[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]
FOLKLORE FROM COLONEL TOWNLEY'S
A Journal kept in, the Isle of Man, Whitehaven, 1751.
There is an observation here, that when Mona's mountains wear dirty night caps in a morning, you may expect plenty of rain to wash them clean before night (p. 23, vol. I.).
BURNING THE WITCHES OUT.
I took a walk up to the Head (Douglas) about eleven; the whole hill side was covered with nets, spread out to dry, and also to be mended. The dog fish (gobbag) had made terrible havoc the night before. Some of the men were industriously employed in repairing the monstrous breaches made by that voracious species, some few were pulling dry ling, to exorcise their boats with, or burn the witches out of them. Their mode of doing it is as follows:-
" They set fire to a part of the heather, in the centre of the boat; then make wisps of the rest, and light them ; one going to the bead, another to the stern, others along the sides, so that every part may be touched by the flame" (15th Sept., 1789, vol. I., p. 197). There was another burning of the witches out of an unsuccessful boat (last night) off Bank's How. The flames were very visible, to the top of the bay. Those witches that are so very mischievous, and play so many wayward tricks with poor fishermen, are undoubtedly des-ended from the famous Mannanan Mac Leir, etc. (25th Sept., 1789, vol. I., p. 207).
TREATING THE FAIRIES.
At every baking, and every churning, a bit of dough, and a bit of butter, is stuck upou the wall for the little folks. This custom still prevails very much amongst the co untry folks especially up in the mountains.
HUNTING THE WREN.
St. Stephen's Day is distinguished here by a very strange custom: the hunting of the wren. Numbers assemble by daybreak, with long staffs, with which they beat the hedges and bushes, till they start one of those smart little birds from its evening retreat. They then pursue it with great shoutings,from bush to bush, till the little creature is so tired as to be taken by the hand or knocked down by the stick of one of its barbarous pursuers. It is then fixed upon the top of a long pole, to which is suspended a red handkerchief, by the way of a banner, and in that manner it is carried round the town in triumph-which serves as a pretext for begging money, or liquor, from the inhabitants.
If they can catch or kill the poor wren before sun-rising, they firmly believe that it ensures a good herring ,fishing the next season (26th Sept., 1789, vol. I., p. 311).
TREATING THE FAIRIES.
Whenever they eat anything, a small bit is always thrown away for the little fairies (1797). See Journal of a lour through North Wales and Isle of Mans, by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, pub. 1805, p. 252.
Observing upon the uncommon fine-ness and pleasantness of the day, for the month of January, to a farmer, he replied: "Yes, but he feared it would be only another fox-day; for there was a great hoar upon the ground, early in the morning, though very little frost." A fox-day is a very common expression in the Island, and by it, I believe, they mean a single fair day, that is sure to be closely pursued by a rainy one (Townley, Vol. II., p. 50).
About two miles from Peel, on the further side of the river, is an uncultivated hill, still haunted by the spirit of a murdered witch. She does not appear to mortal eyes, but every night joins her lamentations to the howling of the wind. (Wood's Isle of Man, p. 159, 1808.)
While waiting at Port Erin for the departure of a herring boat, which was to convey me to the Calf, a fisherman introduced himbelf by warning me to take care of the fairies which I should meet there, telling me that he lead elaarms against their power. Another fisherman, who that morning had very civilly walked two miles out of his way to spew me the road, pretended to laugh at his companion, but upon being questioned seriously upon the subject, confessd his firm belief in them. He said his father once met with a crowd of them, and he was not a man to tell a lie. (Wood's Isle of Man, p. 140).
ANNEXATION OF ISLE OF MAN, 1765.
Saturday, June 1, 1765. The English colours were hoisted on the Castle in the Isle of Man, the sovereignity of that Island being now annexed to the Crown of Great Britain, and the inhabitants in every respect subjected to the laws, customs, and privileges of their fellow subjects.-Gentlemen's Magazine.
GREAT CATCH OF HERRING, 1765.
"They write from the Isle of Man that they had on those coasts the greatest take of her-rings that has been known for many years past, so that upwards of 20,000 barrels have been exported to foreign parts."- Universal :!Magazine, Feb. 8, 1765.
MANX-NAMED INNS IN LANCASHIRE, ETC.
The mention of the following inns is made in Whitworth's Manchester tllagazine, February 18, 1755:-
" To be lett, The Old Leggs of Man Inn, in Prescott, in Lancashire, lately kept by Mr Dumbell, and now in the hands of his widow."
March 15, 1757.-" The Sign of the Leggs of Man, in Prescott, the house of Henry Hatton."
May 17, 1787.-" The Legs of Man Inn, in the Market-place, Wigan" (Manchester Mercury).
The Three Legs Inn, in Leeds (June 24, 1766).
THOMAS HORTON, A FORMER GOVERNOR.
Manchester, March, 22, 1757.-"On Friday, Thomas Horton, Esq., suddenly died at his house in Deansgate. He was formerly Governor of the Isle of Man, and has been many years in the Commission of the Peace, and one of the feoffees of the (Cheetham) College" (same paper).
SMUGGLING - APPLICATION TO PARLIAMENT IN 1757 TO STOP IT.
Dublin, Nov. 29.-" We are credibly informed that application will be made to Parliament to have all smuggled teas, India goods, and spirits coming from the Isle of Man to be burned, spilled, and destroyed, as well as all ships, barges, wherries, and other craft; that our custom-house officers, informer, or any other person whatever, shall be allowed to dispose of any goods thus bought; but that on the contrary, no merchandise whatever that is smuggled, shall be exposed to sale; but that the officers, or the informer, shall be allowed 2s 6d in the pound for green tea and 1s 6d for Bohoa, that all shall be run or smuggled into this kingdom; and that no person whatever residing in the Isle of Man shall be at liberty to sue for any sum or sums of money, or upon any contract whatever that shall be made or agreed upon in the Isle of Man."-(Whitworth's Manchester Advertiser, 13th Dec., 1757.)
CAPTURE OF MANX VESSEL
(DURING THE WAR BETWEEN ENGLAND AND FRANCE).
Liverpool, March 11, 1757.-"The Annondale, The. Dury, belonging to the Isle of Man, bound from Chester to this port, was taken within the limits of the harbour (Naples) by a French privateer ; but is ordered to be cleared by the Government of Naples, and is now in quarantine."-'Manchester Magazine.