FORMERLY H.M.I. NORTH-WEST DIVISION
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN' STREET, LONDON
" Bold words affirmed, in days when faith was
And doubts and scruples seldom teased the brain,
That no adventurer's bark had power to gain
These shores if he approached them bent on wrong."
[ One of my colleagues was unable to land on the Island, and was carried on to Barrow. Till I had seen these lines, I fully believed that it was the ordinary result of an easterly gale. Now I see that he was after no good.]
THE question was often put to me, Why should the Manchester inspectors visit the Isle of Man ? They have to cross the territory of at least three friendly colleagues to reach it, and surely they have enough to do at home ? But the satisfying answer was that with no less inducement could the Manchester staff be kept together. When I was transferred to that City of Dreadful Night, I was inclined to think that The Island, as we affectionately called it, was a Heligoland, a Philippine Island: let who will, take it. But the Manchester staff soon undeceived me. " We work, " said they, with tears in their manly eyes, " in smoke, fog, and gas-light for five or six months in the year: if it were not for the Island we should die:keep the brightest jewel in your diadem. " And, therefore, when the Board hinted that I was over peopled, and that without the I.O.M. I should be poorer but happier, I replied with the familiar Terentian words,
" HUMANI nihil a me alienum puto."
(All that is of Man, is mine.)
In the following May came my first Essay on Man. Certainly, as the crew of Ulysses sang, "Our island home is distant far." There is a great gulf fixed between Liverpool and Douglas, and out of the tourist season , when only the smaller boats are running, one is tempted to think that the Liverpool inspector, who probably examines night schools in " The Principles of Navigation, " is a fitter man for the post than one whose nautical ideas are limited by the Ship Canal and the Pennine Range. But the sight of Douglas Bay, the clear sky, the pure air, and the quiet of the night before the trippers arrive bring consolation, and then content.
A classical friend hailed me as King of Man, but that really was an exaggeration. I had no pretensions to the rank of Agamemnon. The island belongs to the British Crown: there is a governor, and some deemsters, besides Mr. Hall Caine, and a second class bishop. All these dignitaries, and others, take precedence of H.M.I.
It is somewhat of a mild coincidence that I began my inspecting career in the Welsh Mona, and, thirty-five years later, ended with the Northern Mona. The latter is not a large island, about twenty-five miles from north to south, and about twelve across. The more familiar Isle of Wight is about two-thirds of the size, but has nearly double the population. This inequality is, doubtless, partly due to the fact that the census is taken on the first Monday in April, when Wight is full and Man is empty. If the first Monday in August could have been substituted, Man would have made a braver show. Thus is the dignity of Man sacrificed to a pedantic love of accuracy.
And while comparing the two, let me pause to note that WIHTGARESBYRIG, the old flame of the southern isle, had presumably nothing to do with a wight, or man, and that Mannin, the old name of our isle, had nothing to do with a man or wight; but that the forces of erosion and attrition have made one into a Wight and the other into a Man.
To the ordinary tourist the island is unknown. A lady whom I asked whether she knew it, enquired with some surprise if it was a place to which people went. But, in the summer, trippers from Lancashire and Cheshire come in hundreds of thousands; there is the pleasing punishment of a four hours' sea voyage; on the island there is cheap board and lodging, with magnificent air and varied scenery. Our visits were, perforce, concluded before the mass of the trippers arrived, and rather before the warm weather set in; but it was a delightful break in the monotony of town work. Our school journeys did not take us into the Glens, which are the pride of the Manxman; and the rest of the country is rather pretty than beautiful. But in May and June we had all the charm of wild flowers: the fresh green of the beeches, and the splendour of the gorse and the broom. Song birds abounded in the plantations, and on the coast sea-birds did their best to prove that personal beauty is compatible with the entire absence of a musical faculty.
Walter Scott makes the island the scene of part of Peveril of the Peak; but it does not appear from his life, or from his journal still less does the novel show that he ever set foot there. Wordsworth wrote some fine sonnets on the island, from one of which I have borrowed the lines at the head of the chapter. Mr. Hall Caine, of course, has done ample justice to the traditions and local colour. It is some years since I read, and much enjoyed, The Manksman and The Deemster, and at the times of reading I was in blackest ignorance of the scenery. To me the Sacred Bard of the island was T. E. Brown, whose letters [1" Letters of T. E. Brown " 2 vols. (Constable.)] I and especially those from the island, I read and re-read. I skimmed through a great deal of his poetry also, in the hope of finding something suitable for the Manx children to learn, but there was little or nothing of that special kind, and the teachers would have none of it. We are told that Browning, George Eliot, Max Muller, and W. E. Henley united in praising his poetry very highly, but his dialect poems are the most admired, and teachers wage war against dialect. I wonder whether Scotch children learn Burns ?
The Letters, however, are a priceless treasure; and the island which produced him, and introduced me to them, earns from me a double share of gratitude. Dip into vol. i. if you see no chance of personally inspecting his haunts:
The island blooms like a rose. Primroses make no secret of it now they are everywhere, and begin to bring with them young blue-bells, " ter'ble shoy," but they'll soon get over that. I went up Sulby Glen a bit the other day: the gorse there, as elsewhere, is a mass of golden flame; and I heard the cuckoo . . .
Ballaglass is delicious in the sunlight with the beechen spray breathing over it. Also its primroses are good, also its blue-bells As yet the blue-bells are hesitant or apologetic. Of course you know that later on they will attend the funeral of the primroses with a mighty mourning of hyacinthine blooms; and then they will become quite cheeky and truculent, and make the ground their own.
Hills above the Gob-y-volley at the mouth of Sulby Glen, twice; perfection of gorse hassocks, tufted with bell-heather, also of ling in sheets, sprinkled with the bell-heather the sea-rim rounding all with glorious blue the steamer going round the island with an almost impudent familiarity of approach, like a '' Cotton ''[" Cotton " = Lancashire man. ?]throwing his arms round the neck of a pretty Manx countrygirl"smookin, too, the dirt."
Only fragmentary glimpses of these scenes were vouchsafed to us, but they were enough to enhance our enjoyment of the book. Schools were our urgent suitors; they engrossed our attention, and what we saw of the beauties of nature was, in the main, what we passed on our way to and from schools.
Of the schools themselves there is little to be said that could interest even a professional reader. They are for the most part hampered by poverty. Not that the island is poor, though it produces little, and the harvest of the sea is sorely reduced at present; the trippers are a coppermine of wealth. It is said that on an average each visitor spends at least a sovereign, and I have heard the income calculated at £1,500,000. A fair proportion of this must reach the farmers, but it requires a specially high tide to bring it to the door of the school. It must be remembered that the island is afflicted with Home Rule. It pays£10,000 a year to the Imperial Exchequer, and manages its own affairs. No Act of the Imperial Parliament affects it, unless it is specially named. Certain Acts are adopted by Tynwald (the Insular Parliament) when they are considered suitable. But the Education Act of 1902, substituting a central authority for the parochial organisation, and increasing the Government contribution, was not so adopted. Therefore the twenty-one School Boards, with £1,000 worth of clerks,&c., remain to manage the forty-seven schools, and teachers find their salaries so low that they seek their fortunes across the water.
No doubt the island suffers, as all tourist places in our country suffer, from Parasitism; and the sentence which Mr. Drummond, in his chapter on that social disease, quotes from Professor Ray Lankester, should be pondered in all such resorts:
Any new set of conditions occurring to an animal which render its food and safety very easily attained' seem to lead as a rule to degeneration." Natural Law, &c.," p. 317.
For ten weeks or so there are crowded hours of prosperity: then comes the long period of retrospection, followed by a longer period of anticipation, neither being remunerative. Even in the season of prosperity I doubt if the contemplation of Lancashire trippers, frequently tripping, can be any more beneficial to the parasite than it is pleasant to the philosophic onlooker. (See T. E. Brown, passim .)
Of other work than agriculture there is little: there is some I know not how much lead-mining: the herring and the mackerel have all but deserted the coasts; men say that the steam-trawlers have ruined the trade.
The really serious cloud on the horizon is the want of a career open to talent: young men who have brains, or ambition still more those who have both seek their fortunes in a larger market, and the tendency to fill up the gaps with the weedy poitrinaire, and the seedy genteel indigent, is still more alarming.
As for the children the 8,774 children I lost my heart to them individually and collectively. But I received no encouragement. They are very shy, "ter'ble shoy,"inMr. Brown's dialect. In most schools they never see a stranger, except the inspector; and though by the desire of the Council we made a point of visiting every school twice a year, there was no time to establish an acquaintance, and the second visit was paid by a different official. In an oral examination it was most difficult to get an answer even from the boys: the girls sat mute, blushing, trembling. In Cheshire phrase, I " got no forrader."
The Manx language is almost extinct. At the last census 4,500 people, out of about 50,000, recorded themselves as Manx-speaking, but we must not suppose that anything like this number was monoglott. In the district between Peel and Port Erin on the west coast there is a school, where I was told that the children heard little but Manx at home; but I have never heard it spoken. On my first visit to Douglas I was under the impression that the children in the streets were talking Manx; but it turned out to be English with all the short syllables eliminated. This local variety is much in use in school. The children pitch their voices high, and rise by an imperfect fifth on the last word; thus they would chant on and around A, and would end on E flat. It is strange that a very similar inflexion is in use in parts of Norfolk. The Manx school recitation of poetry is conducted on this principle, and the effect is thisthe italic representing the high note (Merchant of Venice;Trial Scene):
PORTIA: Th' quart' mere's not streen'd:
it droppth 's gentl' reen f'm heav'n'pon th' pleece b'neeth: its twice bless'd:'t blessth him th't gives, 'nim that seeks:'s mightst 'n mightst.
If I laughed, or remonstrated, however tenderly, the sensitive plant would shrivel up.
Both in the island and in North Wales I have often been told that on a fishing fleet in the Irish Sea the Manx, the Irish, the Gaelic, and the Welsh fishermen could converse freely. It would be rash for a man who speaks none of those languages to lay down the law. But we know that they differ widely: the Welsh are Cymric, the other three are of the Gaelic branch of Celts; all four would have the Indo-European joint stock and the Celtic roots in common. But conversation cannot subsist on roots. Judging from the names of places in the island there is little kinship between Welsh and Manx. I do not remember any Manx place-name beginning with Llan, or Lan; there is no Welsh town or village beginning with Balla, the general Manx prefix; Bala, the nearest approach, is the name of a modern town on Llyn Tegid, and in the parish of Llanycil. But Bally is common enough in Scotland and Ireland. So with other names.
I imagine that what happened in the Irish Sea was this: a Manx fisherman held up a fish, and shouted the Manx name for it - which, I think, resembles the Welsh " pysgodyn "; whereupon a Welshman held up a whiskey bottle, and shouted "Iechyd da chwi"(good health); and they parted with mutual satisfaction. Yet, if there is any truth in the novels of Scott and Lever, the Gaels and Erse should have preferred some such word as " slaint" for " health "; the bottle is pan-anthropic.
About 1904 some local enthusiasts attempted to introduce the study of the Manx language as a part of the island school course. It was manifest after careful enquiry that the language had no literary value, for there is no Manx literature beyond some fairy stories and folksongs. Nor has it a commercial value, for obvious reasons. It has an antiquarian value; but between 9 A.M. and 4.30 P.M. the time is already fully occupied, and the rates and taxes will hardly bear the additional strain of sentiment. The Board in Whitehall is very unwilling to interfere with Manx local option in education, for the island pays all the school grants, and he who pays the piper may call the song. Whitehall confined itself to the sprinkling of cold water on the scheme. I heard no more of it.
It is strange that in our crankful England no crank has arisen to demand the teaching of Old English (which we used to call Anglo-Saxon), the language of our forefathers. Why do we not all feel it to be monstrous that the " Lay of Beowulf " is a sealed book to our six million children, and that the tongue of Aelfred should be unknown to the subjects of Edward VII. ?
The Manx language may not be a remunerative study, but the history of the island is full of interest, and the excellent patriotism of the Speaker of the House of Keys has provided the children with a school history, abbreviated from a larger work. I wish it were more generally used. Manx history is tangible; the monuments lie all round; Celts and Scandinavians have left traces everywhere. Saints and martyrs, such as were Patrick, German, Maughold, Bride; kings and warriors, King Orry and and others; Stanleys and Murrays. Who would not be proud to be a Manxman ?
Who was King Orry ? I have great gifts of forgetfulness when it comes to history instead of story, and I do not recollect the details of that monarch's career. It is all in that book on the shelf. A Manx boy to whom I put the same question- Who was King Orry ? replied " a boot." It was explained that he meant " boat" and that one of the Liverpool steamers is called after the king. That does not carry us any further: but I remember the story of Bishop Wilson, which a colleague told me as we came back from Castle Rushen, and (like an examination candidate) I offer the one in place of the other:
Thomas Wilson was for 57 years (1697-1755) the saintly Bishop of
Sodor and Man. The Governor's wife had, it was alleged, declared that
Mrs. Z. was no better than she should be. Mrs. Z said she was as good
as Mrs Governor. The matter was referred to the Bishop, who decided
in favour of Mrs. Z. and ordered her assailant to apologize. On the
lady's refusal he excommunicated her.But she " got at " the
Archdeacon(" ploughed with my heifer," said Bishop Wilberforce
of his Archdeacon 150 years later) and persuaded the inferior
officer to admit her to Communion. Thereupon the Bishop inhibited the
Archdeacon. Whereupon the Governor seized the Bishop, and put him in
the dungeons of Castle Rushen, till he should be purged of his
There is much to be said for Home Rule.
1 That was when the Archdeacon of Oxford acted as " Chairman of Hardy's Committee "; the Bishop favouring Gladstone. Mansel's epigram is famous, beginning-
When the versatile Prelate of Oxford's famed city
Spied the name of the chairman of Hardy's Committee,
Said Samuel (from Samson his metaphor seekin')
" You have ploughed with my heifer,that is my Archdeacon."
&c., &c. (see Burgon's Life of Mansel).