[From Letters from IoM 1846]

Manx Ballads, Legends etc.

" The Manx language bears very great similarity to the Irish, or Erse. A language which possesses no original literature beyond a few ballads, can scarcely offer much inducement to the student."-GUIDE TO THE ISLE of MAN.

Of literature there are no traces in the Manx language, excepting some songs, composed in the style of Ossian, discovered by Bishop Hildersley ; a few plaintive pieces set to national melodies, and verses written on particular occasions. Their cast is melancholy, like that of all the Erse poetry. There are no relics of prose literature."-LORD TEIGNMOUTH.

" It has been often remarked that there is no better index of national feeling than ballads and proverbs.'-LAUGHTON.

[This section copies items from other sources - mostly I suspect from J.B.Laughton's Guidebook]



IN the days of King Orry,1 as every one knows,
A ship in full sail (so the old story goes)
Was the ensign that Mona unfurl'd to her foes.
And these were the days of our glory,
Before that we stood on three legs.

Bad luck to the memory of Magnus,2 who sold
To the King of the Scots, as we oft have been told,
The dear sweet little Mona for silver and gold ;
So ended the days of our glory,
Before that we stood on three legs.

Old Sawney3 came over, with sword and with spear,
(I wish in my heart he had never come near,)
And he kick'd up a dust in the Isle of Mac Lear.
For our own noble arms he took from us,
And gave us his three crooked legs.

'Twas to teach us poor Manksmen the game of hop-scotch,
That he gave us these legs, our escutcheon to blotch,
But he found that his patch-work turn'd out but a botch.
So to cover the loss of our old arms,
With new arms he greaved the three legs.4

From that time to this, since the three legs are ours,
While the one foot stands firm, as old Rushin's 5 grey towers,
We spurn with the other at all foreign powers,6
Whoever have landed in " Mona,"
And attempted to break our three legs.

But for honest "John Bull," and for "Paddy," to boot,
Our arms are wide open, our hearts never shut;
And they're welcome whenever their tastes it may suit,
To visit the shores of old Mona,
And shake hands with the three legs of Mann.

1 In the tenth century, probably about the year 920, Orry, a Danish prince, took possession of the Isle of Man, which he made the seat of his government, and adopted for his armorial ensign, " A ship in full sail." Vide GUIDE, p. 14.

2 The last of the Norwegian line died in 1685, and was buried in Rushin Abbey.

3 Alexander III. of Scotland, who conquered the island, and united it to Scotland. The Scotch, it is said, were masters of the Isle of Man only twenty years.

4 The motto to the present armorial ensign of Man is " Quocumque jeceris stabit"-" It will stand in whatever way you throw it," which refers probably to the position of the island in the centre of the British isles.

5 Probably the only perfect specimen of Danish architec-ture remaining in the British dominions.

6 The three legs refer to the relative situation of the island with respect to the neighbouring nations of England, Scotland, and Ireland, previous to the union of any two of them. Since which the symbol entirely loses its propriety, and has become obsolete and unmeaning. While England, Scotland, or Ireland, were belligerent nations, the existence of "Mona" as an independent state must depend on an armed neutrality, and the alternate protection which it might he able to chal- lenge from any one against the hostile aggression of the other two. The " Legs" are armed, which denotes self-defence; the " Spurs" denote speed; and while, in whatever position they are placed, two of them fall into the attitude of supplication, the third, which will be upward and behind, appears to be kicking at the assailant, against whom the other two are imploring protection. The vis of the symbol is, that, if England should seek to oppress it, it would soon engage Ireland or Scotland to afford protection, and if either of those should assail it, it would hasten to call England to its defence.



I'LL tell you how, about the row, so dreadful and unproper,
Which for a while; in this here isle, was riz about the copper;
A worse, indeed, I never seed, and hope I ne'er again shall,
But I'll relate the story nate, " full, true," and circumstantial.

Chorus-Hurrah! the copper, The beautiful new copper, &c.

I'll tell you how this mighty row at first originated,
The cabinet and council met, and long the plan debated.
This was the plan which they began-it really was quite funny,
To give to all, both great and small, a stock of ready money.

Hurrah! &c.

The government to the island sent this blessed scheme for doing us;
They thought, perhaps, that our old raps would very shortly ruin us.
So a thousand pounds of browns they crown'd, with Vic's physog2 most gracious,
And our three legs, which here I begs to say was most howdacious.

Hurrah! &c.

The coin came out; beyond all doubt, it look'd extremely beautiful,
And so we thought we really ought to take it all quite dutiful.
But when we came to make a claim, with a bob for fourteen fishes,3
We found, alas! but twelve would pass, which rayther seem'd suspicious.

Hurrah ! &c.

A precious mess, as you may guess, we found that we'd got into;
We thought to seize the House of Keys,4 and chop for sauce the mint too;
Up started then some glaziers' men, as fierce as Turks or Hindoos,
And cried, "Come boys, well make a noise, and smash the Douglas windows."

Hurrah! &c.

Then up we got, with blood all hot, and marched about the town, sir ;
And all night long, two thousand strong, paraded up and down, sir;
The panes went crash in every sash, thus causing great expenses;
The gentry folk thought that no joke-the women lost. their senses.

Hurrah ! &c.

But with daylight there came in sight the forces military;
From Castletown they all came down, and grinned ferocious, very;
The Bailiff high cried "yield or die," which really wery rum I call;
They cock'd their guns, so off we runs, for we was all struck comical,

Hurrah! &c.

Some ten or more, perhaps a score, were grabb'd and sent to quod, sir;
Where they must stay for many a day to wait. the Deemster's5 nod, sir ;
If he says so, why, off they go, all to the Bay of Botany;
But if money brings such horrid things, I wish I'd never got any.

Hurrah! &c.

1 In the year 1840, the old copper coins of the Isle of Man were called in, and a new and beautiful copper coinage, amounting to 10001., issued from the Mint, for the use of the island. The obverse bears the impression of the Queen's head, and the reverse the arms and motto of the island. Under the old system, fourteen pence was the value of the shilling, but now the new currency is assimilated to that of the empire. Many of the Manks manifested such hostility to this innovation, that very serious riots took place in consequence, in the towns of Douglas and Peel, which rendered the presence of the military necessary, by whom they were speedily quelled. These disturbances suggested the song, called the " Copper Row." In 1825, the Hon. George Murray, then Bishop of Sodor and Man, attempted to collect the tithe of potatoes, which created so much dissatisfaction, that disturbances and conflagrations ensued, which the regular troops on the island were unable to control, and the bishop (in consequence of this "Potato Row") was induced to abandon his claim.

2 The Queen's head on one side of the coin, and the arms of Man on the other.

3 The great objection of the lower orders to the new currency was, that they could ONLY get TWELVE articles instead of fourteen, as formerly, of such as were sold at one penny each. Herrings for instance: "a bob for fourteen fishes," is fourteen herrings for one shilling.

4 "A Court of Appeal." The only qualifications necessary for admission to the "House of Keys" are, majority, and the possession of landed property in the island.

5 One of the supreme judges in the civil courts of law in this island, who are said to " deem the law truly to the parties."


" Oh ! take this fancy braid,
And wear it, love, for me."

WHEN the fingers that wove it lie still in the grave,
And the young brow that bear it is cold;
When the spirit that loved thee has ceased to rave,
And the tale of the " fated" is told;
When the green grass is springing up fresh o'er my rest,
And the mournings of many depart;
Oh, place thou my simple dark braid on thy breast,
And shrine me, sweet love, in thine heart.
When the dark eyes that shone with pure passion's deep glow,
Lie dim in death's horrible cell;
When the wild bounding bosom lies moveless and low,
With the worm and corruption to dwell;
Oh, remember me then - oh, remember me then-
Gone down from the bright face of day,
From the hearth, from the mirth, from bower and glen,
From the loved,-the happy,-the gay.

Ay, remember me then-and remember me there,
All mouldering beneath the cold sod;
And, oh! in the depths of a bootless despair,
Ask pardon-not mine-but of God.
My heart-strings were sever'd-but thou art forgiven,
My warm wish for thee is-" be blest!"
And yet-yet I hope to behold thee in Heaven,
Where the weary and wretched have rest!
E. N.


OLD schoolboy days, we love ye well,
When all your hours are past;
'Tis memory's fond delight to tell
Your history to the last.

And when our wand'ring footsteps tread
Each well remember'd scene,
We think not of the time that's fled,
The years gone by between.

Old schoolboy days! how oft we sigh,
When thrill'd by study's chain,
That ye would swiftly hasten by,
And freedom we might gain.

When manhood comes, alas! how sad
To find its fancied joys
Are naught to those that once we had,
When we were merry boys.

In after life, wherre'er we meet
An early schoolboy friend,
Oh, who can tell what mem'ries sweet
Unto our hearts 'twill send.
And still, as track we on to death

Life's ever-changing ways,
We ne'er forget, while we have health,
Our happy schoolboy days.





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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2011