[From Bullock's History of IoM, 1816]
Prices of ProvisionsRentServants' Wages, &c. The Author's Farewell to her Manx Friends.
Ant that remains of my task, is to give that promised scale of prices, which may enable persons interested in the inquiry, to form an estimate of the expenses incident to a residence in the Isle of Man; and having done that, to take leave of my readers in general, and those of this country in particular.
Rent will he found to be the heaviest article of family expenditure. A respectable house of from ten to twelve rooms can scarcely be met with in a good situation either in Douglas or Castletown, under £30 or £40 per annum. The towns of Ramsay and Peel offer accommodations at a much lower price. Lodgings furnished are let in proportion; unfurnished, few can be met with.
The best mode of providing moveables is from Liverpool, where they can be purchased cheaper, freight included, than in the island; except at sales, whence many persons collect their furniture on very moderate terms; but these transfers of property are much less frequent than they were, when the resort of strangers was greater.
Wages of female domestics are in proportion to their abilities, from £4 to £7 per annum. Those who neglect to hire at May and November are often greatly inconvenienced, as in the intervals, few good servants can be met with. The natives will always be preferred on experience, notwithstanding they are somewhat less intelligent, yet are they much more trust worthy than those from the neighbouring counties, for this obvious reason, that persons of good character in that class will hardly find it necessary to leave their native place in pursuit of lower wages. Men servants, to occupy the posts of butler, groom, or even footman, are hardly to be procured: their salaries are in consequence quite undetermined.
Butcher's meat is somewhat above the proportionate rate of other articles, except pork, which is often as low as 3d. a lb. for the rest, beef, mutton, and veal, average 7d. Wheat is at this time only 3s. the bushel; fine flour 20s. coarse 17s. the cwt. Oatmeal is an article of general consumption, being made into flat cakes as a substitute for wheaten bread, and always used at the servant's table.
Of well fed and full grown fowls or ducks the price is 2s. 6d. the couple; a goose from 2s. 6d. to as. a turkey from 3s. to 5s. Fish is abundant and cheap, a good dish may almost always be had for one shilling, sometimes for half the sum. The sorts most abundant, besides herrings, are rock cod, whiting, mackerel, gurnet, haddock, with most kinds of flat fish. None of the shell fish are very plentiful, except crabs. Scollops and lobsters are to be met with in the season; the latter, large and small together, are sold for 9s. the dozen. The oysters on the coast are not good, but a supply sometimes come in from Ireland.
Wines and liquors are articles of luxury to be had on very moderate terms. Port about 28s. the dozen, which is of an excellent quality; the white wines are neither so good or so cheap; and with regard to the former, it is much the best plan to import a pipe. This is usually done by economists, and where the quantity is too much for one family, two or more join together, and by this means procure a better article considerably under the retailer's price. Rum is 9s. the gallon, brandy 12s. geneva 10s. As a custom prevails of rewarding all small services with a glass, it is the practice with most people to be provided with an inferior sort of rum for this purpose. Ale is sold in barrels at one shilling the gallon; but this price is far beyond the average of malt and hops; and if families were to adopt the practice of brewing for their own consumption, they would find an essential saving.
Coals are from 26s. to 34s. according to quantity or scarcity, per ton. Grocery is regulated by the English price, except tea, which is much lower. A new settler is at first much puzzled by the difference between Manx and English money. In general the prices charged in the shops are calculated on British currency, but the dealings in the market, and with the country people, are carried on usually upon the old terms of 14d. to the shilling. Butter is from 10d. to 1s. the lb. eggs twenty for a shilling on an average of the year. .
All that I have now stated refers to a residence in the towns; but persons to whom a strict economy is either desirable or necessary, would in all probability find it combined with more ease and comfort at a short distance in the country, where very good family houses are easily attainable with ten or twenty acres of land on moderate terms. The wages of a labourer are from 12l. to 14l. per annum with his board; or if he maintains himself, and is a superior workman, 12s. per week in summer, and 10s. in winter. The price of a good cow in full milk, is from 10l. to 14l. according to the size. The quantity of milk averages about four gallons per diem, two of these will supply a moderate family with seven or eight pounds of butter per week, besides the ordinary consumption of milk and cream. If in addition, they can raise their own grain, potatoes, and poultry, the articles to be purchased with money come within a very moderate compass. I know several families of eight or ten persons who have adopted this system, and live in the utmost ease and abundance on 300l. per annum, many of them keeping a carriage; by which, however, I mean simply a convenience for moving from place to place, combining neither shew nor state, driven by the laborer in his Sunday clothes, sitting behind the same horses he at other times follows in the plough or the cart: for as there are no taxes on these sort of vehicles, nor even a turnpike to add to the charges, the first cost is the whole consideration; and this may be large or small according to the taste or the ability of the purchaser.
The foregoing estimate, I think, cannot fail to prove the assertion with which I set out, that in point of expense the Isle of Man offers a favorable retreat for persons of middling fortune: for if the advantage and recommendations thus set forth, are not considered as snore than a counterbalance to the few defects and inconveniences which I have stated with equal impartiality, it must be, that I have failed in my intended description of both; or that an undue weight is given to points which, in fact, though material blemishes in the constitution, are yet far from being generally felt. In writing the history of the island, and particularly of its present state, I should have been justly chargeable with disingenuity if I had disguised or omitted palpable facts; but nothing can be more true, than that numbers have resided for years without feeling the operation of these evils, which are like a latent or an hereditary distemper, neither felt or seen till concurring circumstances awaken and call forth the lurking evil.
For myself, a short time will remove me from the island; yet shall I ever look back to it as peaceful and happy retreat from the storms of life. To many of the native inhabitants I am proud to acknowledge my obligations. I have received from them acts of kindness, warm from the heart, and embellished with a liberality and grace that would do honour to the most polished state of society. At this moment I feel strongly impelled to give words to the feelings of gratitude by which I am impressed, and am only restrained by the fear of offending those whom I should "seek to honor." I believe there is an unobtrusiveness in the Manx character, too nearly English, to bear without pain a public expression, even of praise. All then that I can properly offer, are my good wishes; and most earnestly do I hope, that the temporary depression felt here, from a variety of contingent circumstances, will soon subside; that the enlightened state of the population will ere long have its legitimate effect, and restore the island to a higher degree of prosperity than it has ever yet known, without that contamination of morals, or injury to national character, for which mere wealth can never offer an equivalent.
A short space of time, a little correction of defects in the laws, and a hearty co-operation with future settlers, is, I am persuaded, all that is wanted to effect this desirable end. The Isle of Man has within itself the seeds both of ease and plenty; and surely the wisdom to give them due cultivation, will not be wanting in a people who have in the but few years made such rapid advances in intellectual improvement. Most sincerely do I hope, that if fate will not allow me to witness the result which I anticipate, yet that at any rate I shall have the consolation, in a few, a very few years, to hear that my hopes and my prophesy are fulfilled in their utmost extent.