[Little Man Island, 1894]
[In some ways a piece of hack journalism but written, I think, with some affection and wish to promote the Island; Hall Caine had just moved back to the Island in 1894, initially staying at Greeba Castle (which he bought 2 years later) but then moving to a house in Peel - hence his comments at the end]
IN the old days, and indeed down to our own time, the shoe worn by the Manxman was called a carrane. The carrane was a sort of rugged slipper, made of untanned leather with the nap on it, and shaped with a long, pointed toe. If one wished to describe the physical configuration of the Isle of Man, without the aid of map or model, I do not know that one could do better than to say it has the outline and the build of an old Manxmans carrane.
There are four towns on the islandDouglas on the mid-east coast, Castletown on the south-east, Ramsey on the north-east, and Peel on the west. There are three lesser towns also-Port St. Mary, south of Castletown ; Port Erin, south-west of Port St. Mary ; and Laxey, between Douglas and Ramsey. The island has several islets grouped about itThe Calf, at the extreme south, with its rocks known as the Hen and Chickens; St. Michaels Isle (once the residence of the Bishop), by Castletown ; and Holme Island, the site of Peel Castle, by Peel.
The heel of the Manxmans carrane is the piece of bold coast which goes round from Port St. Mary by Port Erin, to Peel ; the toe is the long prow of sandy land which stretches out to the Point of Ayre; and the instep (not to carry the figure farther) is the mountain called Snaefell, which rises above the middle of the island.
ALL islands are beautiful when looked upon from the sea, but I know of nothing so lovely as the Isle of Man when you approach it from the English side towards the fall of night. The sun is then going down behind it, and from point to point the land lies grey on the blue line of the horizon, breaking it like the dim ghost of a snowstorm on a summers evening. Coming nearer, the grey strengthens, the blue deepens, and the island sits on the water like a sea gull in the late sunshine As you get closer, and the sun dips behind the land, the mountains become purple, and a haze lies at their feet over a multitude of little peaks which you know to be the spires and towers of a town. Closer still, the spires and towers are thrown up into the luminous air, and the vast glass domes of Douglas catch the dying glory of the sky. Then you begin to see the line of the bay, with its two headlands, and to descry the carriages that creep aloe ~ the promenade like ants, to hear the sound of music in the distance, broken and deadened by the deep panting of the engines as the steamer burrows into the running waves or the glistening breakers, and into the sun-set that is coming down on you like green smoke. It is a beautiful sight on a beautiful day. You will enjoy it if the island is nothing more to you than Kamschatka or Timbuctoo ; but if you happen to he a Manxman, and to be returning home after a long absence, you will like it so well that you will he in danger of not seeing it at all, your eyes will be so wet.
You can take a nearer view of the Manx coast by sailing round the island in one of the steamers that make the daily circuit of the island in the summer.
But if, like myself, you prefer a land to a sea view of rocky headlands, and would rather look down than look up, you have many glorious opportunities of making acquaintance with our sea-girt border. One of the finest coast walks is that which begins by the breakwater at the east of Port Erin, and goes round the neck of the water called The Sound, which flows between the mainland and The Calf. This takes you by Spanish Head, Black Head, and the deep fissures known as The Chasms, and brings you round to Port St. Mary. Mr. Gladstone took this walk when he was on the island some years ago. A while ago I picked up a trace of the great man at a fishermans cottage in Cregnaish the strangest looking village in Man, perhaps in Europe, a sort of gipsy encampment, of irregular houses, chiefly thatched, reminding me somewhat of some Moorish villages. According to an old Manxman there, Mr. Gladstone had a theory that all children born within sight of the sea come into the world with blue eyes, and it would appear that he united the pleasures of his coast ramble with the cross-examination of Manx women on this problem in physiology. The Cregnaish mothers agreed-their children were born with blue eyes.
A coast ramble of only less interest begins at the west of Port Erin, and goes by Bradda Head and Fleswick, and the depression known as The Stack, over the mountain Cronk-ny -Irey-Lhaa, under South Barrule, to the Round Table, and down to the reef of rocks called The Niarbyl. There is a third and shorter coast ramble which I have taken almost daily for nearly a year. It begins on the south side of the harbour at The Peel, goes by the two slate quarries on Contrary Head, to a ledge three hundred feet above the sea level, which runs southward for a quarter of a mile under Corrins Tower, opens on a broad piece of turf, sweet as a rose, and brings you to a promontory from which you see the line of the island down to The Calf. A fourth coast walk, no less familiar and no less loved, begins at Ramsey, goes up Ballure, turns down at Folieu, passes Port Lewaige and Port-y-Vullen, creeps up Ago Point, makes for St. Maugholds Well, which lies seaward of Kirk Maughold Head (say the word with your mouth half full of water, and you have the pronunciation about right), down by Port Mooar, up again by Ballaskeig, and back by Cornah Harbour and the road under Ballaglass.
The coast of the Isle of Man is not all equal to this, but taken as a whole it is rugged, bold, and even grand. Not so lofty as much of the western coast of Scotland, and not to be compared in magnitude with the serried and fissured face of Iceland but not unlike the coast of the Faroe Islands at some points, or some of the outlying fords of Norway. I do not know how it is with others, but I have been surprised to find how soon I have lost the sense of difference which comes merely of different size. After long familiarity with certain of the greater things in the coast scenery of Europe, I have found no feeling of disappointment in presence of the lesser glories of the little Manx sea-board. Their sunny sheltered bays (called ports for the most part) wherein the sea lies blue as the sky overhead in summer ; their precipitous cliffs, like vast elephants hoofs stepping out on a blue pavement ; their black rocks, speckled with quartz and the white wings of ten thousand sea fowl ; their hollow amphitheatres, echoing with the scream of gull and guillemot ; their deep inaccessible caves, sending up a thunderous roar that makes the earth above to quakethese are enough for me, whatever grander things there are elsewhere.
The Manx mountains are scarcely so remarkable. Snaefell, the highest of them, is, of course, not to be compared with its Icelandic namesake, and its green slopes have nothing in common with the snow-mantled peaks of the Snaefell Jokul. Only two of our mountains are memorable in form, North Barrule, which stands between Ramsey and Laxey, and Cronk-ny-Irey-Lhaa, which rises from the sea between Fleswick and the Niarbyl. Seen from Maughold Head, a hundred feet above the level of the Old Church, Barrule is a grand thing, broad, deep, lofty, clear in outline, and fine in colour. And seen from the sea as you sail out of Ramsey Bay, it is even finer. It rises upon you as you clear away from the land, going up, up, up, as if it were a moving thing, until it stands over you like a pyramid, and all that you can see of the island besides is the little town that lies nestling at its feet. You see it to advantage from the flat land by Castletown, but if you would see it at its best you must see it as the fishermen see it at the break of day, when they look up at its topmost ridge for that first gleam of morning, which is their signal for the hauling of the nets.
But if the Manx mountains are not, as a whole, remarkable in themselves, they afford perfectly marvellous views. From Snaefell, from the two Barrules, north and south, from Cronk~ny-Irey Lhaa, from Greeba, from Slieu Whallin, and even from the lesser heights of Contrary, Slieu Lewaige, Gov-y-VO11Y and the Sky Hill, you have prospects which are astounding in range and in variety. I have heard it said (I do not know with what truth) that there are not more than three or four points of elevation in England from which you can get an uninterrupted view of three miles on every side. Bewildering as the statement sounds, I have found it true in the lake country. In the Isle of Man it is not true. Here it would not be difficult, I think, to find at least a dozen places from which the prospect round and round is only limited by the power of sight. From Snaefell, on a clear day, you may see nearly the whole coast line of the island mapped out below you. And beyond the seaboard lies the sea, with the mountains of Cumberland to the east, the Mull of Galloway to the north, and the hills of Mourne to the west.
The Manx mountains have one further attraction. They are quite perfect for the pedestrian who is not a cragsman, but only the simplest type of mountaineer. The springy turf, the short heather, the thin mountain gorse, the long, level stretches at elevations ranging from one thousand to two thousand feet, the springs of clear water, the beginnings of the glens, with their little cascades, the odour of the ground, and the exhilarating qualities of the air,these, with the constant change of view, the dim ghosts of other lands, the ships on the sea, the tall funnels of smoke from unseen-steamers creeping under the coast, give the true lover of the mountains a pleasure that he can hardly find elsewhere.
I am afraid I cannot say much for the Manx rivers. We have poisoned one of the sweetest of them, the Glenfaba river, with the washings from the lead mines of Foxdale. There used to be fish in abundance in this lovely stream, and trout, in particular, of extraordinary size. But the fish are gone, the sweet foliage of the banks is destroyed, and the waters that used to be clear as crystal are now thicker than soap-suds, and a thousand times more deadly. Sulby river, however, is still pure, and so are the rivers at Rhenass, re-christened Glen Helen, and at Ballasalla.
The island has a great charm in its Curragh land. Pronounce the termination of Curragh with a thick guttural, precisely (if you know how that is) as a Moor pronounces the termination of Arrah. The district which is known as the Curragh is the broad stretch of flat land which lies to the seaward of the mountains at Ballaugh. On old maps (Speeds, for example) this is seen to be the site of a lake. The lake has gone, the land is partially drained, some of it is reclaimed, but the greater part still lies as it came from Natures hand, rough, untouched, wild, luxurious, and exquisitely beautiful. Gorse, reeds, rushes, and sally bushes grow here. The air is full of the odour of wild flowers, of weed blossoms, of damp scraa soil, of turf and of turf pits. Birds of every colour and of every note live in it. It is a paradise of uncultured nature. Put on a pair of stout sea boots, and plunge boldly into this thicket of rude and gorgeous growth. It will repay you.
But if I were asked what is the peculiar feature and special charm of the landscape of the Isle of Man, I think I should answer and say, not its coast, though that is fine ; nor its mountains, though they, are delightful ; nor its rivers, nor yet its curraghs, not any of these, but its glensits narrow, winding, sinuous, dark and slumberous glens.
Grander things of the same kind there are in many countries ; grander things a thousand times, but nothing so sweet, so soft, so rich, so exquisitely beautiful. The thin thread of blue water leaping and laughing, and gliding and babbling and brawling and whooping and stealing its various ways down from the mountain-tops to the sea-beach ; the great blue boulders of its torturous course, worn smooth and ploughed hollow by the wash of ages; the wet moss and lichen of its channel walls ; the deep cool dubbs ; the tiny reefs ; the little cascades of boiling, white foam ; the lines of trees on either hand that make the light of morning dim with over-shadowing leafage ; the golden fuchsia here, and the green trammon there, and now and then a poor old tholthan, the roofless walls of an abandoned house, with grass growing on its kitchen floor : and then the eye of the sun peering down in places into the slumberous gloom and the breeze singing somewhere above the tree tops to the voice of the river below.
The largest of the Manx glens is Sulby Glen, and this you may see by the coach that crosses Snaefell mountain and comes down by Sulby. But smaller glens of equal or greater loveliness are Rhenass, mis-called Glen Helen ; Glen Meay, to the south of Peel ; Ballaugh Glen above Ravensdale ; Glen Aldyn by Milntown, two miles west of Ramsey; Laxey Glen ; the Dhoon Glen ; and Ballaglass in
Kirk Maughold, beginning at the high road, going down to the network of paths where the old flour mill lies like a spider in its web, and emptying into the Cornah Harbour. The island is, however, honey-combed with these love spots. You may find them anywhere. Light upon a stream and follow it to its source up the hill side, and somewhere in its course you are sure to come upon one of them. Surely Phonoderee [sic Phynodderee] himself, the Manx Brownie, founded his fairydom in these places.
The dominant colour of the Isle of Man, taken all the year round, is green, the light green of grass, not the green of trees, of which there are few in the Island, and fewer still of good form and size. But this grass-green is broken during the spring and summer by a blaze of gold, the gold of the gorse and of the ragwort, known in Manxland as the cushag. I have seen no such gorse in any country. The gorse is as plentiful in Morocco, but it is not there so large or so brilliant, and (if my memory serves me) it is entirely without odour. In the Isle of Man the gorse is almost everywhere; the hedges of the fields and the sides of the mountains are covered with it. Its brilliance in the sunlight is that of gold ; some of the roads seemed to be lined as with golden bands. The gorse is, I think, of two kinds, one flowering in the spring, the other in the late autumn. Between these flowerings comes the cushag. Where the gorse is not, the cushag must surely be. The late accomplished Governor has called the cushag the Manx national flower, though it was the Ballan our Fencibles wore. It is certainly a most noble weed. Throughout the month of July it lies on the hill tops like yellow scull caps, " the last to parley with the setting sun." No minaret of any mosque in Constantinople is half so glorious as a Manx mountain with the sun dying off its crown of cushags.
There is a legend of the Isle of Man which tells of a magician, called Mannanin, who lived here like Prospero, and kept the island to himself by concealing it from seafarers under a cloud of mist. If this legend indicates a misty atmosphere it is at fault. The air of the island is dry, clear and bracing. Nowhere in the United Kingdom, so far as I know, is there so much sunshine. The fuchsia grows in the open air and is often used (as at the village of Colby, at Knock-sharryand in Ballaugh) for garden hedges instead of the thorn. A soft haze sometimes hangs over the island in summer, when the all is not hot but the sea is warm. The sun shines through it, and makes mysterious shapes in the hills and over the curraghs. I do not think it is n exhalation from the ground ; I have never heard that it is unhealthy ; it can be seen to come up from the sea. In short, I do not know a climate at once more genial and more bracing, or scenery more cheerful and more heartsome.
It has been noticed (I have observed it myself in many countries) that big things in naturebig mountains, big lakes, big valleys, big rivers, big seas, big plainshave a depressing effect on the people who live in their neighbourhood The effect is visible in the peoples faces and their voices are constantly telling of it. I know of no more melancholy man than the average dalesman of Cumberland, though, of course, I have met even in the deepest Cumbrian valleys with dalesmen as light of heart as " Auld Will Ritson " was. The Russian moujik, too, in his vast steppe country, is a heavy, lugubrious creature, and I am told that even the wandering Boer is so on the trackless Veldt of the Transvaal. Whether the very smallness of our Island is a contributory cause, I do not know, but assuredly it would be hard to find in the world a more bright-eyed, cheerful-toned, humorous, and happy-looking race than the people of the little Manx nation.
If I am asked for a short account of the "Specimen Days" of the Isle of Man I must, of course, begin with Tynwald Day. It is more to the Manxman than Independence Day to the American. Not only is it the sign manual of his liberty ; it is the story of his people. The Jewish people think of their religious ceremonials, the Passover for example, as witnesses to the truth of their written history. In like manner Tynwald Day is a witness to the Manxmans descent from his Norse ancestors. A thousand years ago his forefathers came from Norway, or perhaps from Iceland, and established on this little island the form of government which existed on the greater island of the Arctic seas. The centre and rallying point of that form of government was Althing. Aithing was their Parliament ; they held it in the open air. The scene was the place called Thingvellir, a grand and gloomy valley which you approach from Rekjavik, the capital, by a rugged pass, called the Chasm of All Men. Every other year they gathered there, coming on their little hardy ponies from north, south, east, and west, pitched their tents, and held a session which lasted seven days. The practice has been long discontinued. Except for a special Althing held in 1876 or 1877 (on the occasion of the visit of the King of Denmark) the last open-air parliament was held in Iceland in the year 1800. But the custom which the family at home has abandoned, the family abroad has preserved. The open-air Parliament is still held in the Isle of Man. It meets once a year at St. Johns, in the centre of the island, on the mount known as Tynwald Hill.
Tynwald Day is Old Midsummer Day, the fifth of July, by our present calendar. Only a Manxman can fully realise how completely that day is a time-mark in his public and domestic life. In the homes of the people everything is counted by Tynwald Day, otherwise christened Midsummer Fair. The age of a horse, the calving of the cow, the christening of the children, the killing of the pig, and the thatching of the houseall these are reckoned by their relation to the day of all days. In the Manxland of yesterday this was yet more apparent than it is now. The poorer Manx people were then both landsmen and seamen, both farmers and fishermen. A man had his little croft of five acres his cow, and his pig and he had also his herring net (made at home), and perhaps his share in a boat. On St. Stephens Day, or thereabouts, he " listed " in a boats crew for the fishing season forthcoming took his shilling and kept a feast(called a Scaltha) in honour of his engagement. Then for six months longer he went on with the work of his land. But when his barley was sown and his potatoes were down he began to get his nets in order. On Midsummer Day he want to Tynwald, and next day he set off for the " herrings. " We have changed all that during the past few years, very much to the disadvantage both of farming and fishing, but Tynwald Day remains.
The ceremonial is well worth seeing. You may go to the ends of Europe and see nothing of the kind that is half so interesting. I was present at the Tynwald of last year. Let me describe it. The day was bright, brilliant, even dazzling, and, at an early hour, the streets of Douglas were thronged with vehicles. Brakes, wagonettes, omnibuses, private carriages, and cadgers carts, all loaded to their utmost capacity, were climbing out of the town by way of the road going towards Peel. Visitors, boarding-house keepers, shop-keepers, boatmen, members of the Legislature, and officials of every class, were driving in thousands to Tynwald Hill. They looked as cheerful as the weather was beautiful. The town seemed to shout; the old island rock itself seemed to laugh.
It was a drive of eight miles, and we were driving in a line of some hundreds of carriages. By the time we got to the breast of the steep hill going up to Crosby the road ahead was like a funnel of dust, and the road behind was like the tail of a comet. Out of the dense cloud, in front and at the back, came sounds of singing and laughter. At one moment there came wild whooping behind, and presently the line of carriages swirled like a long serpent half a yard nearer to the left-hand hedge. Then through the grey dust a carriage shot past at a rapid pace. It was the carriage of the Governor.
When we came within a mile of Tynwald, we could see the flags, the tents, and the crowd as of a vast encampment, and hear the deep hum of a multitude, like the murmur of a distant sea.
Tynwald Hill is an open green in the very midst of the island, with hills on three of its sides, and on the fourth a broad plain dipping down to the sea. The shape of the green is that of the frame of a guitar. Down the middle of the guitar there is a walled enclosure, which may be said to be of the shape of a banjo. At the key end, the east end, stands a church. The round drum is the mount, which is built in four circles, the topmost being some six paces across.
The open part of the green was covered with booths, barrows, stands, and show tents. There were cheap-jacks selling shoddy watches, phrenologists with two chairs, fat women, dwarfs, wandering minstrels and itinerant hawkers of tin hat-boxes containing sticks of toffeethese and other shiny, slimy creatures, with the air and grease of the : towns. At one corner there were a few oxen and horses, tethered and tanketted, and kicking up the dust under the dry sod.
The crowd was dense already and increasing at every moment. As the brakes arrived they drove up with a whoop and a swing that sent the people surging on either side. Some brought well-behaved visitors, others brought an eruption of ruffians blowing tin whistles and jews-harps, and yet others brought farmers and fishermen disguised, out of all recognition, as lodging-house keepers, and pretending not to understand the salutations of old comrades when addressed by them in the Manx.
Down the neck of the enclosure, and round the circular end of it, a regiment of soldiers was ranged with rifles and bayonets. Inside their lines there was a company of marines with drawn swords. The steps to the mount were covered with rushes from the Curragh. Two arm-chairs were on the top under a canopy hung from a flagstaff that stood in the centre. These chairs were still empty ; the mount and its approaches were being kept clear.
The sun was hot, the heat was great, the odour was sometimes oppressive. Now and again, sounds of singing within the church mingled with the crack of the toy rifle-ranges, and the jabber of the cheap-jacks. It is usual to begin the proceedings of Tynwald Day with Divine service, and the Governor and Legislature were at prayers.
Presently the crowd gathered thick down the neck of the enclosure and dense round the mount. Then to the strains of the National Anthem, played by the band of the regiment, the Governor, his Council, his Clergy, and his Keys, came out of the church. His Excellency wore cocked hat and Court dress, and the sword of State was carried upright before him. He walked through the lines of soldiers and marines and stepped to the hill top. There he took one of the two chairs under the canopy ; the other was taken by the Bishop of the Island, who was wearing his lawn. Their followers came behind, and broke up on the mount (I am bound to confess it) in an irregular and indiscriminate mass. A number of ladies were admitted to the space on the topmost round. They stood behind the two chairs of the Governor and Bishop, with parasols still open. From the Governors seat the scene was a splendid and even magnificent one. Fifteen thousand people in holiday dress, with brakes and wagonettes, a company of soldiers and a company of marines, stood closely packed in the brilliant sunshine on the green below. To the east was the church spire against the green background of Greeba mountain, to the south the strong out-lines of Slieu Whallin, to the west the broad plain going down to the sea. Not, perhaps, a spectacle such as Thingvellir must have been, with its craggy hill of laws, surrounded by its natural moat and encircled by its snow-clad Jokuls. But a beautiful and wonderful scene, nevertheless, vitalised and ennobled, too, by a real national sentiment.
The business of the Court began. It was that of promulgating the laws. Reluctantly I admit that the proceedings were, in themselves, long, tiresome, ineffectual, formless, unimpressive and unpicturesque. The senior Deemster, the amiable and venerable
Sir William Drinkwater, read the titles of the new laws in English. Then the Coroner of the premier sheading, Glenfaba Sheading, recited the same titles in Manx. Hardly anybody heard them; hardly anybody listened.
When the Coroner had finished the Governor rose, the band struck up " God Save the Queen," and Governor, Clergy, and Legislature filed back to the church, now transformed into a Court House, to sign the Acts of Tynwald which had just been promulgated. The scene had not been well stage-managed. Nevertheless, I should be sorry to see the old custom of Tynwald abandoned. Some day some Manxman may have it in him to breathe life into these dry bones. Meantime, the Open-air Parliament of Man is unique if not overpowering, and beautiful if not solemn and stirring. Remember that if you wish to see it you must come to the island not later than the first days of July.
My next Specimen Day (to repeat Walt Whitmans phrase) will be the day when the fleet of fishing boats leave the Isle of Man for the mackerel fishing at Kinsale. There is no fixed date for this event but it often occurs on the Monday preceding the Easter holidays. For some weeks previous the fishermen have been getting their boats in order. The long sleep of winter is over, and the hulls which have been lying at the top of the harbour have dropped down stream one by one and stepped their masts. You go out some morning and find the harbour like a forest of trees. The boats are taking in their newly-corked nets, hauling up their fresh-tarred ropes, and being touched up themselves with bright strokes of blue and red paint on the binnacle head and round the bulwarks.
At length the day of departure comes, and then the two chief fishing ports of the island, Port St. Mary and Peel, are bright and busy scenes. There is to be a mighty exodus of men and boys. Nearly every house will have one man the less to sleep in it. The crews are to be four months away, and meantime the towns are to be places of mothers and children, and young girls and old people.
Let me describe this typical Manx scene as I witnessed it the other day at Peel. At ordinary times our little town, with its face to the north wind, and its feet in the sea, is fast asleep as soon as the darkness has fallen. Not so on the night of the Monday before Good Friday. A hundred and fifty boats lay in the harbour, each with a light burning in its binnacle, a fire in its cabin, smoke coming from its stove pipe, and its sails half set. Until the tide rose, their crews of nearly fifteen hundred were scattered about the alleys and courts, and little Noahs arks, that dot the line of the breezy coast, saying their good-byes and getting together their belongings. As the water came up they drifted back to the boats, and the women and girls, and children and old men, came with them.
The sea was fresh outside ; there was a light breeze from the north-west, and the air was full of the odour of the brine. At the turn of the tide the boats began to drop down the harbour. Then there was a rush to the end of the pier to see them off. The moon came out over the back of the town, and the narrow channel at the harbour mouth, as far as to the end of the Castle Rock, was green and white, and the crumbling round tower of the castle itself stood up against the sky.
Mothers were there seeing their sons away, women their husbands, children their fathers, girls their sweethearts, and all were full of fun and laughter and joyful cries.
As boat after boat dropped out into the bay the fun took fresh forms. Any nonsense, no matter what. The young people were ready to laugh at everything. Somebody started the idea of an election. " Who are you voting for, Mr. Quayle?" " Aw, So-and-So, of course." " Throw us your rope, then, and we 11 give you a pull." The rope would be cast ashore and whipped round a capstan, twenty hands would seize it, women and girls and children among the rest, and the boat would go slipping past the pier, round the Castle Rocks, and then away before the north-wester like a gull.
" Good luck, Harry ! " " Whips of money coming home, Jern ! " " Write us a lettermind you write, now ! " " Good fishing, father ! " " When the fishing is hard, I ll send you a card ; when the fishing gets better, I 11 send you a letter." " Bravo, that s Tommy, the mate ! Good luck, Tommy!"
On one of the boats a lad with a concertina was perched on the top of the companion, playing " Come back to Erin." A boat called the Mona came down, and somebody began to sing, " Lovely Mona, fare thee well." The girls on the quay took it up with full voice, and the men on the boats answered ithuskily, and a little flat. But there was no crying yet, no sign of tears, nothing but fresh young faces, bright eyes, rosy-red lips, and peals of laughter, as one by one the boats slid into the moonlight, and the fresh green water of the bay, and the wind took them, and they shot off into the night.
It was after midnight when the last of the boats was clearing the harbour. The women and children were crushing at the end of the pier to watch her. She could be seen quite plainly with the green blade of a wave breaking on her. Somebody was carrying a light on her deck, and the giant shadow of a mans figure was cast up on the new lugsail. There were shouts and answers across the splashing water, and then a fresh young voice upon the boat began to sing "The Anchor's Weighed."
Some minutes later the boat had turned round the breakwater, its topsail had diminished and disappeared, and the women and children were facing back, with a shade of sadness, towards the town. " Well ! " with a deep inspiration. " Wasnt it beautiful ? " " Wasnt it ? " " Then what are you crying about ? " The girls laughed at each other with wet eyes, and went off with springless steps ; the mothers picked up their sleepy children, and carried them home whimpering ; and the old men went away with drooping heads and shambling feet. I do not know that I have ever seen a sweeter, happier, more picturesque spectacle, though eight or ten years ago I saw something of the sort at Aes, off the coast of Norway. If you are intending to visit the island at Easter, it is worth while to remember that you may light on a typical Manx scene by coming a few days earlier.
I find that my distinguished friend, Mr. Irving, has at least one vivid memory of the Isle of Man, though his strong imaginative mind is not likely to be limited to a single recollection. It is a homely and grateful memory of Manx kippers. The other day, when Mr. Toole was at the Grand Theatre with his company, he received a letter from Mr. Irving, giving a particular and circumstantial account of the locality of a shop in Douglas where he might buy the best kippers in the world. Mr. Hemming tells me that Mr. Toole went out in search of that shop, but failed to find it. The street was gone, and the place thereof knew it no more.
Manx kippers are good, but there is one thing better, and that is a Manx fresh herring. This brings me to my third Specimen Day, which is, however, a specimen night I mean a Night with the Herrings.
The herring fishing is in full swing during the visiting season of summer, and the chief centres of the industry are Peel and Port St. Mary, but there are boats at Ramsey, Douglas, and Castletown as well. Between June and September the fishing ground changes from the west of the island to the east. During the best part of the season the fishing ground extends from the shoulder of the Calf Island to Peel. There are two lights on the Calf, and that spot of the sea at which these two lights make one is the favourite with the fleet. You go aboard in the evening and drop down to the south-west tail of the island by sunset. If the evening is clear, you see the mountains of Mourne with the sun going down behind them. Before the darkness falls, you bring the boat head to the wind. The nets are shot over the starboard quarter and they drop astern; then the bow is swung round to the line of the floating mollags (inflated sheep skins on the top of the nets), and boats and nets begin to drift together.
Supper is served, the pump is worked, the lights are run up, and then the darkness comes down. One of the men remains on deck to take his one-hours watch. The rest go below, lie in their bunks and sleep.
The cabin of a fishing boat is not a luxurious apartment. It is like the wound of Mercutio, neither as wide as a church door nor as deep as a well, but it serves. At least, no reasonable man can complain of cold. There is a big boiler getting up steam for the hauling of the nets at daybreak. And there is also the little stove and oven for the cooking of victuals. The cabin is lighted by the lamp in the binnacle, which serves the helmsman also for the compass. There is not much noise below. Only the drippings of the boiler sparching on the hot cinders at intervals, the chattering and slipping of the stove, the heavy breathing of the men in their unseen beds, and the washing of the sea as the boat rolls.
There is hardly more noise above. As the sun went down you saw the fleet sitting together round about you, like a flight of sea gulls. What you see in the darkness is a number of lights burning in the black depths around, and looking like a little city of the sea and the night.
At the first peep of morning above the ridge of Cronk-ny-Irey-Lhaa the little city awakes. There are the clicks of the capstans and the shouts of the men as the nets come back to the boats, heavy and white with fish. The nets are hauled by steam, and nets and fish together are thrown into an open room called the net-hold. When all is aboard, the men (according to old custom, still observed in most of the boats) go down on their knees for prayer. Then they swing to the wind, hoist the square sail, and make for home.
On the way back to harbour you have breakfast. It consists of herrings of the nights catching. If you get what is called the " drop fish," and eat them straight out of the pot, you enjoy the king of all fish. There is no fish that loses its finest flavour so quickly as the herring. Also there is no fish with so fine a flavour to lose. After breakfast the men sit on the head of the net-hold, and shake the herrings out of the nets into the herring-hold. When you come into harbour the buyers are on the quay waiting. Then you see the herring auction. It is a rough and simple ceremony. A Manx fisherman may sell the produce of his own fishing. He sometimes does so with great shrewdness and racy humour.
The Manxman is interesting as lands-man as well as seaman, and the last of my Specimen Days shall be the day of the Melliah. The Melliah is merely the Harvest Home, but it is attended by many simple and beautiful ceremonies. It is still kept up after a fashion. I saw a Melliah last summer, but I am bound to say that it was only the shadow of its former self. The invention of the Reaper seems to have destroyed the picturesque part of it. Let me describe it as I saw it in my boyhood, on the big farm of a famous old Manxman near to Ramsey, in a parish which has, longer than any other, preserved the old traditions.
The Melliah field was the last of the fields of corn still standing. Two score workers, men, women, and children, a cart and a pair of horses were scattered over it. There were the smell of the straw, the cawing of the rooks in the glen, the hissing of the barley in the light breeze, the swish of the scythe, and the gling of the sickle, the bending and the rising of the shearers, the swaying of the binders dragging the sheaves, the gluck of the wheels of the cart, and the merry head of a child peeping out of a stack, like a young bird out of the broken egg.
The workers worked until nothing was standing of the field (and therefore of the harvest of the farm), but one small shaft of ears, a yard wide, or less. Then the leaders stopped, and all the shearers in the field came together and cast down their sickles into the soil in one spot, making, as it were, a sheaf of crescent moons. " Now for the Melliah," shouted the farmer. " Whos to be Queen ?" There was a cry for somebody. Election fell on the youngest and prettiest of the girls, and she sailed out proudly, drew up one of the sickles, swept her left arm over the standing corn, and, at a single stroke of her right, brought the last ears to the ground. At that there was a great shout, " Hurrah for the Melliah ! " It rang through the fields and echoed in the mountains. They heard it at the farmhouse in the valley, and told each other, " The Melliahs took ! " The last sheaf was tied up with a piece of coloured ribbon, and decorated with a cushag, that it might be taken home and preserved until the Melliah cf the following year.
Then the young men went racing over the field, vaulting the stooks, stretching the straw ropes (the sugganes) for the girls to jump over, and heightening and tightening them for the girls to trip. Meanwhile the farmer was down on his knees by the barley-stack, offering thanks for the harvest that had been saved. The same night the Melliah supper was held in the big barn. There was plenty to eat , but no strong drink (for " himself " was a teetotaler) ; there was singing, but no dancing (he was a local preacher, and high up on the Plan-beg).
All that remains of the Melliah is the eating and drinking, which may be good for good fellow-ship, but is certainly not picturesque. There is no going back on the sickle, though the old farmers are strong in the opinion that it wasted less than either scythe or reaper. But it has long been a cherished fancy of my own that the Melliah might be revived in the Isle of Man as a childrens festival. I can imagine a ceremony of infinite beauty at Tynwald Hill. The boys and girls of the schools of the four towns of Douglas, Peel, Castletown, and Ramsey, might meet there early in September. A good drill-sergeant would put them in the way of a Melliah in an hour. The little reapers, their colour, their singing, their marching, their mock battle, perhaps, between the Queen of Summer and the King of Winter, and finally the crowning of the Melliah Queen on the top of the old turf throne itself, where the Kings and Lords of Man have sat for centuries, where the Governor still sits on Tynwald Day,I doubt if there could be a prettier, more touching, and even more significant spectacle in the world. The well-dressing of Derbyshire is not so lovey. I am sure it would bring thousands to witness it.
There is a rugged Manx ditty which runs
" And theres not an old woman that loves a dram,
But will mourn for the sale of the Isle of Man."
This mysterious utterance derives meaning from the history of smuggling in the island. After a Norse dynasty, a Welsh dynasty, and a Scotch dynasty, the Isleof Man fell to the hands of the Derby family, and, through the female branch of their line, to the Athol family. Under the Athol regimé the island dropped low, both in material and moral welfare.
Smuggling was so rife that, at length, the Government of England was compelled to intervene. It required the Duke of Athol to sell his rights as Lord of Man. This he did in two transactions, the first in 1767 [sic 1765], the second in 1825. The consequence was a prompt ending to smuggling as a trade. Of course the Manx regarded the sale as a national disaster. Hence the song. But smuggling was carried on, irregularly and surreptitiously, long after the complete revestment of the island in the English Crown. I know men, still living, who in their youth have smuggled rum into Whitehaven. Some of their stories of the smuggling days are among the most amusing folk tales known to me. The skill, the foresight, the cunning, the duplicity if you will, not to speak of the histrionic gift necessary to the successful prosecution of this means of livelihood, were by no means entirely bad in their effect on the Manx mind and character. It is notorious that at a time when lunacy was the painful con-sequence of much intermarriage in a little island cut off from frequent intercourse with the mainland, the smugglers were rarely known to go mad. It rriay be said that they were mad enough to begin with, but the necessities of their calling rather sharpened than deadened their faculties. One of the tribe, a man of quite recent date, must have been a person of astounding histrionic talent. Let us call him by the Manx name Quilliam. I think he belonged to Dalby. He was certainly a low comedian of wonderful resources
One day he had the audacity to cross the Liverpool Exchange flags with a companion carrying two huge pigs bladders of smuggled rum. It was noon, the hour of high fair, and there were many policemen about, but that did not trouble Quilhiam. Stay thee here for a minute," said he, " till thou sees me over yonder.." Then he stepped up the monument of Nelson, which stands in the middle of the Exchange. Round the base of the monument there is a line of bronze figures representing negroes weeping, I think, for the fall of the hero. Taking a sea biscuit out of his pocket, Quilliam stooped and offered it to each of these figures in turn, saying, as he did so, in a voice of deep compassion, " Poor lil black man ; take a biscuit, black man ! " Somebody heard him. " Halloa, what idiot is this ? " he thought. The merchants began to gather round. Then the policemen came to see what was amiss. In half a minute every soul on the flags was at the monument. They stood about it in a thick circle, four or five deep, winking at each other and laughing. Quilliam took no heed of them. Going from figure to figure lie offered his biscuit. After a while, he gave a helpless look around, put the biscuit in his pocket and went away. " Hes not wise," thought the policeman. He was though. His companion, with the two bladders of smuggled rum, had crossed the Exchange and gone.
Quilliam was running his boat with rum into Ireland. The Coastguard saw him and signalled to him, but he paid no heed. The Coastguard fired a blank shot at him, but still he sailed on. Then the Coastguard let out a real shot, and when Quilliam saw the ball coming hopping along the water he thought it was time to put to. " Get thee below," he said to his men, and down went all hands. The boat of the Coastguard came along-side, and the officer in charge was in a towering passion. " Why didnt you put to when we signalled ? " shouted the officer, preparing to leap on deck. Quilliam went to the boats side with a most doleful expression of face, gave a piteous cry, and said, " Aw dear ! Aw dear ! I dont know what Im doing at all, sir. I was leaving Peel this morning with six good men abooard, but four of them is in the hould theer, dead of the cholera, and the other two are in the focstle, and Im not knowing in the world if theyre dead or alive." " Good ! Push off, boysto your oars!" shouted the officer, and the boat of the Coastguard was gone in a moment.
If I could tell all the stories of Quilliam which still float about the quays at Peel, I think Mr. Toole would have reason to be grateful to smuggling, for sparing him what Providence clearly intended for the most formidable rival he was ever to encounter on the stage. It is only necessary to add one further fact in the history of this tremendous actor the great smuggler of rum (the last of his tribe) was a teetotaler and a Rechabite!
The smugglers activities are still extant. Not to speak of the narrow, winding, labyrinthine ways of the old parts of Peel and of Castletown itself, any one may visit the haunts of the smugglers in the great caves that honeycomb the Manx coast. They are thoroughly well worthseeing. Most of them are approached by boat. You can go out from Port Erin, or Fleshwick, or Niarbyl, or Port Soderick, or round Contrary from Peel, or to the seaward of Ago Point from Port-y-Vullin, or from Port Mooar to the east of Kirk Maughold Head. You can also approach some of the finest of the Manx caves by land from Gob-y-Deigan, between Ramsey and Peel. There is no station at this point, but our Manx railways are obliging. Give notice to the guard, and the train will stop for you!
It was natural that the spirit of the old sea rover, from whom the Manxman is descended, should find an outlet in the adventurous life of the smuggler. And it is equally natural that with the change of life that comes of the changing years the opirit of the smuggler should find an outlet in the services of the Lifeboat-man. The Lifeboat service has done most noble work in every part of the United Kingdom, but nowhere have its rescues been more daring and more splendid than off the coast of the Isle of Man. The Manxman is a born seaman. He was in most of the big sea-fights of the mother country, including Trafalgar ; and he was in the less reputable slave trade along the coast of Africa. By the very accident of his birth on this little rock of the Irish Channel, the sea is almost as much hiselement as the land. Then he isa Norseman and he is a Celt, and a love of the sea is in his blood. The wildest storm seems to have no terrors for the Manxman. He will go out on any water in almost any sea or any boat. If the lifeboat is handy and the crew is ready he prefers it ; but if there is any delay a " nobbie," a " dandie," or even a bit of an open yawl will serve for any emergency. The list of brave rescues by Manx Lifeboat-men is a large one. In the spring of this year our gallant Governor, Sir Joseph West Ridgeway, presented the medals of the Humane Society to the men who had done noble service during the winter at Ramsey. Cruickshank, Joughin, Kneen, Quark, Brew, Kneale, Cown, Corkish, Duggan, Teare, and Cubbon,these are names of some of the north-side men who did good work in the gales that swept over the island in October, 1893, and February, 1894. I am tempted to tell again a story that I have told before. I think it will bear re-telling. It is the story of Charlie, the Cox of the Peel Lifeboat.
Four years ago, in a terrific gale, a ship from Norway, the St. George, came dead on the wildest part of our coast, the fierce headland that lies back of Peel Castle rock. The sound signal was fired and Charlie and his brave comrades went cut to her. She was reeling on the top of a tremendous sea, and there was no coming near to her side. It was an awful task to get the crew aboard the life-boat, but Charlie saved every soul and lost not a hand of his own. When the crew of the doomed ship were at the bulwarks waiting to leave her, Charlie sang out over the clamour of the sea, " How many are you ? " " Twenty-three," came back as answer. Then Charlie cried, " I can see only twenty-two." " The other man is hurt ; hes dying ; no use saving him ! " the Norseman shouted. " Youll bring the dying man on deck before a soul of you leaves the ship," cried Charlie. There was a woman among them, and when the carpenter came scudding down the rope he had a canvas bag on his back. " No tools here," shouted Charlie. " Its the child," said the man. The captain came last. He had left everything else behind himhis money, his instruments, his clothes, his ship, but out of his pocket there peeped the head of a babys doll. It was a thrilling rescue, but to see it in all its splendour you must have a drop of Manx blood in you. Our forefathers were from Norway, our first Norse king was named Gorry. He landed on this Island, not far from this spot. And now his childrens children rescue from the sea the childrens children of the kinsmen he loft at home. Most of our men had Norse names. One of them was a Gorry, lineal descendant beyond doubt of the old sea king. The Norwegian Government felt the touch of great things in this incident. It was not merely that the bravery of the rescue fired their gratitude. Some-thing called to them from that deep place where blood answers to the cry of blood. They sent medals for Charlie and his crew, and the Governor of the Island distributed them inside the roofless walls of the old castle of the Black Dog. It was like grasping hands with the past across the space of a thousand years.
The other day we had another great wind and another brave rescue. The sun had gone down over-night in a sullen red, very fierce and angry in his setting, and out of the black north-east the storm had come up while we slept. In the heavy grey of the dawn the sound-signal fired its double shot over the town. A Welsh schooner, which had run in for shelter during the dark hours, was riding to an anchor in the bay and flying her ensign for help. The sea was terrifica slaty grey, streaked with white foam, like quartz veins. It was coming over the breakwater in sheets that hid it. Sometimes it was flying in clouds to the top of the round tower of the Castle. The white sea-fowl were like dark specks darting through it, but no human ear could hear the cry of their thousand throats in the thunderous quake of the breakers on the cavernous rocks. A crowd of men answered the call, and there was no shortness of hands to man the lifeboat. The big slow-legged fellows who had been idling on the quay the day before when the sea was calm, were struggling, chafing, and quarrelling to go out on it now that it was in storm, for the blood of the old Vikings is in them still. It was a splendid rescue.
When it was over and we were coming back drenched through, and green with the drift of the sea foam caked thick on our faces, some of us began to think of Charlie. He had not been there that day. A year or more ago, in the prime of a splendid manhood, he was stricken by heart disease. He kept a good heart, nevertheless, and by indomitable will held on for some time. First a little work, then no work at all, only a sail now and then if the sea was calm, but of late hardly ever well enough to take the open air. The old hulk of his poor body was anchored deep, but she was parting her cables at last. Charlie lay dying c~ir~~ while this second rescue was being made. He had not answered the signal for the lifeboat, but he had heard it in the first light of morning, and they could not keep him in bed. The soul of the old sea dog leapt to the call, but his ~ ~ ailing body held him down. He ~ wanted to go out. Wasnt he cox ? Had the boat ever gone out without him? They had difficulty to keep him from the attempt. Hishouse~ is one ~3f the little places like childrens Noahs arks which dot theline of this hungry shore. He could hear everything and see a good deal. Often he could hardly keep himself from crying and shouting aloud. In spirit he was out on the boiling surf, dipping, rising, stooping, going ovet, righting again, clambering back, exalting, glorying, getting nearer the ship, standing off her, fetching the men aboard, and then away from the rolling hulk, and singing " Ho, my lads," and hauling through the white waves for home. But his poor dying body was down on the bed and his face was sickly scarlet.
Charlies volcanic soul did not go off to the deep of deeps on the big breakers and through the wild noises of the storm. He died later. After the great wind there came a great calm. The air was quiet and full of the odour of seaweed ; banks of seaweed were on the shore, and the broken schooner was covered with brown wrack, like any rock of the coast ; the sky was round as the inside of a shell, and pale pink like the shadow of flame; the water was smooth, and land and sea lay like a sleeping child. In this broad and steady weather our little town was startled by the double shot again. We went to the windows in surprise, and saw the red flag over the rocket house, which is the signal for the lifeboat. Charlie was dead. He had just breathed his last, and his rugged comrades, who know nothing of poetry, but are poets nevertheless to the deepest grain of them, had run up the flag mast high as signal to the Great Cox of all that here was a soul in the troubled waters of death waiting for the everlasting lifeboat to bear him to the eternal shore.
The sea takes some of our bravest and best. Charlie it did not take. Nor so sure is it that he who lives by the sword will perish by the sword, as that he who baulks the sea, the sea will surely have for its prey. Charlie had battled with the giant time and again, but he has gone to sleep on the land. We buried him in the little cemetery looking on to the grey water that was more than half his element. The funeral was beautiful in its old Manx simplicity. First a hymn at the door of the house in the little alley by the beach, " Safe in the arms of Jesus," with the coffin on the ground and all standing round ; the sea quiet, hardly a breeze as soft as human breath moving its tranquil surface; the deadly rival in its everlasting coming and going making no triumphant clamour now the sea-warrior was down. Then the companions of his dangers, the crew of his boat, a group of stalwart fellows who have never known what it is to be afraid, carried him up the hilt, shoulder high, each in his red stocking cap and his lifebelt, emblems of how they had fought the sea and beaten it. There were some of us whose eyes were wet, but if these brave boys wept at all, it was only for the helpless little ones left behind. For Charlie they did not weep.
His spirit is not dead for them, it cannot die. When brave deeds have to be done they will see its light, like a beacon that does not fail, over the mountains of the fiercest storm ; they will hear its voice above the thunder of the loudest waves.
Our spring is bright and beautiful. In the months of April, May, and June, the early gorse is at its best, and the face of the island is golden. July and August are hot, but never so hot as in the midland counties of England, and the island is, beyond comparison, cooler at the height of summer than any part of the English south coast known to me. September is, perhaps, the loveliest of all months in the Isle of Man. The harvest is then ripe. If the year has been an early one the grain may be already cut. But the heather is purple on the mountains, and the red drops of the fuchsia are not yet gone from the valleys. If you are a fisher-man, come here in May ; if a pedestrian, come in June, or the first half of July ; if a cyclist or a horse-rider, come in September ; if a swimmer, come in any month whose name is without ai~ i in it, and you will find water as blue as the Mediterranean, and clear enough to show the pebbles at a depth of five fathoms beneath you. If your fishing, your walking, your cycling, and your riding are not troubled by much company, if your love of the picturesque is not disturbed by the presence of rollicking comrades, you may come in August. But if you are a super-sensitive soul, if, like myself, you are rather too fond of solitude when seeking the intercourse of nature, I beg of you to give that month a wide berth.
During August the island is visited by great multitudes from the northern counties. The people are of every class, ranging from the operative to the manufacturer. They are excellent people too. It is impossible not to feel a strong respect for them as a whole. They are the sturdiest, cleverest part of the English race. But it is hard to deny that they are the most ru~ged part of it a!so. Their manners are primitive ; their dialect is broad; their humour is still broader. After eleven months and two weeks of imprisonment in factories, with little more of the country than is to be got out of their town parks, and out of their back gardens, where they are like larks on a sod in a cage, they come here to have a good time. We are quite willing that they should have it. They take it in their own fashion. It is not our fashion, but we are not going to tell them how they ought to enjoy themselves, so long as they conduct themselves on the public roads with decency and good nature. The moment they cease to do that, we shall shew them that they are no longer our welcome guests.
But nothing can exceed the good-fellowship of our August Visitors. To realise this in its fulness you have to go out with them in one of the promiscuous companies that hire a coach. I remember a ride on evening from Port Erin to Douglas. The road was thick with coaches, all choked with pleasure-seekers returning to their lodgings at Douglas after a drenching day. They were still wearing the clothes that had been wet through in the morning; their boots were damp and cold ; they were chill with the night air ; but they did not grumble. They sang, and laughed, and ate oranges ; drew up frequently at wayside houses, and handed round bottles of beer with the corks drawn. In their own way they were bright, and cheerful, and heartsome company. Sometimes " Hold the Fort," sung in a brake going ahead, mingled with " Molly and I and the Baby," from lusty throats coming behind. Rattling through Castletown, they shouted wild chaff at some redcoats who were lounging by Castle Rushen ; and when the darkness fell, they dropped asleepthe men usually on the womens shoulders. Then the horses hoofs splashed along the muddy roads, and every rider cracked his whip amidst a chorus of stertorous snores.
This class of visitors make Douglas their centre. If you do not care for their company you can go to Peel, where you will see few of them beyond the line of the quay and the passage to the ferry for the Castle. Or to Ramsey, where they appear for only two hours daily on their way back to Douglas after their coach drive across Snaefell. Or to Laxey or Castletown, which they only pass through; or to Port St. Mary, which they never trouble at all. But if, like Charles Lamb, you have capacity for "weeping at the sight of so much life," if, in short, it is pleasant to you to see how people enjoy themselves, and if you have the taste for enjoying yourself after- the same fashion, you cannot do better than pitch your tent in Douglas.
I do not know a town in Europe so absolutely given over to enjoyment as Douglas is in the month of August. There seems to be no other interest in life. The very air breathes of it. You feel that it would be a sort of shock to realise that behind all this surface of pleasure there is struggle, and toil, and sickness, and even death.
Certainly in no place known to me can a man (if he is of the easy temperament) put by the thought of these dark shadows,
Douglas at night, in the height of the season, is really (if I am any authority) one of the sights of the world. I know nothing equal to it of its kind. Copenhagen, with its gigantic Tivoli, is a magnificent spectacle on Sunday night, when the gardens are fully lit up. But the natural advantages of Douglas are beyond all comparison greater. The fine bay, with its cliffs, lined and surmounted by gigantic glass houses, concert halls, and dancing palaces, makes, at night, a scene of wonderful splendour. The steps of the terraces are thronged with people ; itinerant photographers are pitching their cameras on the curbstones ; every open window has its dark heads with the right behind; pianos are being played in the houses, harps are being played in the streets ; tinkling tram-cars, like toast racks, are sweeping the curve of the bay; there is a steady flow of people on the pavement; and, from waters edge to cliff top, three-parts round, like a horses shce; the town flashes, and fizzles, and sparkles, and blazes under its thousand lights with the splendour of a forest fire.
Then the dancing palaces themselves. I do not myself love them. But as a spectacle . hey are absolutely wonderful. I think I have seen most of the great things of the sort in Europe, but I doubt if I have ever looked upon a scene so brilliant as a Douglas dancing palace at what may be called high tide. The floor is immense ; four or five thousand young men and young women are dancing on it ; the young men in tennis flannels and coloured scarves, the young women in light muslins and straw hats. You sit in the gallery and look down. Sometimes the white lights in the glass roof are coloured with red and blue and yellow, and these tints are cast on to the dancers. A cheap artifice, perhaps, but astounding in its effects. The mere sense of size and the presence of so much life must count for a great deal. You have to witness the scene in order to realize its extraordinary fascination. The low buzz of the dancers feet, the clang and clash of the brass instruments, the boom of the drum, the quake of the great glass house itself, and the low rumble of the hollow floor beneathit is like one thing only that I can dream of or imaginea battle-field set to music.
But, still and for all, as the Manxman says, this is wildly, madly, even grotesquely un-Manx. It is hard to conceive of a life more in antagonism with the prevailing Manx sentiment. If you wish to live in the Manx atmosphere you must go to Ramsey, to Peel or to one of the villages that lie between Kirk Michael, Ballaugh, and Sulby. Ramsey is an essentially Manx town. It has the true core of Manxness. Then, the surroundings are so beautiful. There is nothing better than Kirk Maughold in any quality of coast or inland scenery. Being a sort of peninsula it is less overrun by the daily tourist than any parish can be that is crossed midway by the high road. For boating, for fishing, for walking, for mountain climbing, and, above all, for observation of the real Manx character, and study of the remaining Manx customs, there is no better centre than Ramsey. It is now easy of access, tod, from many parts of England and Scotland.
Castletown, since Parliament House and Government House have been removed from it, has suffered a certain lessening of its interest, but there are some of us who love its quiet thoroughfares none the less for their backward glance at the past, and for their drowsy air, as of an old man falling asleep. Still, it has its old grey castle, full of the atmosphere of Walter Scott, and now it is the head centre of education on the island in the near neighbourhood of King Williams College. This excellent school has a noble record of distinguished " old boys." Among them there are, I think, Sir William White, Sir Charles Warren, Sir James Gell, Archdeacon Wilson, Archdeacon Farrar, and the Rev. T. E. Brown. The fortunate accident of personal friendship shall not restrain me from saying that Mr. Brown is the first of Manxmen, living or dead. I trust my countrymen and country-women recognise this ; their children will.
Peel is, if possible, still more Manx than Ramsey. As headquarters of the fishing industry, it contains the very quintessence of the Manx blood. I know of no class whatever more worthy of study than the Peel fishermen. In their cheerfulness, their humour, and that proverbial incisiveness of speech which has the effect of wit, the best of them are quite delightful companions. Physically, too, they belong to the very finest type of Manxmen. Peel itself has none of the show places which make Douglas attractive to the multitude, but it is partly the absence of these that keeps it so fascinating to the few. It is still no more than a Manx fishing village, with some good houses and two or three good hotels. One feature it has of quite exceptional interest, enough of itself to distinguish it among the towns, not only of Man, or of England, but of Europe. On a little island rock to the south-west of the town, now connected with the mainland by the harbour wall, stand the ruins of a grand old castle. I cannot, like the Rev. Mr. Quine, say much of the castles origin. But I know that it is the scene of a part of Scotts " Peveril of the Peak, and it is also sacred to me from its tssociations (not always of the tenderest) with a serene saint, and strong and noble soul, once Bishop of Man, Bishop Thomas Wilson. Also I know, after a years residence within sight of its crumbling walls, that I have never been neighbour to any inanimate thingwhether mountain or lake, or sea or cathedralthat has had a mightier effect on my spirit. It would be hard to say what that effect has been. Perhaps its steadfastness has left the most abiding impression. How many are the changes of sky and sea and aìr, it goes through ! On its rocky islet, thrown up from the level of the sea, and cast out from the line of the land, there it stands with its round tower against the sky. The sun rises on the face of it, and then it is grey ; the sun sets at the back of it, and then it is black. On misty days it is only a ghostly white shape behind clouds of vapour ; when storms are raging it is only a rock for the big seas to wash over. But it is always there ; it never passes away ; it dominates everything ; it is not Peel Castle merely ; it is Peel.
" I was thy neighbour once, thou rugged pile
Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee :
I saw thee every day ; and all the while
Thy form was sleeping on a glassy sea. *
And this huge castle, standing here sublime,
I love to see the look with which it braves,
Cased in th unfeeling armour of old time,
The lightning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves.