[Background to Morals of Douglas, 1894]


Samuel Norris in "Manx Memories and Movements" says:

another " come-over" minister of religion, but still in harness, was creating a great hub-bub in public affairs. He was the Rev. Thomas Rippon, the second Wesleyan minister in the Douglas circuit. He was contemporary in the Island with Governor Sir West Ridgeway and had observed, with him, the midnight orgies and other evils which preceded the suppression of illicit sale of liquor.

Mr. Rippon preached two sermons which he unfortunately named "The Morals of Douglas," a phrase which has done Douglas and the Isle of Man incalculable harm for over a quarter of a century.

These sermons—or rather the public title broadcast through the English Press—greatly enraged all shades of local public opinion. After delivering the first sermon the minister’s life was hardly safe, but he persisted and gave his second discourse—then went to bed, a sick and nerve-racked man.

An injunction was sought and obtained in the Isle of Man Chancery Court to stop the publication of the sermons. The official life of the Island was greatly disturbed because the disclosures reflected on the administration of government; therefore the political judges, who were part of the Legislature and government, were only too ready to stop the circulation of what were described as gross calumnies of Douglas in the holiday season.

The time came, however, and before long, when Thomas Rippon was regarded as the most honoured and popular preacher in the Isle of Man. When his term of three years’ service expired, the Governor of the Island had him as a respected guest at Government House and many of his former critics were his warmest friends.

The fact was that when the sermons were examined in an impartial and chastened atmosphere, they were found to contain nothing except what was for the good of the town ; and his suggested improvements were so reasonable and self-evidently desirable that they were speedily accomplished by both Government and private action. More police were wanted ; more light in public and semi-public resorts ; earlier closing down of amusements ; and the prevention of the public exhibition of beer-drinking. However strongly the indictment might have been framed, these things were almost all that were necessary to remove the alleged evils, and they were duly performed.


[1] The report of the 1893 Diocesan Conference carried in the Manx Church Magazine for December 1893 makes no mention of Ex Governor Walpole's speech being mostly concerned with financial matters.

[2] I suspect he was referring in to the Isle of Man Times run by J.A. Brown who was strongly linked with various schemes in the tourist industry. Brown was also a leading player in the Manx Freemasons amongst whom were many of the 'comeover' syndicalists berated by Rippon.

[3]Rippon was correct in his judgement - Alexander Bruce, deeply involved in many of the visiting industry developments was general manager of Dumbell's Bank, a long established and widely regarded institution, that under his guidance became greatly overstreched and collapsed with disasterous effects for Douglas traders on 3rd February 1900. Bruce died before he could be brought to trial but several others of the bank's senior staff received stiff prison sentences.

[4]A jibe at Alexander Bruce who in 1893 was connected with the Douglas and Laxey Tramway later to become the Isle of Man Tramways and Electric Power Company.

[5] Three of the four dance halls were presumeably:

The fourth was most likely the Marina (or later Pavillion Theatre) which in 1900 was rebuilt as the Gaiety (or just possibly the Palais de Danse in Strand Street)

Competition between the four was in J.A. Brown's words "ruinous" and he engineered a merger into the Derby Castle and Palace Co in 1898 to come under his chairmanship; as he was also owner of The IoM Times the oportunities for self advertisement were immense. The Falcon Cliff was soon to close after being acquired by the company. The Pavillion Theatre was built on the Marina site in 1895 thus leaving just two, and more mangeable, large dance halls thus removing much of the evils described by Rippon.

That Brothels existed in Douglas is tacitly admited by a report of two court cases in 1897




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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