[From Reminiscences of Notable Douglas Citizens etc, 1902]
"A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng in upon my memory."
The obliteration of another old Douglas land mark is now going on, and the place we once knew so well as an antique and rather fossilized institution is doomed to make way for the more modern and more in keeping with the requirements of the town.
The long-expected has come at last ; more than 50 years ago the market, its primitive accommodation and its want of shelter and comfort had been recognised, and the project of building the Wellington Market, Duke Street, was the outcome of a generally expressed desire that the town ought to have something better than the open space on the quay. The New Market proprietors never reckoned on the stubbornness of the Manx country people or their conservative nature and tenacity when a change was attempted that involved a money outlay. If the New Market could have been offered free to all comers for butter, eggs, and other country produce, the difficulty might have been solved, but to pay for the privilege of supplying Douglas with wants that. Douglas required was not to be tolerated, and a few cold Saturdays in the year might bettor be endured than the tax on their produce all the year round. Then, of course, there were market rights rights by usage that could not be ignored, that law had established, and only law could debar them from using, and there was no municipal power or authority to ask for a new law or to put it into force if it had been granted, and the old thing went on year in, year out, but since the Local Board was established, or the town incorporated, how dilatory has been the process, and by what circuitous " manoeuvering" the final stage of market building has ultimately been accomplished.
The selection of a site for a market was a trump card in municipal elections for years; it was one of Mr Keig's projects that he fought and suffered for. The question of the fittest, most central, best suited to the general wants of the people, never seemed to me to have had any weight, but the battle was waged solely on the localizing of the market to meet the wants or for the privileges and advantage of those having properties nearest to each site, and each body of local owners fought for their own hand.
The quayside and lower end of Duke Street demanded that the statu quo "as you was," should be maintained, although the site and position had not a single thing to support it in any shape or form. Mr Keig and Mr Robert Cain, junr., went in for a market in connection with the New Street. Scheme a very practical scheme this was in many respects, and the site would not have been so costly as the one adopted.
Mr Proctor wanted a Strand Street site some were sarcastic enough to suggest that he wanted it at Senna, and if he had done so it would have been much more common sensed from a practical point and more convenient for a growing Douglas than where it is.
The market was all right for a Douglas circumscribed by the west end of Athol Street, Finch Road, to Marina for there was little outside this fence that called for consideration, when all on the west of Finch Road were only gardens just take a map of old Douglas, or look at it from Douglas Head, and take in the greater Douglas with an early probability that the boundary will extend to Onchan Village, and from the four roads at Ballaquayle to the Quarter Bridge, and spot the market at an extreme outside fringe of the whole, about as far from the bulk of the population as it well could be.
I have never altered my opinion that the best site would have been the land on the Hills' Estate, opposite St. George's Churchyard, but an objection was raised to that in consequence of requiring two sites, causing a division in the market; but what is the present junket but two sites with a cart way between them. Another objection was that Mr Noble would ask too much for his plots. I never knew that he had been approached on the question, but I am certain that no price he asked would amount to what the addition of the site of the British Hotel, St Matthew's Church, and other contingencies will bring the present site up to. But to a Corporation with a rateable value of considerably over £130,000 the question of £1,000 in a site ought not to weigh against the conveniences and comforts of a, normal population of over 20,000 inhabitants, largely increased by visitors.
and exposing an evil that cannot be now remedied. I know this, but I am "pointing a moral," for I have my own opinion that, there were "axes to grind" by some people, and who succeeded in grinding them in this market venture, and it is to expose this rotten system of sinking the public good for private gain that I go back to suer ancient history of the market and of the building of the
in Douglas as two samples of discarding the peoples' interest and convenience.
I never knew a case where the public voice and wish was treated with more cold contempt than in selecting the Post-office site. An official from the Post-office in London came over to the Island, and he conferred with Governor Walpole, and the site was fixed without any appeal being made to, or any consultation with, any of the public bodies in the town, but this was quite in keeping with the late Governor Walpole's imperious style of governing the Manx people. In Liverpool, in Manchester, and other places, the people have rejected the Postal Authorities' schemes, and insisted upon central and better sites, and succeeded, but in Douglas the people grumbled, grinned, and bore the contempt patiently. No move was made to oppose, but a petition in favour of the present site was hawked about by the late Mr Brierley, of the Athol Hotel, and signed by the neighbours interested. He asked me to sign it, but I flatly refused. When pointed out that it would be an advantage to the. Belvedere, I replied that if he could show me that the Athol and Belvedere were of more importance. than nine-tenths of the population of Douglas I would sign, but the good of the many ought not to be sacrificed for the benefit of those owning the: land and a few in the neighbourhood. Here again the public advantage was sacrificed for a. small saving in the land, for no doubt. that Coole's site, Victoria Street, was infinitely superior in every way, and even that site was fully low down in the town. Finch Road ought to have been the locality for such a public institution, central and of easy access. The "Isle of Man Times" protested stoutly, but here the fable of the boy and the wolf came in, for the people could not understand the editor acting without some personal motive, some " axe to grind," but let him or any other grind on if they will only use their sharp axes to the cutting down of abuses.
The Post Office was removed to Thomas Street for better convenience and easier of access, and then to Athol Street on the ground of being more central and "get-at-able." Why then go back on this principle for a. new office ? The only ground I have heard suggested was convenience to the steamers, but the time, of conveying the bulk of the mail is not to be considered when the question of the Railway Stations and general distribution of letters are put in the scale against this small saving. Douglas cannot extend eastward; they cannot build in the sea, and to the north, west, and south, it has been extending by leaps and bounds, the fact is that it was a gross "job" engineered for private ends.
as I knew it in my boyhood was like all the other portions of Douglas paved with cobble stones heterogeneously mixed up, without regard to size or shape they were there to be endured with Hobson's Choice; staring you in the face, for no street; lane, by-way or side way could you get out of the pain and difficulty of travel, and you could only pick your steps on the smoothest surfaces that some of them offered, and that only by daylight. The striking feature of the place was the old church of St Matthew's, a building not very ornamented, and in my younger days not very useful. The Rev Robert Brown had left it for Braddan, and the mantle of this good little man had fallen on the Rev John Cannell, a very tall, robust man, but in no way distinguished for what he ever said or did ; lie was not considered a spiritual or moral force in the town, and his church and district was overshadowed and absorbed by the great lights of St Barnabas' Dr Carpenter, Dr Alcock, and "Parson" Gray. A few old stagers might be seen going in and out who claimed a prescriptive right to certain pews and sittings as part and parcel of the freehold of their properties, and property, its right's and privileges claimed and ever was guarded most religiously by many who in their religion., practices always made a prominent feature of leaving "a saving knowledge." Among them worshippers at St Matthew's were always found "Illiam" and "Kerry" Taggart, all old pair who distinguished themselves after by a long law suit with "Johnny the Sod." much to the advantage of Alfred Adams and "Craigie the Lawyer." "Pherrick Gelling's wife" was another, and when these three had their Sunday "toggery" on they might easily have been taken as escapes from some waxwork chamber of horrors.
Mrs Gelling ran a "huckster's" shop at the corner of Post Office place and James' Street, but her staple industry was coarse or curing salt. In this she literally lived, moved, and had her being. The salt store was part of her shop and dwelling-place I believe bedroom and all the salt division was only a 12 or 14 inch plank on an edge, and her salt and measures lay behind, and in this salty atmosphere she no doubt was well preserved, and could only have barely escaped the fate of Lot's wife; like the old song
" A cobbler he was, and lived in a stall,
That served him for parlour, kitchen, and all."
But, "tell it not in Gath," she turned Mormon, perhaps from a desire to see the Salt Lake City, and when she was asked by the Elder when getting baptised on the Shore, if she believed, "Yes," she replied, gasping for breath, "If you put me under the water again I believe I will be drown't."
But it was as the obituary recorder of the deaths of Douglas, the church was best known. For a shilling a poor person's exit and burial could be heralded forth with a ding-ding-ding-ding, but when the bell sounded a ding dong or "minute bell," the inhabitants knew that some one had "shuffled off" leaving surviving friends that could afford half-a-crown for the publicity of the event, which the clerk always gave with an attempt to look sorry.
There is but one step between the sublime and the ridiculous, and scarcely that much often between
I was one night, at rather a late hour for me, walking about the Market Place with James Gelling, ironmonger. "Here comes Will Dixon," he said, "well sprung," and Will was coming along gesticulating. When he got opposite the old clock it began to strike eleven; he sneered at every stroke, and then threw down his cap and said "Are you done? it is my time now." Then he began to apostrophise the clock as an old tyrant that took upon itself to dictate when men should go to work, and when they should leave off; when churches, and even pubs, should be opened and closed. It was in old tyrant that had dictated long enough to the Douglas people. Off goes his coat with a challenge, for the clock to come down, and he would send its brazen face, hour, and minute fingers into smithereens. We had this for a long time as a standing joke on Will, who was one of the Douglas characters, the champion swimmer, and on the whole a very decent fellow but lacked mental balance.
With the advent of "Parson" Taggart to St Matthew's, and it being formed a separate parish church, a great change came over the whole place; for whatever his want of charity towards dissent, his narrow Churchism, there is no doubt about his making things go, and that in his "cure of souls" he has been active in and out of season;
The market requirements of Douglas have not increased at least to any great ` extent or in proportion to the doubling of the population in my time but this is due to a complete change in many of the businesses that once had their "local habitation" there, and that now people have superior shop facilities for procuring commodities that once could only be obtained, and that on Saturday, in the open market. In my younger days there were only two or three greengrocers in the town, and they were sparsely supplied, principally with vegetables for broth making. There was no poultry shop, and those who wanted the luxury of fowls had to buy them" all alive, O," and be their own chicken butchers. Butcher's shops, after Tom Redfern's and Phil Quayle's both in James' Street were few and not first-class until Fleming and Aspell broke into the monopoly, and after that they began' to spread. But the country butchers, with a reputation for cheapness, did a roaring trade, and to keep meat a week was never any trial in those days, for the people delighted in salt meat of all kinds-" Stock-fish" as a good relish, or " Kitchen" to breakfast, salt junk for dinner, and a broiled salt herring for tea were never despised, but really appreciated and I may add salt crock butter.
People are getting wiser now and find that they can deal more economically in shops than from market stalls. I found this the case in Douglas and in Southport, and the butter trade of Douglas market must become a "vanishing quantity" unless the Manx farmers make a better article that what they generally offer the public; and some of them must learn that "honesty is the best policy," and act more squarely than they often do.
There was a trade carried on in Douglas market in my young days that has now gone and may be numbered among the things of the past, that is the
The sweet cakes for the "mob-beg" were catered for and supplied by these vendors, for boys and girls with their coppers would not face Miss Jordan's but made for the market, where there was the advantages of bulk, variety, and show for their money, and these stalls were there day after day, and not Saturday only.
Three of these caterers I well remember. Joe and Jenny Kayll's. - Mrs Kelly, the Gingerbread," and "Johnny-be-Wise" (Duff). Their rivalry was great, and the variety and display of their productions most artistic, and no doubt appetising ; each had their own specialties and draws, the Kayll's excelled in white ginger bread; Mrs Kelly stuck to her treacle junks that required a good open countenance to get round; and Johnny was great on ginger nuts and brandy snaps, but they all thought that "Variety was charming," and added to their staple production sundry other cakes and shapes. You could get ginger-bread men and women, ginger-bread cocks and hens, ginger-bread horses and doggy, cakes with or without caraway seed, and 'cakes with comfits, or, as then called them, " comforts" red and white, and cakes with a small piece of lemon peel on the top, looking as if it was a worm that had worked itself through and laid down to rest.
Mrs Kelly was a decent old body that had stood the storm of many winters, and had a connection that "Johnny be wise" envied, and he persisted on pitching his tent near hers, and sometimes was rather rude to her,. but she generally got help to fight her battle from neighbouring stall-holders.
Joe and Jenny were unfortunately dipsomaniacs, a spell of strict abstinence, then a burst clean and respectable looking when at their best but they had, poor things, " a skeleton in the cupboard," their only daughter was a terror, a fine-looking woman, but full of fun and "cussedness, and when on the drink she led the three Douglas policemen a dance. She was a De Vet in tactics, and no one knew where she might turn up, or what next mischief she would be in. She went by the name of " Moll would go," and next to the Press Gang she was the Bogey of the town.
I once saw Cleator, "Tommy Mat," and Lee (three constables) in pursuit of her on the Quay, two following and one confronting. She sprang on a boat's rigging, and ran up like a cat ; two of the constables stood on the Quay, and one went on board and tried to get up the off rigging. She got a strap and lashed him unmercifully that he called out to her to spare him. She then came down, jumped into the harbour, and swam to the other side. She was "wanted" once for something she had done, and they had cornered her near the Douglas Head Lighthouse. She took the water like a gull and swam to Connister. They went to the harbour and put off in a boat, but she returned to the Head again. I think it was this time, when caught and "jugged," she was sent off to Botany Bay. she not only "left her country for her country's good," but for her own good. It was said she, married, reformed, and sent home money now and then to her parents. One of her favourite pastime, was when the tide was full in to go for a swim from her house in Strand street, take a rest on Connister, and return home again. [Presumably Mary Kayll, aged 18, given 7 years transportation for grand larceny (theft of a purse containing £13 14s belonging to John Kneen) on 24 May 1839; married James Raymond in Newcastle, N.S.W. in 1840, had 11 children]
Was an extraordinary character; a man that would probably weigh 15 or 16 stone , strong build, and was said, and I think truly that in many respects he resembled the great Dan O'Connell, and was a born speaker. In one respect the similarity must fail, for Johnny was a rampant Protestant, and, I should say, an Orangeman. When I knew him first he was a Primitive Methodist, and an "acceptable preacher," and sometimes got on to the Temperance platform. He had an enormous mouth ; his flow of language and ease in speaking would have made him an orator if he had had discretion in the use of words, and a better education, but his fine Irish brogue was a treat. I had to write him once for an indiscretion on the Temperance platform in Thomas Street School-room, and forbid him the plank by order of the Committee. I got two letters of the richest comments on our action that I ever received. I kept these letters for years. How useful they would have come in now to illustrate my sketch. Johnny's piety got a bit discounted, and he was a kind of religious vagrant for a time unable to find rest for the sole of his foot,and among other misfortunes he upset Mrs Kelly's ginger-bread stall, for which he had to compensate her, and when charged with inconsistency in his piety, he quietly rejoined "that gifts in praying or preaching did not supply that grace that would prevent him trying to get a good stand in the market."
When the Mormons turned up Johnny found that this alone would fill the aching void in his soul, and he got dipped. I often thought that this immersion by an Elder was good for the physical well being of the converts, and some really required it, and Johnny among others. A son and son-in law went in for the faith ; the two latter were tin-smiths, and to these John Gale referred in hs poems on Mormonism
"Then shall the age of miracles begin,
And Tinmen make tin teapots without tin.
Oh, glorious time, when all are Orthodox,
And each Manx calf becomes a full-grown Ox
Johny went out as an apostle of the faith, went through Cumberland, and right on into Scotland, and when living in Carlisle I picked up one of Johnny's incidents from a friend of mine who was an amateur writer for the " Carlisle Journal," and had contributed a. resume of one of "Johnny's sermons on Mormonism." He reported him as saying the "Apostle Pathar," and the preacher finding out the writer bearded him for misrepresenting his pronunciation. "Now, Mr D.," he said, "you say I pronounced the Apostle Parthar. I never said Pathar ; I always say Pa-thar sure P e t e r spells Pa-thur," and he kept contradicting by repeating "Pathar" time after time unconsciously.
After a successful mission tour Johnny returned to the Island, and it was announced that he would give an account of his pilgrimage and the signs and miracles that had followed his ministry. Their meeting room then was " Lame Cubbon's School-room", Society Lane, and Johnny was to give the Sunday morning's address. A few Sundays previous there had been a meeting in the same place for the invocation of the Spirit of Prophecy and for speaking in unknown tongues. I attended and heard an old pair named Quirk, who were retired farmers, make use of some jargon, and John Muncaster gave the interpretation. There were two obstacles in Quirks' case that prevented them from joining the Pilgrims who had left Douglas for the Holy City old age and want of cash. But so confident were they that they would reach there by their faith, that they thought some morning they would find themselves miraculously transmigrated and waken up under the protection of Joe Smith or Brigham Young, that they frequently left good-bye with their Douglas friends, waiting for their flight.
It was pitiable to see and hear an otherwise clever and good business man like Muncaster carried away with this hallucination of believing in such a compound of nonsense under the name of religion.
I wrote a phoenetic description of the unknown tongues, and sent it to one of the papers. I had been noticed taking down notes, got "spotted" as the author
but fortified by the company of William Sayle, an uncle of Alderman Goldsmith, and Mr Murray Wilson, we went to hear Elder Duff in the meeting room. After a speech from one of the Apostles Johnny advanced to the front, and said "Oh how I could speak to-day if I was in England, Ireland, or Scotland, for not only is my blood, but my very bones, hot in the love I bear to our holy religion ; but here I am standing in my native town, and three young critics sitting in front of me, sent by the Devil to mock me" and he sat down and turned his eyes to the ceiling. In a moment the three of us were seized by the collars. We got the "stang," as the boys used to say. I felt I was in the hands of Ned Cringell, a curly-headed shoemaker and that resistance would be useless, and with a good help behind from his boot I quickly found terra firma.
There was a part of Douglas Market-Place where "spouters" most did congregate, and when I heard Dr Farrell on his political campaign near the same spot, it forcibly reminded me of his great prototype, Johnny, in the same place. The stand was nearly in front of the Custom House now Douglas Hotel. This was the arena for combatants to decide their orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and of course, for occasional preaching by the properly accredited ministers. The first town missionary was a Mr Hartley, a tall, gentlemanly-looking Irishman, a Primitive Methodist, and grandfather of Hartley, of. world-wide jam and marmalade fame. He was a very popular, good man, and open-air preaching was his strong forte. A hyper-Calvinist doctor from Cockermouth Baptist Wood, and others, held forth their own 'doxies; but there was a watch-man always on the tower to stem the tide of false doctrine. This man was known as Bob Mullin. He was a born Christian fighting "Bobs," with a keen nose for scenting heresy, and with his spurs always on to defend the Faith as contained within the doctrines of Methodism. Size, weight or position of the speakers made no difference; he imagined that he carried David's sling and stone that could bring any Goliath down; but, unfortunately, neither his education, power of speech, and long practice, helped him in his utterances. He, had little to say, and great difficulty in saving that little; and I have often seen him struggling to get the words out, that I thought if he stood on his head he might get a better result. But "Johnny be Wise " and Bob were sworn antagonists, and were often in mortal combat, and after a tussle at the fulcrum in the Market Place, one night,
took place. James Clague, the builder, had a workshop in the Hills' block. He was good at "argufying" himself, very fond of hearing, a. debate, and delighted to perpetuate anything like a good joke, and could tell a good yarn. Bob Mullin had gone to see him one morning, after an encounter with "Johnny be Wise" when, who should appear on the scene but Bob's opponent, Clague stowed Bob away behind some boards, and asked Johnny if he could bear the opposition of Mullin much longer. Johnny launched out, and declared that Bob was possessed of a Devil, and that is was only the grace that was in his soul prevented him from annihilating Bob; but even grace and patience had limits that to go beyond was a treason to his master in heaven, and after much prayer and thought he had made up his mind to lay violent hands on his opponent. Bob could stand this no longer, and, stepping out from behind the timber, confronted Johnny, who stood aghast and petrified, and as soon as he recovered his equilibrium he bolted from the place, with the conviction in his mind that it was not the bodily presence of Bob Mullin he had encountered, but His Satanic Majesty Himself, who had assumed the form of him, in features, bulk, and clothes: - This was one of the old Douglas characters who would have been better to have lived up to his family motto
"Johnny, be wise, and pick up the ginger-bread nuts,"
and left preaching to others.
that I ever heard was in Douglas Market Place. Mr Clucas, Barrule, of Society Lane, was a very important personage, and possessed a very portly bearing, and when he had "his martial cloak all around him," he looked very much military. Although he vulgarly went by the name of Juan Barrule," he had the reputation of knowing Manx law better than most Manx lawyers-not a very high ideal, if he did; kind his advice was often sought for and often given with a look of wisdom that must have carried conviction, and the general Manx opinion was that he was "wise uncommon," and "terribly clever." Some lawyers said he made lawsuits for them in making wills but "Manx lawyers need no aid to dodging, and cannot well throw stones so long as the " continuing' of cases are open to them. I was one morning in the Market, when the cod-fish lay very plentiful. Clucas came, down with a kind of smoking or skull-cap on. "Great take?" he said, and, looking up, he went on, "Weather going to be fine; looks settled." " No," says a small porter near, "it is going to be a storm." "Storm, " How do you know ? Are you a prophet, or the son of a prophet ? What impudence ! " " Well," the porter replied, " I have always heard that when ' there's a cap on Barrule' look out for squalls." The storm on Barrule's face soon became manifest, and his indignant look at the man clearly proved that the sally had taken effect.