[From Brown's Directory, 1894]

Historical Chapter


During this period great advances were made by the country in every department of moral and material progress. Stimulated by the new facilities for landing and embarking passengers and goods given by the new harbour works, and by the improved accommodation provided for summer visitors, in the new streets and handsome terraces which were springing up along the margin of the bay and upon the rising grounds overlooking the bay, the summer trade of the Island grew by leaps and bounds. The number of visitors, during the season, increased year by year, until, in 1889, they averaged from 120,000 to 150,000; that is, they had increased more than fourfold since the commencement of the great harbour improvements, In addition, again, to the growing requirements of the resident population, which largely absorbed the produce of the agricultural districts, an important and improving trade grew up with the opposite coasts, especially with Liverpool and the north of Ireland; and every year vast quantities of merchandises of all kinds, agricultural produce, and cattle were imported to meet the requirements of the Insular markets. Money was plentiful, and work abundant; joint. stock enterprises for all kinds of objects multiplied beyond all precedent.; and on all sides, the most unmistakable signs of an abounding prosperity were apparent.

In other less material, but not less important directions, the condition of the country was steadily improving. The assimilation of the Insular code With that of England, begun in the earlier period, went on satisfactorily throughout this period also, under the watchful and energetic rule of Governor Loch. Among the most important of these measures for the social improvement of the country, were those relating to Elementary Education, the first of these Acts being that of 1872, which was adopted, after a prolonged struggle between the supporters of the existing Denominational Schools, and the advocates of a national system of rate-aided schools, extending over more than two years, on the 2nd February, and was promulgated on the 10th May, 1872. This Act was intended to bring the educational system of the Isle of Man, into line with that introduced into England by the Act of 1870; and among its many useful provisions were :—The creation of a departmental body, the Board of Education, to control and regulate the educational interests of the Island; the division of the Island into 21 educational districts, consisting of the 17 rural parishes, and the 4 towns; the election by the ratepayers of each of these school districts of a committee of their number, holding office for three years, and responsible generally for the proper provision of school accommodation, and for the efficiency of the schools provided by them out of the rates. This Act, it should be noticed, was, in certain essential points, considerably in advance of the English Act. It divided the whole country into school districts; it placed the educational interests of the country in the hands of the elective School Committees of these districts, and gave them power to levy an Education rate adequate to the requirements of the case; it established universal compulsory attendance at school, placing the necessary powers of enforcing it in the hands of the School Committees: and, in case they neglected their duty, it gave the Board of Education power to compel the School Committee to carry out. the law.

This useful measure, though unquestionably a great advance on the old voluntary system, was soon found to be defective in several important particulars; and, accordingly, on the 5th March, 1878, a second Act was passed, intended to amend the law relating to compulsion, so as to make it more effective; to extend the school age, so as to include infants from five years of age; and to provide a system of examinations and grants for "certified" schools, under unqualified teachers. Three other extending Acts have been subsequently passed by the Insular Legislature; namely, the Acts of 1881, 1884, and the Free Education Act of 1892; and at the present time, a fourth measure is being considered by the legislature, the object of which is to consolidate and amend the whole of the previous Acts.

It could hardly be expected that changes of such a sweeping and personal character as those introduced by these measures, and, especially, by the earliest and most comprehensive of them, could be carried out without exciting a considerable amount of opposition. The rating of the country for educational purposes; the enforcement of attendance at school; the compulsory provision of necessary school. accommodation; the bringing of the schools, and especially of country schools, to the English standard of efficiency, and their permanent maintenance at that standard; and the establishment of all the schools maintained by the rates as undenominational schools—all these, and numerous other results of the new system, came with a shock upon the country, alarming the prejudices of a backward people, and touching them in their most cherished interests; and during the years, which immediately followed the passing of the Act of 1872, many serious difficulties arose, with which the Board of Education and the country had to contend. In the rural districts, the resistance to the carrying out of the new law took a negative form, and consisted mainly of intentional neglect and delay on the part of certain of the School Committees, only to be overcome by persistent and considerate pressure on the part of the Central Authority; but in the towns, and more especially, in Douglas, it took a more active and belligerent form. The educational institutions of that town had been, down to the passing of the Education Act, in the exclusive possession of the various religious denominations, and had been largely used by them as Church organisations; and the managers and supporters of these schools, sharing in the prejudice common at that time in England against the School Board System as "godless," because it forbade the teaching, in its schools, of distinctive religious doctrines, and unwilling to surrender the position and influence which they had been enjoying, fought strenuously against the introduction of that system into the town. On the other side, were the advocates of the new undenominational system, eager to free popular education from "ecclesiastical tyranny"; and between the two a long and bitter contest was waged. We have not space to narrate the varying incidents of this instructive struggle. It ended, however in the decisive victory of the Progressivists, and the permanent establishment of the School Board System in both town and country. In Douglas, there are now two large Board Schools, each in three separate departments, and equal in every respect to the best of their class in the kingdom, and models upon which the other elementary schools of the Island are gradually forming themselves. At the present time, a Higher Grade Board School is in course of erection; at which education of a more advanced stage will be given; and there are also signs of a disposition, on the part of the Insular Government, to follow the lead of English opinion, and take action towards organising Secondary Education generally upon a more satisfactory basis.

Among the many unpleasant incidents growing out of these educational troubles, one of the most disagreeable was a libel suit instituted by Mr W. Isdale, postmaster of Douglas, against Mrs H. Curphey, the proprietress of the Denominational organ. the Manx Sun. After a protracted trial, a verdict for the plaintiff was given on 1st December, 1877, with £130 damages and costs. An appeal was lodged against this verdict, on technical grounds: but the judgment was re-affirmed, and a fresh trial refused.

During the same period, a further advance was made towards developing the resources of the country, by the introduction of railways into the Isle of Man. For many years, this want had been severely felt by the trade of the Island; and with the rapid growth of its summer industry, this necessity became more and more urgent. Nothing, in fact, but the depressed condition of the country had kept back this introduction so long. After several abortive attempts to form a local Company to construct a line between Douglas and Peel, a more promising effort was begun, in January, 1870, when a public meeting was held in Douglas, at which it was stated that several large land-owners along the proposed lines of route had promised to join the Company. In April, 1871, the prospectus of the Company was issued, from which it appeared that it was proposed to connect the four towns by a narrow gauge railway, at a estimated cost of £200,000; but in consequence of the want of the expected local support, this complete scheme had to be given up. In the following August, it was finally decided to abandon the Northern section of their original plans; and to reduce their nominal capital to £120,000. On the 30th January, 1872, the Railway Bill was passed by the Council, and by the Keys, on the 9th February; and on the 10th May, it was promulgated, at St. John’s. By this date, the whole of the Company’s shares had been taken up, and the enterprise was safely floated. On the 11th June, the first sod of the Douglas and Peel line was cut; and a few days later, the Duke of Sutherland, Chairman of the Company, and Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Pender, M.P., a very large shareholder, came over and inspected the works. On the 19th August it was resolved to increase the capital of the Company to £160,000. On the 1st May, 1873, an experimental train ran along the line; and on the 1st July, after having been duly inspected by Col. Rich, Government Inspector of Railways, it was formally opened to the public. The construction of the southern section, between Douglas and Port Erin, was now pushed on with great energy; and on the 1st August, 1874, it was formally opened for traffic. The formation of the Northern line, joining Ramsey to the rest of the Island, was delayed for several years; partly owing to the impossibility of raising the requisite amount for its cost without a government guarantee; but this difficulty was finally overcome, and the line itself built. Its subsequent career has not been as successful as that of the two southern lines, and it has been constantly worked under great financial difficulties; but the general effect of the introduction of railways upon the internal trade of the country has been extraordinarily great. In place of the single stage coach, which formerly sufficed for the wants of the several towns, numerous well-filled trains run daily along the different lines; and in the summer season, notwithstanding the great increase in the car traffic, the traffic along the railways is enormous and increasing.

Resuming our account of the attempt of the Imperial Government to construct a harbour of refuge at Port Erin, we may summarise the position at the time we now take it up (July, 1869), by stating that the work had been carried to a length of 500 feet; that its end stood in 35 feet of water, at low water spring tides; and that the funds set aside for its cost by the Imperial Government had been practically exhausted. Attempts were made to induce the Tynwald Court to vote supplementary funds out of the Insular revenue to complete it. As before stated, the Court, on the 7th July, 1869, had voted £13,000 with this object; and several other attempts were made immediately after to obtain further votes for the same object, but they were successfully resisted by the independent members of the Court, supported by the Peel fishermen, who had now come to the con. elusion that the work, as proposed, would not be of much use to them. On the 26th June, 1872, a vote of £3,500 was made as a mortgage on the working plant, and on the 18th February, 1873, a further sum of £6,300 was voted for the construction of a low-water landing pier, on the inner side of the breakwater. All parties were now thoroughly wearied of this work. Badly planned, and insufficiently provided for, it was an admitted failure. After the imposition of harbour dues, in January, 1870, the Insular fishermen rarely entered the bay; and no inducement that the Government could offer had any effect upon their determination. At length, in 1876, it was declared "completed;" and a small iron lighthouse placed at its outer extremity.

Upon this work, the Insular Government had, up to this time, spent from £24,000 to £25,000 altogether; and in addition to this, the Imperial Government had expended upon it £58,200 expecting to recoup itself out of the harbour dues of the port. These failing, as we have seen, the Treasury now fell back upon the Insular Government, and attempted to make it responsible for the repayment of the "Port Erin Loan," as the money spent upon the works was now officially called. The first intimation of this unpleasant claim was received in April, 1870, when a demand was made by the Imperial Treasury for a sum of money as "interest on this loan." This claim was as unexpected as disagreeable; and, in spite of the assurances of the Lieutenant-Governor that it had made under a misapprehension of the facts, it excited universal alarm and indignation. On the 7th May, 1875, however, a formal demand was made by Mr. Secretary Smith for the repayment of the sum of £58,200, on the ground that "the harbour having proved a financial failure," though the Imperial Exchequer was "legally liable to bear the burden of the failure," the Insular Government was "morally under an obligation to bear it." This curious claim was energetically repudiated by the Insular Government and people; and the English Government, unable to impose it upon the Island by legal force, followed the precedent of 1866, of making one Concession to obtain another, and attempted to induce the Manx Government to accept liability for the "loan" by offering in return to make certain much . desired concessions, the principal of which were— an increased payment towards a daily mail, and the rating of the Crown lands. The correspondence containing this claim, and the accompanying proposals were laid before the Tynwald Court, on the 15th December. On the 16th, a Committee of the Court, consisting of Deemster Drinkwater, the Attorney-General, Messrs W. B. Christian, G. W. Dumbell, R. Sherwood, R. J. Moore, and J. T. Clucas, was appointed to consider this correspondence, and report to the Court. On the 21st December, this Committee presented its report, in which it was conclusively shown that the Port Erin work had been undertaken for Imperial purposes, and not for the accommodation of the Manx fishermen, a d that, at no point of its progress, had the Insular Government incurred any responsibility for it. In consideration, however, of the valuable character of the concessions offered, it recommended the appointment of a committee to act, in conjunction with the Lieutenant Governor, either in the way of correspondence, or by deputation to the English Government. ‘The report was unanimously adopted by the Court, and the same committee appointed to carry it out. For nearly a year, the question remained in abeyance. In November, 1876, however, it was revived in connection with a proposal on the part of the Insular Government to sanction a guarantee to the Northern Railway. When asked to consent to this guarantee—a proceeding which was purely formal and involved, no responsibility of any kind on the part of the Imperial Treasury, a reply was made embodying "the final views of their lordships, with regard to the several subjects which you have brought before them in the course of the ‘correspondence respecting the Port Erin loan." In this minute, which was dated 15th November, 1876, it was laid down, as an essential preliminary to the sanctioning of any future arrangement with the Island, that the Insular Government should "undertake the punctual repayment of the principal and interest of the Port Erin loan." If this were done, my Lords would be willing to grant, in return, their sanction to the guarantee to the Northern Railway; liberty to borrow from the Loan Commissioners "such sums as it is already authorised to borrow "at a rate not exceeding four per cent. ; under certain difficult and onerous conditions, "the payment (towards the cost of a daily mail) of two shillings and sixpence per hundred letters, in lieu of the present fixed subsidy"; an inquiry by the Customs "into ‘the alleged loss to the Insular revenue by he import of English duty paid goods, with the view of making good the amount as nearly as it can be ascertained"; the and Woods and Forests would be authorised to permit the rating of the Crown property in the Island. This minute, which clearly aimed at enforcing the acceptance of the Port Erin liability by putting pressure upon the Insular Government, was laid before the Tynwald Court, on the 6th December, with an ~ from the Lieut.-Governor, in which he endeavoured to persuade the Court to bow to the inevitable, and accept the terms offered by showing that, in so doing, it would be making a good bargain, financially, Assuming that his arguments would convince the Court of the expediency of giving way, he concluded by Proposing that the Committee appointed to act in this matter should proceed to London, to confer with the Treasury, who, he said, were prepared to meet them on the 14th instant. The Court proved, however, less compliant than had been expected; and after some recriminations between the Lieut.-Governor and certain members of the opposition, in the course of which the former endeavoured to justify his later proceedings, adopted a resolution, proposed by the Attorney-General and Mr. Dumbell, "protesting in the strongest manner" against the coercive position taken up by the Imperial Government in this matter, and maintaining its right, "as an independent and responsible Legislature," to consider the measure " free from the feeling of coercion" imported into it. To restore the question to this constitutional footing, it was fur. ther resolved that the Committee appointed to deal with the Port Erin question, on the 21st December, 1875, "proceed to London as soon as possible, for the purpose of a conference with the Treasury." On the 14th, this deputation had an interview with Mr. W. H. Smith, the financial secretary to the Treasury, at Whitehall. In this interview, Mr Smith attempted to explain away the attempted coercion on the part of the Treasury; and professed his willingness to let the matter drop. But, in that case, he added, they must understand that no further advances would be sanctioned by the Treasury for any purpose in the Island; and that all the other questions dealt with in this minute would be withdrawn. The dispute thus, so far, ended in a drawn battle. On the 6th February, 1877, the Committee formally reported to the Tynwald Court, the result of their mission; and Mr. Clucas moved, and Deemster Drinkwater seconded, that the Treasury be requested to sanction the proposed guarantee of the Northern Railway, which was carried nem. con.

On the 15th November, 1878, the second stage of this irritating controversy was entered upon, by the Lieut.-Governor issuing a carefully prepared Minute informing the Court that the harbour works, then in course of construction, would be completed early in the ensuing year; and, also, that their effect upon the Island, even in their unfinished state, had been markedly beneficial. In view of these facts, he thought the time for commencing certain new works, and also for enlarging certain existing works, had now come. The works he proposed for immediate commencement were—an addition to the Victoria Pier, Douglas, of 300 feet, at an estimated cost of £40,000; the formation of a road connecting the Victoria and the Red Piers, at a cost of £4,500; certain improvements in Peel Harbour, at a cost of £21,700; and the construction of a sheltering work at Port St. Mary, at a cost of £13,500. In addition to these proposals, he stated that it would be necessary shortly to consider the advisability of extending the existing works at Ramsey, at a cost of £15,000 to £16,000. The money to provide these different works, amounting to about £80,000, he proposed to borrow, as before, from the Loans Commissioners, As, however, the Island was precluded from doing this except upon the condition of accepting the liability for the Port Erin "Loan," he went on to argue in favour of the Court accepting that condition, showing that an annual payment of £2,600, for a period of 45 to 50 years, would meet this responsibility. Following up this skilfully devised proposal, Mr. B. Harrison, Receiver-General, on the 4th December, laid plans and estimates of the proposed works before the Court, and moved "That, to enable these works to be carried into execution, it is necessary that all outstanding financial differences with the Imperial Government be settled. And that his Excellency the Lieut.-Governor be requested to ascertain the terms upon which the Imperial Government would agree to a settlement of these questions on the basis of—(1) A daily mail service being provided. (2) The Insular revenue being credited with the amount of duty paid on English duty-paid articles imported into the Island. (3) Crown lands being rated for rateable purposes. (4) The power of borrowing from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, at a minimum rate of interest."

This was seconded by Mr Jeffcott; and a long and instructive debate followed, in the course of which Mr W. Farrant, one of the members for Douglas, moved as an amendment :—" Resolved, that the Tynwald Court, having given an attentive Consideration to the proposals contained in the Lieut.Governors memorandum of the 1st instant, do appoint a Committee to consider the above proposals, and to report—(1) Whether it be expedient, in the existing financial condition of the Island, that the construction of any, and if any, which of the harbour works mentioned in his Excellency’s memorandum at present be undertaken. (2) Whether it be advisable to effect an arrangement with the Imperial Government for the settlement of the Port Erin question, in consideration of the concessions enumerated in the Lieut.-Governor’s memorandum. (3) Whether it might not be practicable, by an Insular fiscal rearrangement, to render it the interest of the importers of tobacco to pay the duties on the said tobacco in the Island. (4) Whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the despatch of a deputation from this Court to confer with the Treasury Authorities would afford the promise of an early and amicable settlement of the questions to which his Excellency’s memorandum refers in connection with the Port Erin loans. (5) What the probable effect would be on the commerce and prosperity of the Island of the imposition of harbour dues at Douglas. (6) To report generally upon the position, expenditure, and distribution of the Insular revenue derived from all sources."

At this point, the Lieut.-Governor adjourned the debate to the 10th inst. On the renewal of the debate, Mr W. B Christian seconded Mr Farrant’s amendment, which, on a division, was carried in the Keys, but rejected in the Council—a result which practically blocked for the time the further discussion of the question. On the 17th, the Lieut.-Governor issued a third Minute, in which, after carefully analysing the late debates, he asked the Court whether it would consent to arrange this Port Erin difficulty on equitable terms; and, if so, that the terms upon which the Imperial Government will come to a settlement might be ascertained. He further asked it to decide whether the whole of the works named in his former Minute should be carried out, or any portion of them.

The claim thus raised by the Imperial Government excited general indignation throughout the country; and the proceedings of the Tynwald Court were followed with intense interest by the Manx people. Nowhere was there a voice raised in defence of this claim; but when the question of right became involved in the questions of compensatory advantages, and still more when, through the skilful management of the Lieut.-Governor, the question of local improvements was made dependent upon the acceptance of this claim, the temptation was a very strong one, and produced a considerable amount of local feeling in favour of a compromise.

In Douglas, for example, where the question of a daily mail was strongly advocated, several public meetings were held, at which motions in favour of a settlement of the dispute were passed; and at Ramsey and Port St. Mary similar movements took place. Thus encouraged, the Lieut.-Governor met the Tynwald Court again, on the 30th December, with a fresh scheme, which he hoped would break down the resistance of the opposition. On the resumption of the debate, the Attorney-General moved, and Mr R. J. Moore seconded,—" That the Court is of opinion that the Port Erin question should be settled upon equitable terms, and that the Governor be requested to ascertain whether the Treasury would accept, as a basis of settlement, the terms named in the Governor’s memorandum of the 1st instant."

To this Deemster Drinkwater moved, as an amendment, and Mr. T. C. S. Moore seconded—"That a Committee of the Court be appointed to co-operate with the Governor to obtain the consent of the Treasury to — l. An increased postal subsidy. 2. The rating of Crown lands. 3. The return of the duty on duty-paying goods imported into the Island. And that the Governor be respectfully requested to communicate the wishes of the Tynwald Court on these subjects to the Treasury." The amendment was carried in the Keys, but lost in the Council, thus leaving the question as undecided as before.

Unable to carry his views in the Legislature, the Lieut. Governor now resorted to a direct appeal to the people; a course hitherto untried in the Isle of Man, though for long an ordinary part of the action of political parties in England; encouraged to it, no doubt, by the success of his partial appeals to them. District after district —the north, the centre, and the west—were successively appealed to by partisans on both sides, for their verdict upon the Port Erin question; with a result as satisfactory to the Constitutional Party, as it was decisive of the controversy. However anxious each district might be to secure that public assistance which was so essential to its future prosperity, each, one after the other, refused to accept that much coveted assistance, if it was to be given as the price of the acceptance of a claim so burdensome and so unjust. Failing in this attempt to bring outside pressure to bear upon the opposition, the Lieut.-Governor reluctantly accepted his defeat; and on the 1st April, 1879, he submitted through the Receiver-General, the following resolution, which was seconded by Mr Joughin, and accepted without discussion :— The Governor, having informed the Tynwald Court that an opportunity has arisen for communicating with the Treasury with reference to a settlement of all outstanding questions at present at issue between the Imperial Government and the Tynwald Court: Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to proceed to London, with the full authority of this Court, to negotiate and determine all such questions. It is further resolved, that the Governor be respectfully requested to confer with and accompany such Committee." "Resolved, that the Committee shall consist of the following members, any five of whom shall be a quorum :—The Attorney-General, Deemster Drinkwater, Mr. Christian, Mr. Sherwood, Mr. Dalrymple, Mr. W. Farrant, and Mr. R. J. Moore.

This Committee proceeded to London without loss of time. On the 14th May, in company with the Lieut.-Governor, they had an interview with Sir H. S. Ibbetson, Financial Secretary to the Treasury; (and on the 21st they had a further interview with Sir C. Du Cane, First Commissioner of Customs, and on the 24th they returned to the Island. On the 11th July, the result was communicated to the Governor, and by him laid before the Court, together with the report of the deputation, on the 18th July. The Treasury Minute, in which this result was embodied, is too lengthy to reproduce here, but its substance was that "My Lords" would accept a sum of £20,000 as a full discharge of all the liabilities of the Insular Government, in respect of the Port Erin Loan; and they would also make concessions upon the various questions which had been raised in the course of this controversy which were much more satisfactory than had been offered before, and in every way advantageous to the Insular revenue. The agreed amount was voted by the Court; and thus ended one of the most unpleasant and discreditable disputes which the British Government has ever entered into with any other Government.


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