[from Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]

[239.]

SHORT RETROSPECT AT THE OUTGOING OF THE 19th CENTURY.

While I sat musing and picturing to myself the strange vicissitudes and events that had passed over Man during the last 900 years, noting the flotsam and jetsam of alternating invaders which the sea had incessantly cast up on its fair strands, methought I saw Mannanin Mac Leir rising before me in flesh and blood, his silver looks descending to his girdled loins, bent down with hoary age, and heaving a sigh for his unhappy children of Man, sorrowfully bewailing the fate that had befallen their inheritance. The torch and the sword, servitude and impoverishment had crippled their strength and nigh crushed them, agriculture stagnated, and famine and disease had mowed down their ranks; the herring, on whom their main hopes hinged, had proved a fickle, wayward friend, smiling and bountiful in fits and starts, and then mockingly forsaking them, and stealthily tripping away to leave them a. prey with sunken hearts. Its masters had been foreigners, their land passed merrily, a rolling coin, from hand to hand, by conquest, dower, or cast into a lord's lap by the favour of distant courts, the people merely so much chattel; when given to the Stanleys it was properly a question what could be got out of them in so much figure of revenue, an indifferent Governor presiding over as the ruling head, while the Keys were insignificant pawns to be pushed, who, weak and spiritless, did their ford's haughty bidding. Edward Christian, a real patriotic and level-headed Manxman, alone stands out, a bolds and daring would-be reformer, towering head and shoulders above his puny compeers. The people did not progress or prosper under the Stanleys, and the influence of the succeeding Atholls was fraught with all sorts of evil. Their Government was corrupt and rotten, the system of wholesale smuggling licked away the moral and physical fibre of the race, and progress was, under the circumstances, a sheer ,impossibility, The Statute Book forms an eloquent monument and a faithful mirror of their legislation, and the administrative measures are blanks as far as the welfare and amelioration of the) people were concerned. The British Government had to take over the unwelcome stock that was left behind as their share: poverty, corruption, and helplessness; neither the lord nor the church had been true to the people. Bishops Wilson and Hildesley (1698-1755) make honourable and bright amends amongst the list, both real and sincere fathers and helpers of the people. After Hildesley's death, the clergy rapidly deteriorated; there were repeated convictions against them for flagrant drunkenness and consequent removal from their office; and things went- on in that fashion until the appearance of Bishop Murray (1819), who found matters "in a very scandalous state." No wonder, then, that Wesley (1777) was received with open arms. He lifted the people from the deep degradation into which they had sunk, due both to the vice and the greed of the Church. The British Government took over for practical reasons, Atholl's last Governor, John Wood, followed in 1777 by Edward Smith, and in 1793 by John Murray, fourth Duke of Athol. Legislation was naturally sterile during that period of utter confusion; the Governors, all perfect strangers, neither understood the real wants of the Island, nor did they take any active or beneficial initiative in improving the Insular conditions for the betterment of agriculture or the fisheries; they stood passively aloof and transacted their regular humdrum business in a hand-to-mouth fashion, satisfied with the being the paid and dignified figureheads of lovely little dominion.

[240]

PRICES IN ISLE OF MAN (1773).

. A correspondent sent to the Manchester Mercury the prices of the following articles from Isle of Man, dated June 26th, 1773:

Beef, 3d. and 3d. per lb.
Veal, 24d. and 3d.-which is reckoned very dear.
Lamb 1s. 6d. to 2s. a side-about 2d. per lb. Good Mutton, 3d. per lb.
Fowls, 6d. each.
Ducks, 6d. each.
Geese, with giblets, 15d.
Pigeons, 2d. each.
Rabbits, 2d.
Salmon, 2d. per lb.
Lobsters, 3d. each.
Crabs, 6d. a dozen.
Oysters, 2s. a hundred.
Fine scalloped ditto, 6d, a hundred.
Fish of all kinds, 1d. per lb., and some cheaper (salmon excepted).
House of 10 rooms, from 6 to 8 per year.

He adds : " What an amazing difference between the above prices and those of this country."

It forms an interesting record, of ruling prices at that period in the Island, and deserves a corner in the Manx Notes and Queries.


 

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