[From Reminiscences of Notable Douglas Citizens etc, 1902]

REMINISCENCES OF OLD DOUGLAS
BY
HIGH-BAILIFF S. HARRIS

(Who is in his 85th year), at

OPENING OF DOUGLAS COVERED MARKET, AUGUST .3RD, 1901.

His Worship Makes Reference to Events 75 Years Ago.

His Worship, who was cheered with hearty applause, made his speech with a ready flow of eloquence we have never heard him equal. He. said: Mr Mayor, and gentlemen, Aldermen, Councillors, and Burgesses of the Borough of Douglas, and stall-holders in this new market. I was rather taken aback, I must say, when I received a letter requesting me to be the person to open this splendid market. I little thought that the honour which, was rightly the Mayor's would have been conferred by him to one whom Alderman Faragher has truly said takes a deep interest in the town of Douglas and its prosperity (applause). I was born within a hundred yards of where we now stand. My early career I know little of. During the time I was a. baby in arms my memory was not as fresh as it was a few years afterwards (laughter).

I CAN ONLY TAKE YOU BACK FOR SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS

(loud applause), and point out to you many things that have occurred' during that period. I have been associated with most of the works carried out for the welfare of my native town. I could tell you of things that are past, and people that are gone (applause.) I can point out to you a variety of people. whose names may- to familiar, but whose faces have long since gone to their long-abiding home. I could take you visitors from your landing on the Old Red Pier. and your approach to this old market place, by means of conveyances different to those yon now have at your disposal (applause.) I shall, for the brief space allotted to me. give you a homoeopathic mixture, instead of a- stale speech (laughter and applause). If I had wished to give you a stale speech from the extensive notes I had made, I am sorry to tell you the figures I put down for your information were this morning, blown away by the wind (laughter). I therefore trust to memory. You will have the milk now fresh from the cow (laughter and applause). In olden times,-in 1855, and onwards to 1830,when people assembled on the St. George's Pier, Liverpool, the cry was. "This way for the Isle of Man!" Three steamers were in waiting to bring visitors here. There was the "St. David"; there was the "Sophia Jane"; and there was that ill-fated vessel, the "Rothesay Castle." They came one day, and returned the next, and- gave the benefit to the visitors of eight hours only in doing the voyage (laughter). They were followed immediately after by steamers of a larger class; the "James Bell," the "Henry Bell," the James Watts," and the "William Huskisson "; and afterwards by the Majestic," and the " City of Glasgow." The people who came to the Island then were landed from the steamers in ,mall boats, at low water, and those who were able to step from the boats on to the platform surrounding the head of the Pier had need to be exceedingly thankful. Often, when the tide was too far out for the packet boats to get to the platform. the ladies had to be carried on men's backs (laughter). or in their arms, as if again the babes of former years (renewed laughter). Then they had to walk round the slippery platform or bulwark and up the slippery steps which landed them on the Red Pier; that sacred pile; that was considered too fine, in those olden times for the people, to walk up and down upon (laughter). It was reserved expressly for the gentry of Douglas, whoever they were (laughter). I can't possibly tell you. At all events, no lady was allowed to go down the pier in clogs or pattens, for fear they might scratch the fine sandstone-flagged surface. There was then a long row of chains. in line with what is now the west gable end of the Imperial buildings, separating the pier from the town. The chains were siting between cannons, which were embedded, muzzle down, in the ground. Sir Henry Loch, when he came to the Island as Governor, and saw those cannons, had them examined, and to the surprise of other people, as well as himself, they were found to be the first examples of rifle cannon known to exist in England. When we come up to the Market-Place, and we find Billy Chambers at the Custom House just there (pointing to the Douglas), and the people under the name of the Big Porters. - daresay some of the old people here will know what I speak of. There was big Tom Cannell, the father of Clem and Tuhhk (laughter and applause). In those days, we had far more distinguished people in Douglas than at present. We had Bet Karran, Kitty Behind, Jinny Jump-over-the-Gutter (laughter), Jingling Jenny, Kate Copper-Nose (laughter), and such a. variety of people. If time permitted, I could give very many more names of noted ladies that existed amongst us. Then of equally-noted men we had a host. There was Tom Anthony, a celebrated man, who lived in a little mound at Foxdale. His bed was the earth, and his canopy the tunnel where he lived. He had as his companion-I do not mean it in any way offensive-Bell Corlett, who used to go about Douglas with all the furniture she passed in the world under her petticoats. (The visitors in the audience roared with laughter at this statement, which is one of simple truth. Many, including ourselves, remember Old Bell, a beggar, going her rounds with a kettle, herring-roaster, and other utensils, slung under her ample skirts.) I -will shorten my remarks, and draw your attention to the state we then found Douglas Market Place in. I have already told you the Big Porters were over there with Billy Chambers. Their purpose was to tap every puncheon of rum landed on the pier-rum was "the sup" in those days-in order to test its strength and quality. The, chief porter employed in this job was a. man well-known in Douglas. He had to draw the sample of spirit front the bunghole of the cask through a long tin tube by sucking his breath, and a great deal of what he sucked into the tube went down his throat, instead of into the testing glass (laughter). That. continued ;a long time, until what they called the licensing system passed. I am not. speaking of the licensing of public-houses. People. who imported spirits then required a licence from the Government. This licence was done away with; then there came a, hubbub-such as we hear of now when there is a radical change-that the Island was going to be ruined. But every radical change that I have seen in the Island, or Douglas, has added to its prosperity. (Alderman Goldsmith: hear, hear.) At the present. time, the. people of Douglas are so enterprising that any money- they can spend, they cannot spend with, greater pleasure than laying out in such a. way that the visitors who come to the Island, and assist in establishing its credit, may participate in every good work carried out (applause). Then we come fo the :pot on which I stand, the site of the old market-or am I to consider myself in connection with the new market. I look upon myself as being the connecting lime between the old and the new; between the departed and those present before me. I could bring back to memory many things that have taken place within the limits of the circle that surrounds me. There was the old British Hotel, recognised as the first in the Island. The shops underneath were matte available at all times for shelter, when we had not what we have now, a covered market. . The old women from the country who attended the market to sell their produce, came down, in my youth, in their bedgowns, and linsey-woolsey petticoats (laughter). I think that is the name they called them. They call them blouses and skirts now (laughter). The old market women used to come to town in their petticoats and bed-gowns, and in wet weather they rushed for shelter into the shops below the British Hotel, the Assembly-room, or, into Mr Joseph Cubbon's, (the saddler), shop. It was a delightful scene to its youngsters to see Betsy- Jane and Mary, and all the rest of the town and country women rushing to shelter in the shops, for want of a covered market. I could tell you all amusing story about the British Hotel. I am limited to a certain amount of time, and therefore do not like to extend my speaking to you. In mly youth, there was a great ball in the Assembly Room, kept by Capt. and Mrs Dixon. An old lady- in -Douglas was determined to get to the ball. There was only one Sedan chair in Douglas at the time, and it was kept in the neighbouring chapel-St. Matthew's - now demolished for the erection of this market-house. The Sedan was just the thing for her conveyance in style to the ball. We had none of the carriages, wagonettes, dog-carts, and all the kind of nonsense they ,have introduced lately into the Island. and which lead to the drivers, if they go off the stands, or do anything improper, being brought before the High-Bailiff, when he has to listen to stories good and bad. and believe what he knows in many cases to be quite untrue (laughter). Well, this old lady was determined to get to the ball. And how do you think she got:? I was one of the naughty young men of those days who took liberties with the aged (laughter). I hope you will never take liberties with the old men of Douglas; or, if you do, that you will not mark me as one of the old men (laughter). The old lady was determined to get to the ball. We sent to St Matthew's for the Sedan, but old Harry Taggart would not accommodate her (laughter). We sent to different places, but nothing would do. Then it occurred to its that there had been a great importation of earthenware lately. We got one of the crates. put the old lady into it and took her into the ball-room, and she enjoyed herself just as much as any other lady present. That occurred on that (the Meat Market site) side of the market. At the inner end of this building, we had St. Mathew's. That was not. the original St Matthew's, though; the original was in Heywood Place. We had in the St. Mathews of this site men distinguished for the ability; well whose renown and eloquence has been world-wide. We had Brown. Heywood, and Stowell, and other distinguished men; and; rightly enough, in the new St Matthew's we find a most useful man, who by- his sole industry- and perseverance has brought about the erection of that splendid building, which stands a. few yards higher: up the Quay-side. At that far-off time, the people of Douglas were just as mad as at present sent to have recourse to amusement to aid in attracting people to enhance the town's prosperity. They would have a regatta. There was a challenge cup, which had been won by the "Paddy from Cork" once only. It was necessary it should be won a second time before the holders could claim it as their own. There were 40 yachts in the harbour, all waiting to take part in the race for this challenge cup. I wish we had this (pointing to the Mayoral bauble) as a cup in those days. It would have been an ornament to the town, and' a prize worthy of acceptance. This challenge cup was to be run. for on June, 1830. All the arrangements were made, when the message came that King George IV. had departed this life. This put an end to all amusements. everybody- was in mourning, and every shutter was up in Douglas, out of respect to his memory. The young gentlemen on board the yachts, and the young gentlemen who had come from England for the rowing match. were in the corner (pointing the location of the dining-room of the Old British). enjoying themselves over dinner, when the chapel bell began to toll. The gentlemen sent for Harry Taggart and Dannie Mylchreest, and told them they- could not permit the bell to be tolled while they were enjoying themselves, and their songs were not finished: Poor Dannie Mylchreest was a little man, who could not take his own part. He asked what he was to do: He was told to go up and tell the chaplain at once that the gentlemen in the British wanted to enjoy- themselves, and that the bell, on that account, must be stopped. He went. and came back with the message that might be expected-the bell could not be stopped: a very proper answer to give to the ,young gentlemen. But, they said, they- came her for amusement, and could not help the death of the King - they could not keep the King alive, and they would have their evening's amusement. " Get us a. ladder," said they-. And some of the -people were wicked enough to get a ladder. It was put against St. Matthew's tower, and one of the young men went up it, and cut the bell rope (laughter). They put the rope round their necks, and marched in procession up Duke Street. when who should they- meet at the top of Market Hill but Tom Cleator, the constable. At that time, we hadn't the force of police we Lace. now. The town was kept guarded by four-Tom Cleator, Tom Matt. Billy Cleator, and Jack Lee. Tom Cleator stopped the young men, saying " You must not do that; you are disturbing the public peace!" "We cannot help the public peace, if it is so easily disturbed,," they said; "we have - money that will compensate the public for disturbing the peace." On going a little further, Tom Cleator said, " Here's the High Bailiff; stop. boys ! " " Oh." said one young gentleman, "Tip him a. shilling, and he'll pass by" (laughter). The matter was eventually compromised. Poor St. Matthew's has now disappeared, and its site and that of the British Hotel have been used for these new market. houses. In 1780, when the movement first began about a covered market. how do you think prices were at that time. of the different. commodities the country-people sold. You could get a goose-I hope there are no geese here (laughter)-for 6d; a hen for 3d; beef at 2d or 3d per pound; you could get a lobster for 1d., and half-a-dozen crabs thrown into the bargain as a ` dhouya ' (laughter). That was the state of things in those days. There is another thing about that particular time I would like to mention. I was looking over a paper, and saw it recorded that about 100 years ago. Douglas was just as healthy as it is now. There was not a death in Douglas from the end of October to .the beginning of March, following. I must not keep you further. I have a nudge from behind to tell me my time is up. But before I go, I would, like to tell you this. I am no believer in the gloomy aspect that is said to surround us (applause). There may be a cloud before the sun now; but when the cloud is removed the sky will appear in all its splendour, and we will find that business carried on legitimately will receive its reward. The prosperity of the Island I look forward to is great indeed. I believe-that at the present time, Douglas and the Island" is only in it, infancy, and I sincerely trust that you who will survive the will see that happy- clay when everything will go on again in that prosperous manner that it did for many- yeas (applause.) We know that in the country the farmers are always grumbling, but we find they are always prospering. And that is the case at the present time with the Is Iaud.. The gloom which has overshadowed will soon disappear, and prosperity will again reign triumphant with lessons from the recent past which will not be forgotten. [f there are any farmers here present I am prepared for them as well as for others. I copied from a paper lent me the other day word; of comfort for them. It is a cure for agricultural distress. Don't be too anxious for fear of what it is. It does not cost money; it only costs a little perseverance. It is so good I hope the farmers present can hear me. This is the feeling expressed in 1722:

The man to the plough,
The wife to the cow,
The goat to the mow,
The boy to the mow;
And your rents will be settled.

And now I will just tell you what the opinion of a writer was in 1882:

Best man-tally ho !
And Miss--piano.
The wife-silk and satin.
The boy-Greek and Latin,
And ,you'll be gazetted.

And' now, ladies and gentlemen, I think I would weary you if I went on any further :in recording scraps from the past. I can only tell you now that 1 rejoice those imitations of a covered market (canvas covered fish stalls) which I see scattered along the quay-side, and which have so long had to serve the people I know so well-Mrs Robert Curphey, Mary Ellen (McKibbin), -Mrs Bella Curtis in all her glory of being broader than long (laughter and applause), and Dick Curphey-are not to be a makeshift covering longer, but that all stall-holders will find comfortable housing within this fine structure (applause.) if they put the small payments they made for stalls in this market against the comfort and conveniences they will enjoy- they will find they will be the people who will receive the benefit, not the unfortunate buyer, (laughter.) I thank you, Mr Mayor, for your kindness in asking me to perform the opening ceremony-, and thank the Councillors and Aldermen for the great kindness I have invariably received from them. I was told that when the Corporation came into existence, poverty, gloom, disaster, would follow. Has it been so? (Alderman Goldsmith: No.) Has not everything prospered under the new regime, as it could not have done under the old state of things, which was not adapted to the present day. Therefore I wish you all-I was going to say a merry Christmas (laughter)a long period of prosperity for this market. As to the visitors, of whom I see so many around. I thank every one of them for selecting the Isle of Man as the place for health. recreation, and amusement. I thank them for coming to our shores (applause.) And I thank you, my fellow citizens, for coming to give me the encouragement of your presence on this occasion (applause). I see. in the Mona's Herald" my old townsman, Mr James Cowin, has given a very happy description of the old Market Place as he knew it in his younger days. He has made the frame and I have put in a few pictures which will help to adorn his frame, and set it off to advantage (applause.) I thank you all from my heart for your presence at this early holis. I thank you for your orderly conduct. I don't think I shall have any oneout of this crowd, if not Mr John Callow (laughter at this joke at the Corporation Overseer) brought up for disturbing the public peace this morning. I am glad so many of you follow the example which I set yon: Early to bed and early- to rise. it make.s a man healthy, and, with other assistance, will make him wealthy, and with the advantage he has at the present day of free, education, he ought also to be wise in his generation (laughter and applause). Gentlemen, I thank you for the kind manner in which you have received me. I declare the market, when I unlock: the door, open for public use. I hope everyone of you will be buyers this morning, and encourage Betsy Jane and Mary, and all the other buxom country cousins you see here by your ready purchases.

The Mayor: Ladies and gentlemen, no person in Douglas is more worthy of a vote of thanks than the worthy High Bailiff. I beg to propose the thanks of this large company be given to him for his kindness in coming to open the market to-day (applause).

The key presented to his Worship to open the market bears the following inscription:

"Presented to His Worship Samuel Harris. V.G High Bailiff of Douglas, on the occasion of the opening of the Borough Market, August 3rd, 1901."

BETSY, JANE, AND MARY !

The reference to Betsy, Jane, and Mary, in the High Bailiff's speech above, recalls to mind poetry by the late Lord Bishop Hill, entitled " The House-Keeper's Lament," which it would be appropriate to here introduce:

The Isle of Man was once, they say,
The home of elf and fairy
Thev'd bake the meal,
Or spin the wheel,
And work about the dairy.
But noiv the faii;c'.s gone away,
W e've servant gals to feed and pay.
We've Betsy Jane, and Mary.

And these. in lodging-house and home,
In kitchen and in dairy
Can neither bake,
Nor stockings make.
As once could do the fairy.
They cannot handle joint or broom,
They saucily decline to come,
Do Betsy, Jane, and Mary.

All ! whither is the damsel fled,
That once was like a fairy!
The chickens fed,
She'd make the bed,
And work in house or dairy!
Can nothing bring her back again,
T o spare the scolding. grief, and pain,
With Betsy, Jane, and Mary:
In vain we long for, as before,

The housemaid like a fairy
Alas! this while,
She's left our Isle,
She's gone on some vagary!
And now, by far the greatest bore.
For those who visit Mona's shore.
Are Betsy, Jane, and Mary.


 

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