[From Flaxney Stowell, Castletown 100 years ago]
Mill Street branches off from Malew Street, about, half way up on the right hand side. It gets its name from the water mill which stands about three hundred yards north of it.
A remarkable character in Mill Street was Meg, McGravey. Her maiden name was Margaret Kneale. McGravey, her husband, was a soldier, and fought against the French. Meg would go to the front, with him, and together they fought all through the Peninsular wars. At Waterloo, Meg received a wound in her head. After that she had always to wear a silver plate over it. Her husband was killed, and Meg came home alone, covered with glory, in her own estimation, for Wellington was no prouder of Waterloo than Meg. On a Saturday night Meg would go on a round of visits to loyal friends, and Jamaica rum being both cheap and plentiful, poor Meg had usually to be rolled home on a barrow or anything else handy. Better for her had she died at the wars, for then she would never have sunk into the degradation of drunkenness.
A very remarkable circumstance connected with Mill Street occurred one night during the cod season. My grandfather, Flaxney Stowell, had gone out with a crew of hardy fishermen on to the Big Back. After they had taken in their lines and were running for the harbour in a strong gale, he was at the helm, and in jibing the vessel (that is, instead of bringing the bows up in the wind, he threw her stern on the other quarter), the boom of the mainsail struck him, and carried him overboard. He was an excellent swimmer, and kept himself up for three-quarters of an hour. It took the poor fellows on board that length of time before they got up to him. Though they called to him and throw buoys, he did not take hold of them, and when at last they got him on board, he was alive, and asked them "if they had got him quite safe." They told him he was safe on board, so he shook the water from him, and when they made the harbour he walked home to Mill Street.
My grandmother asked him where he had been as he had been in and out again without saying a word, and that he had been rummaging among the papers in the chest. This time was when he had been contending with death in the deep waters. He suspected something supernatural, and evaded her questions by saying he had found Moore the Miller drunk in the street, and had helped him home to the Mill. He was cold as a stone, and took his death from it, though he lived for five years longer.
Superstition has even now a strong hold on people's minds. A hundred years ago almost anything unusual was accounted supernatural. There was a character in those days called Nan-a-moy-a Mullagh. She was a great favourite with the Fairies, and would go with them on their nocturnal visits to the houses round about. Next day she would tell who had offended the Fairies by not leaving plenty of flour cake and fresh water for their midnight repast.
One night at a certain farm house everyone had been so busy with the harvest that the little people's supper was forgotten. It was the duty of the farmer's daughter to attend to it, but she, like everyone else had been too hard pressed with the work of the harvest to give a thought to the fairies. At night the mother, who was the only person awake, heard a noise in the kitchen below, as though some were blaming, and others pleading for her daughter.
Then she heard it decided that the daughter must be made an example of. The mother tried to go to her daughter's assistance, but, to her horror, found herself unable to move. In the morning the father found the daughter lying on some straw in the stable yard. She was taken up insensible, but fortunately soon recovered from the effects of the little people's vengeance. It would be somnambulism.
The two brothers Stevenson lived at Balladoole, and at Christmas there would be great doings and fine fun going on with balls and masquerades. They built a ball court for the enjoyment of the young people of the town, and they themselves entered into all the sports. The guests at the masquerades would sometimes sally forth on to the road and scare the country folk with their fantastic costumes. On one such occasion, two friends - one dressed as an Angel of Light, and the other an Angel of Darkness - went up to Deemster Moore's, at The Abbey, Ballasalla, and into the kitchen. The one with horns carried a bait grip, and with it he started to rake out the kitchen fire. The ladies happened to be in the kitchen at the time, and seeing the two strange apparitions they ran, screaming for the Deemster. He came running with his gun to see what was the matter, and when he did see, was for letting them smell powder. They made for the door as fast as their legs would carry them. Seeing them so easily routed, the Deemster turned his gun about and with the butt end of it laid on to them. The fellow with the bait grip tried as he ran to parry the blows, but the French retreat from Moscow was not in it with the two angels' flight from the Deemster's grounds that night.
It was customary to give the cows a little grass on the fields in the day time, and a man named Ned Kinley was driving the cows up to the fields early in the morning after the masquerade, and as he passed Malew Churchyard, he saw one of the company of masqueraders, the "Dark Angel," who after being at the Deemster's had got tipsy. He was lying in the ditch. Ned Kinley, desperately afraid, believing it to be his Satanic Majesty, drew a circle round him, and abjured the character in the name of the Trinity. Then Ned Kinley asked, "What's thy trouble?" "Aw, trouble enough," was the reply; I help me out of the ditch, so that I'll get home. I've been out all night." Both were relieved.
Shortly after, the two went up to the Deemster's to work, being joiners by trade. While they were working the Deemster came in and told them about the very escapade they had taken part in. He said they had nearly frightened the wits out of the ladies, and one of them was like the devil himself to look at. "I would give five shillings," said the Deemster, "to know who he was."
"Would you," said Corrin, "Well then, it was myself." The Deemster handed over the money with a caution to mind what other pranks they played, "for," said the Deemster, "if you come before me in the Court, I won't know you or be any more merciful to you than I was when I laid on to you with the gun."
Langness and Scarlett rocks lie to the S.W. of Castletown, and it is only in recent years that a lighthouse has been placed there to warn mariners off them. Terrible wrecks used to frequently occur, and almost every gulley about the place has been named after some shipwreck which happened there. There are the "Maria," the "Fairfield," the "Peggy, " the "Tobacco," the "Tea," the "Cotton," and the "Rum Gulleys," and so on, the names referring to the doomed vessel which struck on the rocks, or the cargo which might be cast up from her.
A story is told of two Dublin colliers going to Whitehaven. They laid a wager of so many gallons of whiskey who would be in port first. The Isle of Man was considered the half-way house between Dublin and Whitehaven, and for the Island the colliers set sail in a fair wind from the S.W.
Unfortunately for them the wind rose, and before the vessels had sailed many hours one was wrecked on Langness point, and the other on Scarlett. Out of the two crews only a little boy was saved to tell the tale.
One winter's night a large ship came into the bay, near the Stack rock. The look-out cried "Breakers ahead," but it was too late. The vessel was pitched on the Stack, and the receding wave carried off all hands save one man. Both the vessel and her cargo, were washed off, and the one man left was thrown on the Stack rock, and he held on, not knowing where he was, or what had become of his mates - a stranger in a strange land. After a while he thought he could see land on the other side the rock.
He attempted to go towards it, when a voice said "Time enough yet," so he gave up the attempt for a time. A second time he tried, but heard the voice again and stopped. At the third try, no warning was heard, and he went on, guided by a light in the distance, and reached the land safely, climbing the rocks and then crossing some grass till he came to a cart road. Then the light disappeared, but following the road, he found it lead him to a cow-house.
He went in and lay down among the cows, grateful for the heat they afforded him. In the morning he awoke refreshed and none the worse for his adventure. He found subsequently that when the voice warned him not to leave the stack, the tide was in, and that while he waited it ebbed, and no voice warned him from his third attempt, because the passage between the Stack and the cliff was then fordable. The cow-house where he took refuge was on Scarlett Farm.
In 1822, the Racehorse was lost off Langness on the Skerranes, about two miles out to sea. The night of the wreck was one of thick darkness, and there was a tremendous sea running. The vessel's signals of distress soon brought an excited crowd of Castletown people to the Pier. The cry was raised "Man the boats!" and in spite of the fact that the boats to be manned were merely the usual small open fishing boats, there was no hesitation and no lack of volunteers.
Castletown had then no lifeboat or special crew for ship-wrecked mariners. The little boats went cautiously out in the terrible storm and anchored some distance to windward of the stricken vessel. From here they threw ropes across and took off the crew one by one. A fire had been made by lighting a straw stack from Langness Farm on Dreswick Beach, and for this beacon the loaded boats steered. All were safely landed save one boat which capsized, and the lieutenant and three of the Castletown men were drowned. To mark the bravery of the Castletown men the Government Authorities granted £20 per year to these sailors' wives for life, and an annuity to their children until they became of age.