[From High Bailiff Laughton's Recollections, 1911]


In the early days of which I write, this tiny little Manx Kingdom was a very different place to the Island of to-day. At that time it was practically outside the precincts of the then-known world, and was not governed by the social laws, manners, and customs hereof. We had no daily newspapers, and no daily steam communication between the Island and England; we had no low water landing piers; the passage across the Channel frequently occupied from eight to twelve hours, and often enough longer; passengers were landed in small boats, and often on mens' backs. We had no telegraphic communication with the mainland; no theatre; no public promenade; no Free Library; cheap trippers were unknown luxuries, we had no railways; no Town Commissioners; no boarding houses; no lights in our streets, no paving, no drainage. Douglas could only boast of three policemen. Tom Cannell, " The Mailman " as he was called, carried on his back from the steamer the entire tri-weekly mail to the Island. The streets were unswept, except that each householder had, once a week, to clean the road half-way across, opposite to his house, by order of the Bellman, at the instance of the High Bailiff. Eggs were fifty for a shilling; mutton and beef fourpence, and butter sevenpence a pound; fowls, eighteen pence a couple.

We were all Manx to the backbone, and looked suspiciously askance at " strangers," who, for reasons best known to themselves, might have intruded upon us from the outside world. Not that we were, at all inhospitable. Indeed many of them, if yet surviving, could sadly but truly affirm that whenever they came within our sphere to dwell amongst us, we, one and all, did our very best to entertain them according to our ability and opportunity.


Overweening Conceit, and Wholesome Retribution.

One glorious summer, during which for a couple of months we had not a drop of rain, my good friend Harry Bridson, of Bolton, came to the Island. He arrived in his splendid yacht, bringing with him a young friend, a gentleman, but terribly conceited young fellow. He astonished us young Manxmen by his style of dress and the " airs " he gave himself; one of the chief articles of his belief being a strong conviction of his own powers as a " lady-killer." We had pic-nics, dances, rides, and drives about the Island; amusing ourselves, as was our wont during the summer, and we " suffered" much at the hands of that young " Jack Daw," as we nick-named him. At last we concocted a scheme whereby we hoped to correct his belief in his own attractions, and enlisted the aid of our lady friends. One of them wrote to " Jack Daw " confessing to having fallen a victim to his charms, and asking him to meet her at the usual promenade in the Castle Mona Grounds, on the following Wednesday. She also suggested his holding a white handkerchief in his hand, that she might be sure of his identity. On the day in question appeared our young " Jack Daw " jauntily attired, and gently waving an immaculate white silk handkerchief. After walking to and fro for about an hour, in full view of the conspirators and their friends, he dejectedly left the grounds, on the non-appearance, of the " lady." A second letter was then sent to him, with an apology for her inability to keep her engagement, asking for another meeting–this time at the Nunnery Gates, at 9 p.m., on the following Monday. Now the fun began in earnest! Call, who had recently distinguished himself in amateur theatricals as a lady's maid, assumed the character of Daw's unknown admirer. I was to be " John the Footman," and from Call's lodgings on the South Quay, we proceeded on the evening in question, to the " rendezvous," where a number of those in the plot were in hiding, ready to participate in the fun. With the hour appeared the man, who took off his hat in most elegant fashion, and offered his arm to the " lady," which she timidly accepted. After a short interview, during which, while vainly trying to penetrate her thick veil to see whether she was pretty or not, he, with many sweet compliments, vowed eternal fidelity to her. I at length interposed with a suggestion that " the master would be expecting her at home," when she wished him good-night, and left, I following at a distance. " Jack Daw " came up to me and anxiously enquired her name, her father's position, etc., which I only divulged after repeated " tips " of half-a-crown, and two separate shillings, giving the former as " Miss Emily Bentley," and implying that her father was very rich. (That half-crown is in my possession to this day, with the following inscription on it, engraved for the sum of two Shillings by Muncaster, who then kept a watchmaker's shop in Preaching House Lane, " Presented to 'John,' servant to Miss Emily Bentley, on the 29th September, 1848.") I fancy that the infatuated " Jack Daw " must, after a while, have had his suspicions that he had been hoaxed, at all events he disappeared suddenly from our horizon, never to return. We heard that subsequently he obtained a Commission in an Infantry Regiment, but somehow or other this episode of his got whispered abroad, and, coming to the ears of his brother officers, he was so terribly chaffed that he finally exchanged into another Regiment. I believe he is long since dead.

Story of a Deemster,

I well remember Deemster Christian, who had an autocratic idea of his powers. Upon one occasion a man named Corlett, a grocer in Ramsey, having frequently sent in his account to his Honour and called at Milntown without effect, at length meeting him in Ramsey, respectfully reminded him of his long overdue claim, whereupon the Deemster, assuming great sternness of manner, threatened there and then to commit the persistent grocer to the Gaol of Castles Rushen, for contempt, in presuming to ask so exalted a person for his bill in the streets ! Those were indeed the good old times !


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