[From Birds of Man, 1905]
THE Isle of Man is about 32 miles in length, its greatest breadth being some 13 miles. Its area is 145,325 acres, or 227 square miles; its circumference (without entering the bays) about 75 miles. These measurements include the Calf of Man. From Snaefell, taken as a central point, the distance to Barrow Head (Scotland) is 30 miles, to the Mull of Galloway about a mile more, to St. Bees Head (England) 40 miles, to Anglesea 55, and about 45 to the nearest point in County Down. The shortest distances to the surrounding lands are from the Point of Ayre to Burrow Head 16 miles, from the same point to St. Bees Head 28, Calf of Man to Point Lyuas 42, Contrary Head to the entrance of Strangford Lough 26½ miles.
The island lies between lat. 54.2 and 54.25º, and long. 4.17º and 4.49º.
The separating seas are (especially toward the Cumbrian coast, where the water never attains the depth of 20 fathoms) very shallow, and exceed 50 fathoms only in a trench which runs north and south between Man and Ireland.
From the northern slopes of the island the Galloway coast is in clear weather visible from the Mull to the Solway; Cairnsmore of Fleet, Cairnharrow, Screel, and being prominent in the background, and occasionally perceptible the summits, some of them even loftier, beyond Loch Trool and Loch Dee. In the east the ranges of Lakeland show a fine array of heights, ending conspicuously to the south in Black Combe. Southwards Wales is more faintly visible in parts of Anglesea and Snowdonia. The Mourne Mountains form a grand mass in the seascape to the west, and further north Slieve Croob is well displayed.
In rough figures, 45,000 acres of the Manx area is quite uncultivated (314 only being under water). 22,000 acres are devoted to corn, oats and barley being the principal crops, and the production of wheat having nearly ceased; 11,000 are under green crop, 39,000 grass (rotation), and 20,000 permanent pasture; the proportion of pasture-land tends to increase. The acreage under wood is insignificant,l though materially increased by the late afforesting of tracts of the Crown Common at South Barrule, Archallagan, and Greeba.
The population (1901) is 55,613, of which the four towns contain more than half. It decreased nearly 1000 within the previous decade.
The Isle of Man consists of a main central mass of highland, to which at the north and south are appended much smaller tracts of marly level country.
which is much the larger of the two tracts (containing the parishes of Jurby, Andreas, Bride, and parts of Lezayre and Ballaugh), forms a well defined district, about one-fifth of the island's total area, sharply bounded by the wall-like face in which the central mountain range rises from it.
Seen from these beautiful hillsides, clothed largely with steep woods (the home of Sparrow Hawk and Long-eared owl, of Magpie and Ring Dove, Missel Thrush and Goldcrest, and very probably the nesting place of the Crossbill), the level presents the pleasant aspect of a checker-work of many-coloured fields, with the Sulby at the spectator's feet, and here a comparatively slow stream, winding eastward in many loops to the sea at Ramsey. No rock is visible throughout this district, but it is crossed by a line of low hills of sandy cultivated soil, which meet the coast to the east in the bold sand and clay cliffs of Shellag. The country is thickly sprinkled with prosperous looking, farmsteads;2 the tall sod fences which divide it are in summer covered with blossom, especially the scented yellow bedstraw (Gallium verum). In the west beyond the gap by which the Lhen trench discharges the waters of the Curragh, the knolls where Jurby Church stands conspicuous form a similar coast to that at Shellag, but lower; and still further south and west, beyond the mouths of the Carlane and Ballaugh streams, Orrisdale Head is the culminating point of yet more sandhills, falling steeply to the sea, and rapidly wasting, under the influence of the weather. Orrisdale Head and parts of the Jurby coast are sandy wastes. The brows are in many places riddled with the holes of Sand Martins.
North of this low hill range, and forming the point of the island, lies the Ayre, a sandy and gravelly waste, gay with a profusion of flowers, which vary according to the season--Erica cinerea, Lotus, Ulex nanus, Convolvulus soldanella, Brassica monensis, rest-harrow, wild thyme, sea holly, and sea reed. This ground is a notable breeding place of various species of birds. A very steep beach of large shingle forms the Point of Ayre itself, and is continued for some distance on either side of it.
Close to the point stands the tall lighthouse with its surrounding, buildings. Eight miles south-east, and six miles from Ramsey, the Bahama light-vessel marks a submerged bank.
On these northern shores the dominant species of bird are the Ringed Plover and Oyster-catcher.
South of the sandhills the northern tract has many ponds (elsewhere rare in Man), sometimes occupying the sites of old marl-pits. In its south-western part, between Sulby and Jurby, is the Curragh, formerly an extensive marsh with lakes and islets, now drained to the condition of damp meadow-land, and divided by many hedges of willow. Towards its west end, however, in Ballaugh parish, there remains a patch of unreclaimed land, much cut up by old turf-diggings, the water lodging in which forms ponds and trenches of varying extent, which according to their age have been more or less filled up by the remains of their profuse vegetation, This tract is an interesting refuge for marsh-loving birds, as the Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, Coot, Water-rail, and Little Grebe. The shallow waters, seldom, except in a few drainage trenches, more than knee deep, form in winter considerable open sheets, but are in May choked by an immense luxuriance of flowering boa-bean, and later by a rich vegetation of alisma and purple loosestrife, with cotton grass and orchis (pink, purple, and cream-coloured) on their margins, while the region is perfumed by endless thickets of sweet-gale, and the drier ground surrounds it with a frame of yellow gorse. The charm of the Curragh land has been well pourtrayed by T. E. Brown in some of his characteristic poems, and his published letters are full of similar allusions. A patch of marsh ground of some extent also adjoins the Ayre on the south, and is still called lough Cranstal, though it shows a sheet of water in winter only; and similar tracts of yet smaller extent are the Lagagh Moar in Andreas, in which are traces of ancient fortification, and Lough Pherick on the borders of Bride and Lezayre.
The precise extent and situation of the former Curragh lakes is now somewhat uncertain, but three are shown in a map (very faulty and out of scale) of the sixteenth century ; and earlier in the Middle Ages we read of a lake at Myrosco, and three islands at least, 'in bosco de Myrosco,' in the thicket of Myrosco (on one of its islands was apparently a fort). The Manx Society's editor queries 'Iacu' for 'bosco,' but any one who has seen the wetter Curragh even at the present day can well understand how drier land in the midst of it might be described as an island. The Curragh was drained mainly in the seventeenth century. It is supposed that the slightly marked valley of the Lhen trench was the original course to the sea of the Sulby river, which has, in times geologically recent, been diverted by the dam of gravel piled up by the force of its own stream.
To the south-west of the northern plain is the main mass of the isle, a range of hills mainly of schist,3 whose higher elevations occupy its centre, while its spurs fill the rest of the surface to the coast on either side. From Douglas to Peel the range is divided by a valley,4 and it is everywhere split and pierced by glens. North of the cross valley are some twenty summits exceeding. a thousand feet. The mountains are usually of smooth rounded outline, the result of the pressure of the ice-sheet in the glacial age and of the deposit of its burdens of earth and clay; but their forms are sufficiently distinct, and viewed from the sea on approaching, Man, they have a fine flowing contour, and an appearance of height greater than they really possess. They are generally clothed with grass, but there are tracts of heather and blaeberry; at all seasons they are very devoid of bird life. In summer, however, Meadow Pipits nest all over them, a few Wheatears may be seen, and in various parts the Red Grouse has been introduced, or re-introduced. The highest point is the well-known Snaefell (2034 feet), which may now be ascended by electric tramway, but the most imposing mountain is the long and many-spurred North Barrule (1842), which shows from north and south a ridge with a rounded central summit, and from west and east a graceful cone. Other conspicuous eminences are the exceptionally peaked Pen-y-pot (1772); Greeba (1382), which has a rocky face overlooking the central valley; and the rounded Slieu Farrane (1602), over Kirk Michael.
The glens are generally cultivated in the lower portions, and their fields and copses are frequented by the usual lowland birds ; but in their higher and upper parts steep slopes covered with heather and bracken descend from the open moorland above. Here and there along their sides are rocky scarps, seldom of much height or extent. The streams at the bottom of these glens often flow through fern-clad gorges, and form a succession of shaded pools.
These beautiful scenes are ornithologically disappointing. The Dipper, for which they seem to supply ideal haunts, is absent or rare, Sandpipers do not appear to nest, Grey Wagtails are few. The longest of the Manx ravines is Sulby Glen, penetrating into the inmost recesses of the isle, where wet heaths slope from the highest mountains, and are drained by the branches of its river, wild upland streams rich in ferns, and abounding like the parent water in rushing falls and clear deep pools.
The finest of these branch glens is the Cluggid (throat), a precipitous opening which~ joins the main glen about a mile from its mouth in the plain. The swampy heads of the brooks afford breeding ground to a few Curlews : Jackdaws and Kestrels nest in some of the craggy brows, and Grey Crows in the scanty trees. The head of the Rhenass Glen is not far from that of Sulby, but its stream, joining at St. John's that from Foxdale, flows west through the central valley into the sea at Peel. There is a long belt of plantation ('Glen Helen' pleasure grounds) along the course of Rhenass river; after the junction, the Foxdale water, polluted by mine refuse, imparts its character to the joint stream, which between St. John's and Peel passes through waste and swampy ground, where the nest of the Water-rail has been found.
The two glens of Baldwin, whose streams form the Glass river, are of a more open and cultivated character; at the, top of West Baldwin, now much altered by the new water works for Douglas, is one of the oldest and finest fir woods in Man; at Injebreek, a lovely mountain nook.
Groudle, a glen with several branches and pastoral surroundings, in now in its lower part occupied by pleasure grounds.
Laxey Glen, which runs from Snaefell to the eastern sea, in in its upper part a wild treeless valley, its stream much tainted by mine refuse, but Glen Roy, which joins it at Laxey, has a clean trout stream, forking higher up into several branches, on one of which is the haunted pool of Nikkesen, and affording scenery of a charming character. 'In such valleys,' in the words of Brown, ' the sons of God might not unfitly wander.' The great hollow of the dale of Laxey, framed by lofty hills, to which the plantations, farmsteads, and cultivated fields of its lower reaches offer a charming contrast, and dotted along its seaward part by the white houses of its far-stretching and yearly increasing village, is one of the most striking and pleasant of Manx landscapes.
Corna Glen is in its upper part also of a wild character similar to that of Laxey, but its lower course, and that of its tributary, Rhenab Glen, is wildly sylvan, with brakes of hazel, anemones, hyacinths, and fern; it opens to a beautiful solitary creek in the rocky coast of Maughold. South of the central valley the mountains are lower, there is in proportion more cultivated land, and the valleys have a more open character. The highest points are South Barrule (1585), a dark heather-clad eminence which dominates the whole south of the island, and whose top shows traces of ancient fortification, and Cronk ny Irey Lhaa (1449). From these the Santon and Silverburn streams flow to the east and south, and those of Foxdale and Glenmay to the north and west. The summit of Cronk ny Irey Lhaa5 falls abruptly to the western sea, and a steep and waste mountainside is continued for some miles south along the coast, and again across Fleshwick. Bradda has a similar sea-edge. The lonely Glen Rushen, on the north side of these highlands, passes into the pleasant little dale, Glen May,6 which opens to the shore through a rocky ravine.
The long mountain-range of the isle ends in the southwest in two somewhat isolated hill-masses, gradually diminishing in height-the already-named Bradda Hill, north of Port Erin, and the Mull,7 south of that picturesque little bay. These outlying heights have fine seaward cliffs shortly to be mentioned. The Mull, cultivated on its lower parts, bears on its summit a rich growth of heather; it is, though comparatively low, a conspicuous object in the landscape of the south of the island, and commands fine views of sea and land.
It will easily be imagined that the interest of Manx bird life must centre on the coast, and the coast of the whole main central district is high, rocky, bold, and clean-cut (.'The isle so sharply set'). In the quaint language of Denton, 'This island stands like a man in triumph upon the Sea, Exalting its head on high, which by its rocky banks on all sides bids deflyance to the turbulent waves of all these Boysterous seas.'
Its outline often bends into curving bays, which run inland for no great distances, and whose shores usually maintain something of the same bold features. The larger of these have beaches of hard sand, but the muddy reaches which attract Ducks and many waders are nearly absent. Along the west from Peel to Port Erin the wild and beautiful sea-margin is almost entirely wanting in signs of the habitation and occupation of mankind, and this stretch, together with the extreme south-western peninsula and the Calf, is the chief seat of Man's varied sea-bird life, which may also, though to less advantage, be studied on Maughold Head, and the Santon and Lonan cliffs. The western cliffs, from Peel to Fleshwick, with their flowery swards of squill, thrift, and campion, their ivied and fern-decorated recesses, their dark caves filled with clear green water, their white pebbled strands and pinnacled stacks, are unequalled in the island for beauty and interest, backed as they often are by the steep and lofty slopes (clad with heath, gorse, and bracken, and broken by crags and stony screes) of the western end of the mountain-range. An extent of high sheer cliff, however, is not common, the craggy scarps constantly alternating with slopes of grass and boulders, stony debris, and little damp clefts full of profuse vegetation. The sheerest and barest pieces of sea-cliff in Man are Spanish Head, parts of the west edge of the Calf, Bradda, and the north end of Bay Stacka.
All along, the rocky margin of the sea there is usually a selvage of uncultivated land, both botanically and ornithologically an interesting feature. Here, where there is a cover of brambles or gorse, are found Blackbirds, Stonechats, and Linnets, and in their season Wheatears; here the Meadow and the Rock Pipits meet; its short, firm turf, rich according to the season with thrift, bird's-foot lotus, and the autumnal composites, is a favourite feeding ground for Jackdaws and Choughs, and Partridges shelter when the fern is thick. Seaward it merges in the grey broken rocks, at whose feet the sea laps in long shining undulations, and breaks in white foam, its predominant murmur always filling the air; landward the high earthen fences, walling off the cultivated fields, are sweet with thyme, and bright with a succession of flowers, white bedstraw, tormentil, and burnet-rose, English stonecrop and Hypericum pulchrum, sheep-scabious and harebell.
The northern sand-brows merge in rock about two miles south of Kirk Michael, and thence to Peel extends a picturesque and varied line of crag and creek, with many caves, especially near Peel, where the red sandstone is worn and rent into a thousand caverns and crevices, great and small. But this is all quite low, and though in the north part attractive to a few Herring Gulls, has no breeding places of rock-birds proper. The Grey Crow and Jackdaw and the Rock Pipit, which are found in every rocky portion of the coast, and the Heron, are dominant species here; Curlews and Oyster-catchers at low tide frequent the ebb from their more peculiar haunts to the north.
South of Peel the scenery changes. The bold upland of Peel Hill, of which the Castle Island is an isolated outlier,8 is a narrow ridge between the western sea and the Neb valley; it is clothed with gorse and heather, and breaks into a succession of brows and precipices, often overhanging deep water, and furnishing a home for numbers of Herring Gulls, Razorbills, and Shags. Round Contrary Head, with its deep caves, this is continued, though less steeply, and with scantier bird life to Glenmay, there being, a number of small beaches under the cliffs.
From Glenmay to the reef of the Niarbyl (tail) is low, though rocky, but south of the latter the coast again rapidly risep, past the jackdaw-haunted Gob,.Gameren and the rock waterfall of the Ushtey to the steep brows, bare of cultivation, heather and bracken-clad and ending in cliffs, which fall from the ranges of Cronk ny Irey Lhaa and the Carnane to the sea. All along Shags and Gulls nest, with occasional Razorbills, and the same species are found across Fleshwick on the grand headland of Bradda, but less abundantly. From Port Erin, whose little bay now intervenes, to the Calf Sound there seem to be no sea-bird colonies, but they an large and frequent on the Calf, Spanish Head (opposite), and on the north-eastward to Kione y Ghoggan, a fine stretch of cliffs. In marked contrast to the north-eastern extremity of Man is its south-western termination. Here the isle ends in a little tract of level flowery greensward, overlooking the restless currents of the Sound, and quaintly named 'The Parade.' This is almost cut off by two steepsided creeks on either hand, the Sheep and Horse Ghaws, which form the ferry harbours for the Calf. Eastward rises a higher and bolder peninsula, the Burrow Ned, topped with old earthworks, and having a fine lookout on the sheer and bird-thronged precipices toward Spanish Head.
The Calf islet is a mass of upland reaching at its west side to the height of four hundred and twenty-one feet; it is rocky all round, and is separated from the main island by a sound five hundred yards wide, through which the tides flow with great force. In this strait lies the tiny islet of Kitterland. On the north the coast of the Calf is comparatively low, but the north-eastern corner, Kione Rouayr, which faces Spanish Head across the Sound, has precipices with abundant rock-birds. From the Ghaw Yiarn, a fine cleft south of Kione Rouayr, the cliffs gradually lower along the east coast until they end at the isolated Burrow, a lofty perforated mass of rock inhabited by many Herring, and Black-backed Gulls. The south coast consists of three peninsulas with low steep sides, and a flat turf of crass and sea-pink, the latter being very abundant and lending, a beautiful rosy tint to the ground during its flowering season. Many Gulls nest here. Under the disused lighthouses the western side rises into the highest cliffs of the Calf, with a fine double pyramid of rock, called the Stack, opposite. The ledges of the very steep cliffs on either side hold many rock-birds. From this round to Gibdale Bay near the Sound are lofty brows of rock and sward inhabited by many Herring Gulls and some Puffins, and in early summer bright with innumerable primroses and hyacinths, which latter carpet abundantly in many places the interior of the islet, together with richly aromatic patches of ground ivy. Most of the surface of the Calf is covered with heather and bracken,9 but about the one farmhouse are some cultivated fields, and from the south a pretty little ravine leads up to it. This 'Glen,' rich in ferns and with a few low trees and bushes, is much prized by migrating small birds. At the back of the farm is also a very small plantation. The whole area is six hundred and sixteen acres, and the islet is about five miles in circumference.10 Nearly a mile beyond its extremity lies the little tide-rock of the Chickens with its tall lighthouse. The high cliffs of the mainland coast, continued past Spanish Head, and the well-known but fine scenery of the ' Chasms' cliffs and the Sugar Loaf, end at Perwick, beyond which creek Port St. Mary, its little harbour locked in by low rocky points and jutting reefs, lies, closely sheltered under Cronk Skibbylt, up which its newer houses are beginning to climb from its one long street. . Pawing over for the present the level shores which from Port St. Mary to Santon interrupt the continuity of cliff, and the rather low though rocky peninsula of Langness, we again, at Cass ny Hawin, meet steep escarpments, and a not very high but very broken coast-line extends to Santon Read, affording nesting places for Jackdaws, 'Greybacks,' and Kestrels. North of Santon Head come the gull-haunted cliffs of Pistol, lofty and massive, recalling the best features of the southern and western coasts; again, beyond the little inlet of Port Soderick, the precipices of the Whing and Wallberry, now marred by the Marine Drive. North of the curving Bay of Douglas, whose expanse is entirely occupied by the growing town, Banks's Howe has again rocky steeps, especially Lag-y-Berry, a nesting site of Jackdaw and Raven. This also has been intruded on by the electric railway. To the pretty creek of Groudle succeeds Clay Head, high, with steep and craggy brows, but no sea-bird seem to nest either there or on Banks's Howe. The pleasant coves of Garwick form the south end of Laxey Bay, a sandy crescent with steep sides, in the head of which the village of old Laxey nestles, and on the other side of which are good cliffs with a Herring Gull colony. A few Herring Gulls also nest on the lower brows of South Maughold. Maughold Head 11 itself with its curious humped outline and picturesque pinnacled stacks, has a considerable colony of the same bird, together with some Shags; from it the rocks gradually subside into the sands of Ramsey Bay, along which the white town, 'shining by the sea,' lies low under the lofty background hills, North Barrule conspicuous over all.
As will be noted from the above description, the Herring Gull is the dominant sea-bird of the Manx coast; the Shag breeds pretty abundantly on the west and south-west, where the true rock-birds, the Razorbill and Guillemot, and more locally the Puffin, also abound. The Kittiswake, Black Guillemot, and Lesser Black-backed Gull are local. The Kestrel, the Chough, the Grey Crow, and the Jackdaw are conspicuous inhabitants of the cliiff, and the Raven and Peregrine have their immemorial stations.
At the south of the mountain district, as at the north, is a level tract, in this case smaller and of limestone formation, which surrounds Castletown and extends from the Santon Burn to Port St. Mary. Here the coast is generally low, rocky, and weedy, the best ground in the isle for waders and Ducks. Along the grassy edges of the shore rocks, heather, bracken, and gorse, usually so abundant in similar situations in Man, almost entirely fail. Under Mount Gawne there is a fine stretch of sand with a shingle bank, and the bay of Castletown has a similar beach at the east end of the town, overlooked by the low bluff of drift on which stand the shattered and undermined fragments of Hango Tower.
The promontory of Langness, mostly of slate rock, steep but low, projects far into the sea. At its extremity is the lighthouse, so often to be mentioned in connection wM migration entries. On the opposite side of Castletown Bay is Scarlett Point, with its dark Stack, geologically interesting. The flora and fauna of this limestone district offer some remarkable contrasts with those of the island in general; it is almost without trees, and of a very open character. Curlews (plentiful also in the north), Redshanks, Oyster-catchers, Dunlins, and Ringed Plovers are abundant on its shores; Whimbrel, Turnstones, and more scarcely, Godwits, make their appearance in season. The Sheldrake is resident, and Ducks of other species are comparitively frequent in occurrence.
Of the land under cultivation in Man, which, as above mentioned, constitutes two-thirds of the surface, it is not here necessary to say much. Though its hilly surface and the thinness of its soil do not allow to Man a high degree of fertility, and its landscape never shows the trim and ordered aspect of the most typical English scenery, it is a land of ancient settlement and tillage, and there is little doubt that the farms of the Norse dominion were in many cases identical with those of the present day. The superiority of the isle at that time to the waste and barren Hebrides, with which it was associated, is abundantly indicated in our oldest record, the Chronicon Manniae. Though at intervals during the Norse period, as doubtless during the unknown preceding centuries of Celtic rule, it suffered greatly from the frequent and desolating raids and civil strifes, it has, since the advent of the Stanleys, early in the fifteenth century, enjoyed a peace almost unbroken. This little land, with its tender colouring of green, grey, and brown, set in a sea softly blue, is of a gentle miniature picturesqueness. Within its limits it contains, as will have been gathered from the foregoing pages, much diversity of surface.
Even the barer portions of the tilled land have a delicate charm, derived largely from the mild climate and abundant moisture; and the loveliness of a green northern field with its bordering hedges of dog-rose and hawthorn, or of a rough pasture in Santon, whose great sod fences are starred in spring with innumerable primroses, must be seen to be appreciated. Characteristic also is the half-cultured beauty of a hillside farm-steading, whose slopes, varied by bright gorse patches and wetter spaces of waste, gay with many-coloured blossom, descend from the weathered home-building(,s, with their scanty surrounding trees, to some sheltered and closely foliaged gill where a bright swift brook hurries amid the brier and ferns.
Culture has spread far up the hillsides, perhaps as far as it can be made remunerative. The best land is probably on the northern level and the limestone flats of the south. farms are almost invariably small, and there are many mere crofts, which however are being gradually absorbed into the larger holdings. Roads are numerous, there are many hamlets and villages, and the small houses with which the land is thickly dotted, and which struggle high up to the borders of the central waste, give the landscape an appearance of homely cheerfulness; butthe rural population is steadily decreasing, and everywhere at short intervals the ruined wall of a cottage, or a site marked by nettles, soapwort, fuchsia, or periwinkle, tells its tale of the tendency of the time. Another frequent and notable feature of the Manx landscape is a deserted mine with its cluster of attendant buildings in a more or less ruinous condition. There was special activity in mining during the period between 1850 and 1870, when many of these costly and futile undertakings were entered upon; other and more fortunate ventures are still working, and at Laxey and Foxdale are prosecuted on a large scale, and form the mainstay of a considerable population. Timber, as above mentioned, is still scarce and comparitively small, owing to the high winds which sweep the surface. In the neighbourhood of Douglas (as round the mansions of the Nunnery and Kirby) and along the foot of the Lezayre hills from Ramsey to Sulby (as at Ballakillingan) there is most wood, and many of the glens have plantations and some hedgerow trees. In imch situations the mountain-ash is a beautiful and appropriate ornament, charming alike in leaf, flower, and fruit. In the northern plain and in the cultivated parts is round every farm a large or small cluster of trees, usually ash and sycamore, but scarcely any elsewhere, and the open country of the south has an exceptionaly bare appearance. On the of outskirts of Douglas is a- good amount of space occupied by gardens and shrubberies. Quickset hedges are not generally common, and the fields, frequently very small, are most often divided by high and broad earthen dykes, richly overgrown with gorse, which thus maps out the surface of the land with a chequer-work of yellow blossom, and up to a certain height covers also most of the wastes, 'gareys' or 'claddaghs' as they are called. Indeed, Man is perhaps unrivalled in the world for the beauty and profusion of its gorse bloom, a beauty and profusion which it would be difficult to exaggerate.
In the mountains the tracts are fenced by dry stone walls, which run for miles over moorland and steep declivity. Small patches of gorse and rushy wastes are abundant, and the course of the streams is often through a narrow belt of wet and bushy ground, where furze, bramble, willow, and sometimes alder prevail, with clumps of iris and tall growths of cenanthe and angelica, meadowsweet and valerian.
The common birds of cultivated land are the Rook, which is very abundant, the Blackbird, immensely more numerous than the Thrush, the Chaffinch (perhaps the commonest of all small birds), the Greenfinch, and, in more open ground, the Meadow Pipit, Yellow Hammer, and Skylark. The Magpie and Missel Thrush are also conspicuous species. Lapwings are rather scarce, except for the transitory appearance of flocks in winter, and the Wood Pigeon, save perhaps in one or two localities, is not abundant.
Characteristic of the Isle of Man is the union of a moist atmosphere, cool though not cold, with high winds, mainly from the west. The cool summers and mild winters form a climate that knows little of frost or snow or exhausting heat. The sense of the near presence of the sea, not the muddy water of a gulf or estuary, but a real strong salt sea, is very dominant all over Man.
According to the statistics of Mr. Moore, the annual mean temperature is 49.0' I with an extreme annual range of 17.1' only, 'one of the mildest and most equable climates in the world.' There are, according, to Mr. Moore, remarkable variations in the amount of rainfall in different districts, from sixty-one inches at Snaefell to twenty-five at the Calf.
For purposes of comparison some brief remarks should be made on the land mammals, fresh-water fish, and reptiles of Man.
Of the first,12 the Island has the Common and Long-eared Bats (Vesperugo pipistrellus and Plecotus auritus), the Lesser Shrew (Sorex minutus), the Stoat (Mustela erminea) (according to Mr. O. Thomas its Irish form), the Long-tailed Field Mouse (Mus sylvaticus), the Common House Mouse (Mus musculus), and brown Rat (Mus decumanus), the Common Hare, the Rabbit, and the Hedgehog (Erinaceus europoeus).13 It will be noticed that Voles are absent, also the Squirrel, Mole, and Weasel.
The fresh-water fish are, according to Mr. Kermode (Zool., 1893, p. 65), Gasteiosteits aculeatus and G. pungitius, the Salmon (Salmo salar), Salmo trutta, (var. albus, and cambricus), the Trout (Salmo fario), Eel (Anguilla vulgaris), and Larupern (Petromyzon fluviatilis).
The amphibia and reptiles are the Common Frog (Rana temporaria), introduced, it is said, about two hundred years ago, and two Lizards (Lacerta vivipara and L. agilis). Newts (Triton palustris and T. punctatus), whether by some error of memory or otherwise, were long ago reported by Professor Forbes, but the record has never been confirmed. There are of course neither Snakes nor Toads.
The flora of Man, as yet imperfectly explored, is somewhat meagre. Its few rare plants, as Pinggticula lusitanica, Carum verticillatum, and Adiantum cavillus veneris, belong to a western type. Characteristic of its vegetation are Scilla verna, its lovely lilac flowers often giving their colour in May to the turf of the sea-margins, Cochlearia oficinalis, Ulex nanus, Erica cinerea, Sedum anglicum, Teuerium scorodonia, Rosa spinosissima, Potentilla tormentilla, Jasione montana, Hypericum pulchritm ('Luss-y-chiolg'), Orchis maculata. Alpine forms are absent.
In summer Erica cinerea often colours tracts of the hill country with an extraordinary richness, the pale tint of the flowering ling forming a delightful contrast as the year advances. Of the splendour of the gorse, which occupies much of the lower wastes and surrounds and varies the pastures midway between the lowland and the mountain tops, I have already spoken. The Ragwort (Senecio Jacobcea), 'Cushag,' sometimes called the Manx national flower, is, with Cnicus arvensis, often too abundant in cultivated land; both plants have recently been outlawed by Act of Tynwald. Ferns, as remarked above, are very profuse; especially may be mentioned the Lady Fern in the shaded glens, and Asplenium marinum in the caves and gorges of the coast. Hydrangeas, escallonias, and, above alli fuchsias, grow luxuriantly in the open air, and the profusion of the latter especially is often a feature of Manx villages and groups of cottages. A list of the Manx flora, as far as at present known, has been compiled by the Rev. S. A. P. Kermode, and is published in Y. L. M., vol. iii.
- The interesting geology of the island is fully described and discussed in Mr. Lamplugh's 'Geology of the Isle of Man' (Memoirs of the Geological Survey, London, 1903).
We know little of the ornithological past of the Isle of Man. Many a question occurs to the bird-lover, to which analogy and conjecture alone must supply the answer. Did Cormorant and Heron, Bittern and Black-headed Gull, nest amid the tangled thickets and on the reedy islets that rose from the northern meres ? Did our ancestors hang over the beetling edges of Stacka to gather the great eggs of the Guillemot, or quest the brows of Pistol and Rheaby for the young of the noble Falcon, to be trained for the pastime of their king and his 'optimates'? What were the haunts and habits of the Chough at a time when it was familiar to every inhabitant ? Had the Eagle, whose remembrance seems just dying out in the south-west, other eyries than Earnery, and the Shearwater other nesting places than the Calf ? What lore, Celtic or Norse, attached itself to the Raven and the Owl? What was the status of the Jackdaw and the Starling, of the Wood Pigeon and the Rook, under primitive conditions of culture, and when trees for the nidification of the latter two species were wanting ?
Of all species, however, which have been recorded as breeding in the Isle of Man, we know of no more than five which have ceased to do so: the Bittern, the White-tailed Eagle, the' Manx' Shearwater, the Black Grouse, and the Heron (if the last named really does not nest now). Other interesting species, like the Chough, have decreased in numbers. Yet the changes in the human life of Man, great as they have been, especially during the last fifty years, have comparatively little affected the face of the land outside the limits of the growing towns; and the preservation of game15, which has so altered the fauna of many British counties, has not been extensively or seriously engaged in here. The growth of wood, which a hundred years ago was almost entirely absent, and, as above noted, is still scanty, and of gardens, has undoubtedly greatly increased the number, and perhaps even encouraged new species of small birds, and the abundance of the Rook, Magpie, Missel Thrush, Starling, and Chaffinch probably attests to some extent a chance of this nature. The legal protection of sea-birds, and perhaps other modern conditions, have conduced to what is likely an enormous increase in the numbers of the Herring Gull, to which Man appears to be a paradise.
The seventeen parishes of the Isle of Man are often mentioned in particularising localities. Jurby, Andreas, Bride, Maughold, Lezayre, Ballaugh, and Michael may be regarded as forming the northern or Ramsey district; Lonan (which has also a centre in Laxey), Onchan,16 Braddan, and Santon, with the central parish of Marown, the eastern or Douglas district; German and Patrick, the western or Peel district; and Malew, Arbory, and Rushen, the southern or Castletown district, in which are situated also the increasing townships of Port Erin and Port St. Mary.
The official division into Sheadings (6), and the subdivision of the parishes into Treens and Quarterlands, though interesting historically, need not concern us here.
1 In 1648 Blundell writes, 'I could not observe one tree to be in any place but -,what grew in gardens.' Yet legislation in 1629 and 1667 seems to show that there was something of exaggeration in this statement. Early in the last century tree-planting became more general. See Moore, History of the Isle of Man pp. 919-920.
2 MacCulloch, who in his work on the Western Islands (1819) has well described the natural features of Man, says of this northern tract: 'As it possesses but little wood, it offers no beauty to the traveller's eyes beyond that which arises from the aspect of fertility, and from that of a scattered and apparently wealthy rural population. This indeed is a circumstance which will forcibly strike the English observer who is accustomed to see large tracts, even when in high cultivation, occupied by a few opulent tenants whose houses are barely visible in the agricultural waste.'
3. This hilly backbone of the island is very ancient. However altered by the aadibu and denudation of subsequent deposits, however at various periods elevated and depressed, now joined to the opposite hills by land, and now by water, moulded and carved by ice and flood, it has remained through countless ages to the present day the central feature of the hollow which is now the basin of the Irish Sea.
4 Along the bottom of this valley are strips of wet ground, and the damp meadows and swampy willow thickets under Greeba repeat on a smaller scale the conditions of the northern Curragh.
5 Probably ' Hill of the Rise of Day,' because the fishermen engaged off the western coast looked for the sunrise to its summit.
6 Better 'Glen Meay'; the old pronunciation was something like 'Moy.'
7 'Meayll' is perhaps a better spelling. There are a very interesting sepulchral circle, and other prehistoric vestiges, on the highest part of the hill.
8 This islet is walled all round almost to the cliff-edge, the rampart enclosing a well-known and picturesue assemblage of buildings of various dates and uses, military and ecclesiatical.
9 There seems to be no gorse on the Calf.
10 The Calf was doubtless inhabited in the Middle Ages, as is shown by the site of a keeill, and the discovery of a singular and beautiful carved of pure Byzantine art' (Kermode and Herdman). On the summit of the Burrow are slight remains of a rude fort or beacon-station. For the curious story of Thos. Bushell in the seventeenth century see Roeder (Manx Notes and Queries. p. 62). The numerous place names of the Calf show the mixture of Gaelic and Norse usual in Man. None of them seems to commenorate the abundant bird life of the islet.
11 Close under the landward side of the Head lies the great churchyard, with its little ancient church and many carved stones of varied dates, one of the most interesting places in Man. One of the holy wells of the isle is on the steep sea. ward brow, and the headland commands beautiful views.
12 See Mr. Kermode's articles in Manx Note Book, No. 4.
13 The Bats of the Isle of Man have been little investigated. -Zool., 1893 p 62. it -7,8 now certain that the Shrew of the Isle of Man is minutus, and the Hare europaeus
14 This last, Mr. Kermode thinks, is likely of recent introduction
15 The Chief Constable's official record, taken from the books kept by those licensed to deal in game (see at end of this volume, clause 19 of the Game Act, 1882), shows that in 1903, 2694 game birds were purchased by the dealers, of which 2228 were imported and 466 only Manx. Further details will be found under the headings of species. The information for 1902 is taken from the return published in Isle of Man Times, that for 1903 was courteously furnished me direct by Colonel Freeth, Chief Constable of the island.
16 Conchan is the correct and official form of this name, but is now unusual.