; and Malew, Arbory, and Rushen, in the sheading of Rushen.






North Barrule .


Claugh Cuyre .


Bein-y-Phot .


Slieu Freoghane




South Barrule


Slieu Ren (Marown)


Sartfell . .


Slieu Chains .


Carraghan .


Slieu Lhean .


Slieu Cuyr




Greeba .


Slieu Menagh .


Slieu Curn .


Slieu Dhoo


Slieu Whallin .


Carrin . .


Cronk Fedjag .


Slieu Eteil (Lonan)


The Skoryn .




Bradda .


Granite Mountain


Mount Murray.


Mull Hills .


Knockaloe Hill


Calf of Man .


Banks’ Howe .


Santon Head .


Maughold Head


Spanish Head .


Douglas Head .




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