[From High Bailiff Laughton's Recollections, 1911]
Truly, Governor Hope lived in times when we were very benighted, not only with regard to the proper care of our lunatics and the law of public meetings, but also as to the drainage, cleansing, paving, and lighting of our towns and villages. His Excellency endeavoured to provide a remedy; and a movement was inaugurated, and a Bill drafted, for the appointment of Town Commissioners for Douglas, with power to light, drain, pave, and otherwise improve it. A meeting was called in the Wellington Hall, in Preaching House Lane (now Wellington Street), to forward the movement. Mr. Samuel Harris, then a practising advocate, who afterwards became High-Bailiff of Douglas, was in the chair, and the meeting was a crowded and excited one. The Messrs. Cubbon (drapers) were at the time engaged in laying out land in Onchan, where the Industrial Home and other buildings now stand, and they had a large number of labourers in their employ, who were all driven down to attend the meeting, and vote against the proposed Bill.
The measure was read, and seemed in every respect a wise and reasonable ones I was in favour of it, and having explained its several provisions to the meeting, moved a resolution to the effect that " without pledging ourselves to all the details, we accept and approve the general principles of the Bill." This was seconded by the late Mr. T. C. Callow.
Tremendous and continued shouts of " No Bill, no Bill," immediately followed. No other reply or argument was attempted. My resolution was put, and, excepting the proposer and seconder, not a single man voted in its favour! I believe that this meeting had its parallel in one held in Ephesus, in ancient days, when for the space of two hours the mob shouted " Great is Diana of the Ephesians !" Alas! there was, unhappily no " Town Clerk" in Douglas to quietly reason with those frantic Manxmen.
The only result of the meeting in question was that for some years Douglas continued dreary and dark, and extremely odoriferous; visitors avoided us, trade was slack, and we were subjected to the reproaches and revilings of " strangers," as people from across the water were invariably designated.
Governor Hope was himself a " stranger?" being a Scotchman. I once ventured delicately to remind him of this fact. His Excellency was the President of the Manx Chancery Court, and I was pleading before him n a case in which it became necessary for me to get rid, if possible, of a very ancient Statute, dated 1523 which my opponent had quoted in opposition to my case That Statute had not been acted upon for upwards of three hundred years, and I contended that it must be considered as obsolete. Upon which His Excellency remarked " that a Statute could not become obsolete it could only be repealed by Statute." I replied " that If such were the law, then His Excellency himself was in a very precarious position, for in the year 1422, a Statute had been passed, which remained unrepealed enacting 'that all Scots avoid the Land with the next vessell that goeth into Scotland, upon Paine or Forfeiture of their Goods and their Bodys to Prison'"; and I argued " that unless Statutes might by centuries of non-usage become obsolete, His Excellency was illegally occupying his seat upon the Bench, as very numerous 'vessells' had gone to Scotland since he had arrived on the Island." What effect my argument upon this point might have had with His Excellency, I cannot record as the case was decided upon another issue.
Subsequently I discovered that the Act of 1422 had been repealed, so that " all Scots " may in future visit the Island without fear of their " Bodys " or " Goods " but so strong was the prejudice against " Scots " that 276 years elapsed before they established themselves in the confidence of Manxmen.
Speaking of Governor Hope recalls an incident wherein I figured, when the legibility of my handwriting was called in question. I will premise by saying that my handwriting is not more unreadable than is that of many other public men. and during my professional career it had been the subject of chaffing, hostile criticism, occassionally from some of my correspondents. I will, however, say this for it, that I can sometimes read it myself, which is more than everyone can do.
At the period to which I refer, it was the custom for the Committee of Highroads, as they were then termed, to be permitted to take land for the purpose of making roads, without giving any compensation to the owners thereof. A new road was being made through the Dhoon Estate, in the Parish of Lonan, the property of the late Dr. Oswald. I presented a petition upon his behalf to the Tynwald Court, seeking for compensation. In order to give the Committee notice of the nature of my application, I had written to each of them three days prior to the Court. Upon rising to present my petition, the Governor, the Hon. Charles Hope, enquired whether the Committee had received notice of it?; to which I replied " that I had written to each of its members." Whereupon the late Mr. Edward Farrant, one of the Committee, and likewise a member of the Court, rose in his place, and twisting my unfortunate letter to him between his fingers, said in a highly satirical manner, "Your Excellency, I admit that I did, a few mornings ago, receive the document which I hold in my hand, but after being passed round the breakfast table at Ballakillinghan (where he resided) not one of us was able to decipher its contents." Whereat a gentle smile at my expense pervaded the Court. I, however, at once rejoined? " I can quite believe that the fact was so, your Excellency, as I have always understood that the education of the people in that district has been terribly neglected ! " which was followed by an unmistakeable and well-sustained laugh at his expense throughout the entire Court, in which, I must say, Mr. Farrant himself heartily joined.