[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]

[70 ]


Anglo-Manx Dialect.—The Ethnography of the Island is further illustrated by the study of the Anglo-Manx Dialect. The subject has already been treated in a cursory way by Ellis+, sufficient, however, to assign its proper place. It belongs to his D 23, Variation II, and his tests have been procured from Lezayre, Peel, and Rushen.

Variation I. forms the borderland at the extreme North of the Midland division, adjoining the South of the North division in Lancashire. It occupies Mid-Lancashire, the whole of the hundred of Amounderness, and probably that part of Blackburn Hundred which lies North of the Ribble. The main part comprehends the district known as the Fylde. The Manx variation differs from it only in few minor details, which I merely pass over.

The Manx dialect contains, however, some elements which must be referred to other sources. We may say that the English language was already introduced in the time of the Abbott of Furness, who got a portion of land in 1134 for his palace ; later we have the arrival of the Prior of Whithorn and St Bede [sic St Bees ?]. In 1246 the monks of Furness obtained all kinds of mines in Man and some land near St. Trinian’s, and finally the inflow in 1409 of the Lancashire race, mostly recruited, as shown before, from the Fylde district, which supplied Stanley’s officers, retinue, crafts, and tradesmen. There are certain differences of dialect in the North and South of the Island, and it is time, before it will be too late, to collect all the phrases and words from the various Sheadings.

The grammatical structure follows largely the idiosyncracies of the Goidelic tongue, to exhibit which I can recommend no better book than Rydings* Manx Tales, than which there is nothing superior to illustrate the Manx peasantry.

Scotch.—Traces of former Scotch occupation are afforded in the retention of qu for wh, as in quhole, qahen, &c., which even affects the Manx language, compare : quail, quiggel, quaillag, qhweel=court, distaff, fly, wheel.

Irish.—We know that the Island swarmed with Irish refugees in the time of William III., and Irish beggars have been the bane of the Island even in the 16th century. In 1561 " the Irish women are commanded forth of the Isle "; indications in the dialect of their presence are frequent, phrases like " bad cess to him, ‘ and the Irish endearments--the lamb millish, O the chree, the hree ; the bogh millish, Mrs Kelly, a chree 1 the excessive use—to the fore.

Orkney and Shetland.—Tben we have the use of Ellis’ (t) specially before R, in the North and middle of the Island, while the South retains the regular th ; as in thrown, thread, three, &c., an alveolar t which is formed with the tip of the tongue against the gums, and an R which is trilled, the tip of the tongue advancing quite to the gum during the flap. We have the same (t) again in thick, thing in the North, and these, as Ellis remarks, are in some respect comparable with Orkney and Shetland habits.

Norse and Cumberland.—The Gaelic-Manx has also influenced the pronunciation of words like girl, which is uttered gjel; in again—agjen, as in Lezayre, Peel, and Rushen, just as they pronounce Manx kione=kjodn, ard even jodn with-out k, , and traceable to Norse pronunciation; for over, safe, alive, if, they say ober, sabe, alibe, ib, as in Cumberland ; compare ebemin=evening, eleeben=eleven, seeben=seven, &c., &c.

The traces of middle. English have been treated by Moore,2 to which I refer. We thus see how even the dialect is a faithful mirror of the history of the Island, and how folklore, ethnography, and dialect unite to illustrate each other.

The Norwegian Language—It may be said that it was spoken practically from 890-1270 ; it was introduced by the Shetland and Orkney men, and from Norway, with which connection was kept up, as shown by the grammatical structure of the Runic stones in the Island, which fall between 1170-1230. It was only the language of the rulers, and used at Thing and Hall resembling in this the old Norman barons and their courts in King William the Conqueror’s time. It never took hold upon Manx soil, a bi-linguality may have, and is likely to have existed in the better classes of the natives, but the children learned, and were nursed up in Manx tongue. It was a foreign plant on the soil, and with the disappearance of the Norwegian vestige in 1230 died a natural death. The spirit of the Norseman only lives in the legal constitution of the Government, an inheritance that produced a free Parliament ; and particularly in its place-names ; the sea-fringe with its hundreds of Norse-rocks, creeks, fore-lands, and caves have left imperishable evidence of the mighty old sea-farers, the track they took, and the commingling and fusion they underwent in blood and speech in their voyages from the Shetlands and Western Isles to Man. Their language itself is so completely forgotten, that the dictionary has not even retained a good root for a word of common parlance.


+ Early English Pronunciation, Part V. , Alex J Ellis, pp. 360-1. 
* Manx Tales, by Egbert Rydings, Manchester, 1896.
1 t English Dialect, by Alex. J. Ellis, 1590, pp. 82-85.
2 Lior Manninagh, Vol. III, Part II., pp. 59-64.



Itch in the Nose.—When there was itch in the nose, it was thought there was some person talking of you, and people used to put a spit on the pain of the left hand, and hit it with the side of the right hand, and whatever side the spit went that was the direction the people were talking about you.

Sharp Objects.—It was accounted unlucky to make a present of any sharp instrument, as it cut love, they said.

Signs of Death.—" I have seen the old people watching the children when playing on the green ; sometimes they would be singing and marching about, carrying a stool, or a stick on their shoulders, or something of that sort. The old folks said it was a sign of a funeral, and seemed to be concerned about it, and firmly believed it predicted a death in the village shortly. I recollect two little boys once walking about in that fashion, and the people took notice of them, and actually one of the little boys that was carrying the stool died soon after. I remember some other instances, but gave little heed to such things."

Eel.—The skin of a fresh-water eel was held to be a cure for a sprained wrist or a sprained ankle.

Haddock.—It is said by some that the Devil it was that took a haddock between his finger and thumb and burnt the black spots on the haddocks’ shoulders, also that they are the marks left by the finger and thumb of Peter when he opened the fish’s mouth to take out the piece of money to pay the tax for the temples service for his Master and himself (the latter is also current in Scotland).

Ass.—" Passed round the back and belly of an ass was thought to prevent whooping cough here. I remember myself being put through the drill by two women, the one was putting me halfway round, then the other was putting me round the other half."

Moths.—When a moth was flying about a young woman or a young man, it was said that their sweethearts were thinking of them.

The " Herring " Moth (Lhemeen y Sceddan)__ I have seen a very large moth sometimes come in the house late in the evening, when the weather was fine, and it was called the herring moth. When one was seen going about in the house they said there would be good herring fishing that night.

Bees.—"The old fishermen thought it very lucky to catch the first bee they happened to see in April. It was the sign of a good herring season, they said. I have seen men chasing the first bee they saw for a long way, and if they caught her, they kept her in their purse, but if they did not catch her, it was a sign that their earnings would be light. I knew a man that was born with a caul, and he took it with him in the boat, and I have heard some of the fishermen say it was half-filled with dead bees. He was catching the first bee he saw for many years, and keeping them in the caul, and he was very fortunate when fishing herrings. Whether the caul and bees made him lucky or not I cannot tell."

Raven—If a raven lighted on the roof of a house or went flying round it, it was considered a sure sign of the death of some one of the family.

 Seagull.—If a seagull alights on the chimney of a house they say that stormy weather is near.

Thollog-faiyr.—The Thollog-faiyr or tit-mouse was reckoned to be a very bad thing for cattle. If one happened to come underneath a cow’s mouth the cow would not eat, but snuff and shake her head, and continue in that state until some feather was got and burnt under her nose, after that she would eat again.

Cats.—Cats were not allowed to go near the baby in the cradle in the Island, neither when it was young they did not think of the cat sucking the breath of the baby, but that its breath was poisonous to come on a baby’s face.

Magpie—To see a magpie hopping on the road before you was considered by some old folks very unlucky, and if going on business you were not likely to succeed.

Hen-Cock.—The crowing of a hen was the sure sign of death or bad luck here. The crowing of a cock on the roost before midnight was something the same as in Scotland. If his feet were cold, it was supposed to be the sign that some of the family would be buried in a short time, but if warm, it signified a wedding.

Frogs—If they spawned in the deep water, it was an indication of a dry summer ; if it was near the side it was the sign of a wet summer.

Spider.—A spider running over our clothes was regarded as a sign of getting new clothes.

Salmon.—When we saw a salmon jumping high out of the water at sea the men said it was the sign of a breeze of wind.




I had a little pony,
His name was Dapple Gray,
I lent him to a lady
To ride a mile away :
She lashed him, she whipped him,
And drove him through the mire—
I would not give my pony
For all the ladies’ hire.

Georgie, porgie, pudding, pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry ;
When the girls came out to play
Georgie, porgie, ran away.

Thread through your needle,
I owe you two shillings,
I’ll pay you to-morrow.
Here comes a candle
To light you to bed,
Here comes a hatchet
To chop off your head.

NOTE—When playing this " thread through the needle," two would be taking each others’ hands, then all the rest were coming between them one by one, and they were catching one every time, and asking him " Which side are you on? " Then he would be standing on one side till all the rest would be caught, and then everyone on his own side. We had a tug-of-war, and the strongest side won the game.

There comes an old woman
From Dennis Land,
Five or six children
By the one hand—
One can knit, and another can spin,
Another can make a fine bed for a King.
Please, Mam, to take one in !—
They are all too black and too dirty,
To me ransom, dansom, decimal dance.
To me ransom, dansom, decimal dance.
We are well enough for you, Mam!
To me ransom, dansom, decimal dance.

Then the mother says:

Now my daughter, Jenny, is gone,
Without a farthing in her hand,
Nothing but a guinea-gold ring.
Good-bye, Jenny, good-bye.
As I went into my grandfather’s garden,
I found an Irish farthing;
I gave it to my mother,
To buy an Irish brother.
The brother was so cross,
I put him on a horse;
The horse too much a dandy,
I gave him a glass of brandy;
The brandy was too strong,
I put him in the pond;
The pond was far too deep;
I put him in the cradle,
And rocked him fast asleep.

Man of war, man of deed,
Set a garden full of seed;
When the seed began to grow,
Like a garden full of snow;
When the snow began to melt,
Like a garden full of hemp;
When the hemp began to peel,
Like a garden full of steel;
When the steel began to canker,
Like a ship without an anchor;
When the ship began to sail,
Like a cock without a tail;
When the cock began to fly,
Like an eagle in the sky;
When the cock began to fall,
Like an egg on the wall;
When the egg began to spill,
Like a fairy on the hill,
When the fairy began to run,
Like a man on the drum;
When the drum began to sound,
Like a cow iii the pound;
When the cow began to jump,
Like the water in the pump;
When the pump was running o’er,
And the Lion began to roar,
Success to ye all, bonny bairns.

Dittle, dittle, dumpling.
Our little John
Went to bed with his stockings on,
One shoe off, and another shoe on.
Dittle, dittle, dumpling,
Our little John
Sitting on the mat
Eating raw potatoes—
What do you think of that?

One, two, three,
Mother caught a flea;
The flea died,
Poor mother cried.
‘ One, two, three ; out goes she.
I had a little donkey; He would not go.
Would I beat him?
No, no, no!
Put him in the stable, And give him some straw;
Gee, little donkey ; whoa, whoa, whoa.

What’s your name?
Butter and Cream.
Who gave you that name?
My Aunty Jane.
What is she doing?
Keeping a school.
How many scholars?
Shut up your mouth,
And say no more.

[They are supposed to finish at twenty-four, and if they said more, they received a blow.]

What for are you scraping?
For a needle.
What for is the needle?
To sew a bag.
What for is the bag?
To carry some coals?
What for is the coals?
To light the fire.
What for is the water?
To scald the knives.
What for is the knives?
To cut the head of the chickens that’s scraping the corn.
[Then the children would be running away.]

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,
Take a stick and lather on.




The bride and bridegroom did not go hand in hand to invite the wedding guests, but the bride went to invite her own friends and the bridegroom his, two or three days before the day appointed for the wedding, that the guests might have time to prepare for it if they wanted to get any new clothes, that they might have time to get them made To be invited one day before the wedding day was a fiddler’s invitation, and no one that was invited one day before the wedding would accept the invitation, they thought it an insult. I was at a wedding once, and there were 48 in the company, and there was a fiddler coming with us from the church to Port St. Mary, and they were halting sometimes on the road to dance.

When a walking wedding was on the way to church, the first person they met had to turn back and go with them a little distance, and the best man gave him a silver piece when he let him go. They did not like a woman to be qualtagh, that was unlucky. None of the company was allowed to call the bride or the bridegroom by their Christian names after they came out of church, but the married man and the married woman alone, and to be called only yn dooinney poost, as yn yen poost. If any man happened to forget himself and call them by their Christian name, he had to pay for a round for the company —so that made them very careful.


[74 ]


The people of this Isle did not allow a woman with child to stand sponsor [ie at Baptism] for a baby, as they said something would happen.




The old people, when going out of the house at a late hour, used to say : Shee yee dy ron maryn =the peace of God be with me ; and going along the road if they got "fearful " and feeling as if they walked in the air, not feeling the ground under their feet, without seeing or hearing anything, the old folk used to say : Dy bee Jee eddyr ayms as dy-chooilley ghrogh red=God between me and all evil things. When a baby sneezed it was the custom for the mother or some other woman present to say : Dy Canney [sic?] Jee eh (ish)=God bless him or her ; and that is kept up still more or less by most of the country women in the Island.




" The people used to be afraid to bring new milk out of the house at night without putting a little drop of water in it, or a grain or two of salt, and flesh meat had to get a little salt on it to be carried out of the house at night—to keep the glashtins and fairies away."



The people of the Island used to churn the milk with a staff, the same as the Scotch, and they had a custom if a neighbour happened to come in the house at churning time, they had to take a spell of working the staff. Sometimes the milk would keep nearly all day before they could get the butter, and it was thought that some witch had her hand in it. And if a black cat came in the house while the women were churning and commenced to lick up the drops of milk sprinkled on the floor, it was a witch sure enough ! They used to put the poker in the fire, and when it was red hot, try to shove it into the black cat, but I never saw any one that could manage to hit the cat, but I have heard of some one that stuck the red-hot poker in the cat and killed it, and it turned out to be an old witch that was killed, and that was the cause of trying to kill the black cat. I never heard of a black cat being unlucky only at churning time.



Playing "butt thurran," or "tip thurran."—We used to be playing, when I was a boy, in the farmer’s haggart, running among and around the corn stacks. We called it butt thurran. One was putting his head against the stack, and the rest getting away among the other stacks, and then the one that was lying was coming out and trying to tip some one and make him lie in his stead, and if he chased one to a certain distance from his own stack, whoever would catch him, then he had to ride them back to his stand again. We used to spend moonlight evenings in the winter at that game.

Stag yn ree.—There was another game we called stag yn ree. There would be about twenty of us gathering on moonlight evenings in winter, in a field, and casting lots who would be the stag, and whoever was the one he had ground marked out, and if he came beyond his boundaries, whoever would get behind and get hold of him, he had to ride him back to his stand ; and if the stag could tip one of the rest first, they had both to be stags and hold each other’s hands, and everyone they could tip had to join hands with them until they were all tipped ; but the one at each end had authority to tip another, and when there would be a lot of them holding one another’s hands, those that were free used to make a race at the middle of the line and burst through, and when the line would be broken, all the free ones would be catching hold of one and getting a ride on his back to the stand. If any of them could get to the stand without being caught, they had to ride no one. They had to continue until all were in the line, and then the first that had been caught by the first stag had to be stag himself for the next game.

Stag, stag yn Ree,
Who’ll catch me.

Then one would say : —Run, run away, Let’s have a run, Just for fun.




Spirits of living people haunting those they had any spite to. There are several stories of such on record in the Island, and of psychological interest. I give them in the same form as related to me by my old Mann friend

" I knew a man myself that had been haunted by another man, a living man, for a long time. The spirit came to him when he was alone and in the dark. Sometimes it put something like a small rope round his body, and almost squeezed him to death, sometimes it pinched parts of his body and jostled him about while alone walking on the road, as soon as it was dark, and he could see in the dark the form of the man until at last he knew him. It was a man he had offended once, and it appears he was a very malicious man. When Patrick, which was the name of the haunted man, knew who It was, be called out his name, and he departed from him for a time, and he got two men to go with him to the man’s house, and gave him warning before the two witnesses to desist, but I don’t know did that keep him away or not, however he got rid of him some way."

" There was a woman about my own age (70) talking about those things the other day, and she said that her mother, when she was young and courting, was haunted by another young woman. They both loved the same Young man, but her mother was his favourite, and the other young woman had a spite to her in consequence. She would be coming in the dead of the night to her mother’s bed, and squeeze her throat and nearly strangle her. When she got to know who it was that haunted her, the young man went with witnesses and gave her warning, but she derided him only. Her mother got advice, however, from some wise woman to put two sickles, or reaping hooks, across behind the front door, and she did not molest her afterwards."

" I have heard some stories about the spirits of the dead haunting some people, and they had to get a Catholic priest to banish the malicious spirits to the Red Sea for seven years, and at the end of it the ghost came back again, and if the person it haunted was not dead, the ghost haunted him again, and was more outrageous than ever, and the priest had to banish him again for seven years, at the termination of which it came back in great fury, and the priest had to banish it again, but if the person was not dead when it came the third time, the priest could do no more for him."

" Well I remember a public-house myself, and the publican murdered his wife. She was found dead in the house in the morning with the kitchen poker down her throat. The authorities were not so strict then as they are at present to investigate such things, and as there were no witnesses the man was not committed for trial, and I have heard the folks say many times over that the dead woman’s ghost haunted until the priest sent the spirit away to the Red Sea. I have heard the fishermen reckoning when the time would be up to come back again, and I have seen the man, too, he was always in liquor. He would not lie in bed without a light in his bedroom. I remember hearing the man saying that the ghost came back on some night and the priest had to banish it again. I think he was dead before she was at liberty to return the third time, and she returned no more." [this may have been the Brown Bobby in Douglas - fpc]

" I have heard of a young woman in Glen Meay that was haunted, and she was getting tormented every night until she was nearly dead. She was getting a man to lie the floor side of her in the bed, but all was of no use until the schoolmaster -of the village, who was a very learned man, undertook to spend a night with her. He made a circle round the bed, and then sat on a chair in the circle. He had a good fire, and a candle burning. About twelve o’clock the room door was opened, and a big monster came in, something like an ox, it immediately extinguished the candle, and the fire got as black as night. The schoolmaster said : ‘ This is the living and not the dead.’ When he said that the fire blazed up, and the candle was lighted again ; and whatever the schoolmaster said or had done to it, gave it a stop, for it never haunted her afterwards."

" My father told me about some man that was haunted by another, and the spirit was in the form of a very large bladder. A s soon as the sun was set the big bladder was upon him, and he could not get done with it, and he did not know who it was ; but one evening, while sitting at the fire, the bladder was tumbling on the floor and bouncing upon him. He put the kitchen poker in the fire until it was red hot, and watched his opportunity. He thrust with all his might the poker into the bladder, and it immediately disappeared, and the first news he heard next morning was that one of his neighbours had got a wound in his side and not expected to live ; but he got better after a long time, I think, but never haunted his neighbour again."

" The woman that told me about her mother being haunted, said she was acquainted with a woman that knew two men, and one haunted the other. The clerk of the parish had died, and those two men had their names put in as candidates for the office ; one was successful, and the other that was unsuccessful haunted him, and he was tormented with him. But he went to a priest and he banished the spirit to the Red Sea. And the man kept to his bed for the seven years, with only a little life left in him, just to show he was not quite dead. When the time of banishment was up the clerk was afraid that he would be haunted again and he resigned his office, and the other man got the billet after all. When his spirit came back he got well and got up again. The one that told the story said she was acquainted with both the men, and the story was true."

 I have heard some strange stories about the spirits of living people—quite of a different class, coming home to see their friends when away at Crookhaven and Shetland

" A young man was in a house in Strugan snail on business some time ago, before the boats came home from Crookhaven. He came out of the house—it was when the sun was shining—and he met a young man in the street, one of the family that was fishing at Crook at the time, with his sailor’s clothes bag on his shoulder. ‘ Hallo,’ said the young man to the sailor, ‘ how are you at home so soon ?’ but he got no answer ; but he went on towards the back door. The young chap made all haste to come back soon, and have a yarn with the fisherman that had returned from Crook, but when he came back to the house he could not see him, and he enquired for him, but the whole family said they had seen no sight of him. The young man was surprised, for he would swear it was him he met in the street."

" A woman that I am acquainted with has a son steamer-sailing. She said she had heard him very often coming to the door when the night was stormy, and open the door and go upstairs to his bedroom, and sit down on the bedside with a sudden jerk that made the room tremble, but there was no sign of his being at home in the morning."

" There is a house pretty near to my own, and the grandmother slept in the parlour ; and being old, had a light in a bedroom at night. The father and mother were in bed, and the door locked ; they had a son fishing at Crook, and in the night the latter heard the front door opened, and the footsteps of their son coming upstairs, and opening his bedroom door, and turning the key, and locking the door. In the morning they went to his bed. ~ room to see if there was anything the matter with their son, when he had come home so suddenly. But the door was locked on the inside, and they had to break the lock when I here was no answer from within. When the door was opened, there was nobody there, and they were wondering greatly ; but the old grandmother said to them when they went to see her, that he was at home, for he came in to her in the night and stood beside her bed, and wrapped the bed clothes around her feet before he went upstairs. But he did not come home for more than a month after that himself in person."

"It; appears when sailors are in a storm at sea, and in danger, that they are thinking of home and friends, and are wishing to be there again. It is supposed that their spirits come, as their bodies cannot come."



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