[From Manx Yarns, 1905]
" A Sea-kings daughter came over the sea."
A chapter in my little book may be fittingly devoted to the chronicling of incidents interesting and amusing, connected with that great event in the history of our little Island, far surpassing and eclipsing all of them, the surprise visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen on the 24th and 25th of August, 1902, the memory of which will always be cherished in the hearts of Manx people. The incidents I am about to relate may many of them be familiar enough at the present time, but as years roll on, they must inevitably be forgotten by most people, and for that reason I aim at providing a lasting memorial of this event, so great. and glorious in our national history.
Manxmen , as a rule, are insular in their thoughts, and concern themselves but little in the remarkable and portentous events, that happen in the great world beyond. Wars, or rumours of wars ; industrial strife, and all the terrible contests between capital and labour ; volcanoes, cyclones, tidal waves, and other awesome manifestations of nature ; tragedies , and, indeed, almost anything at all out of the "trivial round, the common. task," do not visit them in their tranquil Island home, and the occurrence of such things in other countries, or the " adjacent isles " either, is not of much interest to them. Even the most wonderful sight the young century has yet seen, the coronation of the King of Great Britain; and all its dominions beyond the seas, with all its magnificent ceremonial, and its opening of a new epoch in the Empires history, so to speak, did not arouse the enthusiasm of the sons of Mona to any great extent. But when the central figure and chief personage in that great celebration, King Edward himself, graciously condescended to visit our shores, Manxmens loyalty burst forth from all bounds, and the Island went almost crazy in its enthusiasm. And the utter simplicity of the visit made it all the grander in their eyes.
The inhabitants of Mona could scarcely believe their eyes when, on August 24th, 1902, the Royal yacht, which it was known was cruising round the British coast, but which it was never imagined would call at Mona, was seen to anchor in Douglas Bay, on that beautiful Sunday evening, having on board our beloved King and Queen, the Princess Victoria, and a distinguished suite. After remaining in the Bay for a short time, the Royal yacht, the " Victoria and Albert," with its two attendants, an ironclad. cruiser and a destroyer, sailed off for Ramsey. There illuminations and other signs of great rejoicing greeted the squadron.
Ramsey, it may be observed, was thus doubly honoured, for, though this visit was the first occasion on which a King of England set foot on Manx soil, we possess records which chronicle that close upon sixty years ago, in September, 1847, a yacht having on. board our much-beloved and greatly-lamented Queen Victoria, the late Prince Consort, our present King (then a boy of nearly seven years old), and the Princess Royal, who subsequently became the Empress Frederick, anchored in Ramsey Bay. Only the Prince Consort, however, landed, and, accompanied by Mr Secretary Anson, Captain Gordon, and the village hairdresser, walked up Ballure Glen, upon which route now stands the Albert Tower, erected to commemorate the event. After admiring the beauty of the surrounding scenery, the Prince returned to the yacht Considerable disappointment was felt in the Island on. that occasion because the then Governor of the Island, the Hon. Charles Hope, who lived in Castletown, did not arrive at Ramsey to welcome the Royal visitors until the yacht was seen rounding Maughold Head, and Royalty had left the Island for the next fifty years.
However, let us pass on to the more recent Royal visit. When the Royal party landed on the pier, banners and tokens of welcome were seen on all sides, and thousands of spectators showed their appreciation of such gracious condescension in an honest and open-hearted fashion, characteristic of Manxmen. The cheering was immense, and the strains of " God Save the King " fell loud upon the air. Fortunately, the surrounding country looked lovely in its robe of green ; the day itself was appropriately perfect, neither too hot nor too. cold, with brilliant sunshine, and a soft sou-westerly breeze blowing. Their Majesties, in. open carriages, drove through the crowded streets and highways, not with all the pomp and ceremony of mighty monarchs, lout in the form of quiet, unobtrusive, unostentatious private individuals, attended by scarcely any escort, but happy and content in being surrounded by loving and loyal subjects.
The then Acting-Governor, the late Sir James Gell, hurried to Ramsey, to welcome their Majesties to our shores, and as he was presented to the King and Queen of that great dominion which comprises over one sixth of the inhabitable globe, and upon which the sun never sets, His. Majesty graciously remarked : " It was so good of you to come so far to see me."
The Royal party was joined at Ramsey by the Acting-Governor, Mr A. W. Moore (Speaker of the House of Keys), Bishop Straton, Colonel Freeth, and officials from all parts of the Island, who accompanied their Majesties on the remainder of the drive to Peel. The Lord Bishop entertained their Majesties at Bishopscourt.
The members of their Majesties suite comprised the Right Hon. Austen Chamberlain, M.P., then Postmaster-General; Lord Knollys, the Kings private secretary ; Sir Francis H. Laking, the Kings physician; Capt. the Hon. Seymour # Fortescue, the Hon. Derek Keppel, and Capt. Ponsonby, equerries in waiting ; and the Portuguese ambassador, the Marquis de Sove~al. The commander of the yacht was the Hon. Hedworth Lambtom, formerly of H.M.S.. Powerful.
At Ramsey, soon after the departure of the Royal party, a rather peculiar incident took place, illustrating what was really the greatest charm of the visit, its superb simplicity. I happened to be talking to the Chief Constable of Ramsey, Inspector John Cannell, and a stranger drew near and joined us. I was congratulating the Inspector upon. the fact that everything in connection with the visit had gone off so well, when the stranger turned sharply round, and said : " Do you think so? We dont do things like this in London. When the King visits us there, we are orderly and respectful, and the King is guarded properly and carefully." " Yes," I replied, " but here such protection is not required, as our love and loyalty is sufficient guard." As the stranger left us, the Inspector asked : " Do you know to whom you were speaking ? Thats the Kings private detective."
That detective, by the bye, was a " dark horse " on other occasions, for it is stated that when the King was at Invergordon, Scotland, a few days after, the station master, seeing a suspicious-looking person looking through the Royal saloon, ordered him off in words more forcible than polite, and threatened him with all the penalties that Highland law and Highland prisons can impose. The stranger bore it all for some time, but at last he put his hand in his pocket and produced his Scotland Yard card. He was the chief of the detectives.
At Peel Castle, it is stated, the vigilant custodian ordered off an insignificant looking Oriental, who turned out to be the chief of the Hindoo servants ; and some difficulty was experienced by the Portuguese plenipotentiary, Marquis de Several, in being allowed to pass into the Royal carriage of the electric car that subsequently conveyed their Majesties back to Ramsey from Douglas. The Manx people were very jealous for their Kings person and safety, readers will observe.
The Royal party proceeded from Ramsey to Peel, and at Ballaugh a thoroughly Manx incident look place. The upward and downward trains between Ramsey and St. Johns pass there, and it so happened that just as the two trains came to a standstill in the station, word came that the Royal party was approaching the village. At once engine drivers, guards, station master, and passengers by both trains left the station in a body, rushed across several fields, and sat on the roadside till the Royal carriages passed by. The trains were left to take care of themselves!
" A cat may look at a King!" and when their Majesties were driving through Ballaugh, a tailless Manx pussy on a cottage wall was a most interested spectator. The Queen had heard about the famous Manx cats, and the object on the wall caused their Majesties some curiosity and amusement. So much so, that before the departure of the Royal party from the Island, instructions were given Messrs Alldritt Bros., of Ramsey, to send two of that species to Balmoral and two more to Buckingham Palace.
After paying a visit to Bishopscourt, and being photographed in its beautiful grounds, the journey was resumed. Nothing of moment happened on the way. At intervals along the roadside, and when threading the crooked little main street of Michael Village, the Royal party were lustily cheered. Just after leaving Michael a little country lad threw a sprig of white heather towards the Royal carriage but, failing in his object, he picked it up again. The King, who observed the incident, stopped the carriage, and took the flower from the little boy, remarking, " That will bring me luck."
It may he observed that this is not the first time that the rare bloom, of god omen, has smiled upon the Royal Family It did so when the late Emperor Frederick, then the Crown Prince of Prussia, was wooing the Empress Frederick, then the Princess Royal of England, at Balmoral. There was no manner of doubt in the hearts of the young people as to what they thought, but with each it was a case of " I dinna care to tell." One day they were out on the hills with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the " bow wooer " from Germany happened upon a little bit of white heather. He plucked it, offered it to the blushing Princess Royal, and within a few days their betrothal was announced.
Most of the Manx people had till then never seen the King, and the simple country folk never expected to behold merely a conventionally clad English gentleman. At Peel Hill, a number of quarrymen and country folks were gathered to notice His Majesty pass. They were intensely eager to see the King, and had made humble but very loyal arrangements to do him honour. The King came, passed, and drove on, but the country folks never raised a shout or doffed a hat or gave a signal of their appreciation. They stayed there, and when asked what they were looking for, they said they wanted to see the King. " The King has gone past," said some better-informed person. The country people were astonished, and admitted that they had missed His Majesty because they were looking for someone who wore a crown. They thought, apparently, that the Royal regalia would have been carried in front of the King, and he would have displayed his sword of State and his cap of maintenance, while the Koh-i-Noar would have blazed along the country lanes. The disappointed people hurried pell mell across the country to catch the Royal cortege at another point, and this time they were not disappointed.
Arrived at Peel, their Majesties forthwith proceeded to the stately pile that stands at the entrance to the harbour, and there, care being taken that no plebeian person should be allowed in the grounds while Royalty was viewing them, they were shown round by the famous custodian, the inimitable William Cashen. Cashen had the honour of telling His Majesty a story which convulsed him with laughter . He also recited for him the Manx version of the National Anthem. The dry humour of this old veteran was highly appreciated by His Majesty, who, during his stay in Peel Castle grounds, called the worthy custodian to one side and presented him with a sovereign. At Mr Cashens request their Majesties also signed their names in a little pocket book which he carried. The autographs and the sovereign have been framed by Mr Cashin as a proud memento of the most wonderful day in his life
Mr Cashen has recently had a small brass tablet placed in the grounds of the Castle, to commemorate the Royal visit, and it is regrettable that, in spite of all the suggested imposing and suitable memorials of the great occasion, this is, so far, the only tangible record.
At Peel Castle, luncheon, which had been prepared at the yacht and sent down by carriage, was partaken of, and there an interesting little incident took place. The King wore the bunch of white heather given him by the little boy on the road from Michael. His Majesty also produced from his pocket the card which accompanied the flower, wishing "Long life to the Lord and Lady of Man."
During the picnic in Peel Castle, the King requested the Custodian, who is an able Manx scholar, to speak a few words in Manx, as His Majesty had never heard the language. On this being done, His Majesty said " Thank you ; it. is a very soft language. Speak it in English." " May God bless our King and Queen abundantly, hoping they may be spared for many years tot rule over us, was the ready reply. The following are the words in Manx : " Dy bannee Joe nyn Roe as yn. Ven-rein dy palchey treishteil dy bee sparail son ymmodee bleea.ntyn dy reic harrish shin."
After luncheon, it is stated, the Queen perpetrated a very passable bon mot. The King invited the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Dr. Straton), who was one of the party, to smoke. His Lordship asked what the ladies would think of this, whereupon. the Queen said, " Oh, I will get you a light," and called her Indian servant. On the latter striking a match, Her Majesty remarked : " Oh, that is a light from the East."
From Peel the Royal carriage proceeded. on the pretty highroad to Douglas, and was then driven to Cronkbourne, just outside the town, which is the residence of Mrs. Moore, mother of the Speaker of the House of Keys, Mr A. W. Moore, who had previously, so soon as the Royal yacht was seen, in Douglas Bay, on Sunday evening, hurried down and been the first to welcome the King to Ellan Vannin. Here, in the beautiful drawing-room, tea was served. At Cronkbourne another gracious and characteristic incident is reported to have taken place. A member of the Kings suite, in an aside to His Majesty, endeavoured to persuade him to drive by the shortest route to the electric tramway station, so as to escape the dense crowds assembled in the streets and along the promenade. The King replied, in emphatic tones, " Drive me right through the town."
Right through the town the King and his following were driven, down Woodbourne and Bucks Roads, Prospect Hill, Victoria Street, and over the Promenade, eagerly followed by a tremendous and enthusiastic crowd. Several times the Royal carriage was nearly stopped. At the Government Buildings, it was expected by both crowd and officials that the carriage would halt, and the crowd gathered right across Prospect Hill, blocking the progress of the Royal carriage. Arrived at the tramway station, a tremendous crush resulted, and their Majesties narrowly escaped being actually hustled. They were hurried into the luxuriously appointed saloon car prepared for them as soon as possible, and departed, amidst vociferous cheers, for Ramsey, where the next morning they embarked on their yacht, and continued their cruise towards Scotland.
By this delightful surprise visit our gracious King and his beloved Consort have won the hearts, as well as the constitutional respect, of all Manxmen . To high and low in this Island His Majesty was kind and genial, and showed that cheery good nature and consideration for the feelings of others which has so endeared him to all his subjects. At this moment one dares assert that he is every day more and more loved and esteemed, and is far and away the most popular ruler in the wide world. The applause of his shouting subjects is no sham, but materially aids to strengthen the bulwark of loyal affection which surrounds our Monarchs. thronea throne based upon an empires will, firm-rooted, immovable. Long may he reign!
Thus after waiting upwards of fifty years, the loyal Manx people had their wishes fulfilled of seeing their Sovereign, and showing their loyalty to him. This Royal visit will always be a treasured memory to them. They longed to see their King of Man ; the Governor was only his representative, or King in Man.
Sir James Gell, the Acting-Governor, speaking to a Press representative a day or two later, remarked that. the only fear he felt during the Kings tour was that there might be some roughs in, the crowd who would cause unpleasantness. In this he was. favourably disappointed. As he was leaving Ramsey, the King laughingly said : " I have never been in such a crowd in my life." He also expressed his enjoyment of his visit.
Another very pleasing expression of appreciation took place ere the party left our shores. The Queen, before bidding good-bye to the Bishop of Man, expressed herself as follows : " I had no idea, my lord, that your Island was such a charmingly pretty place, and I hope soon to be able to see more of its charms."
Sir Francis Laking, the Kings physician, after putting searching climatological queries to the Speaker of the House of Keys, professed himself greatly impressed with the capabilities of the Island as a health resort. The learned doctor staled his intention to re-visit, the Island and satisfy himself on this point.
Shortly after the Kings departure, the Island received a pleasing reminiscence of the visit, the form of the following letter to the Acting-Governor : HM. Yacht Victoria and Albert,
August 24th, 1902.
Dear Sir,I am commanded by the King to express to you, on his own behalf, and on behalf of the Queen,their Majesties approval of the arrangements made by the authorities of the Isle of Man for their visit today.
Their Majesties highly appreciated the loyal welcome everywhere offered to them on this, the first occasion of their landing in Man, and greatly admired the beauty of the scenery through which they drove, the richness of the landscape, and the healthy appearance of the inhabitants.
I am further commanded to ask you to convey to the Bishop and to the Speaker of the House of Keys their Majesties thanks for the trouble which they took.
I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
Sir, James, two months later, also received the following letter :
" Buckingham Palace,
October 20th, 1902.
Dear Sir James Gell,I am commanded by the King to send you this engraving, signed by himself, to be hung in the Council Chamber with that of the late Queen, in commemoration of His Majestys visit to the Isle of Man. Yours Sincerely,
JOHN H. WARD,
The portrait has been hung in the Chamber of the Legislative Council, the official portion of the Legislature.
A still more gratifying taken of the Kings pleasant recollections of the Island was afforded in the conferring of honours upon several of Monas most prominent citizens. The Acting Governor, Sir James Gell, and the Speaker, Mr A. W. Moore, wore each offered a Commandership of the Royal Victorian Order, and the King, in recognising the services of the Chief Police Officials, gave Colonel Freeth, Chief Constable of the Island, a Membership, and the late Superintendent Boyd, Head Constable of Douglas, the Silver Medal of the Order. The Lord Bishop, whose guests their Majesties were at Bishopscourt, was graciously presented with an autographed photograph of the King. Every inhabitant of the Island was delighted that the King had graciously remembered this small portion of his dominions, and equally pleased that such worthy representatives of Mona had been selected as the gentlemen. whom the King " delighted to honour."
Perhaps the best joke connected with the visit concerns a Peel official, who, in the confusion and hurry of arranging what was to be done, and what not done, lost his head. When the King had gone he had forgotten that he had shaken hands with His Majesty, and was vigorously denying the fact, but finally various eyewitnesses recalled to his mind the great honour conferred upon him.
A record of the Kings visit would scarcely be complete without the pronouncement of the celebrated Jackie Ballure on the subject. I met Jackie a day or two after the event, and asked him if he had seen the King and Queen.
""Ay, yes, I gorra good squint of him in Ramsa, and touched. him too, Mastha.. It was this way, as the King was possin by in his carriage, a tall, gaunt, oul woman was pressin near to get a sight of him , so I put my han out to stop her intrudin herself, and my han touched the King hisself eta the shoulder, as he passed along. Aw well, Mastha, I mus say that these navvar was such a sight of people in Ramsa before. The lek of this navvar was seen, narvar was seen. Air, the gingin and confusion goin? on all around was cornething thremenjous. Navvar seen, the lek before. Deed, no!"
As I conclude these fragmentary incidents of the ever-memorable visit, allow me to remark that when the Royal squadron steamed away for Scotland in the early morning, the inhabitants of Mona could hardly realise that the events of the previous day were a splendid actuality, and not merely a dream or vision of the night. It all came to pass so unexpectedly, so swiftly, so picturesquely ; it was more like a gorgeous scene in a pantomime or a fairy tale than a real event Even, Cinderella, when wooed by the Fairy Prince, could scarcely have been happier or prouder than the Manx people were when seeing their beloved Sovereigns driving along our country side, in the garb and aspect of commonplace tourists, but surrounded by loyal and devoted subjects. This gracious act has made our King and Queen more loved than ever, and may their Majesties anon gladden our eyes and hearts with another surprise visit.
In concluding, I trust my readers will not consider me presumptuous when I, for the nonce, assume the role of poet Laureate, and add my little tribute of loyalty to my
Manx Sovereign : Mannin Veg Veen, rejoice ! rejoice!
Little Mann, Isle of silver sea,
For Englands Heir and Englands choice
Is crowned to-day : let. fealty
Be tendered joyous to the throne;
Oer sea, and land let joy-bells chime
With greetings sent from every zone,
At, this glad Coronation, time. Wild waves, clap hands
On; Monas strands;
Old Ocean raise
Loud voice of praise, To-day!
Blaze, beacons on the mountains bare!
Shout, every Islander, " shoh slaynt !
From Calf of Man to Point of Ayre!
Wish happiness and sweet content:
While loyal Manxmen raise a prayer
For Monarch of a thousand Isles,
Son of our great Victoria
That greets all hearts with gracious smiles! Hail, festive hour
Of pomp and power!
Let love be seen,
For King and Queen
Manxmen are loyal as of yore,
On green hills mid the ocean wave .
Thrice Royalty has. touched our shore:
Would that again (we humbly crave)
Thou, too, wouldst come, as once thy Sire,
Albert the Good! The sylvan height 1
Bears witness now, and doth inspire
Our Island race with fond delight.
Then, rock and cave,
Fling up the wave! Lone mountains ring " God save our King !"
June 26, 1902.
1 Heres health." 2 Albert Tower.
The above was forwarded to His Majesty the King, through the Secretary of State for the Home Department, by the author, and the receipt. was duly acknowledged.