[From Manx Notes & Queries, 1904]
In "The Little Manx Nation," Mr Hall Caine eloquently describes his visit to an " old Manx bard " who lived in a. lonely glen in the mountain district near Foxdale. He says he "found the old man setting in the chimney nook, a little red shawl around his head and knotted under his chin. He was no hermit, but a farmer, and though nearly ninety years old had never been off the Island. In response to Mr Caine's invitation, " he took down his thumb-marked, greasy, discoloured poems from 'the lath' and read them aloud to him in his broad Manx dialect." He found " they were all startling and almost ghastly appeals to the sinner to shun his evil ways." The old bard was John Quirk. of Carn y Greie. I knew of him, before reading this account, as the translator and versifier of some eight or nine old Manx ballads, which were printed in the volumes of the Manx society, viz. : " The Fisherman's Ballad," "A Song on Farmers' Daughters," "The Herring Song," etc.
Mr A. W. Moore also gives a short account of him in his "Manx Worthies," and describes him as "probably the last remaining specimen of the kind of men who composed the Manx carols." He gives an extract from one of Quirk's carols, in which the blind leaders of the blind are compared to frogs.
Staying in Peel a year or two after Mr Hall Caine's book appeared, I resolved if possible to see the old bard for myself, so accompanied by a " manninagh dooie," who had met him and. knew something of the eerie district in which he lived, we, i.e., my wife and I, set out to discover him. After traversing some miles of a steep and rugged mountain road we were directed to the house we sought. It was not, however, Carn y Greie. The bard had moved to another abode near by. We were admitted by his wife, now, as she proved to be, his widow, for she told us the object of our search was no more. He had been dead several years. She was pleased to see us, and seemed gratified at our desire to see him. She willingly sought out the old bard's books and papers to show us, and amongst them was his old MS. book of " Manx hymns or songs for the use of temperance meetings, and several pieces of poetry suitable on other occasions. Partly composed originally in Manx and partly translated from the English language, by John Quirk, parish of Patrick." Such is the title it bears on the cover. It 'had been kept in a damp place, and but for our timely rescue would soon have been illegible, or, indeed, have perished altogether. After drying it before the fire she generously offered it for my acceptance, of which offer, needless to say, I gladly availed myself. The book is now well cared for, and I have had all the pieces it contains carefully copied out. These number 69. Of the original compositions, a few have already been published, the best known of them being perhaps " Yn Jeir-kagh meshtyllagh " (" The drunken beggar "). The ethers are Manx translations of English and American hymns. I have sought for some time to discover the originals of these, because no versified translation that could be made into English could be so satisfactory, and I wished to print them in both Manx and English. I have now succeeded in finding the source of a few in a little hymn book kindly lent me by Dr Julian, author of the " Dictionary of Hymnology."
With the editor's concurrence I purpose[sic propose] sending these for publication, when perhaps some of your Manx linguists will express their opinion upon the merits of the old bard's translations. To me the rhythm seems particularly pleasing and faithful to the original version.
It may not be inappropriate here to express regret that so few Manxmen are contributors to your "Notes and Queries" column. There must assuredly be many titbits of folk-lore and the like lurking in their memories. In a few years all that has not been committed to paper will certainly be blotted out. Much of what has already appeared, besides being valuable to the student, must have proved interesting (albeit sometimes amusing) to the general reader. After this brief digression I now give the first of the " Temperance Hymns," to be followed by others as opportunity offers for their insertion in the " Examiner."
G. W. WOOD.
I LOVE A LITTLE SUP.
The temperance cause I wish it well,
The noble effort I approve,
The doctor says " it hastens death.
The preacher urges next, "'tis sin,
Ten thousand tortur'd wives cry out,
-The spirits lost in anguish shriek,
All argument I can outbrave
Tho' groans and blood, and death, and hell
S'LIACK LHIAM BINE DY YOUGH..
Lhig dauesyn saillin shassoo seose
Neem kinjagh taggloo ass e liøh
Fer-lhee ta gra dy vel e ghah
Preachooryn neesht ta kinja ginsh
Ta mraane as paitchyn geamagh noi
Spyrrydyn caillt ayns torehagh goam
Neem shassoo magh roish dagh argane
Brooghyn as fuill, toyrtmow as basse,