[From Laughton's Reminiscences, 1916]
About this time I learned a lesson upon the gospel of Public Meetings, according to Messrs Bluett and Dumbell, at that time the leaders of the Manx Bar.
Governor Hope had been in communication with the Home Office with reference to the care of the lunatics of the Island. In those early days we had no Lunatic Asylum, and it was ascertained that in several instances the poor creatures were confined by relatives, in old, damp outhouses, without fire or bedding, except straw or litter, and in other ways were dreadfully neglected. When, for any offence, they were committed to the gaol of Castle Rushen, there was no separate treatment for them, and if they became violent, they were beaten, or even pelted with stones by the Gaoler, in order to subdue and render them tractable.
Governor Hope transmitted a circular to each of the High-Bailiffs of the four towns, setting forth a proposal made by the Home Secretary, for the purpose of erecting a suitable Lunatic Asylum, at the joint expense of the Island and the Imperial Government; and being anxious to ascertain the feeling of the general public upon the proposal, requested the High-Bailiffs to call public meetings in their several districts, to lay the whole question before the inhabitants, for their consideration.
High-Bailiff Quirk duly called a meeting in the Court House, Douglas, for the above purpose. The subject was one that excited a deep interest, and the Court House was crammed. The proposed scheme, contemplating, as it did, the levying of additional rates, was very unpopular amongst the general body of ratepayers.
Mr. Ward (the ironmonger), Johnny Duggan (auctioneer and orator), Will. Kelly (the chandler), the Garretts, Torrances, Duffs, Cubbons, and all of that ilk, and well known in the Island, assembled in great force to oppose the proposition, or, in fact, any proposition which would involve the payment of one shilling of Manx money.
The meeting was opened by the High-Bailiff reading the Governor's Circular, requesting him to call the meeting to '' consider " the proposal of the Home' Secretary.,
Messrs. Bluett and Dumbell addressed the meeting in favour of accepting the arrangement, but it soon became apparent that they were in a very insignificant minority Ward, I remember being particularly hostile to the measure.
At length a resolution was written out and proposed " That the meeting altogether refuse to accept the Home Secretary's scheme"; and was at once seconded amid great cheering.
Now came my lesson as to the proper mode of conducting Public Meetings, which I am not likely ever to forget. Mr. Dumbell jumped to his feet and stoutly objected to the High-Bailiff putting the resolution to the meeting. He rose supremely to the occasion, stating without turning a hair, " that inasmuch as His Excellency had merely asked them to 'consider' the proposition they would be out of order in doing anything further, that they had 'considered' it, and therefore the matter was ended." A roar of disapprobation followed this astounding allegation, and some one, more daring than the others affirmed " that the Governor's object must have been to ascertain the opinion of the meeting, and in what way," he asked, " could they give His Excellency the information which he required except in the form of a resolution ? "
This, Mr. Dumbell would not hear of. He re-affirmed " that the Governor had asked the public to 'consider' the proposal, and nothing more, and that this having now been done, he advised the High-Bailiff that it was his duty to dissolve the meeting." After some hesitation His Worship at length did so, and the people dispersed growling and grumbling, as indeed they might well; and neither His Excellency nor the Imperial Government ever ascertained what the public feeling really was.