[from Harry Druidale, Fisherman ..., 1898]
We are all so happy as to have a fine fresh cool morning, and 1 hope we shall each be the happier in the other's company.-VENATOR.
THE Month of June 1859, weather lovely, scene a stable in the pretty village of Onchan ; dramatis persona, six youths whose ages varied from twenty-one to sixteen; they are discussing where they shall go for a real good time of it. Some of them had circumwalked the island during the previous Easter with a donkey and cart to carry their impedimenta and a tent to sleep in, and the weather had been atrocious, in fact so bad that kind farmers had housed them for the night several times. After much discussion it was decided to en-camp in Druidale. Druidale may be said to be the highest portion of the river Sulby, which flows into the sea at Ramsey after a course of about eleven miles. The Sulby river partakes of two distinct characteristics, the lower portion from Ramsey to the village of Sulby, about four miles (much more by the river), being for the most part sluggish, with streams here and there, and flowing through a country much of which is agricultural; and the higher portion through a deep pastoral valley with very steep sides, along a stony or rocky bed With frequent cascades and deep pools. As we go a-fishing the charms of Sulby Glen shall be done justice to, to the best of our ability, in another chapter.
The preparations for our departure took up a considerable time. The donkey-cart was loaded with the tent, various pots and pans for the culinary department, a blanket for each person, and other things; the kettle and some more things were slung behind the cart, which added to our gipsy appearance. At six o'clock in the morning of Monday the 13th day of June, Oliver Graham sounded the bugle and we were off, and then there came an addition to our party in the person of a boy of about thirteen, Granby Calcraft by name, who was destined to be the terror of the party, as, boy though he was, he was armed with a revolver. Grauby, who had been watching our preparations with great interest, asked to be allowed to accompany us; we signified our consent subject to his mother's approval, which was given, and he soon overtook us with the revolver in his pocket. The weather was fine, but there was a fine cool head-wind which blew the dust off the road in clouds, and made our journey for some time very uncomfortable. On we journeyed, along narrow country roads hemmed in with high banks covered with gorse, which being in full bloom presented a beautiful appearance. To the west we had a fine view of Greeba Mountain, a little to the right of it Garraghan, and to the north-east Beinn-y-Phott Mountain. In about two miles from Onchan we cross a white bridge over the river Glass, which after joining the Dhoo falls into Douglas Bay.
At this stage an important discovery was made; we had forgotten a precious leg of mutton, which had the night before been hung up in our larder, the stable. Charlie and Milburn at once returned for it, and the rest of the party resumed their journey. Rather less than a mile farther on, passing a plantation on the left, we come to a fork in the river. The stream to the right is called the East _Baldwin Stream, and rises at the foot of Beinn-y-Phott; the stream to the left is called the West Baldwin Stream, and takes its rise between Colden Mountain and Gar-raghan. Our course is up the West Baldwin Stream, and we have to reach theWestBaldwin valley by a very rough road, only a cart track up one very steep incline and down another, when we reach a fair road which carries us to the end of our journey. Presently we pass through the pretty little village of West Baldwin, with its white-washed bridge over the river, near which there is an old mill. The valley is beautiful, well wooded ; gorse in flower in profusion, wild roses on the hedges, honeysuckle here and there, and the lofty hills forming a fine background; the sky of deep blue with an occasional passing cloud ; the song of the cuckoo resounds up and down the valley.
As it was intended that our patient donkey should have a rest at Injabreck, Harrop and I went fishing up the river, in which I soon captured 17 trout with the up-stream worm, and then rejoined the party with the donkey. We found them resting near the picturesque ivy and fern-clad bridge immediately below Injabreck, amid delightful scenery. Injabreck House was built many years ago by an English gentleman, who extensively planted the estate and thereby created a little paradise among the mountains. Seen from the mountains above, the place looks enchanting, and in those days it enjoyed a solitude which might have been enjoyed by a hermit, being an unknown place to the ordinary tourist, and haunted only by the contemplative man.
Charlie and Milburn had overtaken us, and the former had gone up a small stream which flowed from the left through a narrow rocky gorge, where grew beautiful ferns, and amongst them much of the hartstongue and maidenhair, to try for a few trout. Charlie delighted in those small streams where you have to push the grass and brambles aside in order to put in the worm. After partaking of a luxurious lunch, consisting of biscuit and water, I resumed fishing, and was soon joined by Charlie, who had caught a fine trout of at least three-quarters of a pound in the small stream. Presently We observed the others with the donkey and cart struggling up the steep hill which leads to a sort of pass between Snaefell and Beinn-y-Phott. As the poor donkey could not drag the load up the hill, they had fastened a rope to the shafts, and were pulling after the manner of trace-horses; we roared with laughter at the ludicrous spectacle they presented, but we were soon added to the number of donkeys.. After much hauling, tugging, and shouting, we at length reached the top of the hill, whence we had a splendid view; on the right Snaefell, the monarch of Manx mountains, to the left Beinn-y-Phott, in front Sartfell, and in the distance Peel Hill and Peel Castle.
We had now attained an elevation of about 1200 feet, being above the range of cultivation,-a region of heather, bent grass, and rushes, a fine place for snipe and also for woodcock on their first arrival. We were at the source of the Sulby river. Here we got to the junction of two roads, the right leading to the base of Snaefell, and the one nearly straight forward to Druidale, in the upper part of which we intended to pitch our tent. As the heather was very fine we plucked a lot for our bedding, and in about two miles more we arrived at the fork of two little streams, which united formed the Sulby river.
On the banks of the stream proceeding from Sartfell there is a fir plantation, well sheltered and facing Snaefell, and from the plantation a view down Druidale. We decided to pitch our tent in the fir plantation. Our arrival caused great con-sternation to two carrion-crows (the hooded or Norway crow, a great rascal), which had built their nest in a larch tree, never thinking of sueh an incursion. We at once pitched our tent, and dug a trench round it in case of rain, and then prepared for dinner. With slabs of slate-stone, which we found on the road, we built two fireplaces-two sides and one end, and two narrow stones across to rest the pan or kettle on ; then we gathered fallen wood and dry fern, with which we made our fires. The kettle was placed on one fire and the frying-pan on the other, and in the frying-pan were placed mutton chops and bacon, the spluttering of which was music to our ears, for we were so hungry, we were ravenous.
Our meal consisted of mutton, bacon, preserve, and bread and cocoa, and we all felt that we had never enjoyed a meal so much in our lives. It was 4.30 P.m., and we had had nothing substantial since breakfast. "Now then," said one of the party, "every man Wash his own plate, knife, fork, spoon, and cup," which we accordingly did in the stream. We then spread our ling for bedding in the tent, and lay down to rest for about two hours, after which we felt ready for tea, which consisted of tea and bread and butter. We mashed our tea in the kettle.
During the evening several farm men and boys and a few girls visited our encampment, and Were much surprised at our proceedings. About ten o'clock we prepared for bed; we took off our coats, Waistcoats, collars, and boots, and rolled ourselves in our blankets and lay on the heather, our feet meeting at a common centre, the tent-pole. We were all very tired, and most of the party were soon asleep. I was just beginning to doze, when Milburn who was on my right gave me a nudge, "Harry, Harry, did you hear that noise? I believe there is some person outside the tent."
"What," I said, "are you sure that you heard some one outside the tent?"
" Well, I'm sure I think I did," said my nocturnal disturber. " Well," I replied, " you had perhaps better awake Harrop," who was then snoring most monstrously, and had our best means of defence, the gun, under his head.
"Harrop, Harrop, listen, don't you hear some noise out-side ? "
" Wha, wha," drawls Harrop sleepily, as be rolls over and mutters some unintelligible words, "wha, wha, what, go to sleep."
"But," says Milburn in a louder tone, "don't you hear some sounds outside the tent?"
Harrop, who was now thoroughly awake, said that he did; he capped the gun, Milburn cocked the pistol, and I took hold of the hatchet, and we all prepared for the worst. Milburn, who must have been the bravest of the party (he had been to America, and was therefore supposed to have had many a brush with the Indians), cautiously crept out of the tent to reconnoitre, with the pistol at the present : he shortly returned with the welcome intelligence that all was quiet, and that the donkey must have caused the noise; so, without more ado, we rolled ourselves up in our blankets and slept soundly until one o'clock, when we all awoke simultaneously and were much surprised that it was not later.
After much talk and commotion we again fell asleep, and slept till about 4.30, when we got up; our ablutions were performed in the stream, and the process of dressing, as may well be imagined, did not take long. The fires were lighted and preparations for breakfast commenced. Break-fast consisted of trout and bacon fried together, bread and coffee, the cream for which was donkey's milk. The donkey fortunately had a foal, so we substituted ourselves for the foal. It took about an hour to prepare breakfast, and we sat down to our first morning meal in Druidale about half-past five o'clock. The weather was bright and chilly, and no wonder, considering our altitude and the air from the north. Some of the party were enjoined to remain all day in care of the camp. About half-past six o'clock Charlie and I started off to Mr. Brooke's house, about a mile off, to ask permission to fish in his part of the river. Mr. Brooke was the owner as well as the occupier of the Druidale estate, consisting of several thousand acres. He was a Yorkshire gentleman, who had taken up his abode in lonely Druidale many years before, and there devoted himself to farming a large tract of wild mountain land. His society consisted of woodcock, snipe, and other wild birds and trout. He was a widower and lived alone, excepting for a few farm servants. I never heard that he was fond of either fishing or shooting, so I cannot imagine why he buried, or perhaps more correctly, exalted himself in such a wild place, many miles from any one in his own rank. He had two sons, one a barrister in London and the other in Australia. Mr. Brooke was down, although we arrived at his mansion before seven o'clock, so said a typical dark-eyed Manx maid who admitted us.
In order to obtain an audience of the Lord of Druidale it was necessary to march through the kitchen, thence through a very small room, and we were in the presence of a fine-looking man, with white hair and whiskers, sitting in a room of fair size, with a handsome-looking sideboard at one end. He was engaged in writing. As we entered the room, the sanctum of the Lord of Druidale, in rushed two little pigs, which were soon expelled by the maid. Mr. Brooke received us, vagrants as we were, most courteously, and he appeared very much amused when we informed him that We had encamped on his estate. He laughed most heartily, and hoped we should enjoy ourselves. He most readily gave us permission to fish on his estate, also to shoot rabbits ; in fact he gave us a carte blanche to do as we liked. He very much wished its to take breakfast With him, but We explained that we had already had breakfast at the camp, and we were impatient to try conclusions with the trout, so after thanking him very warmly for his kindness we bade him adieu. I elected to walk about a mile down the main river and fish up to the camp. Charlie, with his usual predilection for small streams, decided to operate in the Snaefell stream, which runs between Snaefell and Beinn-y-Phott.
For the most part Sulby Glen is very narrow, the sides being very steep, with rocks here and there, and the stream is to a great extent a succession of cascades and pools, some of considerable depth. In many places rocks overhang the stream, adorned with ferns and mosses, which grow most luxuriantly. The croak of the raven is occasionally heard, and the hawk is rather common. A kingfisher is occasionally met with, but there are not any water-ousels in Man, so common by the rivers in England.
I commence in a sharp run, out of which I take three or four trout; then I approach a pool under a high rock, and cast the worm into the stream above the pool. The Worm glides under the rock, a sharp tug, and I am fast to a lively herring-sized trout, a fine fish for Mona, and he is soon in my pannier; then on I go up the rocky glen, catching trout after trout in pool and stream, and occasionally missing a whopper in the deep holes. On one occasion I dropped my worm from a high bank into a deep pool below, it caught in a briar hanging over the pool, about six inches from the water. A lively quarter of a pounder rose to the worm, and paid the penalty. As I am passing rather a high rock by the side of the stream a sparrow-hawk darts out of a crevice high up, and I soon saw that there was a nest, which appeared perfectly easy to reach ; so I climbed up the rock, but, alas, I could not get my hand nearer to the nest than about half a yard. Unless I could walk on air the nest could not be mine, and I had to leave the hawk in undisturbed possession to complete her domestic duties.
On arriving at the camp I found Charlie there. He had caught 25 trout, and among them two beauties, one of two pounds and the other close on a pound. I said to Charlie, `° How did you land that monster " (we did not use landing-nets), "and where did you get him on?"
"Well," said Charlie, "you know where the stone slab crosses the Snaefell stream near the junction of the stream; I got him on in the deep pool just below. He ran me round and round the pool for ever so long, and at last got under a big stone in deep water. I was determined to get him, so I went into the water up to my middle and in the end got him out with my hands."
"Then you had to cluck your head in."
"Yes, I had," he said, " but he was worth the ducking." Bravo, Charlie ! "
I had 29 trout, and Mackenzie, who had also been fishing, 7 ; so we had 61 trout for our larder, About five o'clock we took tea-which consisted of bacon, trout, bread and preserve-which had been prepared by some of the party.
During our absence fishing, Graham and Granby had been enjoying themselves in their own fashion: one of them had swarmed the tree with the carrion-crow's nest in it, and brought down four unfortunate young crows; the crows were tried and condemned to be shot with the pistol. The poor birds were shot in detail, shot for shot, till all was over. After all, the hooded crow is a rapacious bird, and has been known to attack sickly lambs.
My diary states that "in the evening we wrote our journals and read novels, and some of us wrote home." The trout problem was discussed, what should we do with the trout we caught; we could not possibly eat them all ourselves. The non-fishermen suggested that we should not catch so many. We did our best to eat them, as we had trout at every meal. Charlie suggested that we should salt them.
Several visitors called to see us as on the previous evening. We formed quite an entertainment for them, and the lads and lasses danced on the green to the music of the river; and we watched the rays of the setting sun with ever varying colours on Snaefell until the sun set behind the hills to the west.
On the morrow it was decided that it was my turn to rise early to light the fires, so I rose at the untimely hour of half-past four o'clock and lighted the fires, and afterwards with the assistance of some of the rest prepared our morning meal, which as usual consisted of coffee, bacon, trout, and bread, also of some eggs, a present from Mr. Brooke. After breakfast Harrop, Milburn, and I went fishing, the former in company, and I alone; Charlie remained to guard the camp ; some of the rest went to Ballaugh, a village four or five miles off, to buy some bread. I took about the same portion of the river as on the previous day, and caught 16 trout. Bearing in mind the complaint of a glut of fish, I made a short day of it, and got back to the camp at three o'clock and dined luxuriously on trout, bacon, bread, and coffee. One of my trout was a beauty close on a pound. Harrop and Milburn returned to the camp with 23 trout between them.
After they had had the usual meal, Mackenzie, who must have been a born cook, assisted by myself and some of the others, made a roly-poly pudding. It was fearfully and wonderfully made; the dough was a compound of flour and donkey's milk, and the interior gooseberry jam. The dough was kneaded in fractions, on flat stones, which were then joined together, the preserve inserted, and rolled up in the most approved manner. The mass was tied up in a towel and boiled in the coffee-pot.
Charlie and Granby, who had gone to the important town of Kirk Michael for a little quiet dissipation to relieve the monotony of Druidale, after the Ballaugh party returned, got back at the untimely hour of seven o'clock. They brought some salt with them, with the view of salting trout. On their arrival the pudding was taken out of the pot amid loud cheers, and was pronounced by all to be excellent, and a vote of thanks to the maker of it (Mackenzie) was proposed, seconded, and unanimously carried.
The diary states that "we retired into the tent at nine o'clock, and occupied the interim between our retirement to the tent and getting to bed in writing our journals and read-ing novels" (the journals appear to have been considered important, and no doubt each writer intended at some future time to publish his experiences for the edification of a grate-ful public).
We lay down to sleep at eleven o'clock. I may state here once for all that tobacco was burned in the tent every evening for the purpose of exterminating the little gray gnats, which bit our faces with brutal ferocity; and when one of the party was deputed to clean trout by the stream, another accompanied him for the express purpose of burning tobacco about the face of the performer, whom I may call the gutter, in order to keep the gnats from worrying him.
The diary states that "nothing occurred to disturb our nocturnal slumbers," so it may be presumed that the gun, pistol, and hatchet had had a salutary effect on the donkey. A hatchet always reminds me of the two fellows who quarrelled about nothing, and accordingly resolved to fight a duel about it (nothing). They tossed for choice of weapons, and the fellow who won the toss selected hatchets. The other follow objected ; the winner insisted ; then the other fellow said, " If we fight with hatchets, one of us is certain to be killed." The winner brutally replied, "Of course." Result, the other fellow declined to fight.
On the following morning, Thursday, we all rose at a quarter to six (we were gradually getting to more civilised hours) : the diary does not say anything about our ablutions, so it does not appear whether at this stage ablutions Were considered necessary or not. After the usual breakfast, Charlie, Milburn, Graham, and I started off to fish. I went alone as is my wont, and resolved to do the gentleman and fish fly. The trout rose nicely although the sun was bright, and nearly all the trout took the black spider (small feather from a starling's shoulder or neck hackled on brown silk). It was nice practice casting under the trees into the narrow pools. I fished up; there would have been little use in fishing down in such low clear water and bright sun. We reached the camp early in the afternoon, the result of the day's catch being; Charlie and Milburn with worm 41, Graham with the same lure 1, and I 17 with fly. Harrop had remained in camp as caretaker, and he amused himself with shooting rabbits. The usual meal was partaken of. Harrop started for home, Rockmount, St. Johns, about seven o'clock, for which bereavement the survivors condoled with one another. However, he took with him a large basket of trout to the relief of our larder. In the evening, we occupied ourselves in the usual way, and as the gnats were more troublesome and voracious than ever, much tobacco was burnt. On the next day, Friday, we rose about six o'clock, and as it was our last complete day in camp we all felt rather sad at the idea of going home on the morrow. We had not at all tired of camp life: we had lived together in perfect harmony, no quarrel or unkind words had caused friction. We were a happy family.
After the usual breakfast, Charlie, Mackenzie, and I went off fishing, Charlie and Mackenzie using worm and I fly. The Weather was bright; rain had not fallen for a consider-able time. Charlie killed 45 trout, Mackenzie 12, and I 18. These details are instructive as showing the superiority of worm over fly. Many trout in difficult places like Druidale can be caught with worm where there is not a chance with fly, but I felt more satisfied with my fly-caught trout than I should have been with three times the number killed With worm.
On reaching the tent early in the afternoon, we were much pleased to see Mr. and Mrs. Harrison of Rockmount, their daughter Georgiana, and our camp fellow Harrop, also Dr. Booth, who had the curiosity to visit our camp. They had just regaled themselves with tea, and appeared to be much amused with all they saw; and I have no doubt that our neglected personal appearance, faces disfigured by the gnats notwithstanding the consumption of tobacco, our spotless linen, and such like trifles very much entertained them.
The diary is silent as to ablutions; memory does not supply the blank. I can recollect gutting the wretched trout by the stream, alternately worried by gnats and smoked with burning tobacco until I was nearly choked, and washing my hands afterwards. Can we have drifted into the band of the great unwashed in less than a week? Mr. Harrison was a most worthy gentleman; he was then, and had been for many years, a member of the then self-elective House of Keys; he had travelled a good deal in Africa, and collected many trophies of his travels, such as Kaffir spears and ostrich eggs. He was a great collector of books, and in addition he read them. He was a prominent member of the Manx Society, and edited many of the books published by that society. He was a great collector of curiosities of many kinds; he had a very fine collection of birds' eggs, most of them collected by himself; also of old coins. Mrs. Harrison was a most amiable lady. I remember her smile, when her husband once laid it down that a lover should never despair when the lady says "no," for if he will only persevere the fair one is in the end certain to say "yes." "Was not it so, Mary?" he said: then the eloquent smile. Doctor Booth may be described as a right-down jolly fellow, with his heavy white beard and whiskers. He was one of the most hearty men I ever met. He was an angler, so was Mr. Harrison, and they often in company with a mutual friend, Mr. Brookhouse, from the same village as the doctor, Manchester, fished the Manx streams for the bonny trout. The doctor was chiefly remarkable for his immense library, which took up most of his house. He had a mania for books, and he was supposed to be a confirmed bachelor. Mr. Harrison and his friends used to fish with Indian grass lines, which Mr. Harrison had procured in some of his travels, but I do not think that they were suitable for fly-fishing, because they were so light and limp.
Our visitors had been so considerate as to bring us two loaves of bread, which were very acceptable, and we had much pleasure in giving them trout to their heart's content. They started on their return journey to Rockmount about half-past six. Milburn had remained about the camp all day, and had killed a fine curlew, which no doubt was resident on the hills for domestic purposes, but the "Wild Birds Protection Act" had not in those days been thought of, even in England.
Tea was discussed, prepared, and partaken of, and consisted of the usual viands. Our conversation was full of regrets that it Was to be our last night in camp in full view of Snaefell, the intervening heathery moor with stacks of peat drying for winter consumption, and lovely Druidale, with its chafing and foaming brook rushing over its rocky bed. We all regretted leaving the sparrow-hawk in undisturbed possession. We had all tried in vain to reach the nest, it looked so easy, so near and yet so far. On this our last night we retired into the tent at nine o'clock; about ten we took off our coats, waistcoats, and boots, rolled ourselves up in our blankets, and, according to the diary, "of course we all slept soundly " on our heather bed, lumpy though it was. How cheaply man may live should he only please, and what a lot he can do without, or rather with what a little he can do!
The morn of Saturday dawned all too soon, and we rose from our couch at a quarter to seven. We prepared breakfast for the last time, which consisted, according to the diary, of the usual edibles. We had quite learned to do without beef or mutton; we found that bacon, trout, and bread were quite sufficient to support life on, and we had an unlimited supply of water at our feet, also of trout,- and what more can man want ? Alcohol was unknown in the camp. Shortly after breakfast, all except Charlie and myself set out to ascend Snaefell, the summit of which was about four miles off, and they left us to clean the pots and pans, and cook the dinner.
During the morning our kind friend Mr. Brooke called, and he told us that he was going to Douglas, and that as he should most likely see our father there, lie would be very glad to take any message for us which we might wish to send. He also pressed us to make his house our quarters on the night of that day and Sunday. We thanked Mr. Brooke for his great kindness, and explained that we were under orders not to prolong our stay among the mountains. Our worthy parents were confident that we should catch our death from colds, and we knew that they would be anxious about us, whereas we were all in perfect health, with our faces bronzed with the sun and blotched with the gnats. Mr. Brooke wished us a safe journey home, and proceeded on his way to Douglas. I pottered about the camp, fishing here and there, and caught 4 trout, one of which was a good half-pounder. Charlie and I prepared a sumptuous dinner in honour of our last (lay, to the entire satisfaction of the whole party, and on the return of our Snaefell excursionists about one o'clock, we dined in the open air as was our wont. For a wonder, there was no fish cooked; the menu was as follows
1st course, ham, potatoes, and bread.
2nd rice pudding with currants.
3rd bread and preserve and cocoa.
The dinner was done full justice to.
We talked for some time, and offered up incense which ascended in blue smoke until it was lost in the ethereal blue. The Snaefell party bad much enjoyed their climb; they had had a splendid view all round the island also of the Cumbrian Mountains, the Mull of Galloway, and the Mourne Mountains, Ireland.
At three o'clock we prepared for our departure. The packing of our baggage into the cart occupied us two hours, and about five o'clock all was ready; two salutes were fired, the bugle sounded, and three hearty cheers given, and off We started. It was uphill work for the poor donkey, until we crossed the ridge and reached the descent to Injabreck, which we had had so much difficulty in surmounting in the journey out. Now the situation was reversed; we had to hang on behind the cart to prevent the cart from running down the donkey. How beautiful Injabreck looked as we descended the hill, the fir woods, and the winding valley with the stream meandering at the bottom; anon the song of the cuckoo is heard as we pass through the vale, and the crake, crake of the landrail in the long grass; and the weather is perfect. Home was reached at a quarter past nine o'clock. The diary concludes by stating that about 90 trout were taken home, and that none of us ever enjoyed an excursion more than we enjoyed the Druidale Fishing Excursion and Bivouac.
Druidale, after a few more visits to the streams of Mona, thinks he is now qualified to distinguish himself in the rivers of the larger island, so he fixes upon the Derbyshire Wye that he may learn the "wherefore."
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received