[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]
VIEW OF THE ISLAND FROM SEA A SMUGGLER DOUGLAS-BAY THE SALMON FISHERY.
DESIROUS of revisiting a country endeared to me by the remembrance of past pleasures, I devoted the Summer of 1791 to a Tour through this Island. The prospect of meeting once more with the few friends and companions which time had left me on the Island, seemed to invite me thither; and from tracing the progress of refinement in manners, the advances of agriculture, the new channels of trade and commerce, and the benign influence of the British Government, I promised myself no inconsiderable degree of mental pleasure.
With this flattering prosper I sailed from Whitehaven in one of his Majesty's Cutters; and, as the day was delightfully serene, in a few hours observed the mountains of Mona breaking from the ambient clouds. On a nearer approach they afforded us a sublime and picturesque view: Mountain piled upon mountain, extending in a lofty range for many miles; in the centre of which, Snaffield, with awful grandeur, lifted his brow to Heaven, and seemed proudly to claim the pre-eminence.
The bold and rugged coast next demanded our attention; as even at a league's distance it seemed to threaten us with approaching ruin. In some places it sunk into deep and gloomy caverns; and in others was overhung with frowning precipices: while the solitary screeches of the sea-mews united with the wildness of the scenery, to fill the mind with an awful melancholy.
In a little I discovered, under the shelter of Maughold's Head *1, a small vessel lying at anchor. It proved a smuggling boat, laden with wine, rum, and tobacco; and had sailed from Laxey on the preceding night: but, unable to reach the English shore before morning, had retired under the high land, in expectation that the ensuing night would prove more favourable. But how delusive are the hopes of mortals ! Being soon discovered by the cutter, the boat was without any opposition seized, and the crew transported aboard our vessel. The insulting exultations of the sailors, and the gloomy silence of the smugglers formed an affecting contrast. The owner of the property had in his air somewhat superior to the rest. His countenance strongly expressed shame and sullen anguish. As he retired to a corner of the vessel, wringing his hands, I heard him exclaim: " Now am I ruined indeed ! How shall I return to my wife and family ?" He had once seen better days. By his father he inherited a small estate in Cumberland; but, one misfortune rapidly succeeding another, it was first deeply mortgaged, and then sold. To retrieve his misfortunes he engaged in this illicit trade; and had imprudently risqued, in this first enterprize, the fragments of his fortune: thereby involving a young and numerous family in unexpected ruin. I frequently endeavoured to mitigate his sorrows: they would not however admit of consolation. His distress I represented to the commander of the cutter; but, though he pitied his calamity, no intercession could then avail.
This incident I have preserved, as it presents an awful warning to those, who, from infatuation or habit, prefer this hazardous and illicit manner of acquiring wealth, to the slow, but more certain, gains of honest industry.
Before sunset the breeze which had hitherto proved favourable died away, and for some time we were becalmed in the Bay of Douglas; which, in the form of a crescent, extends for three miles from ClayHead to Douglas-Promontory. The evening grew more and more serene: the setting sun threw a beautiful veil of light over the mountains; and the evening-sky gave a ruddy tinge to the scarcely-heaving ocean. A few straggling fisher-boats were moving homewards. The verdure of the fields, the wood-circled hamlets, the flocks scattered over the mountains, and the smoke curling from the town of Douglas, improved the landscape, and afforded a pleasing contrast to the gloomy scenes we had lately passed.
Douglas-Bay is spacious, and the neighbouring high lands render it an asylum from the tempests of the north, west, and south; but to the storms of the east it is greatly exposed. Both points present a dangerous and rocky shore. A variety of fish is here caught in great abundance. The cod is a high luxury: and the salmon, tho' small, equals in delicacy and flavour the choicest in England; and during the months of July, August, and September, is very plentiful.
This Fishery has been claimed by the Duke of Athol as one of his manerial rights. Since the sale of the Island in 1765, it has been deemed the property of the Crown; and by the Lords of the Treasury is at pre sent let at a sum greatly inadequate to its value. When the lease expires, whether Government will at an advanced sum renew it, or restore the Fishery to the Duke of Athol, will depend on the report of the five Commissioners, lately appointed by the Crown, to investigate the equity of his Grace's demands,
*1· A huge promontory.