[From Johnson's Guide, 1850]
" The venerable lore of olden time,
Black-letter tomes, and ancient chronicles."
The absence of antheutic records renders the early history of the Isle of Mann very obscure. It has already been stated, that the Manks themselves attribute their origin to Mannanan Mac Ler, Mae Lir, or Mac Lear, as his name is variously written. Tradition asserts that he was the son of Alladius, a king of Ulster, and brother to Fergus, the first of the Scottish Monarchs. How much truth may be in this account, it is impossible to determine ; but in the old Statutebook of the Island notice is taken of Mae Ler, and he is described as a Paynim, (i. e. a heathen) and a magician. The instances, ho tivever, which are quoted in support of this statement, will not, in the present day, be received as evidence. He is said to have kept the Isle under mists, so that no stranger could approach it, and to have possessed the power of magnifying one man into one hundred.' But if the fact of the Island being overshadowed by mists is a proof of necromancy, the power of the " Wizard-king' still exists, for it is often so covered for days together ; as, indeed, is the case of every small Island, whose summits are of any considerable height. But Mr. Feltham, in his valuable work, offers a conjecture, which if true, would afford t a much more satisfactory explanation of Mac Ler's mists. This conjecture is, that he "was a great merchant, who, by enjoying an exclusive trade with this place and Ireland, -might, in that sense, be said to have covered it with mists from the rest of the world." A mist, in fact, is by no means an inapt similitude for a monopoly, when considered with reference to the excluded parties. With regard to Mac Ler's making "one man seem one hundred," the mystery is easily resolvable into vulgar exaggeration.
The earliest fact which may be considered as indisputable respecting the Isle of Mann is, that it was the final retreat of the DRUIDS, who escaped from the general massacre of the Romans in the Isle of Anglesea, under Julius Agricola, the general of Vespasian, who finally established the Roman arms in Britain, A.D. 61. ;
This fact is attested by the numerous Druidical remains in the island, of which descriptions will be j given in connexion with their respective localities ; ; and by many institutions and observances, clearly of Druidical origin, and of which the reader may find many instances in the Statute-book." Previously to the time of the Druids, it is probable that the natives were in a state of comparative barbaric anarchy, similar to the early Irish, from whom the Manks appear to have been a colony, at least, if a close resemblance, or rather identity, of language and customs may be considered as any proof. The Druids greatly ameliorated the condition of the people, by introducing among them the advantage of government and consequent social order. For many of those simple and admirable principles of equity, which form the basis of the common law, the Manks, as well as the English,
See the account of Maughold's well, in Part II.
are indebted to the venerable prophets of the misletoe. The next great epoch in the history, of the Isle of Mann is the introduction of Christianity. There is ample evidence to show that both England and Ire; land were christianized before the close of the first century. Indeed, it is tolerably clear that the great Apostle of the Gentiles himself visited England about A. D. 63 ; and it is not improbable that the Isle of Mann received the truths of the Gospel soon afterwards. This, however, is acknowledged to be merely conjectural ; and if it were the truth, all traces of Christianity seem to have disappeared; the influence of the Druids being too powerful for the successful establishment of a religion, which, in its purity, never employed any force but that of persuasion. Until the early part of the fifth century, the Druids seem to have been paramount ; but in the year 444, their power received a fatal shock from the arrival in the Island of PATRICIUS, who came, not in the simple unostentatious guise of the Apostolic age, but armed with the power and authority of the Episcopal Court of Rome. Accompanied by thirty religions persons, skilled in the learning of the period, he found little difficulty in convincing the natives of the absurdity of the Druidical mysteries, and in prevailing on them to abandon their cruel and unnatural rites. The Druids themselves, it is probable, yielded to the current of opinion ; at all events, Christianity was fully established in the Island by Germanus, whom Patrieius left in charge of it, when, after a sojourn of three years, he proceeded to Ireland. It may be remarked here, ' There is every probability that the Druids were originally Egyptian, or perhaps Asiatic. It is well known that the hierarchy
~f gypt sent forth emissairies for the dissemination of their printi plea ; and as far as the light has been admitted into the mysteries of their religion, it seems to bear a very striking resemblance to that of the Druids.
that Maune, the original name of Patricius, who was a Scotchman, has been supposed by some to have given rise to the name of the Island; but there is no evidence to support this conjecture, nor is it likely that the inhabitants ever knew Patricius by any other name
From the time of the introduction of Christianity it appears that the Bishops who succeeded Patricius kept the supreme authority in their own hands. The Druids, however, still retained considerable influence, and were for many years the teachers, as they had formerly been the rulers, of the people. At this remote period, the Island was celebrated for learning, to which the Bishops, being removed from the political struggles which convulsed the rest of Europe, paid great attention, and were, as is well known, the tutors
' This celebrated Missionary has since been canonized by the Church of Rome, and is worshipped by the votaries of that superstition in Ireland as their tutelar Saint. From the Isle of Mann, ' as well as from Ireland, he is said to have banished all sorts of vermin, which, in truth, are not to be found in either island. This laudable deed has been immortalized in many ballads, serious and humorous, of which, it is needless to remark, the latter class are by far the best. The following verses are a fair specimen.
"Saint Patrick was a gintleman. and come of dacent people,
He built a church in Dublin town, and on it built a steeple ;
His father was O'Shaughnessy, his mother an O'Grady ;
His Aunt was an O'Callaghan, first cousin to O'Srady."
Success to bold St. Patrick's fist
He was the Saint so clever ;
He gave the snakes and toads a twist,
And banished them for ever.
"There's not a mile in Ireland's isle where nasty varmint musters
Where'er he put his bless'd forefoot, he murthered them in clusters ;
The frogs went hop, the toads went plop, slap-dashinto the water,
And the bastes committed suicide to save themselves from slaughter,
CHORUS: Success, &c.
of many illustrious princes. After the death of Ger- r manes, Patricius successively sent Conindrius and Romulus, at whose death the popular suffrage fell on Maughold, respecting whom many marvellous tales are related, and who has given his name to a promontory on the Eastern Coast, where he is said to have been driven ashore in a leathern boat. He was held in high reputation for the austere piety of his life, by which he sought to expiate the offences of his former days. It is even affirmed that Bridget, or Bride, a celebrated Irish nun, visited these shores for the express purpose of taking the veil under his auspices. The circumstance of the extreme northern parish in the Island retaining the name of this distinguished vestal, seems to countenance the tradition. In the sixth century, Bishop Conan, or Conatus, was tutor ; to Ferquhard, Fiachar, and Donald, the sons of Eugenius, Prince of Scotland, and grandsons of Aldyn or Aydun, the King of that country, who is said to have obtained possesion of the Island through the agency of his nephew Brennus. A beautiful glen near Ramsey, at the entrance to which Bishop Conatus is said to have resided, retains the name of the Scottish monarch.
The accounts which have been'given embrace the only two important events in the early history of the Isle of Mann, which are to be regarded as worthy of entire cerdit, viz : the settlement of the refugee Druids in the first century, and the introduction of Christianity in the fifth. Some historians mention that the Island was subject to the Northumbrians in the early part of the seventh century ; but to present as history the uncertain and contradictory traditions of the dark age, would be to profane the dignity of this interesting Isle, so long the seat of a monarchical government, and to insult the understanding of the enlightened reader: