[From Manx Yarns, 1905]
MANX GOVERNORS, BISHOPS, LOCAL PREACHERS,
CLERGY, NOTABILITIES, DOCTORS, OF THE
BENCH, BAR, SCHOOLROOM, AND
" Stories ! Stories ! nothin
Spinnin away to the height of your glories!"
T. E. BROWN.
IN this and the following chapter I have arranged my picture gallery of Manx portraits, for, in fact, it is neither more nor less than a varied gallery of real human personages a picture of real life. The reader will agree with me when I say that the collection of stories and anecdotes should be encouraged in every way, for they are of great assistance to the biographer and historian. Are not story and history the one thing, the one word ? To many people the latter is more interesting than romance. Children always prefer a true story to one which is make-believe.
Hear what Horace Walpole says of anecdotes ; he gives them high praise, and characterises them as "Worthy of being inserted in the history of mankind, which, if well chosen and well written would precede common histories, which are but repetitions of uncommon events." A. large portion of the history of a nation is often preserved and embedded in the ordinary tales of everyday life.
I think the Manx, like the Scotch, are more humorous than witty, whereas the Irish are all wit. It has often been alleged that a Manxman possesses no perception or appreciation of wit and humour. This, however, I consider an utter misconception, if not libel, on the intellectual faculties of my countrymen, a the various anecdotes in the following pages will abundantly testify. The fact is, that no single nationality can claim a monopoly in this respect. In bygone times, among the Greek dramatists, there were no wanting instances of wit and pungent satire ; sometimes, it may be, of a coarser character than the refinements of modern requirements might tolerate. Dean Ramsay, in later days, in his " Reminiscence of Scottish Life and Character," has been the means of rescuing from utter oblivion many features of national life and character. The same may be said in reference to the amusing reminiscences of Dean Hole, of Rochester ; and such is the chief aim and endeavour of my present collection of yarns. Certain orthodox people take exception to the taste of some of Dean Holes anecdotes. Yet his stories are very humorous and very human withal.
The true quality and function of humour are very often misunderstood, as they are often valued only as they reveal what is funny in the ridiculous. It seems to be only the thinkers among us who recognise the underlying and ineliminable seriousness, and realise that the possession of that sense for the incongruous, which is the heart and soul of humour, is the surest guarantee of a mans seeing things. in their true relations. I do not agree with Charles Lamb and Sidney Smith, when the declare that Scottish people have no wit. The latter has said : " It requires a surgical operation to get a joke into a Scotch understanding. The only idea of wit which prevails in the North, and which under the name of wit is so infinitely distressing to people of good taste, is laughing immoderately at stated intervals." Now, we all know there are dull and matter-of-fact people in every country, who can neither see nor take a joke. Yet we must not condemn a whole race for the deficiency of a few in wit or humour. I know many of my countrymen who are devoid of wit or humour, call it what you will. Yet there is a native school of pleasantry, sly, cheery, amusing, and characteristic, smacking of the Manx soil. The natives have a humour peculiar to themselves, and it is this native wit, and its pathos, that I am trying to compile into book form. In repartee, retort, and rejoinder, I think Manxmen can hold their own with any of their neighbours in the adjacent Isles.
Speaking again of the quality of humour, it is to be remarked that frequently situation, circumstances, and combination of ideas, cause a narrative to be humorous. There is no affinity between sharp, envenomed wit, and true humour, which is sometimes perhaps broad, hut, as a rule, cheerful, hearty, and wholesome. Humour makes a man ashamed of his faults without exciting his resentment.
It does not do to laugh when telling a witty or humorous story. Mark Twain, the great American humorist, talking of the blessing of laughter, said : " Laughter is a good thing, but for myself I scarcely get two laughs a month. That is natural, because every humorist dwells upon the serious side of life. All true humour is based on seriousness; and hence the humorist, who often makes others laugh, laughs least himself." A narrator of a comic story ought to be self-possessed, and not explode at the thought of what is coming.
I think humour is always enhanced when portrayed with a background of seriousness. Yet the humour that creates laughter is to be highly prized, for does not a laugh of pure gladness brighten people, and, like mercy, bless him that gives and him that takes.
There is always a penalty attached to wit and humour. Mr Gladstones deficiency in humour was an absolute advantage to him in public life ; while Canning and Beacons field were distrusted because they were wits. The late Earl of Chatham asked Dr. Heeniker how he defined wit ? The Doctor replied : " My Lord, wit is like what a pension would be, given by your Lordship" to your humble servant, a good thing well applied." Humour is two-fold or two-sided. There is a great difference between humour and the sense of humour. Humour is positive, while the sense of humour is negative. A man of humour may make a joke, and a man with the sense of humour may take one. Neither includes the other, for a man may be able to make a joke and yet incapable of taking one. Carlyle, for instance, had humour and not the sense of humour. He was, however, a terrible satirist, and, as a moralist, was wittingly or unwittingly a humorist. Dickens was a humorist and nothing else. Of the two qualities the sense of humour is the more highly to be prized. The danger of humour is, that those who possess it are sometimes possessed by it. Such people may be led to say and do odd things, which they would be the swiftest to perceive in others.
Mimicry is a dangerous talent. A Manxman is essentially mimetic. He sometimes imitates unconsciously, and easily falls into the tone and manner of speech of these people around him, or with whom be resides. The dry humour of an old farmer or sea-fariing man is delightfully refreshing. It often depends upon odd turns of expression, and sometimes a look, or sigh, or a groan is very ludicrous. Manx wit is of a quality peculiar to the native soil. There is not the blabbing, blundering, or bullying of the Irish, or the polished, keen, dry hits of the Scotch wit, but there is a great deal of drollery that requires to be seen and heard from the lips, for the expression often gives it a polish which is very refreshing. The Manxmans wit and humour lies more in what he does not say, than in his actual words. The way he stands, walks, and looks, are all expressive of humour and drollery. I sincerely wish that many of the following yarns may be to my countrymen afar off like a whiff of Manx air, with the odour of the sea or the smell of the hayfield clinging to them ; or like a voice from distant homeland.
I do not purpose in this volume to touch upon the many changes which have taken place of late years in national tenets, and peculiarities of faith, doctrine, and discipline. I do wish to express my opinion, however, that Church and State must stand or fall together, that the nation is the Church, and the Church the nation. Still, I like to look upon our religious parties and sects, with all their distinctive religious beliefs and observances, as a vast army, all serving under one banner, and all aiming to reach one goal, and trying in different ways to make the world happier, better, and brighter. Before I amuse the reader with comic stories of our clergy, a brief sketch of our Insular Diocese will not be out of place.
"The Isle of Man is a small place, except in the estimation of its inhabitants." So wrote the late Rev. T. E. Brown. It is smaller then any English county, except Rutland ; and its population is much under 60,000.
Though it is the smallest diocese in the English Church, it is yet the oldest. There are traditions which assign A.D. 360 as the date of the formation. of the See, and declare Amphibolus to have been the first Bishop. We tread surer ground when we accept Germanus as the earliest occupant of the See ; and well authenticated tradition asserts that he was appointed by St. Patrick, the Evangelist of the Island, in AD. 447, 69 years before the formation of the See of Bangor, and 150 years before the landing of Augustine. The list of former Bishops, it is true, presents some gaps which are not easily filled, but the antiquity of the See is beyond all doubt. The present Diocesan, the Right Rev. Norman Dumenil John Straton, D.D., sixty-ninth Bishop of Sodor and Man, was appointed in 1892, when his predecessor, the late Dr. Bardsley, exchanged the Island Diocese for that of Carlisle.
The greatest Bishop of the Island has undoubtedly been Thomas Wilson, who flourished in the eighteenth century. Good Bishop Wilson, as he was called, whose private and domestic life was that of a saint, as a Bishop, was often stern and tyrannical in his rule, but we must remember he inherited this arbitrary power. The age required a stern rule. He loved his Insular Diocese and its people. The poor were never from his door, and half of his income was given in charity. He refused to forsake his bride, as he called his Diocese, when offered preferment. One day he was getting measured for a new coat, and happened to tell the tailor to put on it only one button, when the tailor asked : " Well, my lord, what would the poor button-makers and their families. do for a living if everyone was like that; why, they would be starved outright." " Oh, well, then, cover the whole coat over with buttons," replied the Bishop.
Truly, "kind hearts are more than coronets."
A touching and pathetic story of the good Bishop was told by Archdeacon Gill in his address at the re-opening of St. Peters Old Parish Church in Peel not long ago. Let us give it in the Archdeacons: own words : "When good Bishop Wilson was in his 93rd year, and nearing the end, he was one day sitting in his study, along with a young man a candidate for holy orderswhom he had persuaded to come and read with him at Bishopscourt, and be a companion for him in his loneliness. For three years that young man was his most devoted companion and friend, and upon the occasion to which I refer, the young man was reading aloud to him from the Greek Testament, when all at once the Bishop exclaimed : " Dont you see them ? Dont you see them ?" " See what, my lord," was the reply." Why, the angels ascending and descending amongst the branches of those trees." That was the beginning of the good Bishops last illness, which only lasted three or four days. He never afterwards recovered consciousness. That young man was Henry Corlett, who shortly afterwards became Vicar of German, and held the Vicarage for forty years. It is a remarkable coincidence that this same Henry Corlett was at Bishopscourthe had ridden over on a visit to Bishop Wilsons successor, Bishop Hildesleyon the very day when the Bishop fell from his chair, struck down by apoplexy, and died in a day or two afterwards. That Henry Corlett was my grandfather."
Archbishop Thomson, of York, was once dining with a neighbour near Bishopscourt, at the time he laid the foundation stone of the new church in Peel, and he told the following story. After a certain dinner party, when the time arrived to go home, he found his coachman had dined, " not wisely, but too well," in the servants hall. The man drove furiously, and the vehicle came perilously near to upsetting. The Bishop stopped it, and, being a big, muscular man, he lifted his jehu off the box-seat, put him inside, and himself drove home to the stable yard, at a good, rattling pace. The noise of the arrival brought the stable boy quickly out, and, astonished at the unusual pace and noise, he said : " By jove! Drunk again! and, by jingo, its got the old cocks hat on, too !"
" Its the old cock himself," said the dignitary of the Church. " Take that old beast out of the carriage."
Bishop Murray, who was not popular in his Diocese, from his attempt to levy a tithe charge on all green crops, was one day walking towards Kirk Michael, when he saw a man drunk, lying in the middle of the road. Like a good Christian, the Bishop picked the man up, and placed him against the hedge. This kind action roused the poor fellow, who said : " Who is it thats speaking to me " " Its the Bishop ," said his lordship. "O, its the Bishop, is it! Well, well, thouve got a good situation ; see that thou keep it."
Here is a very pretty story I heard from the lips of an old woman of 82 years, the daughter of the landlady mentioned. Bishop Short was a very practical man, as well as kind-hearted. His curate called upon him one day, and complained that his lodgings were very squalid and poorly furnished. However, one day, happening to be passing the lonely little cottage, with roses growing all over it, the Bishop called and asked the landlady to show him the curates bedroom. To this singular request. she readily agreed, and ushered his lordship into a clean little room, with curtains and bed clothes as white as snow, all smelling of sweet lavender and the scent of roses from without. On taking his leave, the learned prelate exclaimed : "Tell your lodger that his rooms are good enough for a Bishop."
"Well," replied the landlady, "Im thinkin, sir, youll be a Bishop, because you are wearin a lil brat on you."
Bishop Short was a " short man, but possessed a big, generous heart. In his Diocese he had the reputation of being not fond of helping a man in need, but his actions showed the contrary. The following proves his generosity : One of his vicars was striving hard to give his two sons a University education. One day the Bishop called, and the vicars wife, a plain-spoken, warm-hearted Manxwoman, told him their trouble, namely, that £40 must be sent to Oxford to pay the expenses of her two sons. She further told him that her husband had money coming in to him shortly, and asked what was she to do ? The Bishop replied : " Oh, Ill manage that for you till your money comes in " ; and he wrote out a cheque for the amount required.
Shortly afterwards he called upon his vicar, when the honest wife ran towards the prelate, saying : " Oh, my lord, we are thankful to your lordship ; here is the money you lent us. Ours has come in, and I am glad to repay you the £40 you lent us." "Oh, no!" said the Bishop, " I dont want it. Pay me at the Day of Judgment."
Here is a story told by Bishop Bardsley, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle, against himself : When he first came to the Island, he was one day walking on Snaefell Mountain, when he met one of the shepherds looking after his flock, and, after entering into conversation with him about the weather and his sheep, the Bishop asked him, " Do you know who I am ?" When the shepherd told him he did not, " Oh," he replied, " I am the shepherd of all the flocksI am the Bishop of the Island." Then came the reply : " I never met a plainer man." Of course, the man meant plain-spoken.
The same worthy prelate, after he had been made Bishop of Sodor and Man, was preaching in one of the Lancashire towns. He was, for the time being, the guest of a wealthy manufacturer, who, for a fortnight prior to the Bishops arrival, had been daily instructing the rather green page boy what to say when addressing the Bishop, and impressing upon the lad that when he took up the Bishops hot water in the morning, he was to tap at the door and say : " The boy with the water, my lord."
The Bishop duly arrived, and next morning the boy took up the hot water, and tapped gently at the door, when a voice from within said : " Whos there ?" The answer came, greatly to the Bishops astonishment : " The Lord, my boy, with the water"
I may safely assert that Bishop Hill was the wittiest and most humorous of all our Insular prelates. He could scarcely hold a conversation without making a witty remark or a pun.
One day Bishop Hill was chaffing a local preacher and member of the House of Keys, named Teare, and telling him that he would never get to Heaven, because there were no " tears" in that happy place.
"Well, my lord," replied Teare, " I have been reading my Bible for forty years, and in it I find mention of the Plains of Heaven, but never a hill. But it does say, Every mountain shall be removed, and every hill " be laid low, so you, my lord, will not be there."
As a host, Bishop Hill was the soul of company. He literally bubbled over with anecdote, and was always ready at repartee. His humour was abundant, his versatility remarkable. In conversation, one evening, I was relating to Bishop Hill a strange case of hydrophobia. A man had died at Sulby, from a bite of a cat. Sharp and quick came the facetious interrogation : " Are you sure it was not a case of catalepsy?"
Once at an election in Douglas for the House of Keys, Mr James Spittall was one of the candidates. The Bishop was talking to an old yokel who had promised to vote for his landlord, Mr Spittall, but was rather apprehensive that his landlord would vote for more rates and taxes, to be levied on tenant-farmers. To create a laugh, the Bishop said:
" Well, my good man., you must expectorate if you have Spittall!"
When the Duke of Edinburgh visited our shores some years ago, the Governor, Lord Loch, the Bishop, and several other officials were watching on the pier to welcome the Duke. It was a very stormy morning. About ten oclock the Royal yacht hove in sight. On landing, the Bishop greeted the Prince warmly, and thoughtfully suggested that His Royal Highness would perhaps like to breakfast, when he replied : " Oh, I have had my breakfast on board." " Dear me," exclaimed the Bishop, " I thought you had left all the rolls outside."
The occasion of the visit of the Duke was, it was said, to inspect the detachment of the Royal Naval Reserve, then in its early days in the Isle of Man. In connection with the visit, Lord Loch gave a magnificent ball at Government House, but His Royal Highness the Duke was in a bad mood, and did not put in an appearance. The disappointment of the guests was keen, but Bishop Hill, on being told of it, ejaculated, " Oh, its only Naval Reserve!"
Once, when the Bishop was entering a train for Douglas, a young man, of the would-be smart variety, accosted him, saying : " Your face is familiar to me. Where in H have I seen you?"
" I really dont know," blandly said the Bishop ; " what part of H do you come from?"
Though a flippant manner of speaking of breaches of the third commandment is open. to severe reprehension, especially in a clergyman, this. sharp, crushing retort probably did more good than would have been achieved by a volume of sermons.
Another instance of the Bishops wit and broadmindedness is shown in the following : Some years ago the Bishop met in Ramsey the Chaplain of one of the churches there, a clergyman with a strong regard for the proprieties, a distrust of all innovations, and, withal, a strong tendency to Ritualism. After the usual greetings, the clergyman, in a despondent tone, said : "My lord, I am much concerned about Church discipline and the conducting of the affairs of the Church, and ask for your advice and direction. The dissenting denominations all advertise their services, but I dont think it right or proper to do so."
The jovial prelate gave the following sage advice : " Advertise, advertise, advertise, if by so doing you can fill your church. By all means, get the people to go to church. Only this morning, I have been interviewed by one of your congregation, who keeps a large China shop, and do you know he wants permission to put my mug on his mugs!" (i.e., to have the Bishops portrait on the outside of his earthenware.)
When the Bishop left. Sheffield for the Isle of Man, some of his relatives gave half-sovereigns to the children on their departure, a proceeding which the Bishop characterised as " Tipping the little Hills with gold!"
At a bazaar, held at Bishopscourt, mottoes were put on each of the stalls, and selected by the Bishop. This is the one that adorned the teetotal refreshment stall : "Here the wild asses quench their thirst.!"
On one occasion, when the Bishop was preaching, the gas in the church suddenly went out before he could deliver his text. " Never mind," he said, " pray keep your seats. The Word of the Lord is a light unto my feet and a lamp unto my path. " Thereafter ensued a brilliant sermon in the dark.
I have heard several stories of similar incidents, one of which is even better than the story just given. A young and nervous curate was preaching at Peel, and something went wrong with the gas meter, and the gas began to jump so as to cause an uncertain light. However, the curate gave out this text while the gas jet was jumping : "This is the Lords doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." At that moment the gas went totally out, and the congregation, amidst roars of laughter, did likewise.
I might also mention a case where a Wesleyan. minister was preaching to a crowded congregation., and requested the chapel-keeper to lower the gas during the sermon, in order to moderate the heat of the building. This was done just as the minister announced his text : " And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that at eventide there shall be light." The " latter days" came at the conclusion of the sermon, when the gas was turned up again, and there was light.
The Bishop is also credited with the following conundrum : " Why is the Isle of Man like a fish ?Because it breathes through the Gills."This was a hit at the Gill and Gell families, members of whom at that time worthily filled the chief offices in Church and State in the Isle of Man.
Some of the Bishops rhyming inscriptions that were placed on boards in Bishopscourt Glen have already been mentioned, and here are some others :
On a notice board near a pond, said to be a good spot for fishing :
" A good receptacle for many trout,
We ask the sceptical to fish them out;
Refuse the rod they may, but must not doubt,
And then unkindly say : Ive caught no trout'."
Close to the house of the Bishops gardener :
" This is the home of Thomas Caley,
Who works within the garden daily;
If not within the garden found,
Youll seek for him about the ground;
If not within the grounds when sought,
Enquire for him at Bishopscourt."
To which a wag added, writing in pencil on a piece of paper and affixing it to the board :
" And if hes not at Bishopscourt,
Youve spent your time and strength for nought."
In the grounds at Bishopscourt was also a diminutive bridge over a lily pond, which the Bishop called " The Bridge of Size." His two carriage horses were called "Parnell " and "Biggar " perhaps one was slightly biggar " than the others
The Bishop was once asked by a correspondent what was the moaning of " Sodor." He replied as follows :
What does the title " Sodor" mean?
Pray tell me if you can;
So strange are many facts we glean
About the Isle of Man!
That all the cats are wanting tails
We hear for ever more;
It may be this accounts for tales
Which reach the British shore.
Well, " Sodorenses "Southern Isles
Is what the title means;
Although perhaps you say with smiles
" Tell that to the Marines!"
For in the palmy days of old,
When. things went harum-skarum,
The Bishop did the title hold
Of Man" et Insularum."
Bishop Hill, before his second marriage, called upon two maiden ladies to say good-bye. When about to take his departure, they referred to the coming event, and one of them asked the Bishop to give her a text of Scripture, so that she would think of him when the wedding day arrived. With a hearty laugh, the Bishop turned round and said : " Good-bye, Miss " Go thou and do like-wise."
The Bishop was fond of fresh fish for his dinner, especially blacksoles. One day, on reaching Bishopscourt from Douglas, he asked the guard to fetch some soles out of the luggage van, and carry them to his carriage. The guard, being in a hurry, complied rather reluctantly, and remarked as he went along with them : " I dont know if your lordship has ever saved any souls, but I do know you have eaten a fine lot of them. "
Of Bishop Ward, an able preacher and scholarly Bishop, I only know one amusing anecdote. The Manx Church and its livings being very poor during his episcopate, Bishop Ward undertook a mission in our wealthier " adjacent isles" to appeal for money to augment the Church funds. Being an eloquent preacher, he visited many of the large towns of England asking for help, and, in appealing to his hearers, informed them, doubtless in a moment of pleasantry, that his Diocese was a poor, wind-swept place, where the cats were tailess, and the cocks and hens had their tails blown off by the boisterous winds of Heaven.
I recently read an amusing incident concerning our present worthy, hard-working Bishop, Dr. Straton. On his arrival at the railway station at ---, he found a carriage awaiting him. Entering it at once, Dr. Straton made himself comfortable, and then waited quietly for the carriage to bear him to his destination ; but it did not stir, and the coachman still sat calmly on the box. After waiting some considerable time, his lordship sharply asked the reason for his delay. The jehu replied : "My orders were, my lord, to wait for the Bishop of Sodor and Man. I suppose you are the Bishop, my lord. I am only waiting for the man."
A Kirk Patrick parishioner who seldom went to chapel, but never to church, was induced by curiosity to go and hear Bishop , who was preaching one Sunday at the Parish Church. The Bishop, in the course of his sermon, stated that bishops were the pillars of the Church. The man afterwards remarked to a crony that it was more likely that the bishops were the " catta-pillars " of the Church, inasmuch as they devoured the best part of its substance.
A bishops wife one day called upon an old woman in the neighbourhood of Bishopscourt. The following conversation occurred :
"I didnt see you at church yesterday, Jane?"
" Aw, no ; I was out, though., aw, yes, I was out, and isa lek it wass as good as goin to church."
"But where was it, Jane?"
" Aw, well, at chapel."
"And you think that as good as church?"
" Aw, well, isa the same iss lek."
" Well, Jane, I dont think that. I never understood that before."
" Well, well, youll larn, youll larn, isn it larnin you are the oulder you grow ? Thass the way with me, anny way."
Amongst the Manx clergy were many men of great piety and literary attainments ; there were scholars and wits as well as saints in their ranks. As a rule, the livings were poor, and the parson had generally to resort to other means to make both ends meet. One Vicar was editor of a newspaper. Many of them farmed their own glebes, or discharged the duties of school master, as well as of parson. Some of them took care of people of weak intellect, or eccentric, or addicted to drink, and in many other ways they managed to eke out their slender incomes and live respectably. Many of them had very odd and peculiar traits of character, are their sayings and doing supply a crop of amusing anecdotes and quaint sayings.
Here is a singular, and not very creditable, speech of a former
Vicar of Santan. There had been a storm, and a sad shipwreck off
Langness, and three bodies of the crew of the vessel were washed
ashore. The churchwardens of Santon put. them into coffins, and
conveyed them to the churchyard to be buried. There stood the Vicar,
book in hand, but instead of solemnly commencing the Burial Service
with the beautiful words, " I am the resurrection and the life," he,
being fond of his fees, pointed to the corpses on the ground, and
enquired anxiously : "Whos gaun to pay for these ?" The old
clerk, however, said in a low voice : " Hush, hush, parson ; God
drowned these poor men. We must bury them for nawthin."
[Thomas Kewley preceded Gelling, 1827-1835 and Canon Gelling comments on his description as being mercenary, though his parishioners evidently were fond of him and erected a fine tombstone at his early death. However Santan Burials do not include 3 burials of unknown mariners - there was one sailor in 1834 - the only multiple burials would be in Jan/Feb 1811, when Charles Crebbin was vicar, when 4 bodies from the Brig 'Bess', wrecked 4 January, came ashore but were buried over a period of 4 weeks, so it could be that the story is apocryphal or exaggerated.]
However, as a contrast to this penurious vicar, was his successor, the Rev. Samuel Gelling. He was a most hospitable, kindly, and simple old man. and also a great Hebraist. Manifold were the stories told about him. It is said that he once started for London and forgot his razor. His sister went after him to Douglas, and, rushing to the end of the Red Pier, just as the steamer was leaving port, exclaimed : " Heres your razor, Sammy." The Vicars feelings can be better imagined than described. When he got to London, he tried to shave himself by the light of the gas lamp in the street. The light went out when he was only half through this operation, with the consequence that during that whole day an excellent, well apparelled clergyman appeared in the streets of London half shaved.
A comical trick was once played upon Mr Gelling by Mr Charlie Geneste. The barrel organ in the church had a secular and a sacred barrel, the sacred barrel beginning with the " Old Hundredth," and the secular one with the "College Hornpipe." Mr Geneste changed the barrels, and on one Sunday morning, when the parson gave out the "Old Hundredth," he was astonished to hear the " Ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ra, ra," of the College Hornpipe. Great was the consternation of the parson and clerk at the supposed mishap. This was evidently an "organic" defect!
Archdeacon Moore was a. parson of the old school, and very quaint in his ways and manners. He, when reading the lessons in church, would often comment very pointedly on the subject of the lesson he was reading. At family prayers, also, in reading a portion of Scripture previous to the prayers, he always made remarks on the subject as he went along. One day, whilst on a visit to Kentraugh ( the residence of the Gawne family), Mrs Gawne requested him to read prayers. The Archdeacon elected to read the narrative in the Gospels where Herodias danced so gracefully before her father, Herod, that he promised to give her whatever she asked, even to the half of his kingdom. She asked for the head of John the Baptist. Having reached this part of the narrative, the Archdeacon paused, and, with a serious face, said, quaintly, " I should have thought she would have asked for a new frock." A broad grin passed over the faces of the servants.
Another clergyman, who was much addicted to thinking aloud, once remarked, when the offertory sentence,
" Half of my goods I give to the poor," was read out:
" Dear me, dear me, that is rather too much."
Parson Drury, for many years Vicar of Braddan, and a splendid type of the earnest clergyman, is credited with the following : He was listening to a man of a scientific turn, who was impugning the credibility of the Bible. " Now, for a whale to have swallowed Jonah ! Ha, ha, ha! Why, it is a fact that a whale can swallow a herring, but nothing larger." " My friend, if the Book had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, I should believe it," replied the Vicar. What wonderful faith is here shown.
This reminds me of another story, which, though I cannot claim for it that it is a "Manx yarn," is decidedly good : A certain Dean, while delivering a lecture, pointed out to his hearers one great distinction between human beings and the lower animals, which ha said consisted in the capacity for progress. " Man," said the Dean, " is a progressive being, other creatures are stationary. Think, for instance, of the ass! Always and everywhere it is the same creature, and there never was a more perfect ass than you see at the present moment!"
Everyone knows the old saying that "doctors thrive by other folks illnesses, lawyers by their misfortunes, and parsons by their sins." A Manxman was once giving utterance to the truism that there was some good in everybody. A clergyman present asked : " What of Satan?" O Hush, hush, pazon ! " was the answer. "Doesnt he give you the very coat thats on your back ? Isa a blessing hes in, for the like of you more than other people."
Another old saying obtains currency in the Island in the following form : A Manx Vicar was asked to pray for rain. He hummed and hawed, and said : " Well, do you think its really worth ?at leastthat is, as long as the wind is at the present art ? " (viz., the East.).
Parson Maddrell, Vicar of Lezayre, was for parsimony a very proverb. A small boy was paying him an account on behalf of his parents, and there was a halfpenny too little. It might have been expected that the Vicar would have let the halfpenny go, but no" Thou art short, little boy," said the old man. This expression came to be used in alluding to a vain attempt to get rebate or discount from a miser.
Parson Maddrell had no compunction about putting in his hay or corn on a Sunday. He was once asked why he could not trust in Providence ? He said : " Not in things like weather ; if anything it was tempting Providence to let the day pass."
A country Vicar, painfully covetous and a thorough going teetotaller, farmed his glebe, and, of course, kept cows. One of the cows fell sick, and a " wise man " from Kirk Maughold was called in to look at the cow. The case was diagnosed by the "wise man," and the following talk occurred : Vicar : " Well, what do you think of her ?"
Wise Man : "Aw, well, youll lose the cow."
" Aw, I hope not. Isnt there anything you could da for her ? Its a pity to lose the cow, man."
" Well, I couldif its could, you mean. Yes, I could But my could is no use, when your wouldnt is agen it".
" And what is it, for all ?"
" Well, theres a thingone thingand its the only thing that would save the cow. But then, its no use talkin, iss like."
"But what is it, for all?"
" Aw, well, it is warm ale!" ("Warm ale" is acccurted by " wise men", and others of that ilk, to be a sovereign remedy for vaccine ailments).
A frightful struggle ensued between principle and interest, and then the vicar spoke : " Aw, well, Maithias, its only a cow ; its not a body, not a human being, at all. You had best get the ale, Matthias."
Teetotalism has become practically an article of belief in the Dissenting chapels of the Island, but it is not so much insisted upon it in Church life, and this Vicar scarcely chose the best method of advocating his principles. He used to stop any child he met on the road, with a. basket coming from a shop. He would ask : " Whats in your basket, little girl ? Let me see?
Have you got a bottle in the basket? " (Then a deliberate look into the basket., and the discovery of the bottle!) Aw, no, little girl, its not vinegar thats in the bottle, at all. Dont you tell me. a lie ! Nor your father, nor mother thats teaching you. Tell thorn I saw it!"
A certain odd character, residing in Peel, once sent a message up to the Vicars house, pleading that. he was in dire poverty, and asking for a bundle of straw to make a bed of. The Vicar, however, refused to send it him. Shortly afterwards he called at the Vicars house himself, and after being ushered into the presence of the Vicar, asked him to teach him the Lords Prayer. The Vicar, suspecting some unpleasant rub from the mans satirical tongue, unwillingly complied, and began : "Our Father which art in heaven." "And what do you mean by our Father ? Explain it to me." The Vicar explained that God was the Father of allof both himself and the man. " Aw ! Then were brothers, are we ? " " Yes, " replied the Vicar. " Aw ! Thats it, is it ? And a; nice brother you are ! You wont. even give your brother a bundle of straw. Im ashamed to have such a brother." The man got his straw.
I heard a story, which. is very good if true, concerning a hard-up Vicar of Lonan who once sent his parish clerk and servant-of all-work to a certain Douglas shoemaker called Paul Skillicorn, with a pair of the Vicars boots to be mended. The clerk, however, was late when he returned on Saturday night, and did not. see his master till service time on the Sunday morning. For his sermon the Vicar took as his text : " Owe no man anything," and during a very learned and practical discourse, he exclaimed :
" What did Paul say ? What did Paul say ?" The clerk stood up and said : " Please, sir, Paul said he would not sole your shoes, until he had been paid for the last pair he mended."
This reminds me of a story which I heard, in which a certain clergyman entrusted his boots for repairs to the village cobbler, who promised to have them done by the end of the week. When Saturday night came, however, the boots were not finished ; in fact they had not been touched. On the Sunday morning the cobbler, anxious to appear pious even if he did not keep his promises, decided to go to church, and, seeing that the clergymans boots were cleaner and more respectable than his own, he put them on. On his way to the church, who should he meet but the clergyman himself. "Have you finished my boots ?" enquired the parson. " No," replied the cobbler, " but they are on the road."
Parson Hutton, a Vicar of Lezayre, tells the following. He had just been appointed to a living in England, and was paying a round of farewell calls. At a small farm house the good wife was seemingly sorry to lose him.
" Im sorry you are goin, though," she said.
" That is very kind, Mrs Kelly. At the same time, I think you have not exhibited much appreciation of me, by coming to church, for example," he said.
" Church ? Aw, no. But still Im sorry. I remember six Vicars, and every one of them worse than the one before him. Iss like itll be the same way with the next man. we get."
Here is another form of the same story. There was an old woman in Dalby who was never satisfied with her preachers. One of them was leaving, and he called to say "Good-bye." " Well, good-bye to you," she said, " an I hope the Lord will send us a better man. in your place." However, a week afterwards the new clergyman called to see her. "Well, I hope youre a good man, she said to him, " but theres none so good that comes as them that goes!" " But," suddenly brightening up, " the Lord never sends a good thing away without putting something better in its place!"
Parson C- - had an insatiable appetite for parish gossip, and spent most of his time in gathering and disseminating " newess." He had as parish clerk an old man named "Billy Awken", who took snuff with a horn spoon, and instead of " Amen, " said "Awken", after the prayers. Billy was, during the week, the parsons manservant on the glebe. One morning Billy was to plough a field along by the road, and for the first furrow, the parson stood as a mark to guide Billy, from the top hedge to the bottom. A neighbour came by, the Parson began quizzing for gossip, forgetting that he stood as a mark, and moving now a pace or two, now standing, . and again taking, unconsciously, a few steps. The ploughman all the time ploughed steadily for his mark. The furrow turned out to be part of an irregularvery irregularpolygon .
Rev William Drury
Parson Drury was also fond of gossip. One day be had arranged to take the Sunday evening service at old St. Matthews Church in Douglas. The parsons man Tom accompanied him, and had orders not to let his master stay more than five minutes in conversation with any person he met on the road. On the way they met the Douglas incumbent, who was taking the service at Braddan. Before they had time for more than salutations, as it seemed, the Parsons man prodded his stick into the ribs of the Parsons pony, and said " Times; up !" As the parson stopped to chat with every acquaintance he met, it was only by this method that Tom could hope to produce him in time for service.
In contradiction to the implicit faith shown in my previous story of Parson Drury, is a tale concerning a certain Manx Archdeacon. He was crossing to Liverpool one day. On the passage the captain gave orders to batten down the hatches, and make all ready for worse weather.
":Is there any danger, Captain Quayle?" asked the Archdeacon.
" There is always danger at sea, sir," said the captain. "But we can put confidence in your skill and experience, I hope?"
" It looks bad enough for us to put our trust in the Almighty, in this case, sir."
" God forbid, Captain Quayle! Surely its not going to be so bad as that, " said the Archdeacon.
On another bad passage, the Archdeacon asked Capt. Quayle if there was any danger. The Captain replied : "Sir, if it gets any worse, we shall all be in Heaven in a few minutes."
" God forbid !" exclaimed the Archdeacon.
I have another story related of Archdeacon Moore. On a certain prize-giving day at King Williams college, he addressed the boys, the collector of these anecdotes being amongst their number, and the venerable gentleman commenced in the following unconsciously amusing manner. Putting his hand through his hair, and gently scratching, as if in doubt, he said : " As I came over the mountain this morning, something got into my head, but I cant get it out." The boys saw the point of the joke, and to this day it causes mirth amongst them.
Alexander Gelling, Vicar of Arbory, was a remarkable man, very witty and a good preacher. On one occasion a revival party were crossing the mountains to rouse the people of Dalby to a religious revival. Mr Gelling met them at the Round Table. They were singing, " Were on the road to Glory." " Indeed, I think youre on the road to Dalby," he said.
The Manx clergy, in these days, wore the black gown in the pulpit. As an example of their ways, Mr Gelling, on one occasion, the day being hot and himself perspiring freely, after putting on his black gown, used his surplice to mop the perspiration off his brow before going into the pulpit.
Apropos of revivals, the following is said to have occurred at the Mission Roam at Peel, in the decade when Church "missions " (viz. revivals) were in vogue. The unctional curate fired off a crude Moody and Sankey discourse, and at the end came the usual juggle ;
" Now those of you who wish to go to Heaven when you die, stand up !" All stood up, all, except a fisherman who had come in late, a bit the worse for liquor, and had been shown up to a vacant place on a front rent. He had, in fact, dozed off to sleep. The sight of the people standing up stirred him, half-awake. The curates next " gag " was:
" Now then, those of you who wish to go to hl, stand up!"
The fisherman caught the last words, and jumped to his feet. There was a laugh, clearly at the nautical mans expense. But he turned the laugh from himself to the curate:
O I dont know what were voting on, Mr D, but, anyway, you and me is in the minority!"
A certain eccentric Northside vicar earned the soubriquet of " Old Fine Day." He had strong opinions of the conduct of some of his parishioners ; but still would never pass anyone in the road without a word of salutation. He had adopted the fixed formula, " Fine Day," to meet every case. He walked past, looking straight before him, and just as he got abreast of the person, fired off " Fine Day," indifferent whether they answered or not. As every day didnt happen to be fine, " Fine Day " was occasionally malapropos. All the same, they were welcome to take it or leave it.
A highly religious, but most unamiable, Manx vicar had an unsympathetic wife, who was religious enough, too, in her way, and very sarcastic. In the nearest approach he ever made to moods of sentiment, he used to stand looking at a picture, and sing hymns. This exasperated his wife to madness, and she would say : " I wish, Matthias, the Lord would give you grace to see the sort of face youre making on yourself."
He would bear this sort of thing with Job-like patience, up to a point. Beyond that point he could hold his peace no longer, and would break out : " Shes mocking me ! Yes, mocking me. But where will the mockers go ? Where will their portion be ? Aw, aye, where?"
The late Rev T. E. Brown had a droll experience with a rural vicar. He was on his way to Ramsey, but, getting caught in a rain storm, he turned aside to stay the storm out at the house of a clergyman whom his father had helped to get ordained some thirty years before. Of course, there was hospitality. Mr Brown was persuaded to stay the night. In the meantime, while his clothes were being dried, the old man lent him a suitthe garb of an ill-shaped, old man , for the nonce on a very well-shaped young man The old vicar was going in the evening to a teetotal meeting, and Mr Brown, rather glad of such a diversion, went with him. Certainly he was something of a scarecrow, in his borrowed clothes. On the way to the meeting they called at a principal parishioners house, and Mr Brown. was introduced thus (first a stage whisper between vicar and host) : " A son of old Parson Browns, of Kirk Braddan. Hmthey were left middling badly offthe youngest, Tom."A look round, and, " Come in, come in, Tom
Of course, when Mr Brown came in, his frightful scare-crow aspect seemed to certainly comport with the circumstances of his family.
Mr Parsons, Chaplain of St. Marys, Castletown, was a lovable and much beloved man:. He was indulgent to a faultto his children, his parishioners, and especially to the poor.
At the Wednesday evening service at the church, the congregation generally consisted mainly of old women. He used to address them in the homeliest way. He would say : " Now, you old women, you are very old, you know ; and in a few years all will be over. You suffer a great deal, I know you do. This is a very poor life. " The old creature would groan in sympathy. He practically fed them. He was a big man, with a big, loving hearthis chief delight to make everybody he came into contact with the happier for the meeting. It was commonly reported that he had stones scattered over his globe fields to give him a pretence for employing old people to pick them off, and have the satisfaction of thinking they really earned what he gave them as wages.
One day, in a cottage in Queen Street, he was talking to an old woman in this way : " Well, Betty, its a poor life at best, and will soon be over. Yea must be getting ready you know. We must all be getting ready." Before going out he noticed a fitch of bacon on the laths. " Thats a fine fitch of bacon, Betty. Now, mind you say your prayers, and mind you send me a slice of that fitch for my breakfast tomorrow. " The old woman was only too delighted to do so, and he wanted to give her the pleasure of doing something for the man she loved so much.
Bucketh, his clerk, was a somewhat singular official. He bore a wand of office, and used to tap on the shoulder any children who were not behaving themselves well in church. One Sunday he saw a young ensign of the garrison behaving very badly, staring, laughing, and talking during the service. Buckett accordingly tapped him with his wand. The ensign was furious, and waited for Mr Parsons on the Parade after service, and demanded reparation for the indignity. Mr Parsons told him that his conduct was responsible for the indignity, and that reparation was out of the question. " Your cloth protects you, sir, " said the enraged officer. " Otherwise F" said Mr Parsons " Otherwise I should thrash. you, sir." " Never mind the cloth, young man, never mind the cloth," said the Chaplain. The valour of the spark was obliged to give way to its better part; the discretion of the dog with his tail between his legs.
Mr Parsons, in the old way, had no compunction about reproving people who were ill-behaved at divine service. A pretty widow, resident in Castletown, carried on desperate flirtations with the officers of the garrison, and in church there was usually some ogling in evidence between this lady and her admirers. One Sunday, during the sermon, this was going on, and the frivolity grew rather too gratuitous for decency. Mr Parsons deliberately stopped in his discourse, turned towards the ladys pew, and said sternly : " Like as a jewel of gold in a swines snout ; so is a fair woman without discretion." Having administered this rebuke, he resumed his discourse.
There is a story, of which the locality is undiscoverable, of an old Manx Vicar who wished to influence by love and gentleness, that he drove his neighbours pigs out of his garden with a silk pocket handkerchief, saying : " Go out, little dears ; go out, little dears." Mr Parsons was certainly not of this type, for he could be a muscular Christian on occasion, though all muscular Christians were not in other respects like Mr Parsons
One of the other sort, who lived within the horizon of Castletown, happened to be dining one night with the officers of the detachment, at their mess dinner. Much wine was drunk during the evening, and over an argument the parson and an officer came to blows . Before the battle, the parson, with much deliberation, took off his clerical coat, saying : " Remain there, dignity, while I convince this blockhead of his error." The laughter provoked by this speech led the company to interfere and restore peace.
The Rev John Howard, Vicar of Onchan, was also extremely militant in his manner, and his name has become a proverb in the Island for muscular Christianity. If he saw two boys fighting in the street, he would, if time permitted, watch the fight with interest, and would reward the victor with a coin and a pat of approval , and he was often sent for by a neighbouring publican to quell any row of exceptional obstinacy that took place on his premises. Many stories are told of his pugilistic prowess. At a certain vestry meeting, over which he presided, it is said, he considered himself insulted by one of the principal parishoners, a large farmer, and the meeting was adjourned while the Vicar and parishioner settled the matter by appeal to force majure.
" A short time after a certain club dinner," writes a correspondent of mine, " I met the Rev. John Howard. I said, You had a grand spread the other day at the club and you made a grand speech. Yes, he said, and I advised them to take no more drink, and go home like decent fellows. Instead of this, a lot of them got into Cannons and commenced to fight. I was at home, enjoying my pipe when some fellows came to the Vicarage and said, Vicar, there is a dreadful fight going on in Miggle-a-Cannons.
Stop, I said, till I get my shoes on. Dont go out, my wife said, you may get hurt. Hurt, I said, I should like to see the man in the parish that could hurt me. Man, what a bit of fun I had. I took one after another, and played ninepins with them, and sent them spinning out. When I got orutside, a big fellow said, It is well for you, Parson Howard, that you wear a black coat, for we wouldnt like to strike a parson, and it is your coat that saves you. It will not save you long, I said, and I took off my coat and gave him the best hiding he ever got in his life, and I thought I had put in a goad days work."
The ruling passion seemed to be strong in Mr Howard up to his old age. More than thirty years after this incident, I heard him say in the Douglas Licensing Court, Now, Senogles, if you ever have a row that you cannot quell, send down to the Vicarage, and I will soon be there, and make short work of it, at the same time pulling up his coat sleeve to show his muscle.
Parson Duggan, of Arbory, was an eccentric, good-humoured man, charitable to a degree, yet practical ; noted for his quaintness of speech, and his lovable nature, and above all, for being fond of a good dinner. It is related of this quaint ecclesiastic that he was often present at clerical meetings with the late Dr. Carpenter, of St. Barnabas, Douglas. The Doctor was celebrated for long speeches, and one day, Parson Duggan pulled his coat~tails as a sign that he should desist. The eloquent preacher, with a voice like a silver bell, turned and smilingly said : " I suppose, Mr Duggan, that you are anxious for me to stop, lest the ducks at home should be getting cold."
Parson Duggan was also a lover of punctuality, and it is said that when he lay on his bed, in his last illness, he gave strict orders that everything in connection with his interment should be done punctually. He was so often kept waiting for funerals himself, that he was determined that nobody should be kept waiting for his.
A very old clerical story survives from what was probably the lowest period of the diocese. It was based on an idea that holy orders were purchasable, or, at least, that money availed somewhat in the matter. A young man, a candidate for orders, had ridden to Bishopscourt on an old grey mare to be examined by the Bishop. Being unable to answer a question, he silently handed the Bishop a pound note, and so on every time he found the question beyond him. When he had paid out twenty notes in this way, the Bishop expressed himself satisfied, and fixed the date of the ordination. The young man, in telling the story, added that for another twenty he could have got the old mare ordained.
Apropos of ordinations and entrance into Holy Orders, a good story goes concerning an examination for Holy Orders held many years ago in the Island. A diminutive candidate was doing very badly in his examination. The Archdeacon wished to give him a chance in his Scripture, viva vocet, and tried him with Zacchsatus : Archdeactn : " What sort of person was he ?" Candidate : " A little man."
Arhdeacon- : " What do you associate with that circumstance, Mr .
Candidate : " I am so myself, sir."
Archdeacon: " Yes ; but I mean, where was he?"
Candidate (promptly) : " Oh, up a tree, sir."
Archdeacon (grimly) : " Hm ; and with that circumstance what do you associate ?"
Candidate : " Ah well, at the present moment "(tries to smile a most untimely smile, the Archdeacon being credited with humour himself).
Archdeacon (gravely) : " What was said to him, then, do you remember that?"
Candidate : " Oh.! I meanahm "(suddenly with alacrrity)" friend go up higher!"
Archdeacon (suppressing the very suspicion of a smile):
" No, no, Mr. ----! What do you usually associate with being up a tree?"
Archdeacon : "In an examination, for example ?"
Candidate (blankly mute).
Archdeacon : "In future, you will perhaps associate it with going down again. That will do, Mr. .----."
A clerical meeting was being held at Peel Vicarage, and, aropos, the following was beard in the street : A : " Whass up ? Whass the pazons doin at the Vicars to-day ?"
B : " Aw, a clerical meetin ; theyve reglar times for havin them."
A : "What are they meetin for ?"
B "Aw, to swap sermnns."
A : "Aye! The Vicar get rubbidget enough anyway if thass the way he gets it."
As a sample of home-made logic, 1t me give the following : The Vicar of German saw old John Kelly at his window-table reading the Bible.
" What are you doing, John ?"
" Prophesyin, prophesyin."
A glance showed thi the Bile was open at Jeremiah. " Ah, reading the Prophets, I suppose ?"
" No ; prophesyin."
" How do you des it then, John ?"
"The same way you preach, sir. Readin a sermon is preachin, isnt it? Well, readin the Prophets is prophesyin , iss like, the same?"
Let me finish my stories of tli clergy by giving the only love tale in my whole collection. A short time ago a young, nervous, plain-looking curate was preaching eloquently on the great virtue of charity, which " covereth a multitnde of sims. " He finished up his setrmoi thins : " Dear friends,I implore each of you to put to himself or herself this vital question : Am I in love ?; " Then, after a pause, he turned to the right transept, and queried : "Am I in love ?" Then, turning to the left transept, he asked the same question : "Am I in love ?" Then he looked down the nave, and once more repeated, "Am I in love and charity with all men ?" The ladies hid their smiles behind their handkerchiefs, and a vury audible titter wentt through the congregation.
An important part of a cler:gymana duties is the officiating at births, marriages, and deaths, and of marriages, and the difficulties occasionally experienced bythe clergyman in the conduct of those interesting cere~ monies, many stories are told. The genial Vicar of Kirk Bradd:an once had an awkward: experience at a wedding. He read from the order of service : " I, Amelia Jane, take thee, John Edward, to be my wedded husband."
" I will," said Amelia Jane ; and they went on : The Vicar : No, no, say the words after me. "
Amelia Jane : I, Amelia Jane The Vicar : Take thee, John Edward, to be my wedded husband.
Amelia Janet : I will.
The Vicar : Oh dear, not ! Dont say " I will " ; repeat all my words after me. Now, try again. " I, Amelia Jane, take thee, John Edward, to be my wedded husband."
Amelia Jane : I, Amelia ,Jane, take thee, John. Edward, to be my wedded husband.
The Vicar : To have and to hold.
Amelia Jane : I will.
The Vicar : Not, not. Youve got " I will " on the brain. Don't say " I will " at all. Repeat all the words till Ive finished.
After several attempts with " I will " cropping up again and again, they got to the last words : " And thereto I give thee my troth." Here the bride heaved a sigh, and said:
" Oh dear ! I cant say any more. " After a rest, however, she was persuaded to try again, and the difficult knot was finally tied.
An awkward groom once brought his: bride to the altar in a country parish, but proved so stupid, or so stage-struck, that he could not be induced to repeat the responses after the parson.
The parson said at last, wtih some severity : " My good man, I really cannot marry you, unless you do as you are told."
The man still remained mute. Then the bride intervened, with a tone of savoir faire : " Go off, you toot ! Say it after himthe same as if you war mockin him."
This had the desired effect.
On another occasion, it was the woman who could not be induced to speak. The parson remonstrated with her, and got this answer : "Your father, the oul Vicar, married me twice before ; an he wasn askin. me any of them imprent queshtins !"
Charles M~ u-as the victim of a practical joke at the hands of a bachelor friend, who was acting as best man at his wedding. He went to spend the evening with George P~-- (his best man) and some other bachelor friends, the day before the wedding. George opened the ball as follows : -~
"Charlie, you have some questions to answer to-morrow; do you know them ?"
" No ; havent an idea. Its in the Prayer Book, isnt it?"
" Oh, yes," and George got at Prayer Book, opened it at the baptismal service, and proceeded : " Only three answers, you know. Repeat them seven times, and youll be mind of them. " I renounce them all ; That is my desire ; By Gods help so I will. Thats the lot."
Charlie repeated the answers seven times, and had them off. Next day, in church, in answer to the question, " Charles, wilt thou have this woman tot be thy wedded wife ?" he said, " I renounce them all ! " There was consternation, and the Vicar said, gravely : " Mr M, have you come here to disappoint your bride ?" Charlie said at once, " That is my desire." Thet Vicar proceeded, with a severe look, " Do you intend to make a farce of the marriage service, Mr M ?" "By Gods help, so I will," said Charlie. Then, of course, the Vicar comprehended in what part of the Prayer Book Charlie was wandering, and manfully piloted him through the service, without giving a chance for another hitch.
The average Manxman has the bump of tradition for old customs and institutions well developed in him, and thus it happens that very frequently Nonconformist brides and bridegrooms resident in Douglas and the neighbourhood celebrate what is considered by many folk to be lifes most important event at Kirk Braddan. It must have been a man of a very unusual temperament who once had the following dialogue with a friend on the subject of his approaching marriage : Friend : " Where are you going to get married , at the church ?"
Tom : " Not a bit of me ; no fears !"
Friend : " the chapel ?"
Tom : " Ot t:F it of me ; no fears!"
Friend : " But you must go to one or the ;ai
Tom.: "Not a bit of me; no fears!"
Friend : " But what, then " -
Tom : " Ill just go down. to Masther LaMothe (the Registrar for Ramsey) and get a slick of matrimony pur on us ; and itll be all right ; and Ill not go in my Sunday cloets, neither."
Readers will note the quaint enpression, " a slick of matrimony." It may be remarked that if it was man of unusual temperament who refused to be wed in a religious building, it must have been. a woman of a still more unusual temperament (and the feminine partner has generally the most to say in matters of this kind) who would consent to such a procedure.
Speaking of marriages, I once heard of a Vicar who had to officiate at a wedding, and was entrusted with the selection of appropriate hymns, as the bride was a Sunday School teacher. One of the two chosen began :
" This day is gone beyond recall," and the other was : " Oh for a manoh ! for a manoh !for a mansion in the skies!"
While on the subject of the selection of hymns, there is a story of a churchwarden who objected to the two lines of the hymn beginning :
" Oh, may my heart in tune be found
Like Davids harp of solemn sound,"
on the ground that " heart- " and " harp " sounded too much alike. He suggested instead the lines :
" Oh, may my heart chime true within,
Like Davids solemn violin."
The sexton., who hppened to hear the conversation, laughed out : " How d this go :
" Oh, may my heart go diddle, diddle,
Like good old Davids solemn fiddle"?
Once in a country church, during the reading of the lesson, a mongrel sheep dog wandered into the building and trotted quietly up the aisle. The reader altered the lesson to suit the occasion, reading out : " And Jonathan said unto David : Put that dog out."
A good story goes of a servant in Ballaugh Rectory who once asked her master "how it was that Solomon was allowed to have seven hundred wives, not to mention the three hundred other ladies ?" The Rector explained, telling her the manners and customs of Solomons times were very different to those of the present day . " Dear me, " she exclaimed, " what privileges those early Christians had, to be sure!"
A Vicar was once talking to a woman about the absurdity of her husband taking so many different sorts of quack medicines. " Hes killing himself with these drugs, he said.
" Aw, yiss ! Im praying against what hes doin every time I come to church."
" Aw, yiss, in the Litany . . against false doctorin, heresy, and schism."
About thirty years ago, as a grave was being dug in Kirk Lonan, a man entered the graveyard and thus accosted the grave digger : " Jimmy, who are thou opening the grave for ?" " For Tommy Crooky (a lame man who had just died)" " Well, isa my ground, and I wont allow it . . . so come out!"
,, Aw, no, bhoy ! the parsn gave the ordhers."
" No matther !"
" Aw, well, he said Tommy was a lone man and thyself a lone man ; none to follow either of you ; and the grave big enough for you both. When you both get lying here you wont quarrel much, iss like."
" No matther ! Hes not goin in my grave ; nut in the same grave with me."
" But what odds, when youre dead, man?"
" Iss next the odds when Im dead ; isa when the ressurection comes ! When the trumpet sounds, thou see, Tommy will be lying undher me. Well, Tommy will jus give me a shove, and clear off with one of my good legs, and leave me his crooky one. Hes sleechy enough for it. Aw, no, bhoy, hes not goin in the same grave with me. Thoull hey to foin some other grave."
When relating yarns about the clergy, there are other important clerical functionaries who must not be overlooked. What, for instance, would the Vicar of a parish be in many cases without his churchwardens, and his parish clerk ? The parish clerk was formerly a more important functionary than now-a-days. Not unlike the Scottish beadle, as a class, they were noted for their quaint humour ; they were shrewd observers of what went on in the parish, and very ready to express opinion, particularly in church matters. The church service was commonly a duet between parson and clerk. The clerk gave out the Psalms and Hymns, and, invariably led the singing. At Oiel Verreys (Christmas Eve services), the custom was to sing carvals (carols) after the service proper had closed. This was kept up till very late, often till after midnight. The clerk was master of the proceedings, which were not by any means orderly, the young men coming to church provided with peas to throw about.
A family named Taggart produced many parish clerks;, three brothers being clerks at one time, viz., Henry, at Santon ; Samuel, at St. Mathews ; and " Webber " at Malew. When " Webber " was first a candidate for the Malew clerkship, he was not elected. He sulked terribly, and took to his bedfor ten years, the story goes. He was elected clerk at the next vacancy, however. He magnified his office, and used to say : " Me and my brothers is all in clerical situations."
Probably very few people; outside the Isle of Man know what; is meant by the "smoke penny " or " ping-jaash." Every hut or hovel that possessed a chimney, no matter how primitive, was obliged to pay this toll, and for a long time, in the case of certain elections, a mans right to vote or not was decided on the point of his chimney. By the old law, now a dead letter, the parish clerk can claim this toll and a groat (4d.) for each plough used in his parish as perquisites. A story is told of an inhabitant of a hillside cottage, not many years ago, who had erected for himself an amateur chinmey, which, however, absolutely refused to perform its functions;. When the clerk called on him for his "peony," he found the hut full of smoke. "What" said the cottager, " you want my li'l peeny ? Quat for ?" " Because of your chimney, for the smoke to got up". "Well, put the smoke up the chimney, an yell get yer peony."
There is also considerable dignity attached to the office of churchwarden. Some years ago, a small farmer and market gardener in Rushen, was, rather to his surprise, elected churchwaiden. He was proud of the dignity, and, as one of its functions was to " lift " the collection on Sundays, he practised for this duty by holding out a hoe to the cabbages in the rows of his garden. Not only that, but as there is nothing like; criticism, to secure style, he had some neighbours to look on while he went up and down the rows.
Kirk Bride choir, now famous as containing some of the best church singers in the North of the Island, consisted in the old times, as did many another choir, of a clarionet and a bass fiddle. The "clarnett " acted as conductor, the bass being rather vague and languida sluggish, but full stream. The "clarnet," in, a standing position, indicated the lights and shades of the tune, by swayings of his body, more or less vigorous as occasion demanded. For crescendo he stamped his; foot. For diminuendo he took the clarionet from his lips to say : " Lessh bass, Bill, bhoy ! lesh bass, la!"
In the days of old Baldwin Chapel, before the luxury of the harmonium was introduced, a well-known old man used tot "raise the tunes" every Sunday afternoon and evening, with great successat least, so he thought - One frosty Sabbath morning, however, he was apparently affected by the cold, and when; he reached the second line of the hymn , he went wrong. Just at that moment, his son entered. the chapel, and the old man, in despair, shouted out to him : " Thee; catch it., Billy. Its gone from me. Try, bhoy, to pura tune on the hymn.."
[Chapter 4 continued in next section]