[From Saint Catharine's Chapel, 1869]
[Note included as an example of the middle class tourist guide of the period - in this case almost certainly commissioned by the go-ahead owner of the Falcon's Nest Hotel - Edwin Waugh was a well known Lancashire author of the period. The reliable history is based on Cumming but augmented by much 'speculation' !]
" Our own dear Ellen Vannin,
With its green hills by the sea."
OF all the isles of Britain, there is none more singularly interesting than the Isle of Man. In physical character, in history, and in situation, there is something strikingly unique about this picturesque gem of the Irish Channel. It stands so central in the waters of that part of the sea, that the mountains of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are distinctly visible from its principal elevations. The history of " Mona the lone" is wild and strange : and its people still speak a language unknown to the rest of the world, except to students of philology. Since the middle of the fifth century, about which time Saint Patrick is said to have introduced Christianity to the rude Celtic clans of the island, when Mannan Beg Mac-y-Lheir, " the wizard chief," summoned the silver mists to hide his little wave-washed kingdom from the rovers of the seas, the Isle of Man has seen its share of the wild havoc of war. It has been a sea-fenced battle field for the fierce races which have contended for dominion in Britain in the old time. But the Scandinavian pirate, who swept across the seas more than a thousand years ago to plunder lands more tempting than his own, seems to have left the strongest mark of all upon the people and the institutions of this remarkable island. This is indicated in the prevalence of Scandinavian names of places, mountains, rivers, bays and creeks in use there at the present day. The Rev. Mr. Cumming says, in his recently published " Story of Castle Rusher,"Names of places ending in "ick" or "wick," from the Norse vig " a cove," abound. On the eastern coast we have Perwick, Sandwick, Dreswick, Greenwick, Saltrick, Soderick, Gatwick; and on the west, Aldrick, Portrick, and Fleshwick,-small coves. So also ending in "ey" or "ay," from the Norse vagr, "a bay," we have Ronaldsway (anciently Rognvaldsvagr), Laxay (anciently Laxaa, Laxň, or Laxay, i.e., Salmon Bay), Corna, or Kenway, and Ramsey (RamsoŰ). On the other hand, names ending in "hy" (from the Dankse vie, "a village"), indicate the older occupation of the Isle by the Danes. Thus on the western coast there is Dalby (dale, "village"), and Jurby (anciently Ivorby, or Ivarby), Ivar's village; inland we meet with Colby, Crosby, Grenaby, Kirby (Kirkby), Rheaby, Regaby, Sulby (Sala-by), and Trollaby. So the names of mountains are often Scandinavian, as Snae-fell (Norse, Snee-fjield, "snow-mountain"), Breda high, Brada (broad), Mull (Norse, Myl, " a promontory"). We trace to the same origin the names Stack, Thousla, Kitterland, Frangness (Frang-neese), Marbye, Holm, Garth, Orrysdale; and Tynwald (Thingv÷ller). The firm hold the Northmen had upon this island is shown, also, in the number of interesting Scandinavian monuments still existing there. The Manx people, originally a branch of the great Celtic race, have, no doubt, received a considerable admixture of the Scandinavian element into their character, during their long intercourse with those famous northern tribes. The Manx are still a well-marked race ; and they cling to the manners, customs, laws, superstitions, and even to the ancient language of their forefathers, with remarkable tenacity.
The following interesting passage, relative to the Isle of Man in general, I quote, also, from the Rev. J. G. Cumming's "Story of Castle Rushen" :-"Its climate is more agreeable than that of any other country in Europe, and its mean annual temperature higher than that of any spot in the same parallel of latitude ; that it has within itself more antiquities in the shape of cromlechs, stone circles, crosses, ruined churches and castles, than any area of the same extent in the British Isles ; that it has been in the possession of the Scotch, Welsh, Danes, Norwegians, and English ; that its kings dictated terms to the kings of Ireland ; that it played a part in the struggle between Bruce and Baliol ; that the land, the people, and their privileges have been transferred from one party to another, by purchase or by mortgage, on five separate occasions ; that though in the midst of the British isles, it is not, in point of law, a part of them ; that though in possession of the British Crown, it is not ruled by the British Parliament ; that though its people have the rights of British subjects, it is no part of England, is not governed by the laws of England, and belongs not to England by colonization, or by conquest ; that in all the various changes of hands through which the island has passed, it has maintained in its integrity its ancient and singular constitution, and presents the last solitary remains of the ancient Scandinavian Thing, or court of justice, which, for the protection of public liberty, was held in the open air, in the presence of the entire assembled people ; that its bishopric is the most ancient of any in Great Britain and Ireland, and has preserved an unbroken succession of bishops from the first till now; that it contains no records of the Reformation; that its bishop in the time of King Henry VIII. was also bishop in the time of Elizabeth, and died in possession ; that i s ecclesiastical liberty is not encumbered with an Act of Uniformity, or an Act of Mortmain ; that for the better government of the church, and for making such orders and constitutions as shall from time to time be found wanting, it is enjoined by law that there shall be a convocation of the whole clergy of the diocese, on Thursday, in Whitsun-week, every year; that canons drawn up in these synodal meetings of the church have received the sanction of the legislature, and are actually the statute law of the isle ; that the bishop can himself draw up public prayers to be used in the churches of his diocese, and that such prayers have been incorporated into the Liturgy of the Manx Church; that the offertory has never been discontinued, but is in general practice once at least every week in every parish in the island."
These facts, together with the romantic character of the scenery of the island ; its curious position in relation to the three kingdoms ; its peculiar history, people, language, and usages; make the Isle of Man a place teeming with singular interest in these changeful days of ours. The several dynasties of kings who have ruled in the island-the Scotch, the Welsh, the Danish, the Norwegian, and the English-are well defined, and the ancient annals of the little kingdom contain a fair share of the usual records of treachery and bloodshed. There is an old Irish ballad translated by Edward Walsh, which alludes plaintively to "beautiful Blanit," daughter of one of the ancient kings of Man"Bright-eyed, beauteous Blanit, By whom a thousand heroes died."
In Haliday's version of Keating's History of Ireland, and, also, in the " Transactions of the Celtic Society," the story of this ill-fated princess is thus told:-" When the Red Branch Knights plundered the Isle of Man, this lady, who it is said, surpassed in beauty all the women of her time, was adjudged to Curaigh Mac Daire. Cuchullin claimed her as his prize, but he was overcome by Curiagh in single combat. Some time after, Cuchullin, with a large body of men, attacked and slew Curiagh in his palace.
Blanit then departed with Cuchullin into Ulster. Thither did the bard of Curiagh follow her ; and one day finding Connor, Cuchullin, and Blanit, at the promontory of Ceann Beara, he instantly clasped her within his arms, as she stood on the edge of a steep rock, and, flinging himself downward, they were both dashed to pieces." This wild episode is sufficiently illustrative of the tone of life in the Isle of Man in the rough old time:
In the roll of men who ruled over the Isle of Man some remarkable names appear. The first on the list of the Manx kings is Mannan Beg Mac-y-Lhair, a reputed magician, who reigned about the middle of the fifth century, when St. Patrick is said to have converted the pagan Celts of the island to Christianity. Little else is recorded of this mysterious, first named chief of the isle. Of course, about Manx history, as about all British history so far back, there is great vagueness. After Mannan Beg Mac-y-Lhair, "the wizard chief," with several equally obscure names between, comes Maelgwynä nephew of King Arthur, " who took the island from the Scots." He is followed by Edwin, the celebrated king ofNorthumber land. Next comes the Welsh dynasty. Among the names of the Welsh kings, Cadwallon, Prince of Wales; Cadwallader, his son, and Roderic Mawr, or Roderic the Great. The list of Scandinavian kings isa long one. Amongst their names appear those of the famous Harold Harfager, and Orry, or Erie, the founder of the Tynwald Court, the ancient Scandinavian Thing, or Court of justice, which is still held, as in the days of King Orry, "in the open air, in. the presence of the entire assembled people." In the Rev. J. G. Cumming's "Story of Castle Rushers," a graphic passage is quoted from the Lez Seripta of the Isle of Malt, as given for law to Sir John Stanley, in 1417. It furnishes an admirable picture of the simple stateliness of this primitive Scandinavian parliament, as it is still kept up in the island :-" This is the constitution of old time, how yee should be governed on the Tynwald day. First you shall come thither in your royal array, as a king ought to do by the prerogatives and royalties of the land of Man, and upon the hill of inwald sitt in a chaire covered with a royall cloath and quishions, and your visage into the east, and your sword before you, holders with the point upward. Your barrons in the third degree sitting beside you, and your benefited m( n and your deemsters before you sitting, and your clarke, your knights,, esquires, and yoemen about you in the third degree, and the worthiest man in yot.ń land to be called in before your deemsters, if you will ask anything of them, and to hear the government of your land and your will ; and the Commons to stand without the circle of the hill, with three clarkes in their surplices, and your deemsters shall call the coroner of Glenfaba, and he shall call in all the coroners of Man, and their yardes in their hands, with their weapons upon them, either sword or axe, and the Moares, that is to witt of every sheading, then the chief coroner, that is the coroner of Glenfaba, shall make affence upon pain of lyfe or lyme, that no man make any disturbance or stirr in the time of Tinwald, or any murmer or rising in the King's presence, upon pain of hanging and drawing ; and then to proceed in your matters whatsoever you have to doe, in felonie, or treason, or other matters that touch the government of your land of Manne." Such is the manner of this ancient Norse court of justice, still operative in the island, as when founded by King Orry. The last dynasty of Manx kings was the English, amongst whom appear some names that are famous in story,-the Montacutes, the Scropes, the Percies, and the Stanleys. Charlotte de Tremoville, the brave widow of James, seventh Earl of Derby, and King of Man, was near getting into trouble with the English government on account of the execution of William Christian, who was governor of the island, under the Stanley family, in the time of Cromwell. Christian espoused the parliamentary cause in that quarrel ; and soon after the restoration of Charles the Second, he was shot, as a traitor, upon Hangho Hill. The Manx people still cherish the memory of " Ilkam Dhone," or "Fair-haired William," in song and story.
The ecclesiastical history of the island is equally remarkable, from the time of St. Patrick down to the time of "Apostolic Thomas Wilson," who "kept beggars from everybody's door but his own." He was Bishop of Man in the reigns of Queen Anne and George the First, and he died in 1755, "one of the two oldest, poorest, and most pious prelates in Christendom."
In its physical features, the island is a charming epitome of almost every variety of scenery to be found in the three kingdoms. It is divided almost equally by a range of mountains running from east to west. These mountains are beautifully different in outline. They are mostly green to their summits, but some of them are scenes of wild desolation. This range rises, at Snae-fell, to the height of z,ooo feet above the sea. The view from the top of Snae-fell, as described in Peacock's Guide, must be singularly grand. From that commanding central elevation the whole island lies under the eye with all its wonderful variety of featuremountain and glen ; fertile dale and scattered farmsteads ; church and castle ; quiet hamlet and busy town ; river and waterfall ; the picturesque coast line, with its wandering bays, and creeks, and frowning headlands ; with the wild ocean heaving grandly all around. Beyond the blue waters, the mountains of the English "Lake Country" are full in sight, on the east side. On the south side of the horizon the Welsh mountains arise ; in the more distant west the mountains of Morne and Wicklow, in Ireland, show themselves ; and in the north the mountains of Dumfriesshire and Galloway, in Scotland, are distinctly visible. It must, indeed, be a magnificent scene from the top of the island mountain. As Mr. Peacock says, speaking from his own observation, " Ear away, beyond the blue ocean, on every hand, look east or west, north or south, mountains mountains ! Each peak, 'towering before you in mighty grandeur,' has some special corner in your memory ; and thus the floodgates of history are opened, and a tide of recollection pours forth, and you are carried away in thought."
With this brief glance at the island in general I will close the introduction to my sketch, the special theme of which is " PORT ERIN," or, " ST. CATHARINE'S CHAPEL," a pretty bay on the west side of the island. Port Erin is about thirteen miles from Douglas, and five miles west of. Castletown-the ancient capital of the island. This retired sea-side nook is comparatively little known, even to the crowds who come over the sea to visit the The of Man in these days. And, I may say, in conclusion, that it is certainly at this southern end of the island where its most interesting scenery may be found.
SAINT CATHARINE'S CHAPEL.
" O blest retreat, and sacred too
Sacred as when the bell of prayer
Toiled duly on the desert air,
And crosses decked thy summits blue." ROGERS.
THE shores of the Isle of Man are remarkable for their variety of indentation, especially at the southern end of the island. There its most interesting scenery may be found; bold, rugged headlands, beautiful bays, and savage ravines, where the wild ocean churns and thunders in majestic fury. But from the ruin-crested rock of Peel-so rich in venerable memorials of the past,-all round the shores of the " Fairy Isle," there is not a more charming sea-side spot than " Port Erin," a little crag-defended bay at the southern end of the island, about five miles west of Castletown. The outer shores of this part of the island are wildlyfantastic ; the mountains cluster grandest there, and the inland scenery is fertile and picturesque. Bold and rugged as the entrance to Port Erin is from the sea, all is quiet, and sweet, and sheltered at the head of the bay. The contrast is striking, and pleasing to the mind. The little fishing hamlet looks out contemplatively between those wild flanking rocks at the entrance, across the blue waters, to where the mountains of Morne and Wicklow, in Ireland, show their faint outlines in the west. The bay, from the point where the headlands, " Brada," on the north side, and "The Cassels" on the south side of the entrance, front each other-like sentinels placed to guard the little nest beyond from the ravages of the sea is about half a mile across, and about a mile inland. From that point up to the hamlet at the head of the water, "Port Erin" is a pleasant seclusion, sweetly retired, even on the landward side, from bustle of any kind, except such as the sea makes when a strong west wind brings Neptune's white-maned horses into the bay in full career. Then, indeed, Port Erin wears an aspect of a more spirit-stirring kind. But even then, when the spray is flying over the roofs of the fishermen's cottages, low down, near to the beech, the briny tumult is mere child's play in a nursery nook compared to the stormy majesty with which the billows of the Atlantic rage among the creeks, and chasms, and craggy headlands outside. At such a time the thunders of the sea in the "Sound," which divides the "Calf Island" from the main land, and amongst the headlands that overgrown the ocean immediately beyond the entrance to Port Erin, come upon the ear of the listener at the head of the bay like the boom of distant war. But, when the wind is still, the tide fondles up the beach at the foot of the village, as if it was glad to see that quiet nook of " Mona's Isle" once more. Lipping the delicately-mottled strand with liquid grace, it creeps lovingly up towards Port Erin's green shore. Full of beautiful sounds, and hues, and motions, it comes with tender caresses, croodling its dreamy old sea-song; and as it rises in gentle sweeps nearer and nearer to the cottages where fishermen dwell, at the foot of the villaged slope, it flings fresh shells upon the sand with every surge, like a fond traveller returning home laden with memorials of his journey, which show that he has been thinking of those he loved whilst far away.
But let us sit down upon some "coigne of vantage" at the head of the bay,. and look about at the quaint little village there. The hotel, called " The Falcon's Nest," looks right out to sea from the head of the bay. It crowns a green of grass-bound sand, which rises from behind an irregular line of old cottages upon the beach, not far from the head of the tide. There is a green terrace in front of the hotel at the head of the slope, where I have many a time sat and looked about me with delight. At one end of the terrace there is a sun-dial; at the other a rusty cannon, belonging to the Spanish Armada. It was found in the water below "Spanish Head," hard by Port Erin, where part of that famous armament "came to grief." Great piles of fantastic rock, partly overgrown with greenery, stand here and there upon the terrace; and ornamental seats are placed there, for the use of visitors, when the weather is fine. The chimney tops, and thatched roofs of fishermen's cottages, greened over with windsown verdure, peep up from the foot of the slope, which is crowned by the terrace. It is very pleasant to saunter about that green terrace on a fine summer's day-or on any other day, to one who loves nature in all her moods. It is, perhaps, better still to sit downthere and look lovingly upon the scene. The dreamy witchery of peace is on all around; the smoke from cottage chimneys of the scattered hamlet rises idly up, here and there, into the pure air-idle as Ludlam's dog, that leaned against a wall to bark. It rises, here and there in lazy blue rings-lounging curls of fat smoke that seem over-fed and "done up" with pleasant lassitude, as if they had just finished a glorious dinner, and would rather have a nap before going out to take the air. The cottages of the village are picturesquely strewn about, as if they had been dropped through holes in a sack by somebody who happened to be flying over the place. But they chiefly cluster on the south side of the head of the bay, about the bottom of the hill, not far from "high water." They then straggle up the southern hill-side-like school children out for a holiday-one on this shelf of land, another in a rocky nook of the hill; another perched on the nose of a breezy bit of crag; others, in and out, dotting the sides of the mountain road which leads through the quaint hamlet of "Creag-y-Nish," in the direction of "Spanish Head," and "The Chasms," the most remarkable bit of coast scenery in all the island. About the middle of the scattered village, a modest chapel stands in a little patch of ground enclosed by low white walls. It stands there, sweet and simple, by the side of the mountain road, about one hundred feet above the head of the tide; and it is a pleasing feature in the scene. The village is all under the eye from the place where I am ;.fitting, and the quiet play of out-door life going on there is novel and dreamy-looking. The whole scene is picturesquely-varied. The wild mountain-tops clustered in the direction of Fleshwick, as if in solemn council; the craggy headlands at the entrance of the bay, with the blue sea heaving between ; the smooth beach, where the tide is singing and surging up; the quiet, wandering village, and the fertile plain, rolling,away between the hills in picturesque undulations, landward. Port Erin is enchanted ground. There are green secluded nooks about it that seem as if "Some congregation of the elves, to sport by summer moons, had shaped them for themselves." The village is all under the eye. Down in the lowmost part, where the cottages are nearest to the water, a blue clad fisherman leans against his doorcheek, smoking and gazing dreamily out to sea. I wonder what the old man is thinking of. In front of another cottage a stout matron, with browned 'face and brawny arms, is hanging up great strips of conger eel to dry in the sun; whilst a litttle barefooted lass, about five years old, staggers about the doorway under the weight of a fat baby. Down yonder, in a craggy nook under the cliffs, at the south side of the head of the bay, is a gloomy-looking cottage, where one of the dukes of Athol used to lodge, when Port Erin was a much lovelier spot than now. The cottage is very much changed in condition since it was graced with the presence of a duke. It looks damp, and dreary, and mildewed, through long neglect, as if all the rheumatisms of the Island had taken a lease of it, and made headquarters there. It needs hanging up in the summer sun awhile. It would take a warmhearted duke to dry the soaked walls of that neglected cottage now. . . Strips of "conger" hang upon lines, and upon the walls of some of the cottages,-with, here and there, a " guffog," or dog-fish, that most voracious foe of the herring in these waters. The "guffog" is so ravenous in its pursuit of the herring that it sometimes destroys and swallows large pieces of the herring-nets, to get at its terrified prey.
Lines, and nets, and clusters of round cork floats, and lobster-pots of wicker-work, are lying about the fishermens' cottages ; and, at the ends of some of the cottages, dark inflated floats, that look like the headless bodies of little black pigs, are swinging quietly in the quiet wind. A little below the sundial, which stands at the end of the green terrace, upon which I am sitting, a knot of Manx fishermen, are lounging upon the grass round a pitcher of the thin Manx ale, called "jough." Now they are very merry, and they laugh and chatter in full chorus, with great glee. Now their mirth subsides, and they draw silently around an ancient mariner, who is telling a tale of an adventure he had with the fairies as he came over the mountain from Fleshwick Bay late one night. It is wonderful how firmly these islanders still believe in fairies. Scratch deep enough into any Manxman, and you will find fairies, dancing by moonlight, amongst a world of other weird imaginations. But we will let the old seaman go on with his story. The village is all under the eye ; and it is such a retired spot, that if one stays a few days there, and is at all disposed to be communicative, one begins to know everybody by " headmark," as the saying is-" Billy this," and " Johnny that," and " Neddy Omragh," and the old wanderer from the neighbourhood of "Pool Vash" (the bay of death), who invariably recites a little epitaph he wrote about some notable person in that quarter a few years ago, and who invariably expects something for reciting it. One begins to know the village folk by "headmark," as I have said before, and they stop and salute kindly, and chat about the weather, the fishing, the, crops, and such like; and there is something homely and pleasant in feeling one's self thus linked in a friendly way to the rest of the human race wherever they go.
The village is all under the eye; and Port Erin is enchanted ground. The voices of nature are not drowned there in a roar of human tumult. It is true that the murmur of the tide fills all the air with its soft, wild undersong; but its influence is so fine and unobtrusive, that every sound of life in the village comes upon the untroubled sense distinctly framed in the quietude which pervades that dreamy nook of "Mona's Isle," when the wind is low.
Let us look around, and be silent, that one may hear what is going on. Behind me is the cheerful hotel, "The Falcon's Nest." The hearty English landlord stands upon the door step, giving directions about the stabling of certain horses which have just come up from Castletown. The horses are taken round to the stables, and the landlord goes back into his nest. I can now hear the footfall of a lonely traveller, as he stumps along the road behind me, stick in hand. He is a stout, old, weather-beaten Manxman, with gray hair; and he is dressed in strong, blue woollen cloth. I can hear every footfall as he works his way along the silent road towards the mountain-side north of the village, in the direction of Fleshwick Bay; and now that I turn round to look at him again, I see that the old man is wiping his forehead as he stumps along, stick in hand. I can hear women talking at their doors below the slope, and upon the cottage-sprinkled hillside, in the direction of " Creag-y-Nish." I can hear the prattle of little bare-legged lads, who are sailing their tiny chip-built ships and clamourously discussing their relative qualities, as they watch how they fare among the little eddies and rapids of the streamlet which runs down the crease, called " Glen Rowany," about the middle of the village. I can hear the cackle of a family of very clean and very fat ducks, as they waddle and paddle, and splash the water about, and then open their wings, and wag their dumpy tails with delight upon the slushy margin of a pool, where the same streamlet has been dammed up, for their especial pleasure, a little lower down. I can hear the opening and shutting of cottage doors in different parts of the village; and I can hear something of the wild fringe of an old Manx song, which a blue-clad fisherman is crooning, as he saunters along the strand towards his boat, which lies, high and dry, in a sheltered nook, under the craggy cliff at the side of the bay. I can hear the call of the Manx shepherd to his dog, upon the dark mountain-side, towards "Brada Head." Each sound is distinctly framed in the all pervading quietness of the scene. At an open baywindow of the hotel behind me, two elderly gentlemen sit talking together, and evidently enjoying what little breeze there is from the sea. I have got it into my head, somehow, that they are men of some learning. One of them is a stout, hearty-looking old gentleman, who wears a black velvet skullcap, and likes to dine in his own room sometimes,-" because he has a good deal of writing to do." I wonder what he is writing about. lie is talking in a sonorous tone of voice to an old friend of his, whose manners at table I have noticed always evince the easy selfpossession, the graceful, quiet action, and sensitive kindliness which mark a cultivated gentleman. He is tall and thin, and his noble aquiline nose sustains a pair of gold spectacles. Perhaps the black velvet skull-cap and the gold spectacles have something to do with my notion that they are learned men; but I believe I am right, nevertheless. They are talking about the history of the island, and about the geology of this part of it; especially about the mines at "Brada Head." I begin to think they have some interest in those Brada Head mines, for they are talking of the projected break-water, and the possible future of Port Erin. I can hear them plain enough. Not that I like "eaves-dropping;" but there they sit at the open window, and they see me; and they evidently don't care a rap who hears them.
At another window, a little further off, two sunnyhaired young ladies come and go, like wandering posies, " freshening and refreshing all the scene " with their sweet presence. They belong to some well-to-do family of cultivated people who have come to Port Erin to bathe themselves in quietness, and the fresh sea-breeze. I am sure it is so, for a noblelooking gentleman, considerably past the noon of life, shows himself at the window now and then, with two more of these pretty trailers clinging to him. He is dressed in black, and he wears a gold-framed double eye-glass; and his fine countenance is lighted up with a quiet smile as he paces to and fro, listening to the prattle of the two lovely young women who have hold of him-body and soul. It is very evident that their prattle is music in his ears.
Now the mother comes! I am quite sure that placid, handsome, matronly woman, in the black silk dress, is the mother. She is a well-grown, sweetlooking, sound constitutioned dame; round as an apple, and clear-skinned, and quietly-rosy, and kindhearted, as anybody may see, at the first glance, with half an eye. I durst wager a thousand pounds she is a lady in heart and thought. She has seen enough of the world to enrich her experience, without hardening her heart. She is a good, womanly soul; and the kindliness of her nature breathes through every pore, and speaks with angelic eloquence in every line and dimple of her sonny face. A few silver threads may be shining in her yet abundant auburn hair, but they only serve to give a new tinge of dignity to her appearance. She knows something of sorrow, too, no doubt; for who can have lived so long in this world of ours as she has lived without being touched, more or less, by the divine wand of that noble refiner of the noble heart? But the clouds have long since gone, and her smiles, now, are not
"Smiles that might as well be tears."
She is, indeed, one "vast substantial smile" from head to foot; a genial sunbeam of feminine goodness, raising the atmosphere of happiness around her wherever she goes. Upon the whole, her lines have evidently "fallen in pleasant places," and " So mote it be," say I, to the end of a long life yet to come. Now she sits down by the open window, and a handsome, light-complexioned lad, about twelve years old, is teasing her in an affectionate way about something or another; whilst a beautiful sunny-haired girl often, whispers, as she smooths the kind old lady's hair with tender touches, "Mamma, dear, this!" and "Mamma; dear, that!" And, oh, if there be an elysium on earth, that good old soul is in it now! It is a beautiful glimpse of the smooth current of human life.
Now I hear the clatter of horses' feet upon the road behind me, and a car comes up to the door of the hotel, laden with a company of young men, who are evidently "in great spirits." They have, very likely, some across the island from Douglas, making a call or two on the way. If one may measure their enjoyment by the noise they make, they certainly ought to be very happy. They alight and enter the hotel, whilst the car is taken round to the stable yard; and, in a few minutes, I hear a good deal more bell-ringing in "The Falcon's Nest" than before.
But who is this strange, gaunt fellow, that comes padding barefoot up the slope, from the low part of the village, muttering to himself as he gazes vaguely around. It is poor Johnny Daly, the lunatic youth, who wanders over hill and dale in all weathers, harmless and happy in his unconscious helplessness. He is a tall, strong young man, but quite a child in affectionate simplicity. Poor Johnny! He is "only mad nor'-nor'-west," after all. If he knows you he either likes you well, or he doesn't like you at all. If he takes to you, he comes quietly up, and flutters about you like a pet dove with a broken wing, crooning all sorts of inarticulate kindnesses about you in a touching and not very demonstrative way, except that, now and then, as he listens to your talk-no matter what you are talking of, nor how baldly-he suddenly claps his hands and laughs boisterously, as if he had just discovered a great joke in the matter. If he likes you he will sit down upon the grass beside you, quietly crooning some wild, unshapen fragment of old Manx song, and looking slyly up into your face from time to time; unless he chances to spy the landlord of the hotel, or the owner of the one mansion at Port Erin. If he sees either of these anywhere about, it is a thousand to one that he will immediately leave you to your own devices and desires, for the poor fellow knows who is kind to him a great deal better than some of us do, who think that we have all our wits about us. Poor Johnny ! He is fond of a penny, like most of the world; and he needs it more than some people do; although He "who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb" has scattered a few kind hearts about the wanderer's way that will not see him want for any needful thing. But I have seen people that Johnny would not accept a penny from; and I have many a time wondered at the curious principle of selection which seemed to lurk in some corner of his disordered mind. I remember a little excursion we made, one summer's day, over the mountain on the south side of Port Erin, and among the wild cliffs of the "Sound," which divides the Isle of Man from "The Calf." It was a company of six, and amongst them was the landlord of the hotel-a very kind hearted and intelligent Englishman. Johnny followed him, barefoot, all the rugged way, with the affectionate instinct of a faithful dog. As we returned homeward, by wandering and sometimes dangerous tracks, along the edge of the precipices, on the south side of the bay, where the sea roared among lonely creeks two or three hundred feet below, and the cormorant and seagull wheeled about the dark crags, and screamed with delight in the breeze, halfway down between us and the water - our host disappeared from the company for a little while, in search of something among the rocks, whilst Johnny was picking his way carefully up the prickly path ahead. Turning round, Johnny missed his friend; and after he had looked for him again and again through the company, and all over the scene, he sat himself down amongst the heather, and, gazing quietly at the blue sea, he murmured, in a plaintive tone, " Now, He is gone ! He is gone !" . . . In a minute or two he kneeled slowly down among the heather, and clasping his hands, like a child at its mother's knee, he muttered a few broken sentences of the Lord's prayer, and then he sat down and gazed silently at the sea again. And we could not get him to rise until his friend reappeared from behind a rock, when he instantly rose and clapped his great brown hands, and trotted after us, with painful steps, through the prickly bush, stopping now and then to laugh aloud. . . . Poor Johnny ! As he comes paddling up the road from the village, he hears the voice of the landlord, who is talking to the hostler at the house-end, and away he goes in full trot, towards his old friend, with whom he is a great favourite.
And now, mild evening begins to draw her delicate curtains over the drowsy world. All things below the sky are softening into shade, and the pensive spell of twilight deepens the charm that pervades this sleepy nook of "Mona the lone, where the silver mist gathers." The quiet life of the village is sinking to repose. Barefooted lasses are fetching water from the ancient well of Saint Catharine, a beautiful spring at the head of the bay, and an object of great veneration to the inhabitants of the island. Tradition says, that "Saint Catharine's Well" takes its name from a small religious house which anciently stood upon the shore of this then lonely bay. I believe the ground plan of this ancient religious house is still in the possession of an eminent archmologist in the county of Lancaster.
Lovers are stealing off to quiet nooks outside the village, where they can whisper unseen. Boats are coming in from the " Sound," and from the blue sea beyond. The fishermen haul them ashore in a shingly nook, under the southern cliffs; and then they saunter homeward along the beach, laden with fish and fishingtackle; some of them singing drowsily as they go. The murmurs of the sea become more distinct, filling all the air with a slumbrous influence.
Now the fisher's wife mends her cottage fire; sweeps the hearth, and puts the kettle on, to cheer her seabeaten mate on his return from the wild waters ; and, here and there, fresh smoke is rising again from cottage chimneys ; bluer and more briskly than in the glowing afternoon. . . The old fisherman and his companions are mustering upon the grass at the end of the terrace again. He has long since finished his story about his adventure with the fairies among the mountains; and he has been carousing with his friends in the tap-room of "The Falcon's Nest." They have brought another pitcher of "jough" with them. And listen! They are beginning to sing, in chorus, the plaintive old Manx song, called "Molly Charrane." The strage melody floats up, weird and sweet, blending beautifully with the murmurs of of the rising tide, and waking rich remembrances of the wild history and wilder legends of " Mona's fair y isle." The glare of day is gone; the air is clearer; the green fields look greener; and the hues of the landscape are richer and more distinct than before. The sun has " steeped his glowing axle" in the sea. The gorgeous hues which linger about his track still glow upon the wide waters but "the line of light that plays along the smooth. wave toward the burning west" is slowly retiring it the wake of the sun. Let me look out while they *s yet light, for the eye has glorious scope to roam in from the place where I am sitting. At the head of the bay, the scattered village, and the green land,-green all along the slopes of the hills, and all over the fertile plain between, stretching away inland towards Castletown. It is a pleasant nook of sea.-side life at the head of the bay. But as I look seaward, the headlands grow wilder as they recede, ending in scenes of savage grandeur among the storm-worn crags which front the open sea.
The cliffs and promontories there,
Front to front, and broad and bare,
Each beyond each, with giant feet
Advancing, as in haste to meet.
The shatter'd fortress, whence the Dane
Blew his loud blast and rush'd in vain,
Tyrant of the drear domain.
Those grim sentinel crags have seen strange scenes of storm, and battle, and shipwreck, during their long watch over the entrance to Port Erin. Oft has the ancient Dane steered his "nailed bark," laden with sea-robbers, into that little bay, and he has oft been wrecked upon that craggy coast. "Spanish Head" overfrowned the destruction of part of the great Armada. One of the guns of that armament now lies upon the terrace in front of the hotel at Port Erin, thickly encrusted with rust. Many a noble ship has gone down in the wild "Sound" between the island and "The Calf " of Man. . . . . As twilight deepens the breeze freshens, and the blue waves begin to heave with life. Two fishing smacks, from Kinsale, in Ireland, are riding sleepily at anchor in the middle of the bay. Whilst their boats rock lazily upon the blue waters, the Irish fishermen are dancing and singing among their Manx mates, in the tap-room of the "Falcon's Nest." A small steamtug, which crept into " Port Erin " about two hours ago, after cruizing to and fro most of the day, in the channel beyond, in search of a job,-now steams up, and churns out the bay, and round "The Calf," homeward, towards Douglas. The boatman of the hotel is hauling in a long fishing-line, whilst a lad rows the boat for him. Fish after fish comes up over the edge of the boat, with a silvery flash, as he takes them off the hooks of the line, and flings them down. Great white-winged ships glide majestically by-some near, some far off, and some almost lost to sight in the distance. Far away in the west the outlines of the Irish mountains of Morne and Wicklow are fading from view. It is a bewitching hour! It is a bewitching scene! But now the Irish mountains have disappeared and the distant sea grows dim on the eye. The village about me is sinking to rest; and candle-lights begin to glimmer through cottage windows. The old fisherman and his companions have gone back into the tap-room of the " Falcon's Nest." The wind is rising, and the air grows cold. I, too, will retire until the world has donned its night-dress; and so good by to this fairy scene for a while ! The moon rises at ten. Perhaps I may come forth to look around me once more when the world lies sleeping beneath her quiet smile. But if not, then farewell to thee, Port Erin !
When scenes less beautiful attract my gaze, I shall recall thy quiet loveliness
When harsher tones are round me, I shall dream Of those mysterious notes, whose thrilling sounds Peopled the solitude.
PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF PORT ERIN.
THE CALF ISLAND (by boat)-THE CHASMS, THE DRUIDICAL CIRCLE, AND THE VILLAGE OF CREAG-Y-NISH-FLESHWICK BAY-CASTLETOWN-PORT SAINT MARY-RUSHEN ABBEY -TO THE SOUND (by the Rock-heads) -KIRK CHRIST RUSHEN-BRADA HEAD-SAINT CATHARINE'S WELL.
" Sweet Isle of the ocean !
The waves' wild commotion,
I´as foamed round thy base since creation a-rose ;
Thou hast had for thy pillow
The dark rolling billow;
And lightnings and tempest have rocked thy repose. "
Still, green are thy mountains ;
Still, sparkling thy fountains ;
Still firm on its rocky base rests thy fair form
Though tempest-wrecked bark and oar,
Float round thy sounding shore,
Thy fields smile in beauty, and smile at the storm."
THE CALF ISLAND.
THE distance from Port Erin to othe Calf Island, across the Sound-that is, the narrow channel which divides the island from the mainland,-is about three miles. This trip should only be attempted in suitable weather, and in the company of experienced boatmen (which are always to be had at "The Falcon's Nest," at Port Erin). The view of the creeks, and rocks, and headlands, as seen from the water, in this trip, is strikingly grand; and will leave picturesupon the mind of any susceptible lover of nature, never to be effaced. The island, itself, is a picturesque little gem of mountainous scenery; and its coast line is full of wild beauty. A good road winds over the most romantic part of it. Though some parts of the "Calf" are now brought into cultivation, by far the greatest, and most mountainous tracts are thickly clad with wild heather and ferns. These parts abound in abbits; and the rocky shores of the island are the favourite haunts of sea-birds. On the north-eastern side of. the island, there are, now, two lighthouses, for the protection of vessels navigating the Irish Channel. The sunken rocks, called, " The Chickens," are about a mile and a half from the north-eastern shore. The " Calf" is the largest of the rocky islets upon the coast of Man. It is nearly five miles in circumference. The cliffs, on the western side, rise to four hundred feet; and the summit of the island is five hundred feet above the level of the sea. On the south side of the island, there is an immense detached rock called the "Barrow." It is separated from the main rock, by a wild fissure, of most romantic appearance. Near it is another, called "The Eye," perforated by a natural arch, resembling the eye of a needle. On the edge of a steep precipice, are some remains of a hermitage, said to have been, about two hundred years ago, the retreat of a person of the name of Bushell, who imposed on himself a three years' residence in that weather-beaten solitude. The whole of the island wears an aspect of sublimity and loneliness.
The Sound, which divides the Calf island from the mainland, has been the scene of great disaster to shipping. - Part of the Spanish Armada was wrecked upon a wild head-land, near the Sound, known on that account, as "Spanish Head." [untrue but a persistant legend] Some fragments of a Spanish gun, found there, are, still mingled with the rockery, in front of the "Falcon's Nest Hotel."
The gun was shattered, recently, in an attempt to discharge it. A curious rocky islet called, "The Kitterlands," stands, in the Sound, between the island and the mainland.
THE ANCIENT VILLAGE OF CREAG-Y-NISH, AND THE DRUIDICAL CIRCLE.
The distance from Port Erin to the " Chasms" is about two miles. The way is up the steep road on the southern side of the village of Port Erin. After about a mile's walk, the road leads near to the famous Druidical Circle. This spot is well worthy of a visit, apart from any other point of attraction on the route, both for its historic interest and its singular position. It stands upon the brow of a mountain ridge, commanding magnificent views all round. Looking westward, across the sea, the Morne mountains, upon the coast of Ireland, between Carlingford Bay and Dundrum Bay, are distinctly visible in favourable weather; and the view landward, from this wild eminence, embraces the most remarkable features of the whole island. The Calf island, with its craggy coast, and the Sound, which divides the Calf from the mainland, are immediately under the eye, a little to westward.
About half-a-mile beyond the Druidical Circle, the road leads through the old Manx village of Creagy-Nish. This is, perhaps, one of the most interesting settlements of native Manx life in all the island, both on account of the wild seclusion of the place, the primitive appearance of the'dwellings, and the singular manners of the people. Mr. Glover's Guide, speaking of the inhabitants of Creag-y-Nish, says, " They live on their Own herrings and barley meal, clothe themselves with wool shorn from their own mountain sheep, intermarry with their own tribe, and are as independent as American Indians, and as exclusive as Jews."
About half a mile beyond this lone and singular village are " The Chasms," a scene of extraordinary interest,-unlike anything else upon the whole island. The sea is immensely deep off this awful shore of riven crag. The rocks rise perpendicularly between three and four hundred feet ; and large masses of them stand, detatched from the headland and overhanging the boiling sea, in forms full of fearful grandeur. Here, some great volcanic convulsion of nature, countless ages ago, has-rent the stupendous rocks into savage fissures, amongst which the wild sea rages and thunders, hundreds of feet below the appalled beholder. As the traveller approaches the spot, nothing unusually-remarkable meets the eye; but, as he begins to traverse the ground, chasm after chasm yawns beneath his feet, in ragged clefts, full of savage grandeur, the gloomy depths of which are sometimes impe netrable to the eye. These chasms, too, run so close to one another, and in such an erratic way, that it is quite advisable for a stranger to have a guide, or some, one acquainted with the spot, with him, when visiting them. The whole coast in the neighbourhood of this spot is savagely-grand. " Mountains, caves, and dark grottoes," says Glover's Guide, " seize the imagination, and hurry the beholder into those subterranean abysses, where sea monsters, mountain genii, and boding angels of the storm meet in mystic revelry."
This ramble may be delightfully varied by returning from " The Chasms," with a guide, across the moorland heights, in an easterly direction, and through the little fishing town of Port Saint Mary. This route leads through some curious nooks of Manx life ; and it also commands very striking views of the coast, in the direction of Castletown, as well as of the island in general. Returning by way of Port Saint Mary, the entire length of the journey would be about six miles.
The ruins of the ancient abbey of Rushen are about four miles and a half from Port Erin. The way thither is very pleasant and picturesque. The ruins are situated in a well-wooded and sweetly -secluded vale; with a clear stream winding by its grounds, under over-arching trees. The country immediately around is full of varied beauty. Rushen Abbey was founded by Ewan, Abbot of Furness, on lands granted by Olave Kleining, King of Man, in 1134. The original establishment consisted of an abbot and twelve monks, of the Cistercian order. The ruins, though little visible from the high road-which runs hard by-are exceedingly interesting and picturesque, when closely examined. The abbot of Rushen was a baron of the isle, and exercised considerable temporal power. In the garden of the abbey, there is still preserved an ancient stone coffin-lid, known as " The Abbot Stone of Rushen." On its surface is sculptured an ancient cross, of beautiful device; and, by its side, a knightly sword. The ruins of the abbey, and " the abbot stone," are freely shown to visitors.
There is, now, a good hotel in the abbey grounds.
The distance from the "Falcon's Nest," at Port Erin, by the mountain road, through the village of Brada, is about two miles. This is a very pleasant ramble, when the weather is favourable. The village of Brada, itself, presents many interesting features to the eye of a stranger; and, from the road, which leads along the mountain-side, through the village, there are fine views of the town and harbour of Port Saint Mary; Pool Vash, or the Bay of Death; Castletown, with its ancient fortress; the picturesque indentations of the coast, between Port Saint Mary and Castletown ; and a wide stretch of the fertile country around. The Bay of Fleshwick, itself, is a scene of wild and lonely beauty. There are no dwellings upon its solitary shore; and the mountains rise on each hand, as the traveller approaches the spot, as if they were holding council together, and they seem to clip the little lovely bay, like a gem that they wished to hide from the world. Perhaps, a few fishing boats may be found there; but, generally, there is nothing else to be seen which marks the hand of man. It is this solemn, secluded beauty, which makes it, after a walk full of varied attractions, so well worth a visit.
A pleasant diversion may be made, in this ramble, by returning across " The Fairy Hill," a picturesque eminence, overgrown with heather and ferns, and associated with the wild superstitions of the island. The way back, across " Fairy Hill," is rather shorter than the way through the village of Brada.
If the tourist prefers the wild coast scenery, as seen from the water, the distance from Port Erin to Fleshwick Bay is four miles; and the view of Brada Head, and the rocks beyond, is very striking.
TO THE SOUND, BY WAY OF THE ROCK-HEADS.
For those who are fond of a wild mountain walk, within sight and sound of the sea, a pleasant ramble may be had by wandering footpaths through heather and fern and wild-flowers, along the edge of the cliffs, on the southern side of the bay, down to the Soundthe narrow channel which divides the Calf from the mainland. The distance thither, from " The Falcon's Nest," at Port Erin, is about two miles. The view of the Sound and of the rocky islet in the channel, called " Kitterlands,"-and of the shores of the Calf, on the opposite side, is very fine, and will well repay a visit. Guides may be had at any time at "The Falcon's Nest." The pathway along the edge of the cliffs commands striking views of the crevices and creeks, into which the sea washes wildly far below; and of Brada Head and the Fleshwick mountains on the opposite side of the bay. 'I he view of the rocky creeks along the shore, from the rock-heads, is a remarkable feature of this ramble. The walk may be agreeably varied, in returning, by another route across the mountains.
PORT SAINT MARY.
Port Saint Mary is the chief port at this end of the Isle of Man. The inhabitants are almost wholly employed in agriculture and fishing. The distance from Port Erin is about two miles, by the high road.
The town and harbour are well worth a visit. The way, by boat, from Port Erin, through the Sound, and round by Spanish Head, is about five miles, and it commands a close view of the wildest coast scenery on all the Isle of Man.
SAINT CATHARINE'S WELL.
Down by the sea-beach, about three hundred yards north of the " Falcon's nest," at Port Erin, there is a remarkably fine well of the purest spring water, called " Saint Catharine's Well." This well is an object of great interest to the inhabitants of the island, especially to those of the Roman Catholic faith. There is, indeed, a tradition which connects this well with the existence of a small religious house, or hermitage, at Port Erin, in ancient times. And, though all traces of such a house have now disappeared, except such as appertains to the well, and its name,-there can be little doubt of its previous existence ; and few more likely places can be imagined, than this secluded bay must have afforded, as an abode of religious retirement in past times.
KIRK CHRIST RUSHEN.
The Parish Church of "Kirk Christ Rusben" stands about a mile north-east of Port Erin, in its ancient graveyard, and upon the site of an older edifice.
The tourist who wishes to see Port Erin and "The Calf Island," from one of the most striking points of view, should not neglect to climb the mountain-side to the breezy top of Brada Head. The distance is about a mile and a half; and there are good footpaths all the way.
The distance from Port Erin to Castletown is five miles. The road leads through a fertile and interesting tract of the island. It skirts the shore of "Pool Vash," or, "The Bay of Death," which takes its name from the dangerous nature of the entrance to the bay, which has been notably disastrous to shipping. It also commands a good view of the town of Port St. Mary, with its harbour.
Castletown is the capital of the island, and the seat of government. The most remarkable feature of the place is its ancient castle, built in 947, by Guttred, the second Danish king of Magi in succession from King Orry [nonsense based on a misinterpretation of a mason's mark on an old piece of timber]. It is said to bear a remarkable resemblance to the castle of Elsinore, in Denmark. The castle is quadrangular in form, flanked with towers on each side; and it is surrounded by lofty embattled walls and fosse, and defended by a glacis of stone. In 1313 it withstood a six months' siege by Robert Bruce. During the civil war it was held by ,the forces of the Earl of Derby. After his death, at Bolton-le-Moors, the Countess, with her family, retired to this stronghold; but, when the island was invaded by the republican army, under Colonels Birch and Duckenfield, it was surrendered by the Receiver-General, " Illiam Dhone" of Manx song, who was afterwards shot as a traitor, upon Hangho Hill, about a mile from Castletown. Near Hangho Hill is Mount Strange, a fort, now in ruins, built by James, Earl of Derby, who was be headed at Bolton-le-Moors. About half a mile beyond this spot is King William's College, founded in 1830, for the education of young men to supply the Manx churches, and other pious purposes. The college is a cruciform structure, two hundred and ten feet in length, from east to west, and one hundred and thirty-five feet from north to south, with an embattled tower rising from the intersection one hundred and fifteen feet high. About a quarter of a mile from the college is the village and harbour of Derbyhaven. Upon an islet in this bay there are the ruins of an ancient church, dedicated to Saint Michael. The Roman Catholics sometimes use this place as a burial ground.
John Heywood, Printer, 141 & 143, Deansgate, Manchester.
Any comments, errors or omissions
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