[From Little Manx Nation, 1891 by Hall Caine]
SOME years ago, in going down the valley of Foxdale, towards the mouth of Glen Rushen, I lost my way on a rough and unbeaten path under the mountain called Slieu Whallin. There I was met by a typical old Manx farmer, who climbed the hillside some distance to serve as my guide. " Aw, man," said he, " many a Sunday I've crossed these mountains in snow and hail together." I asked why on Sunday. "You see," said the old fellow, " I'm one of those men that have been guilty of what St. Paul calls the foolishness of preaching." It turned out that he was a local preacher to the Wesleyans, and that for two score years or more, in all seasons, in all weathers, every Sunday, year in, year out, he had made the journey from his farm in Foxdale to the western villages of Kirk Patrick, where his voluntary duty lay. He left me with a laugh and a cheery word. " Ask again at the cottage at the top of the brew," he shouted. " An ould widda lives there with her gel." At the summit of the hill, just under South Barrule, with Cronk-ny-arrey-Lhaa to the west, I came upon a disused lead mine, called the old Cross Vein, its shaft open save for a plank or two thrown across it, and filled with water almost to the surface of the ground. And there, under the lee of the roofless walls of the ruined engine-house, stood the tiny one-story cottage where I had been directed to inquire my way again. I knocked, and then saw the outer conditions of an existence about as miserable as the mind of man can conceive. The door was opened by a youngish woman, having a thin, white face, and within the little house an elderly woman was breaking scraps of vegetables into a pot that swung from a hook above a handful of turf fire, which burned on the ground. They were the widow and daughter. Their house consisted of two rooms, a living room and a sleeping closet, both open to the thatch, which was sooty with smoke. The floor was of bare earth, trodden hard and shiny. There was one little window in each apartment, but after the breakages of years, the panes were obscured by rags stuffed into the gaps to keep out the weather. The roof bore traces of damp, and I asked if the rain came into the house. " Och, yes, and bad, bad, bad! " said the elder woman. " He left us, sir, years ago." That was her way of saying that her husband was dead, and that since his death there had been no man to do an odd job about the place. The two women lived by working in the fields, at weeding, at planting potatoes, at thinning cabbages, and at the hay in its season. Their little bankrupt barn belonged to them, and it was all they had. In that they lived, or lingered, on the mountain top, a long stretch of bare hillside, away from any neighbour, alone in their poverty, with mountains before and behind, the broad grey sea, without ship or sail, down a gully to the west, nothing visible to the east save the smoke from the valley where lay the habitations of men, nothing audible anywhere but the deep rumble of the waves' bellow, or the chirp of the birds overhead, or, perhaps, when the wind was southerly, the church bells on Sunday morning. Never have I looked upon such lonely penury, and yet there, even there, these forlorn women kept their souls alive. "Yes," they said, "we're working when we can get the work, and trusting, . trusting, trusting still."
I have lingered too long over this poor adventure of losing my way to Glen Rushen, but my little sketch may perhaps get you close to that side of Manx life whereon I wish to speak to-day. I want to tell the history of religion in Man, so far as we know it ; and better, to my thinking, than a grave or solid disquisition on the ways and doings of Bishops or Spiritual Barons, are any peeps into the hearts and home lives of the Manx, which will show what is called the " innate religiosity " of the humblest of the people. To this end also, when I have discharged my scant duty to church history, or perhaps in the course of my hasty exposition of it, I shall dwell on some of those homely manners and customs, which, more than prayer-books and printed services, tell us what our fathers believed, what we still believe, and how we stand towards that other life, that inner life, that is not concerned with what we cat and what we drink, and where-withal we shall be clothed.
And now, just as the first chapter of our Manx civil history is lost, so the first chapter of our church history is lost. That the Druids occupied the island seems to some people to be clear from many Celtic names and some remains, such as we are accustomed to call Druidical, and certain cus toms still observed. Perhaps worthy of a word is the circumstance that in the parish where the Bishop now lives, and has always lived, Kirk Michael, there is a place called by a name which in the Manx signifies Chief Druid. Strangely are the faiths of the ages linked together.
We do not know, with any certainty, at what time the island was converted to Christianity. The accepted opinion is that Christianity was established in Man by St. Patrick about the middle of the fifth century. The story goes that the Saint of Ireland was on a voyage thither from England, when a storm cast him ashore on a little islet on the western coast. of Man. This islet was afterwards called St. Patrick's Isle. St. Patrick built his church on it. The church was rebuilt eight centuries later within the walls of a castle which rose on the same rocky site. It became the cathedral church of the island. When the Norwegians came they renamed the islet Holm Isle. Tradition says that St. Patrick's coming was in the time of Mannanan, the magician, our little Manx Prospero. It also says that St. Patrick drove Mannanan away, and that St. Patrick's successor, St. Germain, followed up the good work of exterminating evil spirits by driving out of the island all venomous creatures whatever. We sometimes bless the memory of St. Germain, and wish he would come again.
After St. Germain came St. Maughold. This Bishop was a sort of transfigured Manx Caliban. I trust the name does him no wrong. He had been an Irish prince, had lived a bad, gross life as a robber at the head of a band of robbers, had been converted by St. Patrick, and, resolving to abandon the temptations of the world, had embarked on the sea in a wicker boat without oar or helm. Almost he had his will at once, but the north wind, which threatened to remove him from the temptations of this world, cast him ashore on the north of the Isle of Man. There he built his church, and the rocky headland whereon it stands is still known by his name. High on the craggy cliff-side, looking towards the sea, is a seat hewn out of the rock. This is called St. Maughold's Chair. Not far away there is a well supposed to possess miraculous properties. It is called St. Maughold's Well. Thus tradition has perpetuated the odour of his great sanctity, which is the more extraordinary in a variation of his legend, which says that it was not after his conversion, and in submission to the will of God, that he put forth from Ireland in his wicker boat, but that he was thrust out thus, with hands and feet bound, by way of punishment for his crimes as a captain of banditti.
But if Maughold was Caliban in Ireland, he was more than Prospero in Man. Rumour of his piety went back to Ireland, and St. Bridget, who had founded a nunnery at Kildare, resolved on a pilgrimage to the good man's island. She crossed the water, attended by her virgins, called her daughters of fire, founded a nunnery near Douglas, worked miracles there, touched the altar in testimony of her virginity, whereupon it grew green and flourished. This, if I may be pardoned the continued parallel, is our Manx Miranda. And indeed it is difficult to shake off the idea that Shakespeare must have known something of the early story of Man, its magicians and its saints. We know the perfidy of circumstance, the lying tricks that fact is always playing with us, too well and painfully to say anything of the kind with certainty. But the angles of resemblance are many between the groundwork of the " Tempest " and the earliest of Manx records. Mannanan-beg-Mac-y-Lear, the magician who surrounded the island with mists when enemies came near in ships ; Maughold, the robber and libertine, bound hand and foot, and driven ashore in a wicker boat ; and then Bridget, the virgin saint. Moreover, the stories of Little Mannanan, of St. Patrick, and of St. Maughold were printed in Manx in the sixteenth century. Truly that is not enough, for, after all, we have no evidence that Shakespeare, who knew everything, knew Manx. But then Man has long been famous for its seamen. We had one of them at Trafalgar, holding Nelson in his arms when he died. The best days, or the worst days-which ?-of the trade of the West Coast of Africa saw Manx captains in the thick of it. Shall I confess to you that in the bad days of the English slave trade the four merchant-men that brought the largest black cargo to the big human auction mart at the Goree Piazza at Liverpool were commanded by four Manxmen ! They were a sad quartet. One of them had only one arm and an iron hook ; another had only one arm and one eye ; a third had only one leg and a stump ; the fourth was covered with scars from the iron of the chains of a slave which he had worn twelve months at Barbadoes. Just about enough humanity in the four to make one complete man. But with vigour enough, fire enough, heart enough-I daren't say soul enough-in their dismembered old trunks to make ten men apiece ; born sea-rovers, true sons of Orry, their blood half brine. Well, is it not conceivable that in those earlier days of treasure seeking, when Elizabeth's English captains were spoiling the Spaniard in the Indies, Manx sailors were also there ? If so, why might not Shakespeare, who must have ferreted out many a stranger creature, have found in some London tavern an old Manx sea-dog, who could tell him of the Manx Prospero, the Manx Caliban, and the Manx Miranda ?
But I have rambled on about my sailors ; I must return to my Bishops. They seem to have been a line of pious, humble, charitable, godly men at the beginning. Irishmen, chiefly, living the lives of hermits and saints. Apparently they were at first appointed by the people themselves. Would it be interesting to know the grounds of selection ? One was selected for his sanctity, a natural qualification, but another was chosen because he had a pleasant face, and a fine portly figure ; not bad qualifications, either. Thus things went on for about a hundred years, and, for all we know, Celtic Bishops and Celtic people lived together in their little island in peace, hearing nothing of the loud religious hubbub that was disturbing Europe.
Then came the rule of the Welsh kings, and, though we know but little with certainty, we seem to realise that it brought great changes to the religious life of Man. The Church began to possess itself of lands ; the baronial territories of the island fell into the hands of the clergy ; the early Bishops became Barons. This gave the Church certain powers of government. The Bishops became judges, and as judges they possessed great power over the person of the subject. Sometimes they stood in the highest place of all, being also Governor to the Welsh Kings. Then they were called Sword-Bishops. Their power at such times, when the crosier and sword were in the two hands of one man, must have been portentous, and even terrible. We have no records that picture what came of that. But it is not difficult to imagine the condition. The old order of things had passed away. The hermit-saints, the saintly hermits, had gone, and in their place were monkish barons, living in abbeys and monasteries, whipping the poor bodies of their people, as well as comforting their torn hearts, fattening on broad lands, praying each with his lips : " Give us this day our daily bread," but saying each to his soul : " Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years ; take thine ease ; eat, drink, and be merry."
Little as we know of these times, we see that things must have come to a pretty pass, for when the Scandinavian dynasty came in the ecclesiastical authorities were forbidden to exercise civil control over any subjects of the king that were not also the tenants of their own baronies. So the Bishops were required to confine themselves to keeping their own house in order. The Norse Constitution established in Man by King Orry made no effort to' overthrow the Celtic Church founded by St. Patrick, and corrupted by his Welsh successors, but it curtailed its liberties, and reduced its dignity. It demanded as an act of fealty that the Bishop or chief Baron should hold the stirrup of the King's saddle, as he mounted his horse at Tynwald. But it still suffered the Bishop and certain of his clergy to sit in the highest court of the legislature. The Church ceased to be purely Celtic ; it became Celto-Scandinavian, otherwise Manx. It was under the Archbishop of Drontheim for its Metropolitan, and its young clergy were sent over to Drontheim to be educated. Its revenues were apportioned after the most apostolic manner; one-third of the tithes to the Bishop for his maintenance, the support of his courts, his churches, and (miserable conclusion ! ) his prisons ; one-third to the priests, and the remaining third to the relief of the poor and the education of youth. It is a curious and significant fact that when the Reformation came the last third was seized by the lord. Good old lordly trick, we know it well!
The Bishopric of the island was now no longer called the Bishopric of Man, but Sodor and Man. The title has given rise to much speculation. One authority derives it from Soterenssis, a name given by Danish writers to the western islands, and afterwards corrupted to Soderensis. Another authority derives it from Sudreyjas, signifying in the Norwegian the Southern Isles. A third derives it from the Greek Soter, Saviour, to whose name the cathedral of Iona was dedicated. And yet a fourth authority derives it from the supposed third name of the little islet rock called variously Holm Isle, Sodor, Peel, and St. Patrick's Isle, whereon St. Patrick or St. Germain built his church. I can claim no right to an opinion where these good doctors differ, and shall content myself with saying that the balance of belief is in favour of the Norwegian derivation, which offers this explanation of the title of Bishop of Sodor and Man, that the Isle of Man was not included by the Norsemen in the southern cluster of islands called the Sudereys, and that the Bishop was sometimes called the Bishop of Man and the Isles, and sometimes Bishop of the Sudereys and the Isle of Man. Only one warning note shall I dare, as an ignorant layman, to strike on that definition, and it is this : that the title of Bishop of Sodor dates back to the seventh century certainly, and that the Norseman did not come south until three centuries later.
But now I come to matters whereon I have more authority to speak. When the Isle of Man passed to the Stanley family, the Bishopric fell to their patronage, and they lost no time in putting their own people into it. It was then under the English metropolitan of Canterbury, but early in the sixteenth century it became part of the province of York. About that time the baronies, the abbeys, and the nunneries were suppressed. It does not appear that the change of metropolitan had made much change of religious life. Apparently the clergy kept the Manx people in miserable ignorance. It was not until the seventeenth century that the Book of Common Prayer was translated into the Manx language. The Gospels and the Acts were unknown to the Manx until nearly a century later. Nor was this due to ignorance of the clergy of the Manx tongue, for most of them must have been Manxmen, and several of the Bishops were Manxmen also. But grievous abuses had by this time attached themselves to the Manx Church, and some of them were flagrant and wicked, and some were impudent and amusing.
Naturally the more outrageous of the latter sort gathered about the process of collecting tithes. Tithes were paid in kind in those days. It was not until well within our own century that they were commuted to a money payment. The Manxman paid tithe on everything. He began to pay tithe before coming into the world, and he went on paying tithe even after he had gone out of it. This is a hard saying, but nevertheless a simple truth. Throughout his journey from the cradle to the grave, the Manxman paid tithe on all he inherited, on all he had, on all he did, on all his wife did, and on all he left behind him. We have the equivalent of this in England at the present hour, but it was yet more tyrannical, and infinitely more ludicrous, in the Isle of Man down to the year 1839. It is only vanity and folly and vexation of spirit to quarrel with the modern English tax-gatherer ; you are sure to go the wall, with humiliation and with disgrace. It was not always so when taxes were paid in kind. There was, at least, the satisfaction of cheating. The Manx people could not always deny themselves that satisfaction. For instance, they were required to pay tithe of herring as soon as the herring boats were brought above full sea mark, and there were ways of counting known to the fishermen with which the black-coated arithmeticians of the Church were not able to cope. A man paid tithe on such goods and even such clothes as his wife possessed on their wedding day, and young brides became wondrous wise in the selection for the vicarage of the garments that were out of fashion. A corpse-present was demanded over the grave of a dead man out of the horses and cattle whereof he died possessed, and dying men left verbal wills which consigned their broken-winded horses and dry cows to the mercy and care of the clergyman. You will not marvel much that such dealings led to disputes, sometimes to quarrels, occasionally to riots. In my boyhood I heard old people over the farmhouse fire chuckle and tell of various wise doings, to outwit the parson. One of these concerned the oats harvest. When the oats were in sheaf, the parson's cart came up, driven by the sumner, the parson's official servant. The gate of the field was thrown open, and honestly and religiously one sheaf out of every ten was thrown into the cart. But the husbandman had been thrifty in advance. The parson's sheaves had all been grouped thick about the gate, and they were the shortest, and the thinnest, and the blackest, and the dirtiest, and the poorest that the field had yielded. Similar were the doings at the digging of the potatoes, but the scenes of recrimination which often ensued were usually confined to the farmer and the summer. More outrageous contentions with the priest himself sometimes occurred within the very walls of the church. It was the practice to bring tithe of butter and cheese and eggs, and lay it on the altar on Sunday. This had to be done under pain of exclusion from the communion, and that was a penalty most grievous to material welfare. So the Manxmen and Manxwomen were compelled to go to church much as they went to market, with their butter and egg baskets over their arms. It is a ludicrous picture, as one sees it in one's mind's eye, but what comes after reaches the extremity of farce. Say the scene is Maughold old church, once the temple of the saintly hermit. It is Sunday morning, the bells are ringing, and Juan-beg-Marry-a-thruss, a rascally old skinflint, is coming along with a basket. It contains some butter that he could not sell at Ramsey market yesterday because it was rank, and a few eggs which he knows to be stale and addled-the old hen has sat on them, and they have brought forth nothing. These he places reverently on the altar. But the parson knows Juan, and proceeds to examine his tithe. May I take so much liberty with history, and with the desecrated old church, as to imagine the scene which follows ?
Priest, pointing contemptuously towards the altar : " Juan-beg-Marry-a-thruss, what is this ? " " Butter and eggs, so plaze your reverence."
" Pig-swill and chalk you mean, man ! "
" Aw 'deed if I'd known your reverence was so morthal partic'lar the ould hen herself should have been layin' some fresh eggs for your reverence."
" Take them away, you thief of the Church ! Do you think what isn't fit for your pig is good enough for your priest ? Bring better, or never let me look on your wizened old wicked face again."
Exit Juan-beg-Marry-a-thruss, perhaps with butter and eggs flying after his retreating figure.
This is an imaginary picture, but no less outrageous things happened whereof the records remain. A demoralised laity usually co-exists with a demoralised clergy, and there are some bad stories of the Bishops who preceded the Reformation. There is one story of a Bishop of that period, who was a gross drunkard and notorious gambler. He played with his clergy as long as they had anything to lose, and then he played with a deemster and lost five hundred pounds himself. Poor little island, that had two such men for its masters, the one its master in the things of this world, the other its master in the things of the world to come ! If anything is needful to complete the picture of wretchedness in which the poor Manx people must have existed then, it is the knowledge of what manner of man a deemster was in those days, what his powers were, and how he exercised them.
The two deemsters-a name of obvious significance, deemsters, such as deem the laws-were then the only judges of the island, all other legal functionaries being of more recent date. On entering into office, the deemster took an oath, which is sworn by all deemsters to this day, declaring by the wonderful works which God hath miraculously wrought in six days and seven nights, that he would execute the laws of the island justly " betwixt party and party, as indifferently as the herring's backbone doth lie in the midst of the fish." But these laws down to the time of the second Stanley existed only in the breasts of the deemsters themselves, being therefore called Breast Laws, and thus they were supposed to be handed down orally from deemster to deemster. The superstition fostered corruption as well as incapacity, and it will not be wronging the truth to say that some of the deemsters of old time were both ignorant and unprincipled. Their jurisdiction was absolute in all that were then thought to be temporal affairs, beginning with a debt of a shilling, and going up to murder. They kept their courts in the centres of their districts, one of them being in the north of the island, the other in the south, but they were free to hold a court anywhere, and at any time. A deemster riding from Ramsey to Peel might find his way stopped by a noisy claimant, who held his defendant by the lug, having dragged him bodily from the field to the highway, to receive instant judgment from the judge riding past. Or at midnight, in his own home, a deemster might be broken in upon by a clamorous gang of disputants and their witnesses, who came from the pot-house for the settlement of their differences. On such occasions, the deemster invariably acted on the sound old legal maxim, once recognised by an Act of Parliament, that suits not likely to bear good costs should always be settled out of court. First, the deemster demanded his fee. If neither claimant nor defendant could give it, he probably troubled himself no further than to take up his horse-whip and drive both out into the road. I dare say there were many good men among deemsters of the old order, who loved justice for its own sake, and liked to see the poor and the weak righted, but the memory of deemsters of this kind is not green. The bulk of men are not better than their opportunities, and the temptations of the deemsters of old were neither few nor slight.
With such masters in the State, and such masters in the Church, the island fell low in material welfare, and its poverty reacted on both. Within fifty years the Bishopric was nineteen years vacant, though it may be that at the beginning of the seventeenth century this was partly due to religious disturbances. Then in 1697, with the monasteries and nunneries dispersed, the abbeys in ruins, the cathedral church a wreck, the clergy sunk in sloth and ignorance, there came to the Bishopric, four years vacant, a true man whose name on the page of Manx Church history is like a star on a dark night, when only one is shining-Bishop Thomas Wilson. He was a strange and complex creature, half angel, only half man, the serenest of saints, and yet almost the bitterest of tyrants. Let me tell you about him.
Thomas Wilson was from Trinity College, Dublin, and became domestic chaplain to William, Earl of Derby, and preceptor to the Earl's son, who died young. While he held this position, the Bishopric of Sodor and Man became vacant, and it was offered to him. He declined it, thinking himself unworthy of so high a trust. The Bishopric continued vacant. Perhaps the candidates for it were few ; certainly the emoluments were small ; perhaps the patron was slothful certainly he gave little attention to the Church. At length complaint was made to the King that the spiritual needs of the island were being neglected. The Earl was commanded to fill the Bishopric, and once again he offered it to his chaplain. Then Wilson yielded. He took possession in 1698, and was enthroned at Peel Castle. The picture of his enthronement must have been something to remember. Peel Castle was already tumbling to its fall, and the cathedral church was a wouul wreck. It is even said that from a hole in the roof the soil and rain could enter, and blades of grass were shooting up on the altar. The Bishop's house at Kirk Michael, which had been long shut up, was in a similar plight ; damp, mouldy, broken-windowed, green with moss within and without. What would one give to turn back the centuries and look on at that primitive ceremony in St. Germain's Chapel in April 1698 ! There would be the clergy, a sorry troop, with wise and good men among them, no doubt, but a poor, battered, bedraggled, neglected lot, chiefly learned in dubious arts of collecting tithes. And the Bishop himself, the good chaplain of Earl Derby, the preceptor of his son, what a face he must have had to watch and to study, as he stood there that April morning, and saw for the first time what work he had come to tackle !
But Bishop Wilson set about his task with a strong heart, and a resolute hand. He found him self in a twofold trust. Since the Reformation, the monasteries and nunneries had been dispersed, and all the baronies had been broken up, save one, the barony of the Bishop. Thus Bishop Wilson was the head of the court of his barony. This was a civil court with power of jurisdiction over felonies. Its separate criminal control came to an end in 1777, Such was Bishop Wilson's position as last and sole Baron of Man. Then as head of the Church he had powers over offences which were once called offences against common law. Irregular behaviour, cursing, quarrelling, and drinking, as well as transgressions of the moral code, adultery, seduction, prostitution, and the like, were punishable by the Church and the Church courts. The censures o1 Bishop Wilson on such offences did not err on the side of clemency. He was the enemy of sin, and no " gentle foe of sinners." He was a believer in witchcraft, and for suspicion of commerce with evil spirits and possession of the evil eye he punished many a blameless old body. For open and convicted adultery he caused the offenders to stand for an hour at high fair at each of the market-places of Douglas, Peel, Ramsey, and Castletown, bearing labels on their breasts calling on all people to take warning lest they came under the same Church centre. Common unchastity he punished by exposure in church at full congregation, when the guilty man or the poor victimised girl stepped up from the west porch to the altar, covered from neck to heels in a white sheet. Slanderers and evil speakers he clapped into the Peel, or perhaps the whipping-stocks, with tongue in a noose of leather, and when after a lapse of time the gag was removed the liberated tongue was obliged to denounce itself by saying thrice, clearly, boldly, probably with good accent and discretion, " False tongue, thou hast lied."
It is perhaps as well that some of us did not live in Bishop Wilson's time. We might not have lived long. If the Church still held and exercised the same powers over evil speakers we should never hear our own ears in the streets for the din of the voices of the penitents ; and if it still punished unchastity in a white sheet the trade of the linen weaver would be brisk.
You will say that I have justified my statement that Bishop Wilson was the bitterest of tyrants. Let me now establish my opinion that he was also the serenest of saints. I have told you how low was the condition of the Church, how lax its rule, how deep its clergy lay in sloth and ignorance, and perhaps also in vice, when Bishop Wilson came to Man in 1698. Well, in 1703, only five years later, the Lord Chancellor King said this : "If the antient discipline of the Church were lost elsewhere it might be found in all its force in the Isle of Man." This points first to force and vigour on the Bishop's part, but surely it also points to purity of character and nobility of aim. Bishop Wilson began by putting his own house in order. His clergy ceased to gamble and to drink, and they were obliged to collect their tithes with mercy. He once suspended a clergyman for an opinion on a minor point, but many times he punished his clergy for offences against the moral law and the material welfare of the poor. In a stiff fight for integrity of life and purity of thought, he spared none. I truly believe that if he had caught himself in an act of gross injustice he would have clambered up into the pillory. He was a brave, strong-hearted creature, of the build of a great man. Yes ! In spite of all his contradictions, he was a great man. We Manxmen shall never look upon his like again !
Towards 1740 a long and terrible corn famine fell upon our island. The fisheries had failed that season, and the crops had been blighted two years running. Miserably poor at all times, ill-clad, ill-housed, ill-fed at the best, the people were in danger of sheet- destitution. In that day of their bitter trouble the poorest of the poor trooped off to Bishop's court. The Bishop threw open his house to them all, good and bad, improvident and thrifty, lazy and industrious, drunken and sober ; he made no distinctions in that bad hour. He asked no man for his name who couldn't give it, no woman for her marriage lines who hadn't got them, no child whether it was born in wedlock. That they were all hungry was all he knew, and be saved their lives in thousands. He bought ship-loads of English corn and served it out in bushels ; also tons of Irish potatoes, and served them out in kischens. He gave orders that the measure was to be piled as high as it would hold, and never smoothed flat again. Yet he was himself a poor man. While he had money he spent it. When every penny was gone he pledged his revenue in advance. After his credit was done he begged in England for his poor people in Man-he begged for us who would not have held out his hat to save his own life! God bless him! But we repaid him. Oh yes, we repaid him. His money he never got back, but gold is not the currency of the other world. Prayers and blessings are the wealth that is there, and these went up after him to the great White Throne from the swelling throats of his people.
Not of Bishop Wilson could it be said, as it was said of another, that he " flattered princes in the temple of God." One day, when he was coming to Court, Queen Caroline saw him and raid to a company of Bishops and Archbishops that surrounded her, " See, my lords, here is a Bishop who does not come for a translation." "No, indeed, and please your Majesty," said Bishop Wilson, " I will not leave my wife in her old age because she is poor." When Bishop Wilson was an old man, Cardinal Fleury sent over to ask after his age and health, saying that they were the two oldest and poorest Bishops in the world. At the same time he got an order that no French privateer should ever ravage the Isle of Man. The order has long lapsed, but I am told that to this day French sea men respect a Manxman. It touches me to think of it that thus does the glory of this good man's life shine on our faces still.
How his people must have loved him! Many of the stories told of him are of rather general application, but some of them ought to be true if they are not.
One day in the old three-cornered market-place at Ramsey a little maiden of seven crossed his path. She was like sunshine, rosy-checked, bright-eyed, bare-footed and bare-headed, and for love of her sweetness the grey old Bishop patted her head and blest her. " God bless you, my child ; God bless you," he said. The child curtseyed and answered, "God bless you, too, sir." " Thank you, child, thank you," the Bishop said again ; "I dare say your blessing will be as good as mine."
It was customary in those days, and indeed down to my own time, when a suit of clothes was wanted, to have the journeyman tailor at home to make it. One, Danny of that ilk, was once at Bishop's Court making a long walking coat for the Bishop. In trying it on in its nebulous condition, that leprosy of open white seams and stitches, Danny made numerous chalk marks to indicate the places of the buttons. "No, no, Danny," said the Bishop, " no more buttons than enough to fasten it -only one, that will do. It would ill become a poor priest like me to go a-glitter with things like those." Now, Danny had already bough; his buttons, and had them at that moment in his pocket. So, pulling a wouul face, he said, " Mercy me, my lord, what would happen to the poor button-makers, if everybody was of your opinion ? " " Button it all over, Jonny," said the Bishop. A coat of Bishop Wilson's still exists. Would that we had that one of the numerous buttons, and could get a few more made of the same pattern ! It would be out of fashion-Danny's progeny have taken care of that. There are not many of us that it would fit-we have few men of Bishop Wilson's build nowadays. But human kindliness is never old-fashioned, and there are none of us that the garment of sweet grace would not suit.
So far from " flattering princes in the temple of God," Bishop Wilson was even morbidly jealous of the authority of the Church, and he resisted that of the State when the civil powers seemed to encroach upon it. More than once he came into collision with the State's highest functionary, the Lieutenant-Governor, representative of the Lord of Man himself. One day the Governor's wife falsely defamed a lady, and the lady appealed to the Bishop. Thereupon the Bishop interdicted the Governor's wife from receiving the communion. But the Governor's chaplain admitted her. Straightway the Bishop suspended the Governor's chaplain. Then the Governor fined the Bishop in the sum of fifty pounds. The Bishop refused to pay, and was committed to Castle Rushen, and lay there two months. They show us his cell, a poor, dingy little box, so damp in his day that he lost the use of some of his fingers. After that the Bishop appealed to the Lord, who declared the imprisonment illegal. The Bishop was liberated, and half the island went to the prison gate to fetch him forth in triumph. The only result was that the Bishop lost £500, whereof £300 were subscribed by the people. One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry at it all. It is a sorry and silly farce. Of course it made a tremendous hurly-burly in its day, but it is gone now, and doesn't matter a ha'porth to anybody. Nevertheless because Gessler's cap goes up so often nowadays, and so many of us are kneeling to it, it is good and wholesome to hear of a poor Bishop who was brave enough to take a shot at it instead.
Some Old Ordeals Notwithstanding Bishop Wilson's severity, his tyranny, his undue pride in the authority of the Church, and his morbid jealousy of the powers of the State, his rule was a wise and just one, and he was a spiritual statesman, who needed not to be ashamed. He raised the tone of life in the Isle of Man, made it possible to accept a man's yea and nay, even in those perilous issues of life where the weakness and meanness of poor humanity reveals itself in lies and subterfuges. This he did by making false swearing a terror. One ancient ordeal of swearing he set his face against, but another he encouraged, and often practised. Let me describe both.
In the old days, when a man died intestate, leaving no record of his debts, a creditor might establish a claim by going with the Bishop to the grave of the dead man at midnight, stretching himself on it with face towards heaven and a Bible on his breast, and then saying solemnly, " I swear that So-and-so, who lies buried here, died in my debt by so much." After that the debt was allowed. What warning the Bishop first pronounced I do not know, but the scene is a vivid one, even if we think of the creditor as swearing truly, and a startling and terrible one if we think of him as about to swear to what is false. The dark night, the dark figures moving in it, the churchyard, the debtor's grave, the sham creditor, who had been loud in his protests under the light of the inn of the village, now quaking and trembling as the Bishop's warning comes out of the gloom, then stammering, and breaking down, and finally, with ghostly visions of a dead hand clutching at him from the grave, starting up, shrieking, and flying away. It is a nightmare. Let us not remember it when the candles are put out.
This ordeal was in force until the seventeenth century, but Bishop Wilson judged it un-Christian, and never practised it. The old Roman canon law of Purgation, a similar ordeal, he used not rarely. It was designed to meet cases of slander in which there was no direct and positive evidence. If a good woman had been accused of unchastity in that vague way of rumour which is always more damaging and devilish than open accusation, she might of her own free choice, or by compulsion of the Bishop, put to silence her false accusers by appearing in church, with witnesses ready to take oath that they believed her, and there swearing at the altar that common fame and suspicion had wronged her. If a man doubted her word he had to challenge it, or keep silence for ever after. The severest censures of the Church were passed upon those who dared to repeat an unproved accusation after the oaths of Purgation and Compurgation had been taken unchallenged. It is a fine, honest ordeal, very old, good for the right, only bad for the wrong, giving strength to the weak and humbling the mighty. But it would be folly and mummery in our day. The Church has lost its powers over life and limb, and no one capable of defaming a pure woman would care a brass penny about the Church's excommunication. Yet a woman's good name is the silver thread that runs through the pearl chain of her virtues. Pity that nowadays it can be so easily snapped. Conversation at five o'clock tea is enough to do that. The ordeal of compulsory Purgation was abolished in Man as late as 1737.
Bishop Wilson began, or revived, a form of service which was so beautiful, so picturesque, and withal so Manx that I regret the loss of scarce any custom so much as the discontinuance of this one. It was the fishermen's service on the shore at the beginning of the herring-season. But in order to appreciate it you must first know something of the herring fishing itself. It is the chief industry of the island. Half the population is connected with it in some way. A great proportion of the men of the humbler classes are half seamen, half landsmen, tilling their little crofts in the spring and autumn, and going out with the herring boats in summer. The herring is the national fish. The Manxman swears by its flavour. The deemsters, as we have seen, literally swear by its backbone. Potatoes and herrings constitute a common dish of the country people. They are ready for it at any hour of the day or night. I have had it for dinner, I have taken it for supper, I have seen it for tea, and even known it for breakfast. It is served without ceremony. In the middle of the table two great crocks, one of potatoes boiled in their jackets, the other of herrings fresh or salted ; a plate and a bowl of new milk at every seat, and lumps of salt here and there. To be a Manxman you must eat Manx herrings ; there is a story that to transform himself into a Manxman one of the Dukes of Athol ate twenty-four of them at breakfast, a herring for every member of his House of keys.
The Manx herring fishery is interesting and very picturesque. You know that the herrings come from northern latitudes. Towards mid-winter a vast colony of them set out from the arctic seas, closely pursued by innumerable sea-fowl, which deal death among the little emigrants. They move in two divisions, one westward towards the coasts of America, the other eastward in the direction of Europe. They reach the Shetlands in April and the Isle of Man about June. The herring is fished at night. To be out with the herring boats is a glorious experience on a calm night. You have set sail with the fleet of Herring boats about sun-down, and you are running before a light breeze through the dusk. The sea-gulls are skimming about the brown sails of your boat. They know what you are going to do, and have come to help you. Presently you come upon a flight of them wheeling and diving in the gathering darkness. Then you know that you have lit on the herring shoal. The boat is brought head to the wind and left to drift. By this time the stars are out, perhaps the moon also-though too much moon is not good for the fishing-and you can just descry the dim outline of the land against the dark blue of the sky.
Luminous patches of phosphorescent light begin to move in the water. " The mar-fire's rising," say the fishermen, the herring are stirring. " Let's make a shot ; up with the gear," cries the skipper, and nets are hauled from below, passed over the bank-board, and paid out into the sea-a solid wall of meshes, floating upright, nine feet deep and a quarter of a mile long. It is a calm, clear night, just light enough to see the buoys on the back of the first net. The lamp is fixed on the mitch-board. All is silence, only the steady plash, plash, plash of the slow waters on the boat's side; no singing among the men, no chaff, no laughter, all quiet aboard, for the fishermen believe that the fish can hear ; all quiet around, where the deep black of the watery pavement is brightened by the reflection of stars. Then out of the white phosphorescent patches come minute points of silver and countless faint popping sounds. The herrings are at play about the nets. You see them in numbers exceeding imagination, shoals on shoals. " Pull up now, there's a heavy strike," cries the skipper, and the nets are hauled up, and come in white and moving -a solid block of fish, cheep, cheep, cheeping like birds in the early morning. At the grey of dawn the boats begin to run for home, and the sun is shining as the fleet makes the harbour. Men and women are waiting 'there to buy the night's catch. The quay is full of them, bustling, shouting, laughing, quarrelling, counting the herrings, and so forth.
Such is the herring fishery of Man. Bishop Wilson knew how bitter a thing it could be if this industry failed the island even for a single season. So, with absolute belief in the Divine government of the world, he wrote a Service to be held on the first day of the herring season, asking for God's blessing on the harvest of the sea. The scene of that service must have been wondrously beautiful and impressive. Why does not some great painter paint it ? Let me, by the less effectual vehicle of words, attempt to realise what it must have been.
The place of it was Peel bay, a wide stretch of beach, with a gentle slope to the left, dotted over with grey houses ; the little town farther on, with its nooks and corners, its blind alleys and dark lanes, its narrow, crabbed, crooked streets. Behind this the old pier and the herring boats rocking in the harbour, with their brown sails half set, waiting for the top of the tide. In the distance the broad breast of Contrary Head, and, a musket-shot outside of it, the little rocky islet whereon stand the stately ruins of the noble old Peel Castle. The beach is dotted over with people-old men, in their curranes and undyed stockings, leaning on their sticks ; chil-dren playing on the shingle ; young women in groups, dressed in sickle-shaped white sun-bonnets, and with petticoats tucked up ; old women in long blue homespun cloaks. But these are only the back ground of the human picture. In the centre of it is a wide circle of fishermen, men and boys, of all sizes and sorts, from the old Admiral of the herring fleet to the lad that helps the cook-rude figures in blue and with great sea-boots. They are on their knees on the sand, with their knitted caps at their rusty faces, and in the middle of them, standing in an old broken boat, is the Bishop himself, bare-headed, white-headed, with upturned face praying for the fishing season that is about to begin. The June day is sweet and beautiful, and the sun is going down behind the castle. Some sea-gulls are disporting on the reel: outside, and, save for their jabbering cries, and the boom of the sea from the red horizon, and the gentle plash of the wavelets on the pebbles of the shore, nothing is heard but the slow tones of the Bishop and the fishermen's deep Amen. Such was Bishop Wilson's fishermen's service. It is gone ; more's the pity.
The spiritual laws of Man were no dead letters when Bishop Wilson presided over its spiritual courts. He was good to illegitimate children, making them legitimate if their parents married within two years of their birth, and often putting them on the same level with their less injured brothers and sisters where inheritance was in question. But he was unmerciful to the parents themselves. There is one story of his treatment of a woman which passes all others in its tyranny. It is, perhaps, the only deep stain on his character. I thank God that it can never have come to the ears of Victor Hugo. Told as Hugo would have told it, surely it must have blasted for ever the name of a good man. It is the dark story of Katherine Kinrade. _
She was a poor ruin of a woman, belonging to Kirk Christ, but wandering like a vagrant over the island. The fact of first consequence is, that she was only half sane. In the language of the clergy of the time, she '1 had a degree of unsettledness and defect of understanding." Thus she was the sort of human wreck that the world finds it easy to fling away. Katherine fell victim to the sin that was not her own. A child was born. The Church censured her. She did penance in a white sheet at the church doors. But her poor, dull brain had no power to restrain her. A second child was born. Then the Bishop committed her for twenty-one days to his prison at the Peel. Let me tell you what the place is like. It is a crypt of the cathedral church. You enter it by a little door in the choir, leading to a tortuous flight of steep steps going down. It is a chamber cut out of the rock of the little island, dark, damp, and noisome. A small aperture lets in the light, as well as the sound of the sea beating on the rocks below. The roof, if you could see it in the gloom, is groined and ribbed, and above it is the mould of many graves, for in the old days bodies were buried in the choir. Can you imagine a prison more terrible for any prisoner, the strongest man or the bravest soldier ? Think of it on a tempestuous night in winter. The lonely islet rock, with the swift seas rushing around it ; the castle half a ruin, its guard-room empty, its banqueting hall roofless, its sally port silent ; then the cathedral church falling to decay ; and under the floor of its choir, where lie the graves of dead men, this black, grim, cold cell, silent as the graves themselves, save for the roar of the sea as it beats in the darkness on the rocks outside ! But that is not enough. We have to think of this gloomy pile as inhabited on such a night of terrors by only one human soul-this poor, bedraggled, sin-laden woman with " the defect of understanding." Can anything be more awful" Yet there is worse to follow. The records tell us that Katherine Kinrade submitted to her punishment " with as much discretion as could be expected of the like of her." But such punishments do not cleanse the soul that is "drenched with unhallowed fire." Perhaps Katherine did not know that she was wronged ; nevertheless God's image Nvas being trodden out of her. She went from bad to worse, became a notorious strumpet, strolled about the island, and led " a scandalous life on other accounts." A third child was born. Then the Bishop concluded that for the honour of the Christian name, " to pre-vent her own utter destruction, and for the example of others," at imely and thorough reformation must be made by a further and severer punishment. It was the 15th day of March, and he ordered that on the 17th day, being the fair of St. Patrick, at the height of the market, the said Katherine Kinrade should be taken to Peel Town in charge of the general sumner, and the constables and soldiers of the garrison, and there dragged after a boat in the sea! Think of it ! On a bitter day in March this wretched woman with the « defect of understanding " was to be dragged through the sea by a rope tied to the tail of a boat ! And if any owner, inaster, and crew of any boat proved refractory by refusing to perform this service for the restraining of vice, they' were to be subject to fine and imprisonment ! When St. Patrick's Day came the weather was so stormy that no boat could live in the bay, but on St. Germain's Day, about the height of the market, the censure was performed. After undergoing the punishment the miserable soul was apparently
penitent, " according to her capacity," took the communion, and was " received into the peace of the Church." Poor human ruin, defaced image of a woman, begrimed and buried soul, unchaste, mis-shapen, incorrigible, no "juice of God's distilling" ever " dropped into the core of her life," to such punishment she was doomed by the tribunal of that saintly man, Bishop Thomas Wilson ! She has met him at another tribunal since then ; not where she has crouched before him, but where she has stood by his side. She has carried her great account against him, to Him before whom the proudest are as chaff. Øne spake when Wilson stood before The Throne;
And He that sat thereon Spake not ; and all the presence-floor burnt deep with blushes, and the angels cast Their faces downwards.-Then, at last, Awe-stricken, he was ware
How on the emerald stair
A woman sat divinely clothed in white,
And at her knees four cherubs bright,
That laid Their heads within her lap.
Then, trembling; he essayed
To speak-" Christ's mother, pity me ! "
Then answered she,
" Sir, I am Katherine Kinrade."'
Unpublished poem by the author of " Fo'c's'le Yarns."
Have I dashed your faith in my hero ? Was lie indeed the bitterest of tyrants as well as the serenest of saints ? Yet bethink you of the other good men who have done evil deeds ? King David and the wife of Uriah, Mahomet and his adopted son ; the gallery of memory is hung round with many such portraits. Poor humanity, weak at the strongest, impure at the purest ; best take it as it is, and be content. Remember that a good man's vices are generally the excess of his virtues. It was so with Bishop Wilson. Remember, too, that it is not for what a man does, but for what lie means to do, that we love him or hate him in the end. And in the end the Manx people loved Bishop Wilson, and still they bless his memory.
We have a glimpse of his last days, and it is full of tender beauty. True to his lights, simple and frugal of life, God-fearing and strong of heart, he lived to be old. Very feeble, his beautiful face grown mellower even as his heart was softer for his many years, tottering on his staff, drooping like a white flower, lie went "ia and out among his people, laying his trembling hands on the children's heady and blessing them, remembering their fathers and their fathers' fathers. Beloved by the young, reverenced by the old, honoured by the great, worshipped by the poor, living in sweet patience, ready to die in hope. His day was done, his night was near, and the weary toiler was willing to go to his rest. Thus passed some peaceful years. He died in 1755, and was followed to his grave by the whole Manx nation. His tomb is our most sacred shrine. We know his faults, but we do not speak of them there. Call a truce over the place of the old man's rest. There he lies, who was once the saviour of our people. God bless him ? He was our fathers' bishop, and his saintly face still shines on our fathers' children.
Let me in a last clause attempt a sketch of the history of the Manx Church in the century or more that has followed Bishop Wilson's death. The last fifty years of it are featureless, save for an attempt to abolish the Bishopric. This foolish effort first succeeded and then failed, and was a poor bit of mummery altogether, ending in nothing but waste of money and time, and breath and temper. The fifty years immediately succeeding Bishop Wilson were full of activity. But so far as the Church was concerned, the activity was not always wholesome. If religion was kept alive in Man in those evil days, and the soul hunger of the poor Manx people was satisfied, it was not by the masters of the Manx Church, the Pharisees who gave alms in the streets to the sound of a trumpet going before them, or by the Levites who passed by on the other side when a man had fallen among thieves. It was partly by dissent, which was begun by Wesley in 1775 (after Quakerism had been suppressed), and partly by a small minority of the Manx clergy, who kept going the early evangeli-calism of Newton and Cowper and Cecil-dear, sunny, simple-1l carted old Manx vicars, who took sweet counsel together in their old-fashioned homes, where you found grace in all senses of the word, purity of soul, the life of the mind, and gentle courtliness of manners.
Bishop Wilson's successor was Doctor Mark Hildlesley, in all respects a worthy man. Ile completed the translation of the Scriptures into Manx, which had been begun by his predecessor, and established Sunday-schools in Man before they had been commenced in any other country. But after him came a line of worthless prelates, Dr. Richmond, remembered for his unbending haughti ness ; Dr. Mason, disgraced by his debts ; and Claudius Cregan, a bishop unfit to be a curate. Do you not read between the broad lines of such facts ? The Athol dynasty was now some thirty years established in Man, and the swashbuckler Court of fine gentlemen was in full swing. In that costume drama of soiled lace and uproarious pleasures, what part did the Church play ? Was it that of the man clad in camel's skin, living on locusts and wild honey, and calling on the generation of revellers to flee from the wrath to come ? No ; but that of the lover of cakes and ale. The records of this period are few and scanty, but they are full enough to show that some of the clergy of the Athols knew more of backgammon than of theology. While they pandered to the dissolute Court they lived under, going the errands of their masters in the State, fetching and carrying for them, and licking their shoes, they tyrannised over the poor ignorant Manx people and fleeced them unmercifully. Perhaps this was in a way only natural. Corruption was in the air throughout Europe. Dr. Youngs were grovelling for preferments at the feet of kings' mistresses, and Dr. Warners were kissing the shoebuckles of great ladies for sheer love of their faces, plastered red and white. The parasites of the Manx clergy were not far behind some of their English brethren. There is a story told of their life among themselves which casts lurid light on their character and ways of life. It is said that two of the Vicars-general summoned a large number of the Manx people to Bishop's Court on some business of the spiritual court. Many of the people had come long distances, chiefly a-foot, without food, and probably without money. After a short sitting the court was adjourned for dinner. The people had no dinner, and they starved. The Vicars-general went into the palace to dine with the Bishop. - Some hours passed. The night was gathering. Then a message came out to say that no more business could be done that day. Some of the poor people were old, and had to travel fifteen miles to their homes. The record tells us that the Bishop gave his guests " most excellent wine." What of a scene like that? Outside, a sharp day in Spring, two score famished folks tramping the glen and the gravel-path, the gravel-path and the glen, to and fro, to and fro, minute after minute, hour after hour. Inside, my lord Bishop, drenched in debt, dining with his clergy, drinking "most excellent wine " with them, unbending his mighty mind with them, exchanging boisterous stories with them, jesting with them, laughing with them, until his face grows as red as the glowing turf on his hearth. Presently a footfall on the gravel, and outside the window a hungry, pinched, anxious face looking nervously into the room. Then this colloquy
" Ah, the court, plague on't, I'd forgotten it." "Adjourn it, gentlemen."
" Wine like yours, my lord, would make a man forget Paradise."
" Sit down again, gentlemen. Juan, go out and tell the people to come back to-morrow."
" Your right good health, my lord ! " And yours, gentlemen both ! "
Oh, if there is any truth in religion, if this world is God's, if a day is coming when the weak shall be exalted and the mighty laid low, what a reckoning they have gone to whose people cried for bread and they gave them a stone ! And if there is not, if the hope is vain, if it is all a sham and a mockery, still the justice of this world is sure. Where are they now, these parasites ? Their game is played out. They are bones and ashes ; they are in their forgotten graves.