[From Brown's Directory, 1894]

Historical Chapter


Another matter which during its progress excited great public interest was the proposal to abolish the ancient ecclesiastical autonomy of the Isle of Man, and include both it and its ecclesiastical revenues in the proposed diocese of Liverpool. Meeting with a certain amount of sympathy from Bishop Powys, who had long been non-resident, and also from the Lieut. Governor, it came upon the country with a certain appearance of official authority. But it was received by both the Church and the people with a burst of indignant feeling, and was definitively rejected by the Tynwald Court. But, though the proposal to abolish the Insular bishopric was thus summarily rejected, it was generally felt that the bishop’s salary absorbed too large a part of the necessarily small tithe fund; and a movement in favour of reducing the income of the See (about £2,500 with residence) at its next voidance grew up in the country, and found Legislative expression in a measure (the Bishop’s Temporalities Bill) of a very useful character. The Crown, however, in whose possession was the nomination to the See, viewed the movement with dislike; and during the lengthy correspondence which ensued, Bishop Powys died suddenly at Bournemouth, 31st May, 1877. Ultimately, the English Government reluctantly consented to a nominal reduction of £500, bringing the bishop’s salary down to £2,000; and to cut the controversy short, appointed the Rev. Rowley Hill, vicar of Sheffield, to the vacant See, 10th July. With this partial concession the Manx people had to be contented; but its effect in ameliorating the depressed condition of the rural clergy has been very small, owing in great part to the great decline in the price of corn.

During the same period, the general life of the country flowed onward with a steadily swelling current. On all sides, signs of prosperity and progress multiplied, both in town and country. Even Castletown. the least progressive of all, began to show signs of a wish to share in the general well-doing, and bestirred itself to make the most of its opportunities. In town and country alike, things were better than they had been for a century; and once more the land was filled with an increasing population, at once progressive and prosperous. The course of improvement in its jurisprudence and procedure, which had been begun in an earlier period, went on steadily; and numerous measures were adopted intended to abolish ancient practices unsuited to the spirit of the age, to facilitate the improvement of the country, and to foster and develop its resources, and to bring its legal usages into harmony with those of the rest of the kingdom. On several occasions attempts were made by liberal members of the Legislature to extend the electoral franchise, in accordance with the English precedent, and to abolish the property qualification for members of the House of Keys; but Without success. In 1876, the Lieut. Governor drew attention to the unsatisfactory character of the arrangements for the relief of the poor; and suggested the Passing of a measure to authorise a compulsory rate in aid of the voluntary system of relief. In July, 1878, he appointed a Commission of Inquiry, which took a large amount of valuable evidence on the subject. In October, 1879, this Committee issued their report, in which they made a number of suggestions for the more effective administration of the existing funds and for the better relief of the poor. Several of these suggestions were attempted to be carried out; but the voluntary system, especially in the more progressive towns, was found unequal to the growing strain put upon it, and a poor law, which was to become operative when the voluntary means of relief broke down, had to be passed, in ? -

Equally careful of the medical necessities of the people, the Lieut. -Governor issued a Minute, in October, 1877, proposing the establishment of a new and more efficient hospital in Douglas, with branches and dispensaries in the other towns and villages attached to it, and visited at regular times by the doctors belonging to the hospital, and recommending a grant of £3,000 by the Tynwald Court, in aid of the project. This enlightened proposal was not adopted by the country; and the old voluntarily-maintained hospital was left to drag on in its old unsuitable premises, until new buildings were provided for it by private beneficence, while the other towns and the larger villages were left entirely without hospital assistance.

During the remaining term of Sir Henry Loch’s administration, the process of improvement went on steadily; though subject to many temporary checks, arising mainly out of the engrained conservatism of the native Manx and the intensely parochial feelings which still characterise their politics. Several other measures of great value, such as the Public Health Bill, the Burials Bill, a new Education Bill, a new Licensing Bill, and others, still further modernised the condition of Insular life; while a fresh scheme of harbour works for each of the Insular ports was adopted by the Legislature, and, in great part carried out. Under the impulse of a growing trade, the revenue continued to improve. In 1880-1, it amounted to £52,531—an increase of £2,600 on the preceding year. The number of summer visitors also grew in a satisfactory manner. In 1881, the number landing at Douglas was about 90,000; and the total number landed in the Island would be about 100,000. The agricultural industry still maintained its prosperity; and, with the profitable market offered by the towns, and the increased facilities of transport of surplus stock to foreign markets, it could not well be otherwise. But both the mining and the fishing industries were now beginning to show the weakness which has since brought them to the verge of bankruptcy.

In March, 1882, Sir Henry Loch resigned the position which he had held with such distinguished success for nineteen years; and was succeeded by Mr. Spencer Walpole, who still retains the appointment. The departure of Sir Henry Loch was regarded by the Manx with something very like a shock of dismay. They had so long associated him with all their projects for the development of their country and the improvement of their circumstances, and they had so thoroughly acquired the habit of relying upon his intelligence for the discernment of their true interests, and upon his superior energy to push them, that they regarded his departure as an abrupt ending of all their hopes for the future, even if it should not also involve the gradual loss of all they had gained in the past. Thus, Mr. Walpole entered upon the duties of his office, in themselves sufficiently arduous, under conditions which less resolute men would have shrunk from encountering. But he was not cast in that yielding mould. He settled down to his work in a quiet, business-like way, took up the dropped lines of his predecessor’s policy, and continued his abandoned labours. He was met on all sides with prejudice and opposition; and every independent movement on his part was regarded with suspicion and dislike, which his less showy qualities and more retiring habits were ill-calculated to remove. But all this has long since disappeared. Doubt of his fitness for his office has given place to implicit confidence in his ability, and to an unstinted recognition of his less obtrusive personality, and of his greater regard for the legality of his policy. His success as a constitutional administrator has been great, and and it has been earned under the most cruel difficulties. It is true, on the other hand, that, throughout his entire administration, the influence and authority of his office have been steadily growing; and that, at the present time, the Lieut. Governor is a more powerful official than he ever was before. But for this result, Mr. Walpole is only in part responsible. It is, in great part, due to the apathy of the Legislature, whose duty it is to restrain the powers of an irresponsible official within moderate limits, but who have gone on, year after year, piling fresh authority and fresh influence upon his shoulders, without any thought or care for the consequences. And it is, in part, the natural result of official tendencies, which make men occupying official positions seek fresh opportunities for executive vigour in every direction. There are, however, signs abroad of a marked change for the better in this matter; and, in recent years, we have seen the "Tynwald Court" again and again substituted for "the Lieut. -Governor." or "the Lieut.-Governor in Council," in new proposals to vest fresh powers of control in the office of the Lieut.-Governor.

From the first, the keynote of Mr Walpole’s administration has been economy in the management of the Insular Finances. He has not scrupled to increase the taxation of the country, and he has carried out fresh public works of a large and costly character; but his main aim has been to nurse the revenue, and to cut down unnecessary expenditure. The result of this policy is seen in the fact that the revenue has grown from £51,058, when he assumed office, in 1882, to £63,825, in 1892 —an increase of £12,767, in the ten years. In other directions, the prosperity thus indicated is visible. In these ten years, the number of visitors during the summer season has multiplied itself three times over, and is now close on 300,000. In 1881, the population of Douglas was 15,700. It is now something like 21,000. In 1881, again the united population of the four towns was 25,800. It is now, at least, 3 ,000; while the total population of the Island, notwithstanding the depression in the fishing and mining industries, and the emigration in consequence, is now 55,598, an increase of over 2,000. The progress of the country has not been one unbroken, continuous course of success, but it has been great and encouraging; and there is no reason why it should not be even greater in the immediate future. Life in the Isle of Man is little different now from life in an English district of the same physical character. The towns will compare favourably with any English towns of the same pretentious. They are well-built, well-drained, and well-lighted. They are clean, attractive, and well-managed. The country districts are accessible and picturesque; the roads through them are numerous, well. planned, and well-kept; and in summer, they are thronged with hundreds of vehicles filled with thousands of tourists, to the numerous "show-places" of the interior. The people are as well educated as the same classes in England. Work, especially in the summer, is plentiful, and wages fairly good ; and though there are no millionaires in the Island, there is no grinding poverty, and no deaths from cold and hunger. If the scale of living is lower than in some parts of England, the poverty is less repulsive, and is met by the local resources provided by the law, or by voluntary effort Altogether, the country has now attained to a very satisfactory degree of prosperity, while the outlook of the future is bright and hopeful.


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