[From Leech's Guide, 1861]
THE Manufactures of the Island generally are by no means so extensive as could be desired, both as regards the employment of the industrious poor, and as a source of its internal affluence. The trade andcorninerce of Ramsey,with which our guide is more intimately connected, have considerably improved during the last few years, a fact fully attested by the character and style of the numerous first-class shops throughout the town, more especially in Parliament-street, (the main street) where the phases of business premises have experienced complete transformation. The establishment of steam communication with Liverpool has greatly facilitated mercantile transactions, and given an impetus to trade in general which will doubtless have a salutary effect on the future prosperity of the north of the Island. But independently of this consideration, the present respectabJe appearance and prosperous state is mainly to be attributed to the enterprising spirit of the merchants and tradesmen, hence the numerous suburban terraces, as well as handsome buildings on the margin of the bay.
The industry and capital of the businessmen have not been limited to the erection of buildings, a very considerable amount is invested in the shipping interest. £20,000 have been devoted to steam navigation alone, and there are at present trading (independent of steam) vessels belonging to the port of Ramsey engrossing an aggregate of 3,500 tons, and involving a capital of some eighteen to twenty thousand pounds.
As might be expected, property in the town and neighbourhood has considerably enhanced in value, but the high price of eligible building sites is a serious impediment to progression, a drawback which every small community has to encounter. Corporate authority is likewise much needed to stimulate improvements, and the Insular Legislature have made several efforts to establish local regulation and government by the appointment of Commissioners, but hitherto without success, the inhabitants having invariably declined to accept the commission in the form prescribed by the Tynwald Court. It is hoped, however, that the boon of corporate authority for local regulation and government, on which the prosperity of the insular towns mainly depends, will shortly be established.
A chapter has already been devoted to the herring fishery, which forms a considerable item in the trade and commerce of the Island, averaging about £70,000 per annum; to this may be added the lucrative trade carried on in haddock, cod, plaice, and almost all kinds of fish, for which a ready market is obtained through the facilities of steam vessels, which are intercepted in their regular transit by the fishing smacks, thus obviating the necessity of the latter running for port.
It is gratifying to observe that agricultural enterprise in the Island is in many instances vieing with the United Kingdom, yet very much remains to be done, as a considerable portion of the commons or waste land, capable of tillage, remains uncultivated. These lands, subject to certain public rights and conditions, are claimed by the crown, and although inclosures have recently been made, there evidently exists a manifest objection in the people at large to relinquish their privileges, which from time immemorial have descended to the present occupiers, privileges duly recognised by both landlord and-tenant, namely, "the right to cut turf for fuel, and to depasture sheep and cattle over the whole of the commons of the Island." There is considerable doubt as to the right of the crown to dispose of these waste lands, nay indeed it is vehemently affirmed by many learned in the law that they cannot be wrested from the people, who have an inalienable right in them. The crown, it is true, has sometimes disposed of a parcel of intack or common, but such licence when granted must be sanctioned and approved of by the Great Inquest of the district where the property lies, otherwise the licence or grant will not be held good. The Great Inquest, a jury of twelve men, stand as it were as arbitrators between the Lady of the Manor and the inhabitants of this Isle, and whose duty it is to watch that whilst the rights of the crown are strictly preserved, those of the people shall also remain intact.
It must be conceded that the North, in common with other parts of the Island, has largely benefited by the location of English and Scotch farmers, especially the latter, whose skill and enterprise have had a salutary effect ; but in many instances the Manx farmer has yet to learn the importance of bringing every particle of his land into cultivation,of extirpating gorse and useless brushwood, of draining the wet, and probably the best portions of his land, of a judicious rotation of cropping, and of harvesting his cern before it becomes saturated with autumn showers. The facilities which steam communication affords to the agriculturist in transporting stock to the adjacent markets, are apparent,he is placed in juxta position with the English grower, and may safely calculate on a fair remuneration, provided his stock is of the best description. Large quantities of grain and potatoes are shipped each year by sailing vessels to Whitehaven and elsewhere, as well as cattle and horses, which are driven to the various markets in the north of England. It is worthy of note, that no cattle are imported into the Island, except such as are requisite for the improvement of stock, consequently butchers meat is much lower in the Island than in the large towns of England. The recent establishment of an Agricultural Society in the Isle of Man portends a proficiency in this department, and will afford to the enterprising farmer, as well as to the ingenious mechanic, an opportunity of developing those hitherto comparatively dormant qualifications.
It has been the object of the publisher to bring before the visitor the advantages that accrue to the mind from a tejuporary cessation from active life, and to furnish him with a guide to the most interesting objects and localities in Ramsey and its vicinity,a change of scene and occupation appreciated in all ages, from the time that " the Venetian Bard longed, amidst the splendours of the Imperial Court, for a retreat to the Sabine farm, and Cicero sought the classic shades of Tusculum, when wearied with the strife of the Roman forum." He has likewise endeavoured to invest the North of the Island with such historical and legendary interest as of right belong to it, and to place within the reach of the visitor, whether politician, wearied with the strife of party,the philosopher, seeking retirement for meditation,the overworked of all professions anxious to recruit their energies and invigorate their minds,or the invalid seeking a pure and exhilarating atmosphere, such facilities as are calculated to meet their varied requirements.
It is gratifying to elicit the testimony of visitors who have frequented Ramsey for several successive seasons, no watering place they had previously visited had afforded them equal healthy enjoyment, and they were surprised the elite, as well as the industrious community, who delight in exploring the beauties of nature in the variety of marine objects with which the shores of the Island abound, did not more fully appreciate a tour to this saline but b~iIrn-breathing watering place." But Ramsey, as well as other parts of the Island, ison the eve of discovering its advantages to visitors, and it may yet eclipse other hitherto more favourite localities, from a combination of benefits rarely found in one spot. Here the visitor may enjoy "the clear warm atmosphere of the bay, or encounter the invigorating breezes of the lulls ; he may gaze on the water as it ripples placidly on the shore, or breaks grandly against the rocks, or reflects in its clear depths the heavenly blue of the vault above. Does he love society?
On the beach he will find abundant of amusement. Does he seek solitude? Let him roam along the north shore of Ramsey Bay, where he may meditate at leisure, uninterrupted save by the murmur of the water as it lazily curls along the sands, or let him wander over the towering mountains where he may gain a view of the magnificent expanse of the ocean," and his requirements will be amply met. Should these observations, therefore, be the means of directing the footsteps of the visitor to some green solitude of the "Elphin Land," or induce him to retire from the "battle of life" for the remainder of his earthly pilgrimage, the object of publishing this brief sketch will be more than realized.