[From Ellan Vannin, 1895]
THERE are many helps to material prosperity, notwithstanding the early adversity of the Manx people.
I. At the foundation of this statement are the industrial qualities of the Manx character. To begin with, there is superiority to the spirit of pauperism. There is often an unwillingness to accept of charity. I have known the labourer of lowly position provide for old age out of his savings. The principle appears on the broader scale of the community. There is no appeal to Government for help to build the railway, or to provide fishing boats and tackling. For such there is local capital. The noble fleet of fishing boats connected with Peel, and engaged chiefly on the coast of Ireland, the large fleet belonging to the herring fishery around the island, the smaller efforts of the humbler craft, are all of unaided ownership. There is a correlative kindness to the poor, which is another Manx feature. For many ages the poor were supported by voluntary provision; the beggar was helped by relief in kind, if not in cash, and in the country sometimes found the farmhouse with the bed specially arranged for such as he, and with supper and breakfast besides. In other cases, poverty was relieved by relatives. Subscriptions and public collections were readily given, and the kind legacy was frequent. Of this free tendency the House of Industry, in Douglas, and almshouses there and in other parts of the Island stand in evidence. The gift of the hospital by Mr. Noble, though not a native, is of the same character. The modern refusal of voluntary subscriptions for the poor by many in Douglas and Ramsey has led, in those towns, to a levying of a poor rate, a costly alternative which the other sections of the island have avoided by the old method which provided as well or better for the poor. The mentally afflicted were cared for on the voluntary method, mostly by the charity of kindred or others; while now the asylum rate is required. The following are the statistics of pauperism and of the asylum near Douglas.
1. Statistics of Pauperism: The Government Return for 1893 reports an outlay of £2,606 for Douglas, and for Ramsey £622. In many of the parishes the rate-in-aid is not in operation; they are not bound to give any returns, and do so very reluctantly. The Island, for the most part, adheres to the old system of voluntary relief.
2. Statistics of the Lunatic Asylum : The number of patients is not given in the Returns : it is probably about 200 in the Douglas Asylum; the cost for 1893 was £5,261. For the Ramsey Poor Asylum, the outlay was £319. The numbers and cost seem exceptionally large in proportion to population.
A great Manx feature is industry. It has prevailed not withstanding the Manx proverb, "Boght, boght dy bragh," "poor, poor for ever." There is much to interest in the study of the old industrial life, before the age of machinery, and of wholesale establishments. Home wants were met chiefly by home manufacture. In agriculture, machinery had not lessened the demand for rural labour. The skilled labour of the man with a trade was often under the home roof: the weaver, the shoemaker, the tailor, except when he and his apprentices went to board at the farmhouse to give the men a new outfit for the year. The hatter's workshop was not distant from the house, nor the joiner's; the black smith not usually far away, but at the meeting place of three or four roads central to a neighbourhood; the millwright would perhaps be the joiner, under a new form of his genius, for the threshing and winnowing machines needed by the farmer. Beyond these homely spheres would be the shipyard, with its occasional launch for home or foreign trade, or for the fisheries. The work of the farmhouse was mostly by wife and daughters, and included house, dairy, poultry, and the calves and pigs in their younger days. The kitchen "sided" for the evening, the wife would sit down to her spinning wheel, the hum mingling with the conversation which discussed the parish news. The quiet chair in the corner, near the fire with an open chimney for the turf smoke, would be occupied by the silent listener of the elder generation. In the season the female members of the household would take their place in the haymaking and the corn shearing, and would not be absent from the "Mheillea" at the end. In the summer, perhaps the sons would be off to the herring fishing; in winter, they would handle the flail and prepare for the corn merchant. With no butcher in the parish, the time would come fur the killing of the fatted pig, taken as a scene emblematic of social commotion, in English, the murdering of the pig and the cry of the geese.', Once a year there was the family brewing, with sacks of barley in the "clay dub,' the malting in the barn, with the stages following, not always to be commended. In the fine days of summer the annual turf digging would call away to the mountains. The licence monopoly, ending its year on each 30th June, and yielding to a limited class of merchants an "unearned increment" of much commercial value, had its great stir, then, of final imports in the harbours. Smuggling, too, was not forgotten. For a short interval the Ball, at Kirby and elsewhere, would give an impulse to business. But industry was still the great feature of Manx life. Its style truly was primitive ; in Douglas, for example, no police, only one constable, with an assistant in emergencies; no waterworks, only two water-carts, to help those who could not help themselves; no gas-works, but the lamp- lighter, with his torch and ladder; no regular steamboat service but the smack, with possibly two days at sea, as I have known, between Whitehaven or Liverpool; the carrier, three or four hours to Ramsey; no post delivery but at the window. So life was isolated, business free from the modern worry, and general society leisurely; but things sanitary often neglected, and cholera left to reap its harvest.
The industrious life, though often busy, had its relaxations, as well as freedom from worry such as is common now. In the country, the farmers rose early, but the evenings of leisure were long. There was buoyancy in the merry hayfield, in the days of harvest, in the turf digging in the mountains. The Christmas "Oie'l verry," "the night of Mary," had in its "carval" singing more of the musical than of the religious. Often superstition relaxed into the humorous, in the transparent imposture of being carried off by the fairies, when people did not wish to be within reach at home, as I have known in the case of a bride who, having secured a husband, and the united passage being taken for America, followed her wish and was missing until the ship had sailed; when she reappeared, saying she had been with "the fairies"; or the long moonlight evenings would be utilised by young men for the humorous, by startling an eccentric farmer, known to have his gun ready, the scarecrow placed within sight from the door, and, on the gun being fired, falling, pulled by one of the company behind the hedge, by means of a "sogaan," or straw-rope. Some times the relaxation, if less playful, was more rational, as in the practice of the singing class, or the experiments of the electrical machine. Simplicity and moderation in style of living, another Manx feature, are efficient aids to the temporal. Families living on their own acres, or other resources, are not ashamed to do the house work where servants might be employed. The "eirey " would follow the plough; the daughters would make a servant unnecessary; living plain, while substantial; dress in comely homeliness ; the house of past generations sufficient; the family self-contained in its comfort ; and, in past days especially, the yearly visit to somewhere unnecessary. Enterprise is not absent from these several business virtues. This appears in the home life, and yet more in the movements of emigration to other lands, though the Manxman is credited with caution excessive in its restraint. Caution is not a universal disadvantage; it holds back enterprise at times, but it also prevents rash speculation. Perhaps there is some excess of the quality in the Manx character. If so, it would not be unnatural; the Manx history is one of evil treatment for ages by foreign oppressors. Not seldom the stranger has come with an unknown history, taken advantage, and after being trusted has decamped into the unknown whence he had come. There was once an exclusive Manx law, giving a creditor the power of summary arrest, on seeing the stranger preparing for a passage over the sea. The same caution was suggested by frequent change in the ownership of the lsland, and which, though not easily traced in their times and conditions, must have disturbed substantial interests treated thus with arbitrary disregard. With means generally limited, they could not afford to lose. The absence of provision in law for poverty, tended to prevent the specu lative and adventurous. A modern feature is the formation of syndicates for the erection of large hotels and other structures, requiring a large capital with some uncertainty in the issue. The decisive money power in these does not come from Manxland, but from purses beyond the sea. Much of the house property for the accommodation of visitors and the resulting business belongs to English management and enterprise. It is all fair in trade and business. If caution withholds Manx people from such schemes, or want of capital, they must be content with the result, whether gain or loss. And one great advantage of the feature in its Manx measure, is the slowness in adopting untried measures which has refused rash innovations and left Ellan Vannin with a civil constitution whose roots go far deeper into the past than those of the British Constitution, and whose development has been without violent revolution. A policy is thus natural which makes legal changes reliable, if sometimes too slow, while it admits im provement and enterprise in all departments of the State. Emigration has been named as one form of enterprise. There are thousands of Manx people in the United Kingdom and the Colonies, and in the United States of America. Such congestion of the population as prevails in the Scotch Highlands and in Ireland has been thus prevented.
2. With the industrial qualities of the Manx character may be noted the commercial opportunities.
The restituton of 1703 for the injustice of 1643, the Act of Settlement, began an era of prosperity in the Island. The land had fallen out of cultivation, and it proved of as much advantage to the Earl of Derby as to the former tenants to restore to the people their rights. The value of the land has greatly increased under modern methods of cultivation. Rents were first enforced in the early ownership often appears in the name of the farm, as Ballagawne, Ballaquayle, Ballaradcliffe: the name in Manx may be taken to imply antiquity, as:
Lough ny yie the lake of the goose.
Rhenbwee --the yellow division.
Rhenscault the burnt division.
It is an exception to have English names. Some changes in the law had brought amelioration. The law of tithes was mitigated by commutation in 1839. The monopoly of a limited class of merchants and grocers and groups of private individuals, by a licence to import spirits, wine, tea and sugar, and other articles subject to duty - the quantity allowed to the Island each year being limited and fixed - had brought a considerable income to some, and to others reduced expenditure, but has been abolished. Land and commerce are on the same level. There are, also, some exemptions in taxation: there is no income tax or legacy duty; no excise duty, except a small duty on beer; and no poor rate, except, as already stated, at Douglas and Ramsey. The landed interest shares largely in the advantages accruing from the position of the Island as a resort for visitors ; the tenant farmer, or owner, has large receipts for poultry and garden produce in the season, and the value of land near the towns is greatly increased, while, indirectly, he shares in the general impulse to business.
The opportunities of trade and commerce are con siderable. In addition to the business establishments, are the public companies, the mines, the fisheries, the shipping and commerce, and, above all, the visiting seasons yearly. The sphere of ambition, it will be admitted, is limited, compared to the broad English opportunities, for the professions or for commerce; the man of genius, like Forbes in philosophy; or of power in administration, like Cubbon in India, must not stay at home. Yet there are prizes within reach, and a good average of facilities for fortune. The old isolation is gone. The Island has become full of business energy, and a meeting place for the three kingdoms, with their hundreds of thousands seeking health and recreation. The towns, once fixed in outline, are extending; Douglas, at once towards Onchan along the coast, and inland towards the west; Ramsey, from its mountain background, enlarging north and west; Peel, Port Erin, Port St. Mary, and Laxey share the impulse. In the towns, Boards of Comnissioners, with their municipal powers ; in the House of Keys, self election at an end; in the administration, response to popular convictions ; in the education of the people, the compulsory and the universal; everywhere, the energy of business; beyond, the flow of inrushing English life; the Manx language retiring before the Anglo-Saxon; the foreign element gaining social power. The social foundations are in course of being relaid. Freedom has new opportunities. The increase of substantial means has brought new powers of progress. Inproved legislation has moved in the way to order and liberty. The stagnation of the eighteenth century has been followed by movements full of promise ; it had its single lighthouse on the red pier in Douglas, but with no jetty to save from the rock opposite; no tower of refuge on Conister; no breakwater in the bay; no lighthouse on the Head, and no drive around it; no promenade along the shore; no electric tramway to Laxey. Now, all is the reverse, energy and commercial stir. In the country, agriculture has followed English improvements : for "carranes" there are shoes, and for the turf fire on the hearth, the "chiollagh," the "slowrie," and the open chimney, there is the better modern style. Habits, too, and social ideals, take a higher moral tone. Less litigation would still be an improvement, but impovement is in the right direction; temperance has changed the character of the club anniversary, and of the Saturday at market. It would not now be necessary, as the late Mr. Bluett deemed it in his day, to defend the refusal of a challenge under the duel code by publishing a volume on the subject. The sacred ministries of truth have done much to transform the life of the Island. Smuggling has died out. Men of money power, hardly of a number to form a class, used to give cause to complaints of usury and oppression; but that day seems also to have passed. Among the Manx people now are the usual elements of English life: the culture, the School of Art, the Free Library, and such institutions, in aid of modern development.
The great foe to the success of industrial life, here, as elsewhere, is "the drink." The Temperance movement has done much to lessen the evil. Most of the Churches have their Temperance Societies and Bands of Hope, with others not so connected. The effect is seen in social reformation, as well as in public opinion and legislation. 'The "drunk and disorderly" show reduced figures. Yet the alcoholic position is strong the duty on malt in 1893 was £2,221, and on imported liquor £39,067. Customs and license duties amount to above £44,000. The estimated outlay by visitors is £40,725; by the resident population, £121,151. 'I'wo thirds of the crime come from "the drink." Unfortunately the law allows the visitors in their Sunday excursions to be bond fide travellers at the public-house.
Meanwhile, the insular wealth may be approximately seen in such facts as the following, for which I am in part indebted to Governor Walpole's recent volume, The Land of Home Rule, 1893.
The Insular revenue, £76,738 the Bank deposits -
The Insular expenditure 60,000
The gross annual value, including towns and parishes . 406,045
Government Grant towards popular education . . £8,844
Expenditure under Local Commissioners - . 62,389
Receiving poor relief (out of a population of 55,608) - 938
Rates for local expenditure 33720
Estimated value of metal from the mines : various ores. 97,727
The customs revenue (1892) 61,812
Agricultural rental value 100,000
The lord's rent (yearly) 1,500
The national debt 300,000
Taxation is lighter than in other parts of the kingdom. When given to Sir John Stanley in 1406, the annual value of the Island was £400; at the Revestment, it was about £7,293.