[From Letters from IoM 1846]
"Here bits and scraps together mingle, Various as Creation's dies."-ALBUM.
"Thus have I, as well as I could, gathered a posy of observations as they grew."-ADAM LITTLETON.
THE Manks appear to have great respect for religious rites, and the actual state of religion in the island is favourably spoken of. The Manx language is destitute of oaths, though some of its expressions are very forcible, of which one of the most obnoxious is, " you rough fellow." The churches and chapels appear to be well attended, and the people generally (from a deep sense of the solemn truths of the gospel) greatly averse to infidelity, and strongly attached to the established church. But drunkenness is too common 1here, owing to the cheapness of spirits, and the great increase of public houses.
The Manks have few public games or amusements.2 There is not a theatre in the island, though concerts are occasionally given ; and to the want of some of these recreations may be traced their notorious love of litigation, which, though it may sharpen the faculties, encourages a contentious disposition.
There being no legal provision for the support of the poor, they are partly maintained as outpensioners of the House of Industry.3 A soup kitchen is openedfor their relief during the winter months. The House of Industry is supported by voluntary contributions,4 and there are collections made every Sunday in the churches at Douglas, for the poor in that town. There is also a medical dispensary, which appears to be well supported. It is said that during the pestilence that followed the famine on this island, in 1740, there was no medical practitioner except Bishop Wilson. There are at present twenty-two in Douglas alone, including druggists. There appeared to me but little real distress among the poor during my sojourn here. There is no lunatic asylum on the island; but as there are many poor but deserving objects in an imbecile state, the inhabitants of Ramsey contemplate erecting one in the northern division by subscription.
Among many- singular old customs of inflicting punishment among the Manks, there was a whimsical one for slander. Any one speaking slanderously against the chief officers of the island, (whether spiritual or temporal,) or against any of the twenty-four Keys,5 and who cannot prove the same, shall forfeit £10, and have his ears cut off besides.
If a person was convicted of propagating a false report, he was placed on the whipping stocks, with his tongue in a noose of leather, which they called a bridle. After having been thus exposed to view for a certain time, the gag was taken off, when he was obliged to say thrice, "False tongue, thou bast lied."6 Stealing or cutting bee-hives was "Felony to death without valuation." Stealing poultry, robbing gardens, or clipping other people's sheep, &c., was considered felony to death, as aforesaid, but if under the value of sixpence, the culprit was either whipped, or set on a wooden horse.
This college was founded in 1830 by the Hon. Cornelius Smelt, Lieutenant-Governor, the bishop of the diocese, and other trustees of property granted by Bishop Barrow, in 1668, for the education of young men to supply the Manx churches, and other pious and charitable purposes, which the late King William IV. permitted to bear his name. The buildings, partly in the Elizabethan style, form a spacious structure 210 feet in length, from east to west, and 135 feet from north to south. The expense of building the chapel was defrayed from funds collected in England for the erection of new churches in this island. The principal and other masters must be members of the church of England, and graduates of the universities. The College was opened in 1833. The governor, the bishop, and the attorney-general of the island, have each founded prizes to be contended for at the Midsummer vacation.
The episcopal palace,8 or Bishop's Court, as it is called, is an extensive domain of more than 300 acres. It is an ancient structure, and is mentioned in history as far back as the thirteenth century. The house stands in the centre of trees planted by Bishop Wilson. The gardens and walks are pleasing. In the ground are two posts, erected by Bishop Hildersley, in 1760, to commemorate an action fought off that place between some vessels of France and England. The French admiral, Thurot, had fallen in with Captain Elliot off Bishop's Court, who attacked and gained a complete victory over him, though far inferior to the French admiral in guns and men-Thurot being killed, and the captured ships taken into Ramsey Bay.
The Manx custom of psalm-singing at funerals is falling into disuse. It was customary for the clergyman to meet the funeral procession about a quarter of a mile from the church; he then walked before, singing a psalm, the company joining with him. In ancient times, funerals were solemnized with torches at night, but were subsequently forbidden; and in the year 1594, it was enacted that bells and banners should not in future be carried before the dead, nor should there be any prayers offered up on their graves. "I have seen," says Waldron, " sometimes at a Manx burial, upwards of a hundred horsemen, and twice that number of people on foot. All these are entertained at long tables spread with provisions, and rum and brandy fly about at a great rate."
Formerly, before the bridal party entered the church, they marched three times round it, and musicians were hired, who played a tune called "The Black and Grey," and no other. The bridegroom's men carried ozier wands in their hands as an emblem of superiority. Weddings were generally celebrated on a Tuesday or a Thursday;9 and it was customary, on the bridegroom leaving his house, to throw an old shoe after him, and, in like manner, an old shoe after the bride, to ensure good luck to each. The expenses of the wedding dinner, &c., are sometimes paid by the men, each of whom walked in procession with his sweetheart, "after the bride and bridegroom on their return from church."
The Manks esteem it very unlucky to receive anything given by turning the hand outwards. They will not turn a herring at table, until one side is eaten, they then take away the bone, and eat the rest. They drive a cow, which has just calved, over a burning turf; and when removing from one habitation to another, a cock is put into the house before the new comers take possession, to thwart the bad wishes of the last inhabitant. They believe, like the Scotch, in " second-sight." It was formerly conceived that families had the second-sight by succession, descending from parents to children, and " the only way to be freed from it is, when a woman hath it herself, and is married to a man that hath it also." Many place great reliance also on the " Evil Eye," and "Spectral Illusions."11
Wood mentions in his " Tour to the Isle of Man," that in 1808 there was only one person who sold books in the island, and he was a bookbinder by trade, and declares he " tried in vain to get a sheet of blotting paper." There are now in Douglas alone five booksellers and stationers, eight printing-offices, four weekly newspapers, and three monthly periodicals. Newspapers, printed in the island, pay no duty on paper, or advertisements, and pass, postage free, without a duty stamp, through the postoffices of the united kingdom, and most of the British colonies. There are two circulating libraries at Douglas, and one called " the Isle of Man Subscription Library;" also a Mechanics' Library, which is well supported. The following are specimens of the Manks journals:
" Self-energy is the true life of man. To think by other men's thoughts is no true living thinking. To believe by other men's belief is no true living faith. The mind must, by its own independent exertion, seek and (so far as its native powers will enable it) arrive at the modes and causes of the truth of these propositions it receives as ' truths,' or substantially it will think and believe nothing - substantially, neither will the propositions exist for it, nor it for them. They will be nonentities, and it will only dream of understanding them." Manx Sun.
" A false friend is like a shadow that appears in fine weather, but vanishes at the approach of a cloud."
" A good conscience is better than two witnesses. It will consume your grief as the sun dissolves ice. It is a spring when you are thirsty-a staff when you are weary-a screen when the sun burns you-a pillow in death."
" It is a curious fact that the most carnivorous quadrupeds are more averse to devouring women than men. The bears of Kamschatka follow the women while gathering wild flowers, into the woods, and (though most rapacious animals) seldom do more harm than robbing them of their food."
" In a company of rustics, the other day, at a country alehouse, a man was saying, that the Îtalians had no w in their language.' How, then,' demanded a countryman, with a mingled air of triumph and contempt, ` do such chaps as them spell waggon ?' This was a poser."
" True love cannot long be concealed where it really exists; neither can it be feigned where it does not."
" Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body; without health, no pleasure can be tasted by manwithout liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society."
" If you wish to be happy-keep busy. Idleness is harder work than ploughing, a good deal. There is more fun in sweating an hour, than in yawning a century."
" An Irishman, recommending a cow, said, she would give good milk, year after year, without having calves, because it ran in the breed, and she came from a cow that never had a calf!"
" Punch was originally a Persian beverage, and derives its name from punj, five-because it consisted of five ingredients-water, spirit, acid, sugar, and spice."
" Nearly half of the French army can neither read nor write-viz. 124,134, out of 252,383 men."
" Men are often treated like barrels-the empty ones, stand up-and the full ones are laid down."-Manx Newspaper.
" A gentleman residing in the neighbourhood of Cork has told us the following anecdote. Walking out one Sunday evening, he met a young peasant girl, whose parents lived near his house. Where are you going, Jenny?' said he. ' Looking for a son-in-law for my mother, Sir,' was the smart reply. Jenny, in fact, was going a courting."-Ibid.
THE ISLE OF MAN MADE FOR THE WHOLE KINGDOM.-No one can look at the map of Great Britain, and note the local position of the Isle of Man, as the very centre of it, without coming to the conclusion that the Author of Nature designed the island to answer some enlarged national purpose. Its former separate proprietorship, under the house of Stanley, and its local legislation, have hitherto prevented that appropriation of the country to great national purposes, which its position, and many favourable circumstances indicate.
Every one who navigates the Irish channel, and touches at Douglas, perceives at once that this is the place for a national harbour of refuge, for the protection of British commerce in these seas. So fully impressed were the "Tidal Harbour Commissioners" of this fact, that they gave the subject prominence and emphasis in their masterly report, presented to Parliament in March last.
The following are their words:-" The Isle of Man occupies an important position in the Irish channel, directly in the track of communication between Liverpool, Glasgow, and Belfast, and of the coal trade from Whitehaven and Maryport, to the whole of the east coast of Ireland. It has been aptly termed the Beacon of the hoish Sea, and as such, everything that care and skill can suggest as to lights, beacons, and improvement of its harbours, would tend to prevent the recurrence of the numerous wrecks that have taken place around its shores."
" To use the island as a military or naval depôt, or both, has been suggested by wise statesmen, who have considered the many local advantages which its position, health, and fine atmosphere afford. We have heretofore expressed our views on that subject, and demonstrated its feasibility and desirableness on every account; and without losing sight of that grand national object now, we are about to make another suggestion, which we do not recollect to have seen elsewhere.
" The system of transportation for crimes, pursued to the extent it has been done by England for the last half century, is manifesting itself as a formidable social evil, by which curable and youthful offenders have been confirmed in wickedness, and rendered incorrigible, by vicious associations; and by which several eastern colonies have been overwhelmed by a blighting curse, which neither the church, nor the missionaries, nor the temperance and moral societies, nor all together, can remedy in a full century. These evils have been sorely complained of by the colonies; and the sense of justice in the home government has been appealed to from time tQ time; insomuch that England, some years ago, was casting about for a radical change in the system of punishments for the higher offences. Parliament sent commissioners to examine the large stateprisons in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania; and the report of the commissioners was most favourable to those immense institutions; but the matter dropped without the nation benefiting by the knowledge thus obtained, principally on the ground that, in the populous country of England, as it was alleged, an imperial state prison could not be maintained without large national expense.
" What we have now to suggest is the following. Let the British government buy 100 acres of land in Sulby glen, embracing the river, with two or three of its splendid falls. Let this land be enclosed by a thick wall, thirty feet high, and capped with sharp iron pickets, having sentry-boxes on the top of the wall, at equal distances of twenty rods. Let the prison buildings be erected by the side of the stream, so that water-power can be made to bear on machinery within the buildings. Let these buildings surround a hollow square of 200 yards in diameter, which open square shall be used as a work-yard for out-door operations. All kinds of manufactures are to be established in the buildings, and prosecuted by machinery, which can be moved by water power. The remaining part of the land, not covered by buildings and work-yards, can be cultivated as gardens, &c., to supply the establishment with vegetables and fruit. During the day time, a number of the prisoners, sufficient to work the land, and keep it in the highest state of cultivation, can be let out of the cells for that purpose, being confined by the high wall, guided in their work by overseers, and watched over by sentinels on the ramparts. In the work-yards, the hewing of stones, polishing marble, framing timber for roofs, floors, &c., making doors, and doing all large coarse work can be prosecuted; while, within the workshops, all the manufactures known in the kingdom can, from time to time, be introduced, as the skill of the prisoners advances in the arts, and the demands of the market require their work. For juvenile delinquents, let one department of the prison be devoted to a good primary school, where a sound, practical education can be bestowed. A large chapel, sufficient to accommodate 2000, is to be devoted to Divine service on Sundays. Such an establishment would hold about onehalf of the convicts of the kingdom'; and in passing sentence on each prisoner, a selection of the worst criminals could be made by the presiding judge, and such incorrigible offenders alone might be transported. The Auburn state-prison, in the state of New York, is based on the model above suggested; and the income from the manufactures of that establishmentnot only defrays the whole expense; but returns a handsome revenue to the state. In this way the very crime of the country is converted into a source of profit; and moreover, what is still better, punishment is thereby made to answer its great design-namely, to convert the offender from the error of his ways, and to return him back to society with a good trade and a better man.
" There is another peculiarity in the management of that prison, which we hope to see adopted in our Sulby establishment. All the farmers in the surrounding country open an account with the treasurer. They supply the establishment with butcher's meat and breadcorn, and take in return the manufactured articles which they need, and so, in this way, mutual benefit accrues to each party, without the use of money to carry on the traffic.
"Well, why should not the Isle of Man become the seat of this establishment ? It is a beautiful gem in the centre of the kingdom ; prisoners could not escape even should they scale the-walls; the waters are limpid and pure; health rides on every breeze; and last, though not least, the establishment would confer domestic MANUFACTURES on the island, which is a desideratum, and of which she stands vastly in need."-Manx Advertiser, June 20,1846.
The tombstones in this island are not generally disfigured, as in our countiry, with foolish quaint epitaphs. The following, however, would have been to my mind " more honoured in the breach than the observance."
In Santon church-yard, the ages on the tombstones are above the usual average of human life, the air of this place being considered most salubrious. On one stone, " sacred to the memory of Daniel Tear, who died - December 9th, 1787, aged 110 years," there is the following epitaph :12
Here, Here, friend, is little Daniel's tomb,
To Joseph's age he did arrive.
Sloth killing thousands in their bloom,
While labour kept poor Dan alive.
How strange, yet true, full seventy years,
Was his wife happy in her tears."13
Close to the principal entrance to Braddan Church is the following singular inscription on a stone :
" Hereunder lyeth the body of the Rev. Mr. Patrick Thompson,14 minister of God's Word 40 years, at present vicar of Kirk Braddan, aged 67, anno 1678, deceased an. 1680."
There does not appear to have been a single conversion to popery of a native of this island.
" Ayr ain t'ayns niau
Casherick dy row dt'Ennym
Dy jig djy reeriaght
Dt'aigney dy row jeant er y thalloo myr te ayns niau
Cur dooin nyn arran jiu as gagh laa
As leih dooin nyn loghtyn myr ta shin leik daucsyn ta jannoo loghtyn nyn 'oï;
As ny leeid shin ayns miolagh, agh livrey shin vech olk
Son Jhiats y reeriaght, as y Phooar as y ghloyr
Son dy bragh, as dy bragh.-Amen."
The usual dress of the Manx women consists of a jacket and petticoat. They are very proud of, and cherish their long hair; they are also particularly fond of showy colours; this propensity is occasionally severely rebuked from the pulpit. The people are healthy, long-lived, and have very numerous families. The prevailing disorders are low typhus fevers, which are chiefly confined to the towns, and rheumatic affections, and occasionally measles and small-pox, but consumptions are extremely rare.
Printing was first introduced into the Isle of Man in 1767, by Bishop Wilson. The Bible was translated into the Manx language by Dr. Phillips, Bishop of Man, but, by reason of his death, was never printed.
There are several curiosities in this island - sepulchral inscriptions, and monuments of brass. Daggers, and other weapons of that metal, and partly of pure gold, which are occasionally dug up, seem to indicate the riches of its ancient inhabitants.
The Isle of Man does not probably contain more than five hundred species of plants of the flowering kind, but among them are several scarce species ; and many scarce shell-fish are foundonthe coast andthebanks surroundingthe island. Oysters are found at Laxey, and on the north coast, and large scallop-beds in many parts of the coast. In the river by Kirk Braddan Church, is a rare form of the pearl muscle (unio margaritifera), which was formerly much sought after by the Manks for the sake of the pearls which it sometimes contains. Besides the shell-fish, the neighbouring sea furnishes many rare animals of the genera Astorias, Ophiura, Echinus, and Actinia.
The soil in various parts of the island is light sand, resting on a bed of common clay, and, in some parts, of clay marl. A small part of the land around Castletown is composed of transition limestone of a bluish grey colour, containing veins of calcareous spar, with impressions of shells and other -marine exuviae, the strata of which are generally from one to four feet in thickness. In the vicinity of Ballough are several pits of shell marl, in tivhich heads, horns, and skeletons of gigantic antediluvian elks have been found-a complete skeleton of one of the largest is deposited in the University of Edinburgh. In many parts of the northern district, peat is found in considerable quantities-usually a layer from six to eight feet in thickness, and containing great quantities of diluvial timber, among which are trunks of the pine and oak. Much of the land has been greatly improved by draining, &c. The island is destitute of wood, and almost of all trees not artificially planted. There is neither park nor forest scenery, though, in various places, plantations and shrubberies are now brought into a luxuriant state. The climate is rather milder in winter than that of the neighbouring coasts; and the frosts, which seldom commence before Christmas, are generally of short duration. Gales of wind and rain are frequent in the spring. The heat in summer is more moderate, and a more healthy climate than that of the Isle of Man does not probably exist.
1" Though there is much vice in the island, there is comparatively little crime; though addicted to pilfering, the Manks (to their credit be it said) are thoroughly trustworthy where confidence is reposed in them."-LORD TEIGNMOUTIL
2 " Their pleasures are domestic or convivial; where one species of excitement is wanting, others will be sought."LORD TEIGNMOUTII.
3 Completed in 1837
4 There are also several benefit societies, seemingly well supported, in different parts of the island.
5 i. e., Member of the house of Keys. }
6 Vide Manx Statutes.
7 Waldron, p. 142.
8 The value of the Bishopric of Sodor and Man is about 20001. per annum; the patronage, from the limited extent of the diocese, is but small.
9 A similar custom prevailed in Galloway, in Ireland.
10 The potato disease was said to be caused by the malevolence of fairies.
11" Popular Superstitions."
12 Supposed to have been written by Sir Wadsworth Busk, for many years Attorney-general of the Isle of Man.
13" Christians," and " Tears" (proper names) abound in this island.
14 It appears that this gentleman bad the stone engraven eleven years before his death!