[From Reminiscences of Notable Douglas Citizens etc, 1902]
Many and varied were the uses to which Douglas Market was put to in the middle of the last century, and hawkers or sellers of all kinds of wares found there a halting place and cheap shop accommodation, even the travelling cheap Johns often pitched their tents there, and regaled the people with their fictitious stories. The quack vendors of " Cure all" medicines discanted on "all the ills that flesh was heir to" in language not particularly grammatical, or free from a strong provincial flavour, but with an abundance of h's where they ought not to be, and cold-shouldered where they were required. Of course, there was the local wants of the people to cater for in supplying the bodily needs, and there was no lack of supply in that respect.
all in a row, or a double row, were always a leading feature, and now and than, a supply of Swede " turmits," as the almost only other vegetable; but there were two classes of potatoes that stood first in the field as favourites " Skerry Blues," and I think the others were called "Pink Eyes," but the Skerries took first place.
" Potatoes" was not the general Manx name for them, but " priddis." Some might say that kind of pronunciation was only by the very poor and ignorant ; but nothing, of the kind. They would have said "spuds," and the Potato Riot was more commonly called. the "Spud riot," Within the last dozen years, I have heard people from the country solicit the sale of "priddis," and a man used regularly to call in the season at the Belvedere a kind of commercial traveller in his line with a potato in one hand and a green-pea pod in the other, and his general solicitation was: "May be you are not wanting a bag of good priddis at all nor paes neither'."
in my younger days were remarkably low, and I have found the people often revert to that golden age and sigh that things have changed for the worse when the almost standard or normal price of potatoes was 2½1d. per stone, pork about 2½. per lb., mutton and beef, 4d. to 5d., eggs five for 2d., butter 7d., a good cod-fish 9d. to 1/-; and at Christmas the general price of geese ran at 2/6. I think chickens, from 1/- to 1/2 each, but in connection with chickens and poultry, I have a lively recollection of a large collector and dealer in that line,
in the person of Sam Vale. Sam's very countenance showed that behind it was a great deal of fun and drollery, or a great deal of the Devil and wickedness; but even Sam had his occasional seasons of repentances and good intentions, and was always harmless, even in his " bouts of drinking," but no one knew what form his eccentricities might take. His advent on the Island was as valet to Governor Smelt, but lost his " good crib," and the cause was always represented as having taken place through one of Sam's ways of demonstrating. The Governor found fault with Sam for some defect in the manipulation of breakfast-table, and the Governor was the only one present. Sam knew that a still tongue made a wise head, and that, however much he had to listen to, he dared not enter into a wordy warfare, but he might have read what Demosthenes had said that action was everything, and was more forcible than words and he adopted this theory. He stood behind the Governor's chair, threw himself quietly into a fighting position, and gesticulated how he would with clinched fists, pummel his master; and then drew his finger across his throat as if he would like to behead him as well ; but this proved too much for the Governor, who had been watching Sam's antics in a side mirror, and enjoyed it up to the last sanguinary representation, and Sam has to go. And after that, he started as a travelling chicken collector, and chicken butcher at Kirk Michael, or Ballaugh. Sam, it was said, gave way once to poetry another evidence of a weak mind. The "Mona's Herald" gave two or three samples but I rather think they were not original, but adapted. One was the epitaph he wished on his gravestone:
Poor Same Vale ! Here he lies ;
Nobody laughs, and nobody cries!
Where he is gone, and how he fares.
Nobody knows, and nobody cares !"
Another was a Grace before Dinner that he had given in a farmer's house :
" O Lord of love, look from above,
And pity us poor creaters,
And give us meat that we can eat,
And take away these watery praters."
There is another I have heard that might have been added as having a connection with Sam's rabbit trade :
"Rabbits young, and rabbits old,
Rabbits hot, and rabbits cold,
Rabbits tender, and rabbits tough,
Good Lord of rabbits, we have enough
It was said that Sam was never so happy as when he got into a religious revival meeting. It seemed to suit his volatile nature. I have heard of many of his ebullitions on these occasions, but I think I will drop the curtain over him, and " be to his faults a little kind," for I have often enjoyed the drollery of his face a face that would have been a fortune for any professional clown.
Cheap drink was also one of the features of Douglas at this time, and the chief spirits used by the working-classes was rum. Whisky was not known, except as a forbidden production ; but " jough " was home-brewed by about half-a-dozen breweries.
It is not all gold that glitters, and cheapness does not always convey a fair test of prosperity, the power or ability to purchase are factors to be considered. It is little use having cheap articles, unless you have money to purchase them, and the price paid for labour in those days was little more than one-half of what is paid now. The working classes of to-day indeed, all classes of the people; are more exacting for their needs, the advances in our social, educational, and civilization, gives a higher ideal of comfort even of luxury and marks an advance towards a better state of the conditions of labour and living.
[it is likely that Sam Vale (or Veale) was of Irish extraction - he is found in Major Taubman's company in 1793 - a marriage to Jane Clague in 1781 + a small family pre arrival of Gov Smelt - one son was also Samuel buried 1850 aged 55 in Ballaugh - it is possible that father & son are confused]
The coaching days under the old rule marks an epoch in the history of Douglas old open market. One of the sights and sensations of the town from 9 to 10 a.m. the rival coaches in the care of the stable hands were driven into or on to their stands. The choice, not only of coaches and horses, but of routes, were placed in the most catching position. The "Long Road" to Ramsey always took as a bait for in all competitions, bulk and quantity for your money weighs and influences opinion.
The horses seemed to know that they were on show, and had to put on appearances. They whisked their tails, shook their manes, pranced and pawed on the pacing stones, eager for the start; but, what was the well-painted up coach, its fine name, the shining, polished harness, or even the noble steeds. without the Jehus that took the different " bows." All things paled before the professional "whips," and no competition was more keen and better estimated than in the get-up of the rival coachmen. I well remember four very distinct and notable characters, who were each conspicuous members of the whip fraternity. "Christian, the Coachman," from seniority and being a native, to the manner born, ought to take precedence. The " The Coachman" might be disputed by his rivals; but he was a popular man, and the first and only driver in those days who made a raid on, and tried to stamp out the begging boys and girls, who turned Somersaults, and went through different gyrations of "Standing on their noses for a half-penny! " and "Hi Kelly-ing " after the vehicles. He frequently quarrelled with his "fares" for encouraging the system, and never missed an opportunity of applying the whip to the offenders. " We are glad enough to see you visitors to the Island," he would say, "but we don't want you to think that all our children are paupers and beggars."
Will Winder was a distinct personality. Some said he was a Sprout from some aristocratic English family, who had chosen a kind of wandering life ; but. he was; in his best days, a. perfect specimen of the 'Horsey" man and, when dressed in his best, with one of Frances Jolly's choicest selected flowers in his buttonhole, he looked the beau-ideal of a stage coach Jehu.,
Tom Smith and Robby Tait were two popular whips, and the people always looked for a knowing wink and an Irish " spake" on them from Tom. These all were gentlemen drivers, and did no part of the menial duty of feeding or grooming the cattle, or polishing harness or coach. They walked into the market about five minutes to the start, surveyed their charge, mounted on the box, adjusted their toggery, and had the "ribbons" handed up to them. But I always wondered how they got into their "tights," unless like the man who had been melted and poured into his breeches. With the last stroke of ten; off goes the stage coaches one after another, the horses' shoes make fire fly out of the "pemmids" (paving stones), as they went up the Quay. I picked up two of these drivers after, in Manchester, and my last interview with Tom Smith was when he was a night watchman for the Manchester Corporation. A camp fire was pitched near my house for some street excavation going on. I recognised a voice that I had once heard, and went out and shouted " Tom Smith! " " Your honour, sir! " was the quick reply. After a chat, I ordered Tote, so long as he was stationed there, to be supplied with a good jug of hot coffee; night and morning, and sandwiches, not too thinly cut, for " Auld lang syne! "
"Tom Cowell's Coach" dropped in from Castletown; the "Peveril" Coach, from Peel; and Crewe's, from Ramsey, to fill up the vacant positions till their return journies were due but these were only " the daily round the common task " year in and year out.
The sketch of the travelling facilities would not be complete without Jemmy Kewley's caravan, better known as "Jemmy Kion Jerg" (Red Head). This was a kind of hybrid machine a cross between a waggon and a cart, or a young furniture removing van. It was supposed to be on springs made, I should say, by some country blacksmith. I once went by this bumper," or "bone-shaker," and if back-wood travelling in America, over Corderoy roads, made by laying tree after tree, could be worse, I pity the back-woodsmen. Riding on horseback without a saddle could scarcely prove more effective as a stirrer up of the liver.
Jemmy confined his operation's to the '` Short Road," via Laxey, and his van was like Oliver Goldsmith's chest of drawers "contrived a double, debt to pay " a passengers' conveyance and a. luggage and parcel van. He had not the most melodious voice, nor the sweetest of tempers, and he lived under a cloud from the, fear that some day he would be disestablished and Othello's occupation gone for ever. The prospect of a railway between Douglas and Ramsey haunted him, and if he heard that Peter Cronk Wood, and his surveying chains were seen on the road and Peter was often about prospecting and seeing what he could devour for railway speculators in London Jemmy's wrath rose, and his language got just sufficiently strong to keep him within the four corners of that propriety due to his ardent Methodistical profession; but his anger always remained pent up till his arrival at home. When, on these occasions, he landed with a bag of barley-meal and a lecture for the family on their black lookout and the pinching of their stomachs. The Railway was at their door; all "white loaves" were be prohibited, and the "griddle " must be used, and barley bread to be the staff of their life.
Douglas Market. Place was also
most. did congregate, and these were again classified into groups, for there were divisions in the Labour Market even then. Bill Cretney and the "big porters" devoted their time and strong arms in dealing with the imports arriving, principally by Captain Gelling, of 'the "Eleanor," Captain Tom Gelling, and other "traders." The hogshead barrels, &c., were hoisted on low trolleys, and dragged by manual force at a snail's pace. The coal porters were a distinct class, who got their orders supplied from stock on board the vessels in the harbour a very stupid, slow process. The "Hobblers" were a. kind of go-between of porter and sailor, and were much like the present Pier-head porters. The boatmen were another class, chiefly employed by the steamers, to land passengers from the Bay; and another distinct class was " Blind Ned," and others who spent their time fishing in the Bay, or in digging for bait on the shore. Ned was an industrious man, and though he had to
with the loss of sight, he did so manfully and cheerfully, and with as little dependence on others as he could possibly do with. He re-hooked and manipulated his fishing tackle, could bait his hook, and it was said, could name any fish that he brought on board. He was a good rower, and boys used to watch him how nicely he " feathered his oar," and was not a "dipper for crabs" in his rowing. Ned was a kind of storm signal, for if he was fishing near to, or in the north Bay, it portended a storm. If he had ventured round either of the Heads, the weather was supposed to be settled. One little instance that I recollect that has always brought my memory back to this blind man, and his tall stately figure, and but for that, he might have dropped out of my memory, and it is these little bits that often fasten greater events upon the mind. A very pompous piece of humanity, one morning, said to him, in my presence, " Well, Ned, what are you going out to catch to-day ? " The reply was quick and sharp, "Anything that will come on the hook."
Among the fishermen was an eccentric Irishman, named Reid, and his son, John, that went by the name of "Hot, John." John was a great big lad, that was considered "Not all there," but. as reckless of life as the father, and they went out in all weathers blow high or blow low in a little, cockle-shell boat, with patches of wood put on by himself. and canvas struck on with tar, that, like Joseph's coat, must have been taken out in coloured number's. It was not all daring, or even pluck, that caused him to be so venturesome, but downright, superstition, for I never heard a man so brimful of miracles wrought through, priests, &c. He believed that he had been born under some particular charm, that drowning for him would be an impossibility, and when remonstrated with for risking his life, would coolly say, " A man born to be hung will never be drowned! " He declared that St. Patrick, to end a dispute about his burial place in Ireland, put out his skeleton arm; and from his finger ran streams of water that, like the Doctor in the "White Boys," could cure "All pains within, all pains without, The Plague, the Palsy, and the Gout! " And in this, he had sympathetic hearers in the ignorant Manx people. Some way or other, they believed that' a Roman Catholic priest possessed a charm over the hovering spirits that haunted houses, and could "lay" or banish them, and Father McGrath, it was said, had given evidence of this power; but in the ultra-Manx Protestantism then existing, I never could understand whether they attributed this supernatural agency of Roman priests to their allegiance to heaven; or whether it was not a proof that they were in league with the "powers of darkness." Reid had a presentiment that if he ever got sick and had to get a doctor, he would die right off, for if he did not go off sharp, the doctor, with his
would soon finish him and die quickly he did. Reid's masculine widow was soon after married to as downright a piece of bad human nature as ever got into trousers, or as Douglas ever produced so, that to distinguish him from all his fellows, and from all his namesakes went by the name of "Cain Satan," a. very happy combination. " Hoi John" discarded the parental roof, and pitched his tent elsewhere. One morning, I saw Mrs Cain Satan rushing after her son John, shouting that Satan had laid violent hands on her, and plaintively cried, " Oh, my John! sure, since your father died, I have no one to protect me! " ` And sure," said John, " didn't you go and marry the Devil, and he was fit to protect you more than I can," and walked off. She was big and powerful enough to have imitated St. Dunstan, and take the Devil by the nose with a pair of tongs!
might be placed as a monument over the ashes of "'Juan the Goldfinch." Whatever may be said, he was a kind of connecting link between the coaches and the present telegraphic system, for the despatch of any letter or document that. had to be quickly delivered, and no horse, even "Roper's Grey Mare," that won nearly all the horse-races on Douglas Sands, could go over hill and dale, coarse and smooth roads, like the Goldfinch. Juan was not considered "all there"; he was only "half-baked," "had a slate off," or "short a penny in the shilling " ; but, when on official duty no man could be more faithful to his trust, and although when out of harness he was a kind of block for the "mob-beg," once on his way, and armed with an important message, he made the boys fly off like his own coat-tails, which resembled a kind of twin-screw propelling gear behind. Everyone knew when Juan had a duty to perform by the pace he went a kind of trot between a run and a fast walk. Sometimes, the lads would form a chain to try and stop him, but he brushed them aside like chaff. The principal salutation was to stand each side of the street, make a clear passage, and cry out; "Make way for the Goldfinch! Juan stammered, and when he had occasion to use "bad language," his temper and irritation made it difficult for him to part with his words; but when on duty, he did all his swearing by signalling; he had a code of his own, that was well understood, as he pursued "the even tenor of his way." Thinking of Juan, reminds me of "Jeff, the Bird-catcher." He was a proficient in this slaughter of Manx birds, and only for one, incident, might be quietly dropped out of sight. Once he was snaring birds in the Nunnery Grounds, when Colonel Taubman (grandfather of the present owner), dropped on to him, and Jeff, not knowing him, began to swear and threaten the Colonel for could be not see that "they were about"; but he had to pay for this trespass, and got saddled with the nickname, "they're about'."
The casuals of different grades the unemployed and the "loafer," made the Market Place their rallying point. It was the general "Labour Bureau" for the workingmen, who hat dropped out of a job, changed masters, &c., and were at call, and anxious to get something to do a hard day's work for even less than a " living wage." The harvesters men and women with sickles on their arms, stood there waiting for farmer's carts to wind them away to the harvest field, or for a job at Jemmy Holmes's herring curing houses, on the South Quay, and the ferrymen were anxious to "get their fares out of them, but the "horny-handed sons of toil" were separated, and well-known from the waifs and loafers; who merely hung about to see what they might pick up an easy, short-timed job, that would furnish a little fund to be expended on drink. Among these were several who had dropped down in the social scale, and had the reputation of being once "well-off," and owned their own land, men who, in Cumberland, would be distinguished under the high-sounding title of " statesmen," but had swallowed the land. and all its belongings, and toasted their substance in riotous drinking, and people seemed to pity more than to blame them, and they would often get" treated " from sheer sympathy at their misfortune. I never came into frequent contact with but two of these, and one of them had been a landowner of considerable bulk. He had a most discontented, forbidding countenance and no one would ever think of approaching him from choice. He spent a good deal of his time between the Black Lion and Joe Ballagraw's, One day, I was speaking to a Duke Street tradesman, when he was approaching. "Look at this man coming towards me, he said, "he is coming to borrow a trifle. He never begs; he is ashamed to beg, and too lazy to work; but his borrowing is nothing but begging, for he has neither means or disposition to pay back. But this way does not pauperise him, he thinks; but stop," he said to me, "and listen to him a man that once was better off than I am, or ever will be. I recollect him coming to Douglas in his own gig one of the best turnouts from the parish of Lonan." "Well, Tommy," he said,"I suppose you could do with a little drop this morning"" "Well, he replied, "I could do with a pretty big one, if I could get it." Turning to me, my friend said "This man had a fine estate once, but went through it drunk it all! " " I did nothing of the kind," he said. "I told you many a time that I expected the people would say that; and once, in the Half-way House, I lit my pipe with two of Jemmy Holmes's £1 notes, so that they could not put it all on drink! ' "I daresay you would like those two notes back to-day, says my friend. "'Deed, I would," he said ; " Man, wouldn't I have a fine blow out! " . " ' And," said my friend, "you would like to be reinstated in Balla---. I hope you would be wiser." '' Well," he said, "you don't know the pleasure of getting drunk. If I had all back again, I would like to go through it in the same way, and by the end of it, I would be ready to go myself to the churchyard." I give this as a specimen of the most hardened obdurate Manx sinner it was ever my misfortune to come across. He was certainly like the woman in the Scotch Catechism "Past redemption, and turned the leaf."
was quite a different. type of man, and my sense of the ludicrous and funny side of human nature made me, when when a boy, to cultivate his acquaintanceship. He was kindly and moral, was always ready to fill up a vacant place in going to the herrings or a kind of superior position on the hay, or harvest-field, but his manner of speech and conversation was unique. His words were so mixed up with Manx and half English, that it required some knowledge of the native tongue to follow his tales. He was great on his knowledge of the Press Gang, and how he and others had dodged them, and escaped being nab'd, and how they had run the gauntlet on board the "Mary Ann," from the herring ground, and beaten the cutters that followed, and showed them how Manx tailors run up into the wind's eye, and, under a reefed mainsail could defy the fastest cutters in the British navy. One of his stirring incidents took place in trying to steal their vessel out of Ramsey harbour, and part of that description seemed to me so funny that I never forgot it, and that may indicate the style of his yarning;. I should say that nearly everything was addressed as of the feminine gender. "She" was generally applied to men, ships, and everything requiring a specific recognition. "Douglish boat come down Ramshay harbour. She not mind the ' scurer' (helm), and she go on the Mooragh, and she not come off till tide ne marra (Spring tide) come."
A tale was told of the old man that largely discounted his pluck for fighting. He had been regaling the harvesters on the Howe Farm, of how the Press Gang had been defeated over and over again by his tactics. Throwing himself into a fighting position, and brandishing his sickle, he would declare : "I fear not; I fear no man. any man come near me, this ' shiggle' will go through her". One day, a man saw a lot of women and children blackberrying said, "Dear me! is that the Press Gang that, down there near the dead orchard? ' Down goes the old man's sickle, and off he started, helter-skelter, and was lost for a fortnight in "hidlands" up in the wilds of Baldwin.
His name was
I was once in a Temperance meeting, in the original Wellington Street Chapel, when a local brother was speaking. He said, " There is a brawer in this town, who says he would not give a 'totaller a penny, nor a bit of bread, if he was starving! ' A voice called out, "Name the man! Was it Tommy Garrad or Raddler'" "It was Raddler," came the quick reply.
This local pronunciation of names was held sacred up to not a. very distant period, and there was a strong prejudice against any innovation, or "Englifying" of them ; and the attempt to modernise, them was stoutly resented. I remember one case. where, a Mr Cottier met some others in Committee, and a. member referred to " Mr Cotcher," but was stopped. "Cot-ti-e:r my friend; Cot-ti-er! " "I beg, your pardon; Mr Cotcher; but I don't understand you!" But my name is spelt C o t t i e r that spells Cot-ti-er not Cotcher; think on that." I don't know any Manx names that are so outrageously mis-pronounced, phonetically, as some of the English, No one would expect a Mr Cholmondeley, as Mr "Shumley," or Majoribanks, as "Marshbanks."
The "transports" who left the adjacent Islands for their country's good, did not in but one instance that I knew, reflect any good on Manxland. They were cruelly sent to the Island that they might more cheaply and quickly kill themselves. Mostly, they were besotted nuisances in every case, men who had received good educations some of them intended for the pulpit, some for the Bar and the latter strictly and literally kept to the publican's bar. There was not much fun even to be got out of them. The Honourable Major Augustus Yelverton and his wife Jenny Beef, when out of prison, made a sensation; and "Lord Byron" was always a favourite, from his stately figure, pleasant face, and his quotations in Latin and French, and he generally dressed with about three coats on, with flowers, or coloured ribbons in each. If he got roughly handled by anyone, he did not apply for protection to the High-Bailiff or police, but sent a document to the Home Secretary, and both his writing and dictation would prove him "the gentleman and scholar," and that brought him a reply. One of his documents came back to be reported on, and the High-Bailiff either treated it with neglect or contempt. He got a reminder when he stupidly wrote that Byron was a. demented kind of man, not worth noticing. The Home Secretary rapped him sharply over the knuckles for this, and reminded him that if Byron was not " compis-mentis," the more reason that he should be cared for and protected. When this case was brought to light, I think, through Robert Fargher or John James Moore, it was a bitter pill for the High Bailiff Quirk to swallow.
brought him strangely to be the man of the hour. He often slipped into St. Barnabas' on Sunday morning, and was an adept at the responses; but on one occasion he pitched his tent in Thomas Street Chapel I believe the first and last time he ever was there. The preacher, a young man, who after became a very popular and valued D.D. in Methodism, was preaching from the text : " Be sober, be vigilant," and he stepped out of his way to have a fling at teetotalism, and denounced it so fervently that it roused Byron to spring on to his feet and cheer him on : "Go at them," he cried ; "I hate the beggars as much as you do!" A scene was the result. The young preacher collapsed and sat down, and Mr W. Quiggin gave out a hymn and finished the service. I got into some trouble over this for supplying the incident to the " Alliance News" and was threatened with a suit for libel not that the truth of my statements were disputed, but that it had a tendency to injure the reputation and damage his prospects; but it dropped down quietly, and in his after active Temperance days; he would, no doubt, think he had been guilty of an indiscretion.
One of the " transports "lived in Thomas Street, and was the best representation of Punch, personified I ever saw. He got his money through a grocer-grog-dealer, and was allowed a certain portion for liquids; but before the month was up, he was generally in straits. One day, I saw him trying to beg a shilling from a man that had as keen an appreciation of the value of money as any man ever had, and I thought if he succeeded, he deserved it. He was to get the shilling, if anyone would guarantee it was not to be spent on drink. I happened to be passing, and he applied to me to be his sponsor; but he, unfortunately, put his case badly. "Note," he said, " you know me along time. Have you seen me drunk often?` " No," I said. " Give me your hand," he replied " I see you're going to be a friend." I said, "I saw you drunk once! " "When was that ? " said the intended lender. " Ever since I knew him I never saw him sober. It has been one continuous drunk." I had to beat a retreat, for the shilling was not advanced.
An old friend of mine used to tell a good tale about meeting a " transport " once in Kirk Michael, where he was surrounded, in a public-house, by countrymen, listening to his travels by land and sea, and the wonderful wild beasts he had encountered that could live on land, or under the water, much to the amazement of the "Joskins." My friend suggested that these were amphibious! "Yes," he said; "that is the proper word, but it is of no use here, for it is only you and I, in the whole company, understands words like that."
The upper crust of " transports," such as Spurrier, and others, were guilty of excesses, and ran into extremes that others, for want of cash, if not of disposition, could by no means emulate the drunken orgies night after night, the morning tales of the previous night's debauches at the "Thatch," and other haunts of vice, or to hear that big Tom Woodburn and his company had a " clearing of the decks " at Tom Redferns, or the York Hotel, were items of news as common as that the tide came into Douglas harbour and went out again. This edifying pastime of " clearing the decks" was a general finish to a drunken bout, and consisted in using their sticks for smashing the glasses. &c., on the table a kind of benediction to the god Bacchus. Redfern's Hotel abutted on the Douglas Market, and was the meeting-place for the more respectable kind of fuddlers, and I don't know any
in Douglas, that if it could give back the dead, and ruined, in body, soul, and estate, could, in any way, compare with this place, under the garb and guise of respectability - a white-washed sepulchre, full of dead men's bones and characters. There are families still living on the Island, some of whose members were sacrificed there-many all the poorer that such a place ever existed, and it is only another proof that when drink dispensing is in the hands of highly-respectable, and, in some respects, agreeable and kindly people, it is all the more dangerous as an agency of destruction. Too often the large and respectable hotels are only the feeding ground and training school for the drinker, who gradually, but surely, goes clown the hill by easy stages, until they waste their substance, and are cast out, to be catered for at the common bars and vaults, for the more advanced the drinker becomes, the lower he sinks in the social scale, and the landlords, landladies, and barmaids, that once flattered him, now relegate him to be buffeted and chucked out, by the professional barman. "The last end of that man is worse than the first!"
Going! Going! Going!-
"Down to the vile earth from whence he sprung,
Unwept-unhonoured, and un-sung!"
We cannot say in the change now going on that the old Market possessed a single qualification that would cause a pang of regret at its being blotted out. It had not the attributes of " sweetness and light" -and certainly no beauty. The old Church added nothing to its attraction, and its architecture was of the most un-couth kind. Old Reid, the fisherman, to whom I referred in a previous chapter, never would allow that "any thing God Almighty made could be ugly," it could be said of St. Matthew's that it was, not heaven-born, but the work of the rude barbarian, of our forefathers, who did not fulfil Longfellow's idea-that " the gods were every-where"; but the Market had its uses too, more than the country people on Saturdays; it was not only the rallying point, but the channel or vestibule through which the people passed to all that was commercially and professionally great in the town. In it, around it, and abutting on it, were the merchant princes-all that were noted in commerce. Through it passed the legal fraternity to the Court House, which stood next to that very unsavoury adjunct to it, the "nine holes," on the Red Pier; passing through it went the great High-Bailiff to his seneschal office, in Fort Street.
Jenny Holmes' Bank was on the South Quay, and to and from there passed a great deal of the wealth of the. town, and Isaac Place's ferry had often among its customers men with their hands up to their elbows in their trousers pockets, guarding the stores that were to be deposited n the sole possession or keeping of a limited bank, limited to one man, and to one life. We wonder now, how people could have been so stupid as not to see. the inner and outer working of Dumbell's Bankhow its managers and directors, auditors, and many of its customers were all in the speculating, syndicating, and gambling line, and yet, in the days of Jenny Holme's prosperity, every one thought that no Bank of England could be more secure, and that he was at least a millionaire; or, as the Yankees now say, a multi-millionaire for millionaires, in the United States, are only common people, as plentiful as blackberries, and do not draw that attention they once did; but here was a blind man, or nearly so, with the assistance of a lad or twonot over-steady, and with no reputation for an extra attention to their moral characters, entrusted, and it was almost thought a privilege that he would condescend to receive their money; and even the retirement of Mr James Haining from his office did not produce; a ripple of suspicionlike the retirement of a cashier did in the Dumbell's Bank caseand when the smash came, the cry was against private Banks; but the difficulty seems to be where safety might be secured.
Jemmy Holmes was a power in the Manx State, and money, which exercises such a magical influence, made him in object. of adoration. He often crossed in the ferry with his small white English terrier dogs. He was about the first to introduce them, and they were called " Holmes' Breed"Radcliffe, the brewer, had also generally a couple of the same breed at his heels.
There was a kind of Morning News Exchange at Harris' shop door, and but a few of the upper class of Society were admitted to this charmed circle; Boardman, always on the trot after Holmes was a kind of " Morning Courier," the collector and distributor of the current gossip. A few of the many Generals, Colonels, Majors, and Captains then located on the Island might be seen among them. The news, which was communicated to a select few, got filtered down to the Professionals, Parsons, Lawyers and Doctors, then to the upper class of tradesmen, and by night it had got to the masses, for a bi-weekly or tri-weekly steamer did not supply an over-production of news through the ordinary channels.
When High Bailiff Quirk got on board the ferry there was not much room for other passengers, and no other ballast was required. I forget his weight; but I had once a parson friend who formed in my estimation the nearest approach to him m bulk that I ever met, and he scaled 21-stone; but when men were to be scared away from a fight or any mischief some one would raise the cry " here's big breeches coming." Before he got to his kind of powder house building of an office, his satellite or man Friday hard generally a buzz about the market and lower end of the town, and this H. B. Watts, Esq., ranked as one of the Manx "advocates" not in practice, but was better known by the sobriquet of "Tom the Devil." Why so mild a mannered a man should ever get such a Satanic name I never could understand, for lawyers in those days in Douglas, and among them Watts, were the leaders in the Church, and of the piousthe most pious. There was one joke told about Tom that was generally credited as bona fide. He made very regularly a call at Gordon Belly's, chemist, now Young's, in the Market Place, and helped himself to lozenges from a glass jar rather too freely for Belly's liking, so he took upon himself to cure this kleptomania by substituting the sweet lozenges for others more medicated, which had the effect of giving Tom a rather lively time of it.
Quirk, High Bailiff, was never credited with a great amount of legal knowledge, yet he acted as Deputy Attorney-General for Clark, who was an Absentee Official, in the receipt of £600 a year, and out of this it was said he allowed the Douglas High Bailiff £200 for doing the work, and neither of them ever earned the money separately or conjointly. I remember the High Bailiff's signature; and J. Quirk was written in a bold up and down tall style, very much like one of these names wire-worked into brooches of the present day. Richard Quirk, his brother, was Receiver-General, and as the receiver of his own salary he performed, the principal part of his duty, for no one that I ever heard of would suggest that he had ability for much else. He lived in that crooked of all crooked lanes not far from "Flea Park." This reminds me that Mark H. Quayle, Esq., Clerk of the Rolls, also lived not far from the market, in Hanover Street. "The Brig," or next door, and George W. Dumbell lived in one of the two large houses in Athol Street, top of Bank or Bridge Hill.
was a very important building, occupied by the most important personages in Douglas Collector and Comptroller, Cloths and under clerks, Weighers 'and under Weighers, Tide Waiters and Assistant Tide Waiters you could scarcely throw a stone without hitting " a Custom House officer." The starchy style and get-up of the whole staff was something killing; their walk talk, and general bearing impressed on every one their importance; O.H.M.S. was legibly written on each face; the watching of vessels, the tracking of sailors, afraid they had an ounce of 'bacca more than for their own pipes or mouth; the searching of luggage, the rifling of pockets made them a terror to visitor; and it was a good day for the Island when duties were equalised, and this Custom House espionage abolished.
On the other side of the Market Place and running over the length of shops was Dixon's Assembly Room in connection with the British Hotel. This room was associated in many minds and stomachs with all that was good, in the feast of eating and the flow of jough.
were great institutions, and to the strains of music more loud than harmonious, the country clubs, or benefit societies, marched to the Market Place, there marshalled into order with the band in the centre, waiting for the tip that dinner was on the table and the Parson ready to say or sing "Grace before Meat." A few minutes before the breaking up or dispersement might be seen men and women with hand carts and trucks literally groaning under the weight of roast and boiled, hot-pots, and steaming puddings, which had been "baked" in some convenient bake-house, and carted there in nick of time, for the caterer was generally some outside publican well up in making ends meet out of about 2/- a head, and who had but little trouble in gathering up the fragments, for, like the Irish wedding of Ballaphoreen
" Whole mountains of beef were cut down,
And demolished unto the bare bone."
The Ship Carpenters of Douglas generally had their eating and drinking in the same room. They were by no means an insignificant portion of the community in numbers or noisyness. Their apprentice fees, which ran into pounds ; their fines, and a levy of a percentage on each man and apprentice, went towards a good " tuck in," which generally followed a launch at Winram's ship-yard. Their eating or suppering, followed by drinking and singing "Rule, Britannia," "Bay of Biscay O," and " Black-eyed Susan," the refrain taken up by the outside crowd, making night hideous, but when they left the room the people cleared, and the policemen were invisible. Some people thought this was an act of cowardice, on their part, but what fools three or four constables would have been to have placed their heads or shins at the mercy of in over-powering crowd of drunken rowdies. I have met many, not only Manx. but others, who seem to regard policemen as objects of hate and persecution, rather than that of guardians of our lives and properties, and without whom society would become chaos and confusion.
played such an important factor in Douglas that it was no wonder that in the "Hooligan" feuds the battle between the Sandside boys and the Quayside boys that their superiority should find vent in the song
"Fire like thunder, and make the world wonder,
The Quayside boys will carry the day."
If I remember rightly the border line ran at Drumgold Street, but I always had more respect for my head than to risk it in a battle of stoning each other on the shore. The South Quay side was rather important in these " brave: days of old." The High Bailiff lived in Harold Tower, where, Wallace of the "Manx Liberal," said, "he fiddled like a second Nero when Douglas was in moral flames." Miss St John and Sir Wm. Hillary, Bart, occupied Fort Anne; Edwards, the potato man. lived at Ravenscliffe; Mr James Spittall, caught the first breath of the east wind at the lower balconied house. Holmes' Bank and Herring Curing Houses, Foxdale Mines warehouse and stores, Young's brewery, a ship or boat-building yard near the Trafalgar, Gas Works, Quarries, Foundry, and Shimmin's water carts ; then the large houses had important tenants Mr Richard Gelling, Captain Young, Captain Timperley, and others, finishing with Phil Quirk's orchard, now Qualtrough's works.
Moore's, Quiggin's, Spittall's timber yards. On the Tongue, Williamson's ship-building yard; on the North Quay, Hogg's Brewery, Fleetwood's grocery and spirit stores, relatives of Deemster Heywood, Bermahague; at Lawrence's corner, Whiteside's corn stores, Cleator's cabinet works, Hogg's grocery and spirits ; in and around the Market, Burrows, afterwards Roskill's, Edward Gelling, Cubbon's (saddler), Gelling (ironmonger), Robert and Willie Duff, Quiggin (printer), Johnny Duggan. Spittall's offices, &c., &c. The elementary schools were in this locality: Lame Dan's in Heywood Place; Lame Cubbon. Society Lane; Cubbon the Lonsdale, Post Office Place; and Imerson, afterwards Claude Cannell's, Bath Place; and "Auntie Cowin" ran her Dame's School in Quayle's Lane, afterwards occupied by Mr Alex. Lewthwaite. "Auntie" carried a crutch in her hand, marching with it as if she were a single woman to a band, and not by means her prop or stay. The story was that Auntie got run down by a Nunnery carriage and she got a. pension "so long is she carried a crutch," and carry it she did to take advantage of the lawyer's stupidity in not defining the condition to the time it would be necessary for her to use her crutch to help her locomotion.
that the Market stood so near the harbour, that the lower level of the river and tide bed formed its draining ground and that the substrata is gravel and sand, or else the fish putridity and contamination arising from it would have produced diseases that would have decimated the town. Even with a new market there is much room and necessity for better regulation. All fish should be sold gutted, and no hawkers of fish should be allowed to sell fish ungutted, or to leave their offal in back lanes, or throw it in ashpits. It is by this fish nuisance that Douglas is infected in the season with a plague of flies, and I have often heard visitors say that it portended some thing rotten in the state of the town.
When on this fishy subject let me strike a chord that may find a response or produce some thought. Some years ago the largest wholesale fishmonger in Manchester told me that the Manx cod fish brought low prices, because a great deal of it was drowned fish, left too long on the lines that it was not gutted and cleaned at sea, that it was packed ungutted into barrels, and sent off, and every hour it was ungutted the quality deteriorated, and within the last month I put the matter to another huge fish-dealer who said, "I would never buy Manx cod if I knew it to be Manx." Is this it question that ought to have the attention of those interested'.'' A word to the wise ought to be sufficient.
The General Post Office was adjacent to the market in Post Office Lane, under the guardianship of Miss Grave, sister to the famed " Daddy" Graves, and such an office and such prices for letters, and such addresses ; the letters that were undecipherable were plastered up against the window panes waiting for claimants. But next door, or near to, was one of the Douglas curios in the person of "Hughey, the Stockfish." Salt fish and salt were the staple of his trade, but from these he gained no notoriety, but did for the sale of "Pigeon's Milk." Few boys came to town that were not led into this trap as a practical joke and an eye opener. A penny was placed in the lad's hand and sent in, when the others outside "in the know" watched the fun. Hughey's store was reached through a half door, of which few are now seen,and the spring bell gave no uncertain sound. When he found that neither stockfish nor salt was wanted, but "pigeon's milk," his dander got up " and its pigeon's milk thou wants, is it; anddeed thou shall have it," and suited the action the poor lad got collared by one hand and the other ringing his ears a jingle of the bell indicated the opening of the door, and a savage kick out appealed to that part in which a kick hurts honour as well as body, and the load Ianah that he had been fairly done did not mitigate the pain, although he obtained the knowledge; what pigeon's milk meant at the shop of Hughey the Stockfish.
The border fights between the. divisions of the town were not the only ones that boys, and boys of a larger growth indulged in about the middle of the second quarter of the last century. The Steam Packet's opposition engendered about as much " bad blood" as it was possible. The "Mona's Isle" was represented by red ribbons; and the opposition, the " Clyde," a chartered vessel, waiting for the building of the " Monarch," by the blue. These favours were worn by men and lads women and children during the season like as if a constant political contest was going on and when conflicting interests and forces met it. was like a red rag to a bull men and lads fought for their colours, for to strip a rival of his ribbons was a sign of victory ; boatmen and " hobblers " often added another colour in having their " peepers " blackened. The competition in fares, their jostlings and fighting for passengers, made the Pier Head a rowdy bull-ring, that in these days would stamp and properly, too, everyone connected with them as semi-barbarians. Many who were in the opposition camp were well to do Douglas tradesmen, and there was then, and ever has been, a strong local prejudice against the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, sometimes well-deserved other times, without just cause.
Fighting was a great institution, and the heroes of that day were the men who could either knock other people's heads about, or could endure chastisement on their own, and tle publication of the deeds in the English boxing matches were eagerly read and imitated, and they often indulged iu " fisticuffing," for the love of the thing, like the woman who stole a dish-cloth, "to keep her hand in practice," but it was amusing that the Douglas heroes Ned Christian, Dandy Ward, "Dust" Quayle, and others were vanishing quantities when the herring boats came round from Peel, and the Gracy family stepped ashore; they then discovered that "discretion was the better part of valour," and that " a good retreat was better than a bad fight," for it was admitted that the Peel boys were masters of the situation.
One of the above, Ned Christian, kept a "pub" in Strand Street, and I witnessed an extraordinary scene one morning on the shore, behind his house, and near Starkie's Slip. A visitor staying at Ned's house, had got fleeced by card-sharpers of £8. One of the party came up and told Ned, who at once fastened on the man. " Hand back the money," was the gruff request. " I won it fair." " Never mind," says Ned, " hand it out !" The man, unfortunately, aimed a blow at Ned; but he had mistaken his man, for in a moment, he was a very prostrate bit of humanity. He would not risk another blow, but sat up, clinging to his ill-gotten gains. " If you don't disgorge," said Ned, "I will first drown you, and then take it out of your pockets," and, suiting the action to the word, the sharper was dragged like a dead fish along, and his head put under the water. " Let me go ! " he gasped, " and I will give him his money." But the most galling part. must have been to the sharper that Ned would insist on an extra sovereign for his trouble and wetting. I believe that this method of "lynching" the card-sharpers cleared them from the bathing ground. There was no civil law to deal with this vice at that time, if even there is now ; but, by straining some antiquated law, they " jugged " them for tha season, to wait for the next General Gaol Delivery. But this was most unfair to even swindlers, who have, bad as they are, the right of an early and fair trial, and ought to be treated with the same toleration that has been shown to gamblers at bazaars, and other places.
was one of the events of my early boyhood, and was the only "storm in a tea-pot" that anything like a plea of justification might be set up as an atonement, for it hit the people, especially the labour classes, in a two-fold sense. Potatoes were nearly as much as in Ireland the staple food of the poor, and the potato f:amine in Ireland, and scarce crop in Englaud, raised the value of the crop in Manxland; and some Douglas merchants were not slow in following the great Sir Robert Peel's maxim, to " buy in the cheapest, and sell in the dearest, market." Coal, and other vessels, were in demand; shipping went on; and the price to the home consumer went up, purchasers began to feel the pinch. "The greatest good to the greatest number"was sacrificed in order that fartuers might make a little more, and shippers realise small fortunes. The equity or fairness of this mode of trading never seemed to be a factor in the calculation. It was only the modern idea of " cornering the market," that some few may grow rich at the expense of sacrificing the many. I believe that in France, under the " code Napoleon," this could not occur, as there are strict laws dealing with the people's food, regulating prices, etc.
When wretches "corner" the people's food, they, no doubt, cripple the resources of the poor, and scarcity, famine, or " short commons," affect the health the young, particularly, have to feel the effects and infant mortality is largely increased. So if some of these schemers could be " cornered " themselves, and put into a lethal chamber, where they might take a painless exit from the world, they would only be getting the punishment meted out to others by them, the law of reciprocity, that would be considered " justifiable homocide," " an eye for an eye, a tooth for a. tooth," or a life for many lives; but one murder makes a villain, a thousand a hero; and so the world was grinding down the poor, that the few may be made rich.
Not only did the potato shipments pinch the stomach, but it made the purchasing power of the already poor still poorer. A horde of Irish labourers driven from home by their own national poverty, invaded Douglas, and became very unfair competitors in the labour market by cutting down wages, already too low for a. "living wage" and although the Manx labourer might exist on potatoes and herring, an Irishman could go one better, and live upon " potatoes and point." This point was said to be a grain of salt, not for use, but only to point at; a kind of "a slick and a. promise," as the Manx saying goes.
A considerable prejudice existed against Dr Carpenter, an Irishman, and Incumbent of St Barnabas', for encouraging this Irish migration to theIsland ; but I don't think there was any ground for that belief. Most of the Irish were Roman Catholics, and would receive no quarter from the doctor; he was too narrow and bigoted in his theological and Church views, to tolerate anything or anybody outside his own ecclesiastical pale.
was Norris Clague, who had a grocery and spirit. store in the "Devil's Elbow," Strand Street, facing north, and forming almost a dead block or "cul de sac" around which vehicular .and pedestrian traffic had to wriggle. A smouldering discontent among the poorer classes was too evident, and I think the authorities had provided against it by swearing-in a few "specials" to supplement the small force of constables. A gang of rowdy boys, with horns, commenced the row by running around the streets and dodging the constables; but they increased in numbers and strength, until they became uncontrolable, and a store of ammunition being close at hand, in heaps of stones at Callow's Slip and gutter-a-gable, the smashing of Clague's windows commenced. The mob overpowered the authorities ; the Riot Act was read by High-Bailiff Quirk, and then the crack of firearms, causing dismay, danger, and wounding.
I have good reason for a painful recollection of this tragedy, in being one of the victims. I was standing in a doorway, a long way from the scene of the conflict, alongside some women, when I got shot. One pellet struck me in the eyebrow, and for years lodged there; a:nd I have often connected this with my damaged sight. A clever doctor ought to have removed it, as they would in these days. Another shot took a piece out of my cheek, close to the same eye. A Mrs Corkill, whose house I was standing at, got some of the shots in her breast, and, for a time, her case was considered critical. She was the wife of a sea captain, who threatened vengeance against Clague and all his belongings. Jeff Blow had one of his eyes pierced, and lost the sight of it.
I believe, was never discovered. Some attributed it to some old pensioner; others thought that some of Clague's family, or Spurrier, had been the operator, as an old blunderbuss had been seen by some one on the premises ; but lynching would have been the fate of any one if it could have been brought home to him.
I do not know what the nature of a Court inquiry was, held to investigate the matter; but Clague, on his oath, would not admit anything. He was a blank, and evaded every question by saying, "'Our 'Mary will swear it." " Clague, the Spud," and "Mary will swear it " clung to the family as names of reproach.
were not so formidable, or attended with the scene amount of feeling. The workmen thought they had a grievance in being "knob-sticked" in the labour market, and into this was infused a. considerable amount of religions animosity against Roman Catholicism, and perhaps no man in Douglas was more prominent in fostering this spirit than Robert Shimmon, father of John Shimmon, of Dumbell's Bank notoriety. He was a north of Ireland man, and, I should say; an Orangeman of a very deep dye. It wa.s through his instrumentality thaf Daniel McAfee, the famed anti-Papal disputant, so often visited the Island, and preached in the Wesleyan Chapel ; and the feeling was quite as intense on the side of the Catholics, and one night, when McAfee was preaching, a stone was hurled through Thomas Street Chapel windows.
Mr Shimmon was a regular attendant at the Wesleyan Chapel.
In the Irish Riots, for there was more than one, revenge was always taken on the Catholic Chapel, by, smashing the windows, and some of the windows of the Catholic residents. I feel certain that such a feeling would not be engendered now that the people have learnt to be more tolerant,. more educated, and, therefore, more. civilized. Irishinen were generally accosted with; "Hoi, Pat! Which way did the Bull run ? " a doggerel song in which
Give us a rope to hang the Pope,
And to H with Roger Roney! "
bulked largely were the taunt's used as a challenge to the Irish. Roger Roney was too faithful a Catholic to think that the prayers or curses of heretics could either harm the Pope, or send him to a warm region, and rather enjoyed his popularity.
Whilst I freely recognise the rights of citizenship and freedom of conscience to every man in all things religious, and would extend; or give, to all Catholics in Protestant countries, equal rights to Protestants. I am not oblivious to the fact that in Catholic countries they do not treat Protestants with the same toleration that they claim in Protestant countries; and I have never seen a protest against the disgraceful action and disabilities of Protestants in Spain and elsewhere, from those who clamour at home against any religious or political barrier being placed to their progress or independence. They have yet the lesson to learn that we " should do to others as we would have others do to us." There is much room for improvement, but we, as Dissenters, cannot wonder very much at the action of Catholics towards Protestants, smarting as we have been, and are still, from disabilities fastened on us by a State Church that is only tolerant; so far as it has been disabled from the power of being oppressive.
was an attempt to stop a much-needed reform. A shilling bought a shilling's-worth of goods, if you paid in silver; if you paid in copper, you paid fourteen-pence. If you saw an article marked 6d., and put down a silver 6d., you could take it away; but if you paid in copper, you had to put down 7d. I write " copper" advisedly, for I could scarely call them legitimate coin of a penny value; for anything in copper, round, and the size, of a penny, or half-penny, went as "current coin of the realm." "Tokens" were made to order, and put into circulation, and their value was not disputed. I was struck with the absurdity of the copper coinage very early in life. New Sunday-School Hymn-books were introduced into Haining's Sunday-School, at 6d. each; they contained some of "Dr Watts' moral and Divine songs" about as many as you could get now for a half-penny, but it was whole-bound, in a red back. I gathered up my pennies until I got the much desired six, and, armed with my coppers, went to James Haining for my first-purchased book. "Oh, it is 6d., English," he said, " that is. 7d., Manx; but I will trust you the penny." I think I felt prouder of being trusted than in the possession of the "Moral and Divine."
Another illustration, to show, more light upon the system, Lucifer matches; the first in Douglas, was sold by Atkinson, a chemist, on the Quay, near where Beck's Stores are. The novelty was a. great one, and 3d. for a box of about 30, to pull, for ignition, through a piece of sandpaper. I planted my 3d. "Another halfpenny," he said; " Threepence, English." All this was exceedingly absurd from my stand-point.
The opponents took their position here. We now can get fourteen quarts of skimmed milk for a 1d a quart; after this, only 12. Now 14 penny cakes; after 12; now, 14 back-and-forward in the ferry, after 12; and so on. This is another system of robbing the poor man, and we won't stand it ; we shall resent these innovations on our privileges and pockets, and fight to the death; and another riot was the results and more window smashing of the men's shops and houses that would rob a poor man of his odd coppers.
A leader was found in Jonie Postlethwaite, one of the Sawrie family, who was an apprentice painter. He was harmless, full of fun, and a jolly kind of lad; always ready for a lark; and, with a trumpet in mouth, he marshalled his forces; and more window smashing and more damage to be made good.
Jonie was prosecuted as the ring leader, got imprisoned, and, I believe, fined £100 towards the cost of the damages; but his prowess was recorded in song by one of the Manx poets. I remember one verse, which had a very special reference to Postlethwaite :
"Up started then, some glazier men,
As fierce as Turks, or Hindoos;
And cried, "Come boys, let's make a noise,
And smash the Douglas windows! "
There seems to be no moral standard by which to guage the folly or the wisdom of so-called riots the people rising to vindicate their rights of citizenship for civil, religious, or political liberty, can be fairly tested; much depends on the success or failure of the enterprise success makes heroes of the actors, failure fools. Some of our liberties have been gained by the rising, or threatened rising a, mob of match-makers storming the House of Commons, frustrating Bob Lowe's match-tax; the pulling down of Hyde Park railings; making a Home Secretary weep ; or the Bread riots, bringing Free Trade in corn.
"He is free whom the truth makes free;
And all are slaves besides."
Robert Cannon better known as "Bobby George," a. poet of some merit wrote a poem on " January," in 1835 or 1836, iu which some excellent. ideas are given in the following extracts:
'"Tis by the past the future may be known.
As mirrors make reflected objects plain."
"Like leapers running many a pace behind
To leap the present with augmented power."
In giving the retrospects of my boyhood, I have not been actuated by the mere desire of chronicling passing incidents, as they crop up into my mind, but that some practical lessons may be evolved, showing the progress attained, the conflicts over ignorance and prejudices that have been won, and as an incentive to pursue the even tenor of our way, for still higher aspirations for better and nobler lives.
'"Tis education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined,"
and no branch of the Manx national life has seen greater changes and made greater strides in its progress than in the elementary aud general education of the people.
In my younger days, the lame and the halt, if they were not suited for any ordinary employment, and they had an education capable of understanding and teaching the three R's, were devoted to the important office of teaching the young Manx idea. If a country-man landed into Douglas on Saturday, very lame, and dressed better than an ordinary lame beggar, he was spotted as a country schoolmaster, and this must have gone on for some generations; for "Limpy Cretney," "Lame Cubbon" "Lame Dan," and "Auntie Cowin and her Crutch," were all well advanced in years when I knew them.
Lame Dan Christian had the reputation of whipping or caning a good, sound education into a boy's or girl's head for it was a "mixed school " in a very short space of time. For four years he got the chance to operate on me; I had already learned my alphabet, and could read not so badly from the teaching I had got in Hainings' Sunday School. His school-room was approached through a house lobby in Heywood Place not far from "Kelly, the fat's'' chandlery, then up some wooden steps to one room. The master sat perched in a high chair, surrrounded by barrels and boxes of marbles, tops, and balls, that he had taken from the scholars stolen from them. We were not supposed ever to require any play, and our knuckles, in the marble season, were carefully scrutinised, to see if we had been indulging in the forbidden game, and our pockets rifled of every plaything in our possession.
He was a big man, lame in the hip, which projected and made him claim considerable space if he moved about, but this he rarely did in school, for he had a way of economising labour and space by the possession of a long whip, the lash of which would reach the extreme end of the school, and his boast was that he never hit the. wrong scholar at least he never would admit he had. Alongside of him, on a desk, lay his implements of torture a thick cane, about an ordinary finger circumference ; a thinner one, and then his " Cat and nine tails " the latter was made out of leather, perhaps about two inches wide, like a razor strop, then nicely cut down in nine equal proportions, as near as possble, and perhaps 16in. or 18in. long, like shoe-laces. This last was reserved for truants and sinners of a bad type, and was always applied to one part of the body, in a nude state, after some buttons had been liberated. The girls, some of them in their 'teens, were told to attend to their lessons during these operations, but I arm afraid there was too much of Mother Eve in them to regard that commandment, or keep it very strictly.
When I think of that crowded school, its bad atmosphere, the sanitary arrangements, or more correctly the total disregard of them, the conditions as to the morality of mixing the sexes in such a heterogeneous way, and total disregard for decencies, and compare them with our present ideas of what is due to our children, I can scarcely realise it, and yet we hear old fossils talk of " the good old times." I never had any occasion to complain personally of cruelty from Trim I never gave him occasion ; but no boy could love him or his methods. He had a scorbutic face, and was not over attractive in appearance, and certainly, though a. good Wesleyan, did not. regard Wesley's dictum, that
He lived in one room and that room over Lame John Cannell's milk-house. in Fort Street. His wife could only speak Manx, and if he had any message to convey to her some boy who could do a bit of the native tongue had to do it, She wore a top hat, like a Welsh woman, and was rarely ever seen outside the house. We now talk about the necessity of ventilation and fresh air. I often wonder what the microbes and bacilli of that period were doing, except they were going through a process of incubation, and maturing themselves for a later period. I don't mean to insinuate that all the schools were in the same insanitary condition ; but I do assert that not one in the town would now pass the sight and nose of Inspector Coole without his adverse report on their condition. Indeed, any truthful insanitary delineation of the whole town would be received with incredulity, and it would be far from a congenial task for me to try and do it. The milkman just referred to was the dirtiest piece of humanity, as a purveyor of either drink or food, I ever saw in my life. He looked like the boy whose excuse for not washing his face was that "he did not want to dirty his hands," and his fustian trousers resembled a. well-laid-on third coat of Aspinall's Enamel. I don't know whether Dan married his wife to keep himself posted up in pure Manx language, or not. I think there is such a craze now for its revival that some enthusiasts might be willing to take a wife as his Manx tutor; and I recollect a case of this kind, and it shows the folly of men or women marrying for some specific, perhaps selfish, object marrying to reform marrying to convert to other opinions, etc. There was a local preacher in Douglas who was very learned in those days, a great critic in poetry, could quote the finest of Charles Wesley's poetic effusions, had even a smattering of Greek believed that Manx would be a more emphatic language than English to preach in; but he was not a, good speaker in Manx, but in the force of some of its words, and if he could only, like Burns, " nail it with Scripture" in the native tongue," it would be of great use, to him as an instrument chosen for this object, and married a woman to help him in its proper pronunciation, and, as a set-off, he would teach her English, and see to her conversion to the faith. But he never succeeded ; she was a " thorn in his flesh," but he looked upon it as a kind of Providence that always reminded him that he must seek grace and faith to bear his trials worthily of his profession. I knew a little fellow who had been apprenticed to this man and he was, unfortunately, not a favourite with his wife. He frequently told me how she cursed hint ; but. I said, " Did you know it was cursing, and intended for you; perhaps she was. pouring out blessings in disguise." But I think there was no mistake, when her general salutation to him was "Mine damn on you, Juan, custa " (cursed John).
On one occasion she went to a country wedding, and landed home rather elated. The good man remonstrated, but, as Tom Flynn used to say "A woman in drink was worse than the Devil ; for if you resisted the Devil he would fly from you, but a woman in drink would fly at you.'' she resented, and showed fight. "Tuppence only I pay, for hot jough and rum in it, in Thie Miccle-a-Cannon," and gathering up her petticoats she danced round the rooms, shouting, "Hoogh! Play up fittler, " Jacky the Ghillagh," 'and "Flower de Lily" ("Jack's the lad," and "Fleur-de-lis"). The good man thought he had not only taken her for better, but for very much worse.
With the advent of Mr Green to St Barnabas' Schools, came a better state of things a better system, and under something like discipline and order, but from a sanitary or hygienic point, neither St. Barnabas' or St. George's Schools were anything like what they ought to have been, and both teachers and scholars no doubt suffered in health from want of a proper knowledge of what life demands in ventilation, cleanliness, and good airy surroundings, to give it a fair chance of running out the Measure of its day.
told very seriously on the Manx youth, and handicapped them in their efforts to better their condition in life on this side of the water. I need only give one very pointed example, but I know others.
I had a friend in Manchester, who was is large house property owner houses let from 8s a week to £50 or £60 a year and the total number approached 100. He asked me if I knew a reliable sober workman, joiner or plumber, or a handy man with tools, or a knowledge of general house-building. He wanted a man to help to collect his rents; take off a lock, see that it is repaired, and put it on again; take down a venetian blind, see that it has been properly done, and restore it to its place; he need never take off his coat, his duty will be one of an overseer that others working do their work properly. " I will give him £2 a week," said he; and a free house, and if I give up my own collecting, I will pay him a commission for that, as an extra." I spotted the very man, and sallied forth with my glad tidings, got to know where he was working, and found him at his joiner's bench, and told him of my errand. " Indeed, Mr Cowin," be said, " I am obliged for your trouble and kindness, but it is of no use. I have not got the "schooling " for it. If I had, I would have been shop foreman here long since, at from 50/- to 60/- a. week, and I am not alone in that." We have Manxmen joiners in Manchester, who from their ability and moral character, would command good positions but it is this want of "schooling" that keeps us down; for I think it is this schooling that Scotchmen and Welshmen get that gives them the confidence, or cheek, that they can " boss" others. Manxmen are too backward too shy for these posts; and I don't know any one of my countrymen much better off in this way than I am myself.
No lad or man going from the Island now need be in this position, unless he goes from Ramsey, that 'unprogressive, anti-educational town. Compare Douglas of 1901 with Douglas of the Dark Ages, which I have by no means libelled or laid on the brush too black; indeed, I have been mercifully mild and charitable, and could easily " without setting down ought in malice " have been, truthfully, much more severe,
gained in Douglas has not been by letting things slide, or singing, "As it was in the beginning, is now, &c." It has been won like freedom's battle " baffled oft, but ever won." All that religious intolerance could do all that mean parsimony, backed up by intriguing, lying, and slandering, could do, all the dirt thrown through the columns of the "Manx Sun" could do, only tended to dam up a floodgate of intelligence that would sweep them all away, and right triumph over might and ignorance, and send its opponents into an ignominy and oblivion that will mark their attempts when they have disappeared from the scene of their futile efforts to stem the tide of progress.
The Tynwald Street Board Schools, to their stunted incompleteness, stand as a monument to the ringleaders in the anti-educational crusade in Douglas, and the names of Sherwood, Hobson, Curphey, and their satellites, ought to be pilloried on the most prominent wall of the building as a warning that "the evils men do live, after them," and their professional experts who gave evidence against the larger scheme, and succeeded in getting it dwarfed, "cribbed, cabined, and confined" under the plea and promise that it could be cheaply and efficiently enlarged whenever needed, ought to ..ide their diminished heads. I was on the Douglas School Board, when, from necessity, the enlargement of these schools was forced upon us, and Mr J. T, Cowell was deputed to see one of the expert architects who had given this promise, but only to find that it could not be done, and that he had been a mere mechanical swearing machine for those who had employed him. If there is a class of men under heaven or this side of the other place that I hold in the greatest possible contempt, it is the professional or expert witness who will sell his soul and his country for a. "fee"
"Gold! gold! gold! gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold! "
I annoyed my friend Richard Sherwood by bombarding him with letters from Manchester on this question at the time. I pitched into him; he swore back at me. He accused me of local ignorance of the real issue. I replied that if a man could be judged by the company he kept, he had proved recreant to his past life and professed progressive principles. I had evidently " hit him," for on our first meeting after, in Douglas, he let off a volley of that language more forcible than eloquent, that, he was such a master of.
are already out of joint with the times. Like many old cotton and woollen mills you can see in the north of England, they have become obsolete, as from their structural formation, they cannot be worked by modern machinery and the greatest amount of output and profit got from the motor power machinery and workpeople employed, and the old systems have to make way for the new. Schools can only be economically worked under favourable conditions, and these conditions do not exist at Tynwald Street; besides, these schools, from the ground covered, and position, ought to be the. largest school in Douglas, and it will be a judicious step some day when Douglas is in a better state, commercially, and more school room wanted, to utilise the present playground, work in all the material of the present schools possible, and build a new school for 1,000 children, and merge the present building site, into a playground.
The present favourable educational advantages in Douglas is largely due to Mr Attorney-General G. A. Ring. I take off my hat, and make this acknowledgment to him in all the sincerity and thankfulness of my heart and conscience. I keep a mental ledger account for him. I have been debited with many black scores in his over-zeal in the cause of the liquor traffic. Like the Apostle Paul, "his enmity knew no bounds" when persecuting the good saints of women and others who were not of the strictest sect of the publican party; but on the credit side, I have considered him like the Waverley Pen "a boon and a blessing."
Like the late Mr Herbert Birley, of Manchester and Salford, Mr Ring was the nominee of the retrograde. Church educationists, in whose programme education means Church dogma. and Catechism ; both turned round and blessed what. they were sent to curse, and both became enthusiastic Board School propagandists.
It is largely due to Mr Ring's intelligence, ability, zeal, and perseverance that Douglas now stands in the proud pre-eminence of being in the. vanguard of education possessing not only splendid buildings, admirably equipped and staffed with a body of teachers, from the kindergarten infants to a higher grade school that would do credit. to any city or town in the Kingdom.
It is now a joy and a delight to me that for three years, during the building of Hanover Street Schools, and the formulating, of the Higher Grade School, I had the privilege of being associated with Mr Ring in his good work, and no one, I think, would deny that any chairman could have been more courteous, more; inspiring, and showed greater toleration to all who differed from his views. He stands, in my estimation; as the greatest benefactor to the Island of this generation. may I ask of him, as a personal favour, that he will let his mental light now fall on the dark places and minds in the "Council Chamber," and that he will "Ring out old forms," and in the new! "