[from Jefferys A Descriptive Account of the Isle of Man, 1808]
About a mile from this place, in a group of aged trees, appears the venerable
or Kirk Salmon; probably so called from its vicinity to a river abounding with that fish.
The surrounding scenery is solemn and romantic, and every circumstance inspires a soothing melancholy; for, in this hallowed ground, the inhabitants of Douglas, who are no more, and the Rude forefathers of the hamlet, sleep.
Here the green turf lies lightly on the breast of some, and the
long grass waves over others, while all around
" Some frail memorial, still erected nigh,
" With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck"!,
" implores the passing tribute of a sigh! "
Most of these memorials, however,record little more of the buried person, than that he was born on one day and died upon another, the whole history of his life being comprehended in these two circumstances, which are common to all mankind, the life of such men, and of such the great majority of the world is composed, is finely described, in the sacred writings, by " THE PATH OF AN ARROWS, which is immediately closed up and lost.
The Manks pay a decent and feeling regard to the memory of their deceased friends: when a person dies he is attended to his long home by great concourse of his relations ant neighbours; a funeral hymn is sung before the corpse to the extremity of the town, and resumed again on approaching the place of sepulture; the body is then committed to the ground according to the rites of the church of England; and the solemnity of the whole ceremony, at Kirk Braddon it particular, is heightened by the impressive silence and deep gloom of the surrounding scenery.
Yew trees, which are so constantly to be found in the church yards in England, are not to be seen in the Isle of Man.
The following pleasing address to the yew tree was written by M Penhouet, a French emigrant, in a tour through Wales; and the reader of taste and feeling will not, I presume, think any apology necessary for inserting it here.
Et tot, triste cypres,
Pidele ami des marts, protecteur de leur cindres,
La tige chore au cceur melanchohque & tendre,
Laisse la joie au mirthe, et la gloire au laurier:
Tu ntes point l'arbre hereux de l'amant, du guerier,
Je le sais, mais ton deuil compatit a nos peines.
Though the land in the neighbourhood of Douglas is not the richest, it is considered to be the best cultivated in the Island.
Of late years, several English farmers, tempted by the cheapness of land and living, as well as the exemption from taxes, have retired hither, and introduced a spirit of improvement in agriculture, which has not only been beneficial to themselves, but to the community.
The success attending their labours has roused the Manx from their lethargy; the marshy grounds have been drained, the waste lands inclosed and manures diligently collected and applied. Hence, the value of landed property is considerably encreased, the markets are better supplied, and it new stimulus given to trade in every branch.
There is, in the Isle of Man, art Agricultural Society; and, when I mention that Mr Curwen, of Workington Hall, in Cumberland, the representative in Parliament for the city of Carlisle, (a gentleman equally esteemed for his independent conduct in Parliament, as for his spirited and useful exertions as an Agriculturist) is president of the Manks Agricultural Society, little doubt can be entertained, that the progressive improvement of this society in the cultivation of their soil, and in the breeding of their cattle, will be attended with advantages of the greatest utility to the Island.
That the members of this society are sensible of the advantages they derive from the ability and exertion of their president, they have lately given a proof, which is as creditable to their own good sense and liberal spirit, as it is honorable to the character of Mr Curwen. They have, within these few days, presented him with a handsome silver vase, on which is engraved the following inscription:
J. C. CURWEN,Esq. M. P.
Member of the House of Keys,
And President of the Agricultural Society of
THE ISLE OF MAN;
In grateful Acknowledgement of his strenuous
and successful Efforts,
in Defence of their Country's Rights and
and of the Benefits which their rising Agriculture
has received from
his Protection and Example,
THIS TRIBUTE OF RESPECT
is presented by
THE NATIVES OF THE ISLE OF MAN;
Provisions of all kinds are in great plenty in the Isle of Man, and, though much dearer than some time back, are, comparatively with the markets in England, very cheap.
There are hares, partridges, and moor game; and of fish, there is an inexhaustible variety, and on very cheap terms.
The only taxes are, a small annual tax of ten shillings and sixpence on each publican, a tax of a few shillings on a sporting dog, and another, which is very trifling, upon all other dogs.
These taxes, with a moderate statute duty, are appropriated to the repair of the public roads, which are kept in as high a state of order as the finest turnpike road in England; nor is there a single turnpike within the Island.
In short it seems, while other parts of the British Islands are sinking under the weight of accumulated taxes which the unhappy state of Europe has occasioned, that this spot enjoys an almost total exemption from the oppressive load.
From the very low rate of the duties upon importation, excellent port wine may be had of the dealers at two shillings the bottle: it is charged three shillings at the taverns. Brandy about ten or eleven shillings the gallon; rum, and other spirits, in proportion; and the same with all articles of grocery. Poultry in general, ducks and fowls, about tenpence each.
From this plenitude of domestic comforts, and the facility with
which exotic luxuries may be supplied, persons of small fortunes may
here enjoy life in its full flow; nor is there, in the present state
of society in Europe, a spot (with all its advantages combined) where
a man, enjoying the '' Mens sana in corpore sana," may, with equal
propriety, adopt the lines which Gil Blas thought worthy to be
written in letters of gold over the door of his retreat at
" Invent portum, spes et fortune valete,
" Sat me lusistis, ludite nunc altos."
# A sound mind in a sound body.
Of hope and fortune note no more the sport,
On others let them play-I've gain'd nay port.
Leaving Douglas and its vicinity for Castletown, though the road leads through a pleasant country, there is scarcely anything worthy of notice. There are a few gentlemen's houses and near to one of them is a pillar, erected by its then owner, to commemorate the happy recovery of his Majesty in 1789. There is little but its loyalty to recommend it; yet it answers a very useful purpose, not thought of at the time it was built; for, from its elevation, it proves an excellent land-mark to the fishermen.
A little farther on, about two miles from Castletown, is
a pleasant village, where a cotton mill has been established, which has afforded employment to many poor families in the neighbourhood. The raw cotton is imported from Liverpool, and, when spun, is sent to Manchester.
The vicinity of the Isle of Man to these markets, and other local advantages, seem to indicate the profits that would accrue from an encreased htimber of similar establishments. This village, however, has derived no small importance from its being the residence of the Deemster, or chief judge, of the Island.
The Deemsters were anciently, in virtue of their office, persons of great dignity; for, besides being chief judges, they were also the Lord's privy counsellors, and their influence over the people was very great. Like the Druids of old, they were reputed the oracles of justice; and in their bosoms resided the laws, which were divulged to the people only on importent occasions. In each of the principal towns is a high bailiff, or inferior judge, who determines suits for sums not exceeding forty shillings, Manks currency; but all money negotiations to a larger amount, and 12 prosecutions for personal injuries, are generally brought before the Deemster, who either decides upon them in person, or submits them to a jury, where he sits as judge.
At a small distance from Ballasalla
a venerable ruin, founded in 1098 by M'Manis; a man whose reputed wisdom and virtue raised him, by universal suffrage, to the government of the Isles.
The establishment originally consisted of an abbot and twelve monks, who at first lived by their manual labor, and denied themselves the most common indulgence, both in food and raiment; but their wealth rapidly encreased, and their humility and abstinence as rapidly declined.
Nearly a third of the tithes of the whole Isle of Man fell into the hands of these religious. Their buildings, their gardens, their stile of living and dressing, all underwent a revolution equal to their fortune. The abbot also became a baron, and was entrusted with the power of holding temporal courts in his own name so that his authority, in some respect, clashed with the lord.
While we condemn the weak superstition that conferred such exorbitant power on ecclesiastics, or blame them for ambition, indolence, and sensuality, let us not forget that the monastic orders were the depositaries of learning and science, when banished from the rest of the world, and that want and misery frequently partook of their spoils, and blessed their services.
The elevation of their abbot was generally sanctioned by the abbot of Furnes, to whom not only this monastery, but the bishopric of the Island, was, in some degree, subject.
The monks of Rushen Abbey wrote the first three sheets of the account of the Isle of Man, published by Camden; but all other of their works have pruned as mortal as their monasteries.
Many of the kings of the Isles were interred in this abbey; on which account it was richly decorated, as well as liberally endowed.
Its ruins still retain an air of gloomy grandeur; but all their beauty is no more.
" Fall' fabric! pond'ring o'er thy time~trac'd walls,
" Thy mould'ring, mighty, melancholy state,
" Each object to the musing mind recals
" The sad vicissitudes of varying fate.'
Near to this place is the tomb stone of one of their abbots, distinguished by the pastoral staff and a broad sword, denoting his temporal as well as spiritual authority; but neither date nor inscription are now visible.
The abbey bridge is situated in a romantic spot, and appears to be very ancient. Not far from Ballasalla is
a small village, chiefly remarkable for its excellent harbour. In a little island, dedicated to St Michael, a fort was erected, with a view of defending its entrance; this is now falling to decay, but the Derby arms are still to be traced over the gate. Near to Tower is a ruined chapel, in which the remains of an altar are still visible. Castletown, and its romantic bay, afford a noble prospect from hence. Near Derby Haven is
It is separated from the main land by a very narrow rocky channel, through which the tide rushes with vast impetuosity.
This isle is all-out five miles in circumference, and is environed by gloomy caverns and stupendous precipices. A few years since, a Russian vessel, of seven hundred tons burden, was dashed to pieces against these rocks, and all the crew perished.
The caves and precipices are tenanted by a vast variety of sea birds, whose discordant notes encrease the wildness of the scenery.
After landing in a small creek, there is some difficulty, and indeed danger, in gaining an eminence, from whence there is a most delightful view of the ocean, terminated on the south by the high mountains in Wales, and on the west by Ireland; while all around lays the broad summit of this little island covered with verdure, and, underneath, the rich vallies of the Isle of Man.
The Island feeds black cattle, and formerly sheep; but these being left without sufficient protection, soon fell a prey to the nightly depredations of the neighbouring island. Hares, partridges, and heath garde, are here in great plenty, and afford much amusement to sportsmen.
Through the whole of this solitary spot there is no human vestige, except a mouldering shepherd's cot. Near the centre of the Isle are three pointed pillars, composed of black inferior marble, and partly of a white shining spar.
Solitude has been termed the " muse of woe." The wounded stag seeks the deepest shade' and the man of sorrow the most solitary retreat.
According to tradition, this spot was once the haunt of a person who, by his splendor and affluence, had been distinguished in the court of Queen Elizabeth, but having, through an illfounded jealousy, murdered a most beautiful woman, he sought shelter here from the vengeance of her friends; and, amidst the caves and lonely recesses of the Calf of Man, lingered out a miserable existence of contrition and remorse.
Between Derby Haven and Castletown are the ruins of
so named from the second title of the Derby family. It has been a kind of summer banqueting-house, which, in former times, has been, without doubt, the scene of social festivity. The large room appears to have been of very considerable dimensions.
No more its arches echo to the noise
Of joy and festive mirth: no more the Dance
Of blazing taper through its window beams,
And quivers o'er the undulating wave;
It But naked stand the melancholy walls,
Lash'd by the wintry tempests, cold and bleak,
That whistle mournful through the empty halls,
And piecemeal crumble down the whole to due .