[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]
NEWTOWN - BALASALLA THE COTTON-WORKS-THE DEEMSTER'S-COURT - PROPENSITY OF THE MANKS -TRIFLING LITIGATIONS,
HAVING passed a few weeks at Douglas, in visiting those scenes which had once been the witnesses of my earlier pleasures, I was induced by two of my friends to accompany them in an ambulatory excursion round the Island.
We set out from Douglas early in the morning. The weather was delightfully serene. As we passed the Nunnery, the sun. in all his glory, broke from the horizon. Nature seemed to rejoice at his return. The ocean imbibed his rosy beams; and the mountains of Mona flamed with his radiance. The neighbouring vales were in luxuriant blossom, and exhaled the fragrance of the morning; while the surrounding groves poured forth the melting melodies of rapture and love.
The next object which engaged our attention was a bevy of country-lasses, going at that early hour to Douglas-market. They were seated on small horses with panniers; one side of which were filled with the produce of their little farms, and the other generally balanced with pebbles. The rose of health was glowing on their cheek; and gladness smiled in every eye. Their deportment was modest and unaffected; and, as they advanced, with an air of the sweetest simplicity they wished us good morning.-"Happy souls!" I exclaimed, "unacquainted are ye with that courtlier polish, which refines away every virtue. " Your homely salutation is genuine politeness; for it is the offspring of truth and " benevolence!
Soon after parting with this rustic group of beauty and innocence, we came to Newtown, the residence of Sir Wadsworth Busk, Attorney-General of the Island. The house is elegant: and Sir Wadsworth's fine taste endeavoured to embellish some of the neighbouring fields; but the sterility of the soil, in a great measure, has frustrated every attempt. Yet, in this retirement Sir Wadsworth devotes himself to the pursuits of literature and the enjoyment of domestic virtues.
At a little distance from Newtown, on the top of a mountain, Sir Wadsworth erected a pillar inscribed to the Queen, in commemoration of his Majesty's recovery in 1789; which has little to recommend it to a traveller's attention, except the loyalty it expresses. To the fishermen on this side of the island, it however proves, from its elevation, an excellent sea-mark,
After leaving Newtown we proceeded to Balasalla, a neat village, pleasantly situated about two miles from Castletown. Here is a cotton-work, belonging to Messrs. De-laprime; which is conducted on the same principles with those in Lancashire, and gives employment to many poor families in the neighbourhood. The raw cotton is imported from Liverpool, and, when spun, is sent to Manchester. The vicinity of the Island to these markets, united with other circumstances which I shall afterwards mention, renders this country highly advantageous for the establishments of such works. Is it not then astonishing, that this should be the only one in the Island; when private interest so conspicuously unites with public good for establishing them in this country?
But the village of Balasalla at present acquires a greater degree of importance from the residence of the Deemster, or Chief Judge of the Island, than from the cotton-works. There were formerly two Deemsters, one for the northern, and the other for the southern division of the Island: but the present Deemster, Thomas Moore, Esquire, a man of considerable abilities and penetration, enjoys the honours and emoluments of both offices; a regular court being held at Balasalla for the south division of the Isle, and an occasional one at the north side for that department1.
This office was anciently of great dignity. The Deemsters were not only the Chief Judges of the Isle; they were also the Lord's Privy-Counsellors: and their influence over the people, in some degree, resembled the civil authority of the ancient Druids. They were esteemed the venerable oracles of justice, and in their bosoms resided the laws, which only on important occasions, were divulged to the people 2.
In each of the four towns there is a High. Bailiff, or Inferior Judge, who gives judgement for small debts, not exceeding forty shillings of Manks currency, But all litigations to a greater amount, and prosecutions for defamation, personal injuries, &c. &c. are generally brought before the Deemster at Balasalla: who either determines them according to his own judgement; or should they be important, deems them to be decided by a jury at common law, where he sits as one of the judges.
The Manks have a culpable propensity to trifling litigations. A rash word, a choleric action, or a wound which the hand of friendship might easily have healed, is by the malicious industry of those who batten on the follies and errors of mankind, swelled into an intolerable offence. Both parties prepare for the combat; and both are confident of success. This depends on the justice of his cause; and that on the abilities of his attorney, or the accommodating evidence of his witnesses At length the eloquence of the Manks bar begins to flow. Impertinence, and insolence, are copiously poured forth by the one pleader; and as liberally returned by the other: and when the attornies have exhausted their potent eloquence, and a few witnesses have been permitted to perjure themselves, the business generally terminates in favour of the party whose witnesses have been least scrupulous.
Surely, such an encouragement of idleness, malevolence, and perjury, ought to be checked. Trifling disputes ought to be crushed in their infancy; and the litigious punished: while the professional promoters of this infamous traffick ought to be banished front society, as enemies to social concord and happiness. The asperity of this reflection may be applied to individuals, but ought not to be extended to the profession of the law; for in every country I believe there are lawyers of integrity and benevolence, who, as well defending the innocent, as prosecuting the guilty, certainly merit the approbation of mankind. Even in this Island I could mention some gentlemen, who, sensible of the dangerous tendency of the trifling litigations so frequently agitated at Balasalla, confine their pleadings to the courts of common law and chancery.
1 Since this was written, at the requisition of the Duke of Athol a Deemster for the northern department has been again appointed.
2 This concealment of the laws is an undoubted relic of Druidism.