[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]
Hoary, indeed, is the history of South Barrule, and unique its position in Manx legendary. We are taken back to the mysterious wizard-King of the Island, Manannan Macy Leir, to whom:-
The rent each paid out of his hand
Was a bundle of green rushes every year,
And that was on them as a tax
Throughout the country each John's Eve (= Oie feaill Eoiri).
Some went up with the rushes to
The great mountain up at Barrule,
Others would leave the grass below
With Mannanan, above the Keamool
who, warrior, trader, navigator, magician, all in one, shrouded Himself in its silver mist. Although supposed to be a Celtic god and hero, the tribute, strange enough, was laid on Midsummer Eve, the celebration of which was of Scandinavian origin, and not particularly observed by the ancient Goidels, whose great time was really May Day Eve (Oie Voaldyn) and Lart Boaldyn-the Beltaine. The festival of both the Celtic and Scandinavian com- memorations was performed in the same manner: Fires were lit, blazing wheels were rolled down from the summit of the hills (Mannanan used to roll down as fast as the wind, like ,a wheel, from Barrule), the mugwort was gathered and woven into a chaplet, and made into a belt to be worn as a protection against witches and evil spirits, for then, of any period, the fairies and old hags were abroad, and on the next day the great Scandinavian Tinwald Court was held.
By the time the Vikings had planted themselves firmly on Manx ground, his memory must have become already mixed up, for his tax-collecting was deferred for a month-or may be, after all, there might have been true Norse blood in "his veins, streaking his pedigree.
In the 9th or 10th century, we find the mighty Fionns already in possession of Barrule, their castle on its summit. In Dingwaall it was a vitrified fort, called traditionally Knock Ferril, in Argylshire, Farola, in Islay, Farabhuil- equivalent to the Manx Barrule. In Gaelic, Barra Mull, or Far bhull, stands for a bartizan battlement. All these are connected with the Gorree Legend. They had also a supply of water on the mountain, for tradition says there is a well on the top of South Barrule with very fine water. When you had found it, and drunk of it, and went a few yards away, you lost sight of it, and could not discover it again that day.
There also King Godred Crovan (1095) is said to slumber, in the Devil's Den-since the last 800 years-spellbound, and waiting to be called to succour and free the Manx nation; and giants and bugganes hang about the skirts of its height, to frighten the peasant when the sun sinks glowing down to his western rest. Here, too, the Manx were routed in 1316 by the Irish freebooters, led by Mandeville, letting loose on them their Irish war-whoops, still dimly revealed, it seems, in the legend of the two fairy armies that met on Barrule, ready to begin lighting on the ringïng ofa bell.
And latter, we have a view of James Lord Strange (1637-51), leisurely making his way from his castle at Rushen up to Barrule where he fondly tarried to survey his lovely Island- realm from its loftyeminence: "When turnng me round," he breaks out, "I see England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales . . . . Which no place, I think, can afford such a prospect."
Barrule, with its mountain passes, was an important strategical key to the possession of the North, and a natural shelter to retire to with their cattle on the landing of an enemy, and at large camp is visible yet on its height. We see, then, of what interest Barrule is, and always must be, to the Manx people. It was one of the last climbs of the aged poet-patriot, T. E. Brown, who loved that towering mountain so much, an attempt that so heavily taxed his yielding strength.
THE ENCHANTED GIANTS AT CASTLE RUSHEN.
We possess the following legends :- I. "Castle Rushers has long been fautotts for its subterranean passages. and there are individuals amongst the Islanders who still believe that they lead to a beautiful country underneath, inhabited by giants. Amongst the many tales they relate is one that, several attempts being made to explore the passages, a number of daring fellows agreed to attempt the enterprise. Having armed themselves with staves, etc., and procuring torches, they descended. After proceeding a little way, they found an old man, of great size, with a long beard, and blind, sitting on a rock, as if fixed there. He, hearing them approach, enquired of them as to the state of the Island, and at last asked one of them to put forth his hand, on which one of them gave him a ploughshare which he had, when the old giant squeezed the iron together with the greatest ease, exclaiming at the same time Then there are yet men in the Isle of Man.*
*See Denham's Tracts, the Greater Mona, 1850,
also Waldron's version of the Sleeping Giant of Castle Rushen,
II. Waldron : They tell that the, Castle of Rushen was at fist inhabited by fairies and after- wards by giants, till the days of Merlin, who by magic dislodged the greatest part of them, and bound the rest in spells.- Waldron then gives the same account of exploration by some enterprising men: They come at length to a very large and magnificent house, illuminated with a great many candles . . . . and to another house, more magnificent yet, the windows all open, and numberless lamps burning in all roans. They beheld a vast table in the middle of the room, and on it at full length a monster, or giant, at least fourteen feet long, who lay sleeping, with his held on a book and a sword by him; terror-struck, they retreated. They were told by the servant of the first house, on returning, if they had knocked at the second house they would have seen company enough, but never could have returned. Desiring to know what place it was and by whom possessed, he replied these things were not to be revealed.
A corruption of No. 1 is found in my Manx Folklore, part I, page 139, where a man once going to Peel on the mountains, seeks shelter in a cave against a great shower of rain. Shortly after, the Buggane (a Fynnodderee* in another place) comes to the mouth of the cave asking him if he could tell him three words of truth. If he could he would let him go free The man gave him some stupid answer, the Buggane says he knew that himtself. Well the man had the sock of his plough with him for the smithy, and the Buggane wanted to shake hands with him ; and the man slyly gave him the end of the sock, where three prongs were on, and the Baggane squeezed them a into one, and said to the man : " There are some strong Manxmen in the world yet."'
THE ENCHANTED PRINCE IN DEVIL'S DEL, BARRULE.
It is related by Waldron
About a League and a half from Barrule, ;at the foot of the mountain, is a hole called the Devil's (or wizard's) Den It contains now a very grea prince who never knew death but has for the space of 600 years (according to the tra- dition of the peasantry) been bound by magic spells. A little beyond the Den is a small lake, in the midst of which is a large.stone on which formerly stood a cross ; round the lake the fairies are said to celebrate the obsequies of any good person.
Waldron wrote his legends in 1726, and the latter would bring us back, say, to the end of the 11th century, and seems to refer to the traditional Gorree, who is said to have brought order and law into Man. This king has been shown by Vigfusson to be no other than Godred Crowan, who died in 1095. He, is the most popular king, and cherished in the old legends. The close parallelism of the giant legends of Castle Rushen points to one and the same source. The legends fall into the same line as the Old Wizard of the Edge Alderley, Cheshire, King Arthur, Frederic Barbarona of Kuffhäuser, and we have many similar traditions elsewhere. These centre round an old national or mythical great hero or king, but are to be traced back beyond, to a Sun-hero, round which as a nucleus they formed and grew up. In Man the sun-myth is absorbed in the great national regenerator Godred Crovan.
* See Moore's Manx Folklore, 1891, p. 58, another fragmentary corruption of this legend ; also Harrison's Old Man in same work, p. 64,
THE ISLE OF MAN IN 1761.
The Isle of Man has for its principal towns Rushen and Peel, though Douglas is the principal port, which is much frequented by smugglers, because the duties of importa- tion and exportation were not extended to this Island until very lately: though the soil produces corn, in which their exports consist, as well as n wool, hides, and tallow.
King Edward IV. granted the regality of this Island to the Earl of Derby and his heirs; but on the death of the last Earl, it devolved to the Duke of Athol. This alienation of the Island from the British Government has occasioned more disadvantages than all the royalties and jurisdictions of Scotland, because the Isle of Man is the great magazine. for the French to deposit their wines and brandies, teas, and other commodities in, till opportunity offers of smuggling them on the coasts of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, whereby the loss to the British nation, and the gains to the French, were inexpressibly great; who in the case of the sovereignity of Bellisle, formerly in possession of the family of the famous duke of that name, plainly shew that they would not suffer such sovereignity and jurisdiction to remain on their coasts. Besides, the Isle of Man creates a prodigious expense to the British Government, in maintaining so many officers and cruizers to guard against the illicit and pernicious trade; not to mention the notorious frauds committed in the Customs, together with the perjuries always attending them ; with the entry of certain goods for exportation, receiving a drawback or debenture ; though these goods are landed in the Isle of Man, and then run back again upon the British coasts. Therefore, and as the whole revenue of the Island belonging to the noble proprietor is reported not to exceed £3,000 or £4,000 annually, it could be a cheap exchange to the public if he was paid 40, 50, or 60 years' purchase for his property therein.
(See A History of Trade and Commerce, by Rolt, London, 1761, folio.)
The following unpublished Manx proverb was sent me by the late Rev T. E. Brown. Has anyone the exact Manx equivalent? I do not suggest a translation, as thereby it might lose some of its original flavour:-
" Never marry a woman unless you can see the smoke of her father's chimney from your midden."
Mr Brown's comment was: " Isn't that good and characteristic ? "
Streatham. G. W. WOOD.
THE HERRING MEASURE, OR MEASE.
It is of interest to trace the origin of the mease.
In old Irish mias stand for a plate, a dish, a charger, a table; and mias in Matthew xiv. 8, expresses the charger on which the Baptist's head is placed. In old Cornish muis or moys= a table.
Principal Rhys says : "As the ancient Brytbons, like the Irish, and presumably the Norsemen, had no table in the Roman sense of the word, the borrowed word not only served to denote the borrowed idea of the table, but it was also partly applied to that of the native substitute for a table, namely, a dish, or platter."
In Gaelic mias, likewise, means a plate, a dish, as geal mhias mhor=a large white plate. Compare also the English mess, for a dish.
But we must not think here of the modern plates, platters, and dishes of wood, china, or pewter, but of a period much anterior; and the Welsh word mwys points clearly to that earlier stage, for it is equivalent to a kind of basket, pannier, or hamper. These no doubt were originally made of rusbes or osier, and sometimes sheepskin spread over it, such as the Manx dollan, and used for containing food, etc., sad either shallow or raised. The Welsh mwys bars was a basket to carry bread.
It was also used for the reception of fish, such as herring, and in course of time this basket or hamper, from being a mere receptacle, became gradually the fixed measure for the quantity of fish it contained.
In the Isle of Man there are five long score (=six ordinary) and four herring to a hundred (=124), and a mease, or maze, Manx=meaish, make consequently 620 fish.
The herrings are counted into baskets, and it always takes two men to count a basket. They are counted by warps. When 40 warps are counted in, you sing out "Forty warps " (=120), the other man will then cast in another warp (=3) and a herring over (=1), saying " Warp, tally." The basket is then finished.
The Welsh also have the mwys o ysgadan= the herring mease, of five long score, or 620 fish (see Owen's Welsh-English Dictionary), while the English herring fishers, according to Rolt (see A New Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, London, by Rolt, 1761), as their measure, had six scores to the hundred (=120), without the warp and ally ; 1,200=a barrel ; and 12 barrels----a last.
We see, therefore, that the meaning of the word mias spread out in various directions:- Originally it was the hamper, basket, pannier; then partly became, and denoted: the dish, plate, and the table itself ; and, finally, the measure of a certain quantity contained in the receptacle.
THE HERRING MEASE.
A few more words about the subject. The mease as a measure of herring is already mentioned: 14, Henry III (viz.. 1230), see the New Law Dictionary, Giles Jacob, London, 1745. In Rider's English-Latin Dictionarie, London, 1626, it is rendered in Neo-Latin, rllestergium ; and an interesting account of the manner of counting herring by the Yarmouth fishermen is given in The hood of London, by Geo. Dodd, London, 1856; he says, page 345..-
The Yarmouth arithmetic is very strange in the numbering of fish: 4 herrings make a warp; 33 warps, or 132 herrings, make a 'hundred' ; and 100 hundred, or 13,200, make a last. Prac- tically the fishermen and salesmen do not count a last, for they employ a basket, called a swill, which will contain just about five long hundreds' (660) average herrings ; and 20 of these basketfuls are deemed to make a last.
The Manx meaise contains 620 herrings, while the Yarmouth swill is 660 herrings; the Welsh mwys is also given as 630. There is, therefore, a little variation in local custom.
THE STORY OF THE BODDAGH YN COOIT LAATCHAGH, OR THE CHURL WITH THE LACING COAT.
This is an old fireside story, and of a type that used to be in vogue in former centuries. It is interesting as it comes from the Island. I find that a version running on similar lines is found in the Irish Penny Journal, Vol. I, 1810, page 130-133, called Bodach an chota lachtna, or the clown with the grey coat. It is supposed that the Boddagh yn cooit laatchagh was the wizard chief of the Island who rolled into the sea at Jurby Point. And now to the story:-
" It was about a great champion called Iron Bones; he was a great warrior and a great runner. I don't know what was his proper name, or whether he was a king or a prince. It is so long ago since I heard my father telling it that I can recollect but very little of it. But this Iron Bones was visiting all countries in Europe, and when he landed in any country he went at once to the king's palace, and challenged the king to get any man in his kingdom that could fight and conquer him. or beat him at running. If he found any man that could beat him in fighting or running he soon left the country, but if there was no man in the country that could beat him, he made that country pay tribute to him.
It appears that he was not meeting with any one that could beat him in any country, and at last he came to Ireland and went to the palace. He was admitted to the king's presence, and he told the king that he was the great cham- pion called Iron Bones, and if the king had any man in Ireland that could fight him or beat him in a race, he (the king) must get the man as fast as possible.
The king said he did not think he had any man in his kingdom that would like to fight with him, but lie thought he could get one to have a race with him. So he told the king to go and get the runner, and he would wait until next morning to run against him. So the king called his prime minister, and enquired of him where he could find a good runner. So the prime minister told him that Kitt McKeelens, the man of swiftness, was the best man.
The king set out at once to go to Kitt's house. He was the swiftest man in Ireland, and it appears that Kitt's house wars not very distant, for the king was running on foot. He came• to a grove of trees. and he thought he would be at Kitt's house sooner by crossing the wood. He had but just, entered the wood when he met a very big man, almost as big as a giant with a big coat down to his heels, and big broags on his feet as large as little boats, and, as the weather was wet and the roads very mucky, the big man threw about a barrowful of muck off his heels at every stride. The King felt nervous when he saw the big man, and the big man's face was very yellow, and seemed to be well greased.
`Where art thou going in such a hurry?' said the big man to the king, but the king was desirous to get away from him as fast as possible, but he caught hold of the king, and he could not get out of his grasp. So the king told him about Iron Bones, and that he was going to Kitt McKeelens to get him to have a race with Iron hones.
'Thou need'st not go no further,' said the Big fellow. `I will race with him in the morning, and go back and tell him so.'
Then the king went home again, and they were all surprised that he was returned from Kitt's House in so short a time. But, the king told them that he met a man in the wood that was willing to have a run with Iron Bones, and that he would be ready to start whenever Iron Bones thought proper.
So Iron Bones was desirous to see the man that was to have it race with him, and the King took him to the wood where the big man was. When Iron Bones saw the gig fellow, he asked him what was his name. 'Boddagh yn cooit laatchagh, or the body with the lacing coat, in English.'
Iron Bones said he objected to run with such a big, ugly greasy Boddagh as that, but the boddagh told him he was only a man, and if he would not run with him he must depart out of the country at once. Then Iron Bones con- sented to have a race in the morning. They were to run forty or fifty miles, I forget which. So in the evening Iron Bones went to the wood. They were to start from the wood at daybreak. The boddagh began to cut branches of trees to build a shed to sleep in for the night,and he was not long in making one. He invited Iron Bones to come and share the hut with him, but Iron Bones refused, and went and laid down underneath the end of a rock. He was not very long lying there until he was startled by a great noise. He got up to see what was up, and he saw the boddagh in chase of a wild hog.
He soon caught the hog and killed him and lit a fire and roasted the hog while he was away somewhere looking for ale. He soon came back with a barrel of ale under each arm. He came to Iron Bones and invited him to come and have supper with him, but Iron Bones refused. The boddagh devoured half the hog and drank one of the ale barrels; then he lay down to sleep.
When Iron Bones awoke at the dawn he awoke the boddagh. The boddagh told Iron Bones that he had better start, because he wanted his breakfast before he started. So he ate the other half of the hog and emptied the other barrel of ale. Then he started to run after Iron Bones. He was not very long until he overtook Iron Bones and passed him. He ran on until lie came to a place where the black. berries were very plentiful, as they always are in Ireland unto the present season. The boddagh began to gather blackberries and eat them, and what he could not eat be put them in the pockets of his big coat, while Iron Bones passed him, and left him out of sight gathering blackberries.
When the pockets were full, the boddagh started to run again, and overtook Iron Bones and passed him a long way. Then he began to run at leisure, until he put his hand into one of his coat pockets to get some blackberries to eat, but there was no pocket. He put the other band in his pocket then, and that pocket was also gone : the weight of the blackberries had torn the pockets out of his coat while running, but he did not know that the pockets were lost until he put his hands into them. Then he went back again to look for his pockets, and after a while he met Iron Bones, and he asked if he had seen his pockets on the road.
'No,' said Iron Bones, but I seen a couple of sacks about four miles behind me.'
' That was my pockets,' said the boddagh, and hurried black to get them. When he found them he had to carry them under his arms; so he commenced to run again, and overtook Iron Bones and passed him, and did not stop until he was in Dublin. which was the end of the race. He got a sack of groats and mixed the groats among the blackberries, and began to eat it as fast as he could. He had all devoured to the last handful when Iron Bones arrived; the boddagh was often looking towards Iron Bones as he was nearing him. So the. boddagh threw the last handful of groats and blackberries at Iron Bones, which turned him quite round about.
The boddagh bade Iron Bones go on board his ship and go away, and when, the ship's head was turned out to sea the boddagh put his foot against the ship's stern and gave her a shove, and it was said the skip went five miles with the Atorre from the boddagh's foot."
"This boddagh, according to Manx tradition, lived somewhere in the North of the Island. He was supposed to live in Ireland after he rolled into the sea at Jurby ; Mannanan Beg Alas Leir was his name in the Island, but he gave himself the name of Boddagh yn cooit laatechagh when he was going to run a race with Iron Bones in Ireland." C. ROEDER.
A DEMON'S TRICKS.
From "The Olio," by F. Grose, 1792.
The Rev Mr Wood, of Douglas, told me the following story of a Mr Costlan[Cosnahan] (minister of Kirk Santon) which His father had from his own mouth :-" This gentleman's house was haunted by a ludicrous demon, who played a thousand monkey tricks, such as scribbling upon a newly-plastered wall; and once at noon-day, Mr Stanton throwing a stone across a river, it was returned to him by an invisible hand, and that an hundred times successively; that he might not be mistaken, he had the precaution to mark it. This story making a noise, several substantial farmers called in to enquire tide truth of it. One among them doubting it, and in displaying his eloquence striking his hand on the table, a stone suddenly fell from the ceiling near his hand and stuck in the table, to the great astonishment of the whole company."-G. W. W., Streatham.