[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]



NOTHING worthy of note took place in the Isle of Man from the time of the Restoration till 1703 A.D., when the good and celebrated Bishop Wilson, of whom more will be said hereafter, obtained from the Lord of Man and the House of Keys the Act of Settlement, very justly called the Manx Magna Charta, which is considered one of the most important occurrences in the civil history of the island.

BY it all the tenures of the land were finally and satisfactorily established, and their descent from father to son assigned in perpetuity, on the payment of certain small dues to the Lord of the Island.

From this period may be dated quite a new era in the history of the island. It not only again changed hands-the Lordship going to the Duke of Athol, in right of his wife, the Lady Amelia Sophia Stanley,* a daughter of the great James, Earl of Derby, and his redoubtable Countess-but its inhabitants took to a new occupation.

Commerce was, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, beginning to take some of those rapid strides that have so astonished everyone in modern times. The Manx people, one and all, caught the commercial fever strongly. It was soon seen how admirably the position of Mona's Isle, situated in the mid-channel of the Irish Sea, was adapted for carrying on a large trade. The trade, however, that the Manxmen took to with such energy was the contraband trade.

The old sea-roving spirit of their Viking and Norse forefathers seemed to have broken out afresh, and seized upon the whole community. Piracy had for many years been discarded and abandoned, and now smuggling took its place.

The very lawlessness of the smuggling trade gave it a peculiar charm in their eyes. The island became one vast depot for foreign goods of every description, which were legally and openly imported from all parts at mere nominal and insignificant duties. These goods were 'run ' to the different shores of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Shipbuilders in the island vied with each other in producing the fastest vessels. The Manx clipper cutters and schooners were the greyhounds of the Irish Sea, and far out-sailed the cruisers the English Government sent to try and capture them, while their captains and crews were among the very best, smartest, and most expert seamen of the British Isles-second to none.

So great had this contraband commerce become, and such serious effect did it have on the English Custom revenue, that in 1764 A.D. it was determined by the Imperial Parliament to blockade the shores of the Isle of Man, and a number of ships of war, principally cutters, were stationed round the island for the purpose. The Manx, having once tasted the fruits of the contraband profits, were quite unwilling to forego them. The very dangers now attendant on the trade gave a zest and a spice to it, and so great did the evil at last become, that in 1765 A.D. proposals for the purchase of the island from the Athol family were brought forward by the English Government, and ministers having introduced measures into Parliament for the more effectual prevention of the illicit trade of the Isle of Man, which very seriously injured both the English and Irish revenues, the Duke and Duchess of Athol agreed to surrender the sovereignty and revenues to the British Crown for a cash payment of £70,000, and an annuity of £2,000 from the Irish revenue.

The Duke reserved the manorial, mineral, and certain other rights, including the patronage of the Church, which were made the subject of an after purchase for £2,000 a year, granted as an annuity to the Duchess.

This arrangement was carried out by the same blundering Ministry that attempted to tax the unrepresented American Colonies, an attempt which drove them into a rebellion that resulted in the loss to England of her extensive and flourishing North-American possessions-now forming the United States.

The next step by this same Government was to illegally abolish the existing Customs duties of the Isle of Man that had been hitherto imposed by the joint sanction of the Lord of the Isle and the House of Keys, confirmed by the Tynwald Court. They then, in 1767 A.D., passed an Act in the English Parliament imposing entirely new Customs duties at much higher rates-though not so high as those levied at the English Customs-which yielded a large and yearly increasing revenue far beyond the Manx expenditure.

The Isle of Man, being weak, and ruled at that time by the Duke of Athol as Lord, who cared for nought else but his own personal interests, and a House of Keys composed of members either appointed by himself or self-elected, could not resist the imperious interference of the English Parliament.

The Duke of Athol having got his purchase money for his rights in the island-or, rather, a portion of them-was so far, for the time, content, and troubled himself but little as to how his Manx subjects fared.

The fact of these increased duties producing a large surplus of revenue, which the English Government took good care to receive, and doled little or no part to the island, has been the cause of much heartburning and dissatisfaction for many years. Were a debtor and creditor account made out, the British Exchequer must owe a considerable amount to the Isle of Man.

The Lordship of the Isle of Man now became, for the first time, vested in the Crown of England, but all its original laws and independent form of government remained as they were. Its prosperity has ever since been progressively advancing, but smuggling was carried on for many years after, though not to so great an extent, still very profitably, and it was not till the import duties on foreign goods in the Manx Customs were raised very considerably, and increased nearly to a level with the like duties in England, that the game no longer paid, and ceased to exist.

From 1781 to 1825 A.D. the Athol family were continually endeavouring to get further and greater compensation from the English Government. Like the 'horseleech's daughter,' they were everlastingly craving for more.

In 1805 A.D. they succeeded to the extent of an additional annuity of £3,000. In 1823 A.D. the appointment by the Duke of Athol of his nephew, the Rev. and Hon. George Murray, D.D., to the Bishopric of Sodor and Man, brought matters to a crisis that ended in a severance between the Isle of Man and the entire Athol family.

The new Bishop, being badly impregnated with the same complaint as all the Murrays, was not contented with the rather limited income of his see, so he endeavoured to raise a sum of £6,000 per annum out of the green crops; but the Manx People were not so green as to pay it. The Bishop considered himself entitled to a tithe of all the green and growing crops of the island, and in 1825 A.D. obtained a judgment from the King in Council in his favour to collect the tithe on potatoes-a very important crop in the island.

This was a proceeding the Manx people failed to understand, and would not submit to. Tumults prevailed all over the island to such an extent that not only were the garrison of Castletown and His Majesty's regiment of Manx volunteers called out, but additional regular troops were called in from England. The Manxmen, however, nothing daunted, persevered in their resistance, and in the end the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man had to go without his Potatoes.

The Duke of Athol himself was also most unpopular at the time. He held the office of LieutenantGovernor of the island for the King, and in his spare moments looked after such rights as he had not sold to the Crown. Both Bishop and Duke were compelled to leave the island, where it had become far too hot for either of them ; and the tales related of their mode of departure from Douglas would justify the supposition that their very hurried exit partook of the nature of a flight.

The English Ministers passed an Act through both Houses of Parliament in 1825 A.D., immediately after the Potato Riots and consequent departure of the Duke and his episcopal nephew, authorizing the Lords of the Treasury to make a clean purchase from the Duke of Athol of all his claims of every kind whatever.

A valuation was arrived at by the arbitrators, and in 1829 A.D. the ever generous and patient British public had the pleasure of paying His Grace of Athol no less a sum than £416,114.

This little bill was made up of the following interesting items, viz.


Customs revenue


Rents and alienation fines


Tithes, mines and quarries


Patronage of the Bishopric, with fourteen advowsons, the aggregate value of which was £6000 a year



This was the third and last time this little spot on the ocean, the Isle of Man, changed hands by sale and purchase, viz.: First, by King Magnus V. of Norway to Alexander III. of Scotland; secondly, by Sir William le Scroop, Earl of Wiltshire; and, thirdly, by the Duke of Athol to the English Crown. It is devoutly to be hoped the third sale may continue to be a lucky one. The Manx people are very well satisfied with it; and nowhere in her dominions will Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria find more loyal and devoted subjects than in the little Isle of Mona.

On the final settlement being carried out, Colonel Smelt was appointed Lieutenant- Governor, and continued so till his death, on November 29, 1832 A.D., in the eighty-fifth year of his age. So much was this Governor respected by the inhabitants that they have erected a monument to his memory on the Parade at Castletown.

Colonel Smelt was succeeded by Colonel Ready, who also held office till he died, on July 9, 1845 A.D.

One of the functions of the Lieutenant- Governor is to act as Chancellor; and as military men, generally speaking, are not over-learned in the law, the Crown, on the decease of Colonel Ready, in deference to the expressed wishes of the Manx people, appointed the Honourable Charles Hope, at that time M.P. for Linlithgow, and a member of both the English and the Scottish Bars, to the post of Governor.

Mr. Hope was brother to the gallant Adrian Hope who so gloriously fell on the plains of India, and was also uncle to the Earl of Hopetoun of that day.

For some years previous to the passing of the Free Trade measures of Sir Robert Peel, and the subsequent equalization of the Manx and English Import Duties, a certain part of the year-July, August, and September-known as the licensing time, was set aside for the importation of exciseable goods, and no importations were permitted at any other time. This was to put an entire stop to any smuggling there might have remained. During the open season or license time private families were allowed to import wines, spirits, tea, etc., for their own use at mere nominal duties. There was a certain very liberal allowance for each family, according to their number, that regulated the amount of each description of duty-paying goods permitted to be imported. Every family was entitled to a certificate or permit, which could either be used to import goods for their own consumption or sold to the wine-merchants, grocers, and others trading in those articles. In the cases where the licensees imported their own goods it was customary for several heads of families to join together in the purchase of a hogshead, or 'piece,' as it was called, of brandy, or whatever other spirit they preferred, except whisky, which was altogether prohibited, though it could be obtained sub rosa, and was known as 'No. 2.' The same co-partnership extended to casks of wine, chests of tea, and all exciseable goods. Many persons who had been in the habit of so importing wines and spirits regularly for many years had in their cellars both brandy and wine that had been bottled by them from twenty to forty years, and rare good stuff it was. How these distributions were effected had better be told from my own experience in 1844 A.D.

A 'piece' of brandy that had been imported by a small syndicate, consisting of an uncle of mine, Dr. Burman, and a few of his neighbours, having arrived, was taken to a barn about a mile from his house at Norfolk Place, on the slope of Grebah Mountain, where it was to be divided among the various families who had co-operated in its purchase and importation. To me my uncle, an old gentleman dreading fatigue, deputed the task of representing him, and seeing to its fair and equal distribution.

When I arrived at the barn with the old doctor's servant, a certain Billy Watterson - who, before starting, was solemnly sworn to refrain from tasting a single toothful of the Cognac just arrived direct from Charente -I found the other parties waiting our arrival with the all-important large-sized gimlet wherewith to tap the cask. It had been already hoisted on to a carpenter's bench, as the most convenient place for the purpose. There were several gallon, half-gallon, and other measures, and a clean crock was placed handy to catch any spillings. After calling out the names from the list the Doctor had provided me with, and ticking off the name of each individual or his accredited representative, I proceeded to bore a hole in the head of the cask, when out rushed the richly-coloured fluid. Pale brandy was not in vogue then; it was brown-brown and nothing else. Each one in turn had a gallon measureful handed to him, and, as everyone had come provided with stone bottles or jars, of all sorts, sizes, and makes, the filling them through funnels was an easy matter. of course, everyone was eager to sample and taste; Billy Watterson, however, true to his oath, looked on and longed, but tasted not. In due time the cask was empty, everyone had got his share, and I had checked my tally of the distribution. All were very jovial, and some were a little-gay, indeed, a good deal more so-'Just a wee drap in the e'e,' if not a little ' fou.'

The bottles and jars were all hoisted into the several carts and other conveyances, ranging from a couple of wheelbarrows and farm carts to an outside Irish jaunting-car; plenty of hay and straw had been used as 'dunnage' to the bottles. One by one they all took their departure; with some of them, who had mountain roads to travel, it was quite a speculative guess as to how many breakages would occur before home was reached, and more than one of the drivers looked very doubtful of ever reaching their destination at all. When everyone had started but ourselves, Billy and I, with the help of a lad who had only looked on from the barn-door. loaded our own little pony-cart, not only with our share of the brandy, in good brown stone jars, but the empty cask, which was my uncle's perquisite for his having bossed the business of the importation; and started for Norfolk Place. As we drew near Ballagaraghan, a horse and cart, at a standstill, nearly blocked the road.

The horse was feasting on some hay that had evidently fallen from one of the conveyances that had gone on before, and the driver, whom Billy recognised as the representative of a retired Douglas draper (one Peter Looney), lay at the bottom of the vehicle-blind, speechless, and utterly incapable of ever getting home. So Billy acted the part of the good Samaritan in mounting up and driving off to old Looney's, while I proceeded home and explained matters to the doctor, who, when he saw me alone, was sadly afraid that Watterson had lapsed into sin and I had left him behind,

The distribution of other goods, of a less potent description than Cognac, was not so liable to lead the messengers astray.

At this time I remember there was a curious regulation in force. Every traveller over the sea from the island to Liverpool or elsewhere in England was allowed to have as 'sea store ' an imperial quart of spirits, the cork of which must be drawn. Quite a trade was done by the Douglas grocers in supplying passengers on the eve of their departure for England with bottles of brandy-the bottle holding exactly an imperial quart-with which they walked on shore at Liverpool or elsewhere, boldly defying any Customs officer to interfere with them. While the male passengers took brandy, the ladies generally took eau de Cologne, in which quite a roaring trade was carried on by the Douglas tradesmen.

* The portrait of this lady when a child is given on the frontispiece, with her parents, the Earl and Countess of Derby.


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