[From Manx Annals,1901/2]
Owing to the absence in the Isle of Man of the newspaper duty and advertisement tax that English publishers had to put up with In the first half of the nineteenth century, newspapers in the Island were comparatively cheap, and, for the size of the community, had a vary large circulation. In fact the Manx papers were published more for English readers on and off the Island than for those who wore native born. The editors scarcely took the trouble to gather Manx news, and consequently Manx news pure and simple was exceedingly meagre.
So late as 1825, the editor of the " Manks Advertiser" had the cheek one week to say : " Our local intelligence this week is very limited owing to the scantiness of incident, and there is scarcely one object of general attraction excepting the weather." This sort of thing went on year after year, and the publisher or editor of these papers would; weekly, fill or nearly fill one of their four pages with extracts from books extracts that could not, by the wildest imagination, be called "news", rather than note down the little incidents of the day that must have been occuring as surely as they do now,
The first Manx paper was the " Manks Mercury and Briscoe's Douglas Advertiser," published by C. Briscoe, commenced in November, 1792, and continued for some fifteen years. Its death was mostly owing to the existence of the better paper published by Geo, Jefferson,
This was the " Manks Advertiser and Jefferson's Weekly Intelligence," begun in August, 1801, and ended in 1844 having seen during its life the birth and death of several rivals.
One of these was the " Weekly Gazette," started in 1812 by Beatson and Copeland. It was like the "Advertiser" in appearance with much English and very little Manx news. In 1815, the propriatary of the " Gazette" came to grief (I think Beatson died) and the plant and everything connected with the paper was bought by Mark Anthony Mills, an English solicitor of a pugnacious order.
Mills had spent a portion of 1812 in Castle Rushen, and during that period he had in the " Gazette" the following notice: "Mark Anthony Mills law solicitor, presents his respects to his friends and public and assures them that not-withstanding his present incarceration the business of his office in Douglas will. go on as usual. Such of Mr Mills' friends who wish to consult him privately can have personal communication with him in Castle Rushen." That announcement was certainly cool. He was ever in mischief, and was frequently seen inside the Court room as plaintiff or defendant.
Soon after Mills had become owner of the "Gazette" he hit on paper at Jefferson. The latter hit back, and a war ensued, which at length became so hot that Mills sued Jefferson for libel. Mills lost, and, of course, his rival published a full account of the affair.
In its early life the "Gazette" did the printing and advertising of a theatrical company that Edward had at Douglas. The "Advertiser," not being patronised by Edward, gave not the slightest hint that a theatrical company existed.
A few years afterwards another company came under Munro. Mills had looked forward to printing the play bills, etc., but Munro patronised the " Advertiser." Mills then pooh-poohed the actors saying, "I hailed with satisfaction the expected arrival of a party of players lately promised in the Isle of Man, and anticipated pleasure and profit from the looked for event. But, alas I my expectations have been severely disappointed," etc. Commenting on this, Munro remarked, "Profit aye, there's the rub !"
During the six years of his newspaper proprietorship Mills evaded payment after payment of various kinds till at length he and his paper "busted" in 1821, when he was overwhelmed by law suits,
In January, 1821, the coming appearance of the " Rising Sun or Mona's Herald" was announced in the "Advertiser," but from one cause or another the first issue was delayed till April. In the meantime the editor of the new paper was allowed to air his views in the ' Advertiser, and several letters were published, and a mild argument carried on. The " Rising Sun" wanted a motto, and the " Advertiser" proposed the following lines :
"READER, thou'st seen a falling cat
Light always on his feet so pat;
A shuttlecock will still descend,
Meeting the ground with nether end.
A persevering Manxman's thus
A shuttlecock, or pauvre puss:
However through the world he's tost,
However disappointed, crost,
Reverses, losses, fortune's frown,
No chance or change can keep him down;
Upset him any way you will
Upon his Legs you find him still;
For ever active, brisk, and spunky,
Stabit: Jeceris: quocunque.
In April, the first number of the " Rising Sun'' was published. Then began a quarrel between the two papers; The "Advertiser" carped at the "Sun's", Latin, and the "Sun" raved and roared at the "Advertiser," How dare the 'Advertiser' venture to "correct the ' Sun's' Latin when the editor of the former knew not a word of Latin a few weeks before." The "Rising Sun" publishëd the following bit of Latin to test the rival editor's knowledge of that language.
" INSULA MONAE
AMICUS EGO SUM
The same paper. styles the "Advertiser" ' " that emporium of folly end stupidity," and the editor"the Mongrel" and "the Funiguse alias Funny Goose," And also has the following paragraph ; " We rejoice to hear that the Editor has got a new press if this should prove advantageous to the public they will do us the justice to admith that we have conduced to its production and we expect the new press will discourse most excellent music, by the more application of a little wind, and the forefnger and the thumb."
Fancy one editor saying this for the other ("Sun; September 4th, 1821")."Although we consider the proprietor of the Mank's Advertiser" to be an uneducated, silly, insignificant being, unworthy of our notice, we freely acknowledge that the hired Quack to whom he is obliged to present the usual compliment of a one pound note with one hand, whilst he obtains value received from the other, is a very clever fellow, for he makes money out of worse than nothing, and we are far from censuring him for it. Again : "The non-existence of toads in the Isle of Man is easily explained viz. there is a certain party of toad-eaters who are voracious in their calling among whom the "Mank's Advertiser" editor and his hired Quack play two unceasing pair of jaws". And again (August 4th) : Take of the Ass-sence of the "Mank's Advertiser" 1lb; half a scruple of Quidnunc's brains; one quart of acidity of Thomas's Didymus; and one grain of Nature's good grammar; shake them all together and the mixture will be black enough, though without any polish, and warrented to sell everything that comes near it.