[from Jefferys A Descriptive Account of the Isle of Man, 1808]
though dignified with the residence of the Governor, in most respects is inferior to Douglas. It is, however, an airy and pleasant town. The houses are tolerably uniform, and the streets are spacious and regular. A small creek, which opens into its rocky and dangerous bay, divides it. The harbour is difficult of entrance, and this checks its commerce. A considerable quantity of corn, however, is exported, and a variety of merchandise imported, though the port of Douglas is solely appropriated for the landing of the chief foreign luxuries.
There is at this place a very excellent inn, kept by Mr Downes, an Englishman, and a variety of shops, one of which, opposite the castle, is superior to most in the Island, and its contents appear to keep pace with its exterior. I applied at this house, (as books formed a part of the stock in trade) for a book or a map, that could be useful in a tour through the Island; when I was told, that it was very unlikely I should find any thing of the kind in the Island, though it was much wanted.
In the centre of the town stands
and proudly overlooks the subject country. This stately pile was raised in 960, by Outhred, a prince of the Danish line, who lies obscurely buried in the edifice he had founded.
This Castle is built on at rock, and, before the invention of artillery was deemed impregnable. A stone glacis, supposed to have been added by Cardinal Halsey, surrounds it; for several ages it has braved the injury of time, and still retains its sullen majesty,
Before the Isle of Man became an appendage to the Crown of England, the native kings resided here, in all the warlike pomp of those barbarous ages, supporting a petty splendor by the oppression of their wretched subjects. To the honor of its loyalty, the Isle of Man was the last place that submitted to Cromwell.
After the earl of Derby, in which family the lordship of the Island was then vested, had fallen a martyr to his allegiance to Charles the first, his lady, a woman of heroic spirit, sought with his children an asylum in Castle Rushen; and, presuming on the military skill of a few officers, and the attachment of the Islanders, indulged the hope of defending herself against the republican army; but Capt. Christian, the commander of the insular forces, having less zeal, or less courage, obeyed the first summons, and surrendered the fortress.
The countess, thus become a prisoner in her own castle, was severely mortified at such a reverse of fortune; yet it appears, that her magnanimity was admired and respected by those who were inimical to her principles.
On the restoration of Charles the second, she returned to England, with the sanguine hope of receiving an indemnification for the ample sacrifices which her family had made; but merit and loyalty were but too partially regarded by that w worthless monarch; and the neglect this meritorious and unfortunate countess suffered, from that monster of ingratitude and disgrace to Royalty, is said to have hastened her end !
On January the 22d, 1662, Capt. Christian, who had in so base a manner surrendered the fortress, at its first summons, was shot, as a punishment for his treachery, or cowardice; and was, on the following day, buried in the chancel of Kirk Malew.
Castle Rushen still retains an air of superiority. It is occupied as a residence by the Governor. A part of it is appropriated to barracks, and another is used as the prison of the Island.
The Governor possesses ample powers. He represents Majesty; and a council, consisting of the bishop, attorney general, clerk of the rolls, and deemster, is appointed to assist and sanction his decisions.
He is captain general of the troops, and sole judge in the court of chancery. In his name all arrests and judgments are issued; and without a passport signed by him, no person can quit the Island.
The master of any vessel, carrying a person off the Island without the Governor's pass, is subject to the penalty of ten pounds, and to the payment of all the debts owing in the Island by the passenger whom he takes, together with the seizure of his vessel at any time she may put into any of the ports of the Island, till the full payment of the penalties is made.
INSULAE MONIAE } Permit the bearer hereof, A. B. TO pass for England upon his lawful occasions, without let, stop, or hindrance, he behaving himself as behoves all liege people, and departing this Isle within one month from the date hereof.
Given at Castle Rushen, (Signed) this day of
The above passes are signed in blank by the Governor, and given to persons appointed at the different ports to distribute them. They insert the name of the passenger, and the country to which he is going. The pass is obtained with scarcely any trouble, and the expence is under two shillings. They are in force, as expressed in the body of the pass, for one month.
The Governor, with the advice of his council, can give the force of laws to the acts of the House of Keys; subject, however, to the future confirmation, or annulment, of his Majesty, communicated by the Secretary of State.
The courts of chancery and common law are held in this castle. These are now generally conducted on the principles of the English courts of justice; yet a few particularities remain.
Though any person may plead his own cause, yet none but the natives are allowed to practise at the Manks bar. Besides this birth-right, a Manksman enjoys a privilege of a far more important nature. No native, unless there is proof of his intention to quit the Island, can be imprisoned for debt. His effects alone can be distrained; while strangers, who unfortunately contract debts which they are unable to discharge, are liable to be confined in the prison of this castle. However, on making affidiavit that he has no maintenance, he it entitled to three shillings and sixpence per week from the creditor; and the liberality of this law frequently prevents long imprisonment.
Near the castle stands the House of Keys, a building by no means corresponding with the representatives of the Island.
The present Governor is Colonel Smelt; and the very general terms of respect, which accompany the mention of his name in the Island, is the surest proof of the degree of estimation in which his character is held. place of execution, which is adjoining the town, is seldom or never wanted, the spirit of the criminal laws being so very mild. In 1735, three persons were executed for burglary; in 1745, one for murder; and, I believe, very few, if any, since. What a contrast to the number which, in the metropolis of England, have suffered death during that period !
By a law, of the date of 1577, it is enacted that,
" If a man take a woman by constraint, and fierce her against her will-if she be a wife, he must suffer death; and if she be a single woman, the Deemster shall give her a rope, a sword, and a ring, and she shall have her choice either to hang him with the rope, cut off his head with the sword, or marry him with the ring."
Report says that every complainant, bearing in mind no doubt that Virtue without charity was lint as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal, has been lenient, except one, who presented the rope, but relented, on seeing the prisoner tied up, and desired he might be let down again. She then presented the ring; but the man replied, " that one punishment was in his opinion enough for one crime, and he should therefore keep the ring for some future occasion."
At a distance of about two miles from Castletown stands
It is a pleasant little village; but is not remarkable for any thing so much as the delightful view to be seen in the walk to it. About one mile from Castletown is a fine quarry of black marble, from which the grand flight of steps leading to St Paul's was taken, and presented to the dean and chapter of that Cathedral, by the venerable Dr Wilson, at that time bishop of Sodor and Man; and, near to this place, within the sea mark, are also some quarries of limestone, which are worked at low water, and afford employment to the boats, during the recess of the fishery. The parochial church of
is a gloomy building, situated in a romantic solitude, as most of the religious edifices in this Island are. Ensigns of the Stanley family are cut in wood, underneath the gallery; together with the arms of the Island.
The church-yards, in the Isle of Man, do not abound so much with absurd epitaphs, in rhyme, as those in England; yet there is one at Kirk Malew which is singular-it is to the memory of a lady, of whom it says
She was born on a Midsummer day,
She was married on a Midsummer day,
And buried on a Midsummer day.
To which the reader may, perhaps be inclined to add,
Good lack a day - ! !
To record the absurdity which is to be found in church-yard poetry, in general, would be endless. I will, however, insert one, which exceeds, in eccentricity, all that I have ever seen: it was to the memory of a Mr Fry, who, on a rejoicing night, was struck with a rocket stick, which occasioned his death, and which is thus recorded,
" Here doth lie
" The body
" Of Mr John Lorry,
" Who unlickily
" Did die ! From a sky
" Rocket falling in his eye,
" Poor Mr John Fry! "
Contrasted with the folly of Mr John Fry's biographers, in the above effort to perpetuate his memory, how striking is the delicacy of passion and grief, delineated in a church-yard of a village in Hanover, upon a sepulchral stone, erected to the memory of a young and beautiful country girl, by her lover, on which is sculptured, in an artless manner, the figure of a rose, and underneath is this inscription:
" C'EST AINSI QU ELLE - rut !
This was her resemblance!
In the way from Kirk Malew to Kirk Christ Rushen, are the
These are two square lofty pillars, placed at a considerable distance from each other; concerning which, the neighbouring peasants have various chimerical traditions too absurd to be noticed.
The Manks people have been described to be of a very superstitious turn of mind, and many of them are said to believe in second sight, and in warnings preceding death. Some-times, in the awful silence of the night, they have heard, or (more properly speaking) fancy they have heard themselves called by name; and several, in their lonely rambles, have met a visionary funeral, which has followed them wherever they have turned, till one of the apparitions (generally a relation) seemed to touch them, and the whole vanished into thin air. The sickness of death immediately seized the devoted victim, and a cold tremor crept over his whole frame.
These superstitions may be fairly imputed to a native melancholy, cherished by indolence, and heightened by the wild, solitary, and romantic scenes, to which the Manks peasants are habitually accustomed.
A Manksman, amid his lonely mountains, reclines by some romantic stream, the murmurings of which lull him into a pleasing torpor.
Half slumbering, he sees a variety of imaginary beings,which he believes to be real. Sometimes they resemble the traditional idea of the-fairies, and sometimes they assume the appearance of his friends and neighbours. Presuming on these dreams, the Manks enthusiast foresees some future event; and should any thing similar occur, he fancies himself endowed with the gift of prescience; and thus disturbs his own happiness, and that of others.
There can be no doubt, but, amidst solitudes, a man of a melancholy and superstitious turn of mind, may insensibly form visions of some dread ful calamity he is about to suffer, and which may not only receive strength, but completion, from a sombrous imagination, heightened by traditionary terrors
Dreams in general are chimerical delusions, the scattered images of sensible things floating on the mind, and forming incongruous, but sometimes very singular associations in sleep. And that this method of communication has been adopted by PROVIDENCE, to inform men of future events, to give them directions in cases of importance, and bring them to a proper sense of religion, there can be no doubt, if the testimony of some of the best men that have lived is to be credited, or the Bible to be believed.
Yet surely it can never be reconciled to a proper idea of the wisdom and benevolence of the DEITY, that he should communicate to a few indolent recluses, such revelations of the unknown world, as could only flatter vanity, or accelerate human misery.
"Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of fate
All but the page prescrib'd, their present state;
From bmtes what men, from men what spirits know
Or who could suffer being here below ? "
The influence of superstition, however, upon the minds of the Manks, has, by the encrease of society, and its consequent activity, lost much of its power.
In the course of my walk through the country, having for my object equally to form an estimate of the character and turn of mind of the Islander, as to survey the natural beauties of the Island, I entered into conversation with a great variety of persons, and looked into many of their dwellings; for the real state of society, in every country, is the state of common life. It is in vain to look for the manners of a people in the mansions of the great, or in the schools of the learned, where the national character is generally obscured, and very frequently obliterated.
Nor can public happiness be estimated by the assemblies of the gay, or the entertainments of the rich.- They whose aggregate constitutes the people, are to be found in the streets, in the villages, in the shops, the farms, and the cottages; and from them only, collectively considered, must the measure of general prosperity be taken.
The cottages in general I found to be more cleanly within, than I expected from their exterior, which, from the want of windows on the side next to the road, have a very gloomy appearance.
In these cottages are numerous little schools, and the children in general appeared to be very decently dressed. Upon looking into their books, I observed that they were nearly all upon religious subjects, principally from the works of Dr Wilson, the former Bishop of Sodor and Man, Dr Watts, and Dr Doddridge, printed generally on one side in Manks, and on the other in English.
The simple neatness of the cottage, and the tranquillity of the surrounding scenes, together with the apparently sincere endeavors of the hum ble preceptor in the important work of instruction to his little pupils, most forcibly recalled to my mind the observation of Zimmerman, " That nature and a tranquil heart frequently prepare for the DIVINITY a more beautiful and magnificent temple, than the church of St Peter at Rome, or the cathedral of St Paul in London."
My different questions were always answered with extreme respect, and frequently with much intelligence upon every subject which related to the Isle of Man; and beyond the sphere of their daily employment, happily for themselves, these people interfere but little.
" What is it to be wise ?
" 'Tis but to know how little can be known,
" To see all other's faults, and feel our own!
Over a mountainous part of the country, from Castletown towards Peel, are the lead-mines of Foxdale; and near to them, about three miles from Peel, is the beautiful
The fall is considerable, and the picturesque effect is heightened by the surrounding scenery. The best road to it is from Peel, from which it is distant about three miles. And here it occurs to me to give a caution to pedestrian travellers in the Isle of Man, never to attempt what is called the shorter road over the mountains, as there are very few that have done so, who have not lost themselves in the thick fogs, with which the summits of these great heights are almost continually clouded. It was my case, by mistake; for, taking a wrong turn of the road, I got upon the top of them in a wet fog, which prevented my seeing any object at the distance of fifty yards. I met several peasants, some of whom could not speak English, and the directions given me by others I again mistook in the intricacy of the road; when, after wandering about from eight in the morning till near two in the afternoon, I descended within two miles of the place from where I had set out.