[From Recollections of an old Manxman, 1906] 


My friends, I am about to give you a sketch of my travels through the world. I am now in my 69th year, since March last. I can remember since I was five years of age. I recollect moving from one farm-house to another. I was sitting on the top of a donkey cart of goods. I was five years old then ; my mother told me so. I don’t remember any more for a long time. We next removed to an old house up the country, near the mountains, where my father worked for Billy-Bill-Cowin (that being the name he went by), for 4s. 6d. per week, and mother kept hens and ducks and a pig. The pig was making about 30 pounds a quarter in the year, and weighed about 120 pounds altogether. I remember I was at Castletown market with a quarter once, and I got sixpence per pound for it. It was a man with whom I was dealing, and he took a pound off me for the foot, and I thought I was robbed.

I was the eldest son. I had to go on all the messages. I used to go down to Colby and carry eggs for sale. The shop-keeper was giving me a penny for three, and if I got twopence for five they were very dear. I was also going down for father’s employers. Eggs was his money, too, for Big Jezebel (the name she went by) wouldn’t allow him a penny to get tobacco. I was his message boy, and sometimes I got a penny from him. He occasionally took a pint of beer.

I recollect one day John Reigg and myself went over to the old house where we formerly lived to hang their dog. We had a club each. We hung him to the skirr, and laid on him with the sticks till we killed him. For a long time I was afraid of the dog's ghost.

We had removed down to Keig-Durican's old house, he having had a new one built for him ; and father went to work for Mr. William Dawson. After some years Mr William Dawson failed, and Mr. Henry came from the Calf of Man and took his brother’s place. It was Mr Henry that was in it when I left the neighbourhood.

One day my mother was away somewhere, when a raven swooped down and took one of the young ducks, and off he went. I was close to him at the time, and I went after him. He alighted on the top of the hedge, about 100 yards off. I frightened him, and got the young duck, unhurt, and brought him back and put him in the pool again.

I will never forget one day I had done something to anger father, and I had to run for it. I got into the meadow, and father after me. I ran down to the bottom, he still pursuing, then turned and came back into the house, and hid under the bed. When father came in, he didn’t come to look for me. However, I lay quiet till he went out ; for, if he had caught me, he wouldn’t have left life in me, became he never thought so much of me as he did of the others. Mother thought more, somehow, and did as long as she lived.

One day I went to the street to get a jug of water, and on the way back Tom, my brother, hit the jug and broke it, and then told father that it was I that did it. I had to run out, and got no dinner. From that day till now I never liked Tom—he is as deep as the sea without a bottom.

While we lived in the old house my cousin was coming to see us every day, and he would take me to different places. On one occasion, mother had gone out before he came, and had locked the door and carried the key with her ; and I didn’t know how to get out. There was a broken pane in the window, so I got through it. I put my clothes out first, and then set to work to try and get out myself, and I got out, too. The panes were not very big in the old country houses in those days, but it was big enough for me.

My father was born in old Harry Hudson’s house, and he was married out of it, and I was born in it. My father was a shoemaker, but after he married he didn’t work any more at that trade. I never saw him make a new pair, but he repaired his own. The first pair that I got I had to earn them ; but I used to get old cast-off shoes from the neighbours. The first new pair I got I paid for them myself.

When we were very young we made all father’s new nets— he went to the herrings every summer—and mother spun the yarn from hemp. I remember when I went to Castletown to Mr Dinwoody’s to get the hemp—six pounds at a time. I used to twist it on the big wheel and then wind it up, and afterwards put it on the needles. From the time we rose in the morning until 10 o’clock at night we were knitting away. Many days I have made 18 yards before I went to bed, for we had a task given to us. There were two of us, and the third filled the needles. When our own were made we made for other fishermen. We got as much as 2s 6d for 18 yards long by 52 wide ; and it was a heavy day’s work to make that quantity in one day.

The first place I went to stay was up in Scard, in Neddy-yown-Nickeys. One day, he and his wife being away from home, the little ones got into the garden, and there was mischief done. When they came home I got a scolding ; so I ran away home. I was at home awhile, when father hired me to a man named Tom Gawne, at Greeba. He had a son on the Calf of Man a few years ago. What my wages were I did not know. He took me home behind him on the horse. We had pea soup for supper, and it was warmed again for breakfast. There was no beef going in those days. I was about 15 years old at that. time. I had no change of clothes with me ; so one day my. brother Toni came over with my clothes. I was all right till then, but as soon as he was gone I began to long, and I began to look over the mountains after him. I could not stay any longer ; so I gathered my things and followed him, and was at home as soon as him.

But I am going before my story a little. The big lad that was in sent me up to one of the horses with a feed of oats upon a " dollan"—a sheepskin with a hoop round it. The horse caught me by the hair of the head and threw me in under the manger and very nearly killed me.

But, as I got no money here, I left, and I think the next situation I went to was Hughy Kneale, the Coroner’s. I was there when the Level New Inn was being completed, and I was sent to Port Erin to tell the mason to come and finish the house. He lived above Port Erin, and on the way back the horse ran away, and never stopped until he arrived at the stable door. If the door had been open I would have been crushed, but good fortune was on my side. I kept on him all the way, though it was hard work, and I am spared yet—thank God for it. Hughy Kneale was an Irishman from Ardglass. His eldest daughter was married to John Corrin-y-Croit, near Colby, in Arbory. John Corrin at the Plough Inn is a son of his, and the latter’s son is married to my daughter Emily. I little knew at that time that I was to rear a daughter for Hughy Kneale’s great-grandson, which is, however, the case. My wife is living with them now, and that is the very reason that keeps me here in the Isle of Whithorn ; because I won’t live with them. I have left the house either 12 or 13 times, and still I can’t get my wife from them. But this is the last time.

The next place I went was to Keig-Paddy, at the Cloughvane, near Colby. I stayed there for a year, for £2. I had to go to the Strand after seaweed in the night, and come home in the morning, and I got cold porridge and buttermilk for breakfast.

While I was there, in the year 1844, my grandfather was drowned on Port St. Mary Point. There were four altogether in the boat, but two were saved, the other two being drowned. Old George Hewson was one of them. I was at my grandfather’s funeral in a pair of white fustian trousers, which didn’t very well become a grandson.

Before I went to service, I was running away every day to the fields learning to plough, and when I went to Keig’s I could plough as well as the men who was ploughing there. When I came home the mass was paid off ; he got no more work there. I finished the year there. That was in the year 1844, when the College was burned on a Sunday morning— I don’t know the exact time. It was before the 12th ot November. When I went there first I went to the Strand for wraick. When we were coming back with the load, he got to the water, and I got on the tail-board to save getting wet. The horse, however, would not go so I got the whip and begrn lashing him, but still he would not go. Then, I was that much out of patience, I took the grip out of the cart, jumped down in the water, and gave him one prod with it. He soon got out of that, and he stopped no more for me that year.

I next hired to Ballasalla, to Kennaugh, Balthane. The wages for that year were £3. I was cowboy that winter and spring, but when May came I was clear. I had one horse all the winter drawing turnips for the cattle, and I had to get another and stick to the plough. I also had to go to Ballaquinney, for there the work was going on, and most of the turnips were there. ‘There was one little field at Balthane. There were four lads of us on the farm, and I was the youngest and least of them all.

I was in my 20th year when I left Mrs. Fellowes. That was in the year 1845, the same year that Derbyhaven Quay was finished, and they went to work at Castletown New Quay n7. Old Bob Cain, the mason, was supposed to be the architect of that work, but it was not him that made the plan ; it was a lot of " counter-jumpers." But the work is the best in the Kingdom. They made the plan, and now it can’t be altered.

In 1834 the " John Fairfield" w1 was lost on the Poolvash side of Gob-y-Hie Point. I was seven years of age at the time.

I was there the day that Mr. McHutchin ordered the soldier to shoot his (McHutchin’s) son. I heard the report of the gun, but didn’t know until about 10 years ago that was the time the action was done. I was talking to old John Kelly, who lived on the Quay. The young fellow was in Kelly’s boat. I saw the soldier and the sentry box. My uncle brother’s brother) took me by the hand from up the country, when we lived in the house where we hung the dog some years after.

A Government cutter called the " Racehorse"w2 ran on the Scarranes on the 19th of December, 1822. The captain’s name was Ciddleton. It was boats from Castletown that went out to her. The last boatload was capsized and all perished. I knew some of their descendants.

The " Wilhelmina" w3 was lost at Fleshwick, and all hands were drowned. She was a brig, bound either to India or Africa. There was nothing saved—man nor anything else. I went over from Ballasalla to the wreck, but I saw nothing but a handkerchief fast in the rocks, and I pulled it out, but it was torn. Mr Bell told me there was a lot of pig-iron there yet.

I done that year in Balthane, and the next year I hired to Mrs. Fellowes, in the "Big House." The wages were £5. The next year John-Beg-Kneale was the master. Mrs. Fellowes herself never came out to look after anything. There were two horses and two cows. Kneale worked the horses, and I attended the cows and the garden, and done all the messages. I was sent to town one night after 10 o’clock, and I ran every step there and back ; for I was very fearful as the people said there was a white lady seen at "The Folly" n7a and that was the place in all the journey where I was most frightened. Kneale was coachman, and I was footman. We had to put the horses in the carriage and take Mrs. Fellowes to Castletown to St. Mary’s Chapel every Sunday, morning and evening. I was that year herding the cows in the corn where the railway bridge is now standing, 50 years ago John’s second sister, Ellen, and Kitty Kneale were the girls who were in. It was a painful place to spend the time in I hadn't enough work. I was pretty careful that no one could tell anything on me.

Onn day, when I lived in Balthane, Thomas Boyd lived in Fellowes’, and he wanted me to get one of the cocks to have a fight with his fowl, and I, like a fool, went and got one While they were fighting I noticed a pair of steel spurs on his bird, and I soon took my one away. I never fought cocks any more.

When my time was up, there was another man coming in John Beg’s place. Bobby Comaish came in the next year, bu I don’t know who came in my place.

I went home to Scollaby farm, and I stayed at home for few weeks, and then went to Port St. Mary to get a passage to Whitehaven. I wasn’t long before I got a passage in th old " Sarah Ann," Tom Clague master, Dick Costain mate and Woodworth cook ; and I remember well Bill Corlett from Castletown, was there, but I don’t know what vessel he was in. There was no fire allowed on board the boats that time. I got a bit among them till I got a brig. In about week I got a berth in the Argestes, and bound myself fo four years. The soles were worn off my boots, and Bil Corlett went round and gathered as much as paid for a new pair, and they done till I came back from Dublin. While we were in Dublin putting out the coals, I was cabin boy. We had "plum duff" for dinner, and, as there was a lot left, the captain wanted it for dinner the next day ; but I fell in love with the pudding, and began to taste it, and by-and-bye it all went. When it was called for, the captain asked me wha I had done with the pudding, and I said I had given it to a poor woman on the quay. Then I got a rope’s end to my back, and it served me right. When we were empty, we went back to Whitehaven, and took in two parts of a cargo of coal for Philadelphia, for a cargo of Indian corn. The "Village Girl" sailed, too. When we arrived home from Dublin, I got an outfit of double-thick cloth, as thick as leather —jacket, trousers, and waistcoast all of the same sort of stuff

We sailed on the first day of February, 1847, in company with the " Village Girl"—both Douglas built vessels—each carrying 250 tons, and both owned by Mr. Shurn, of Whitehaven. We were 63 days on the passage. We got up to the wharf on the 4th of April, and I stayed 20 days with them.

She had no cargo in then. I started for the country on the morning of the 24th of the same month.

One day on the passage there was a shower of flying-fish flew across the vessel, and one of them hit the topsail, and fell down on the deck. One of the apprentices picked it up and carried it down for’ard for himself.

The " Village Girl" was a week behind us. We had a very wild passage. We were three weeks hove to, and the wind was blowing strongly from the west. We lost 100 miles on the passage. One day I was sent down for’ard to get a ball of spun-yarn for the deck. John Hudson was down below, and he asked me something—I forget what it was; but the answer didn’t please him, and he jumped off the chest where he was sitting, and catching hold of my shoe, threw it up after me. The captain saw it, and asked me what I had done, and I had to tell him. Hudson was called up, and he gave the captain impertinence. The two men got in grips and fell on the deck, and the captain took a belaying pin out of the side to strike the man, but did not. It passed off until the day before we made the land, when the man was called on deck, and the captain asked him if he was sorry for what he had done, and he said he was and asked the captain’s pardon. But, while the captain was lying on the deck, the man that caught the fish and brought it down for’ard kicked the captain. The captain was a good man to me, but the crew didn’t like him. You would call that mutiny on the high seas.

When not far from land, I was on deck, and I saw a great log of wood, which came end on and hit the vessel on the port bow, right on the bluff of the bow, and she wasn’t very sharp. I thought that it was through her. It shook her so that every man felt it.

The night before we made the Cape she was made snug. She was under close reefs—-nothing but the two close-reefed topsails. In the night some time a squall of wind bit her, and it laid her down until the two lower yardarms were in the water. It was my watch on deck, and I saw it myself.

The two topsail-sheets broke, and she lifted and shook herself. Then all hands were called on deck and sent up aloft to put two rope-yarn links in the sheets. She sustained very little harm beyond that.

The next day we got the pilot, and had a fair wind all the way up the river. I steered her most of the way. The river is 120 miles long, and it took us a day and a night to get up. By night it is lighted like a crooked street. You had to run for one lamp, for you could not see but one at once, though I forget whether you lost one before the other appeared. The pilot stood by me all the time. I was the youngest apprentice. There were four of us, and the next to me had weak eyes. He was not long at sea before me, and the other two were just free. There is not one of them alive now. I was inquiring about them, and I find that they are all gone.

The poor, unfortunate captain jumped over Whitehaven Pierhead, and was drowned. I never saw him but once after I left the ship. I was going into Workington one morn-lug and he was coming out. It was dark, but the pilot told me that it was him, and I made myself known.

After we got up to the city, we let go our anchor. When we went to take it up again we couldn’t get it up. There was a little tug, about 20 feet long, came to take us in to the wharf, and she had to go away again, but came back the next day. She was very near going again, but waited to try her strength. She gave it a tug or two, and we got clear. The fluke of our anchor had gone into the ring of another anchor about thie same size as our own.

We got into the wharf and got discharged.

The tug was about the first steamboat I ever saw. This was in the year 1847, about the first week in April, and on the 24th of that month I left the Argestes and took the country for it. I wouldn’t have left her but for the meat. We were up for’ard doing something, and the men began bantering me that I dared not leave. One of them said that if he wore me he wouldn’t go home with the vessel. I had no thought about it. I was the only stranger who was in her ; all the rest were from Whitehaven. All our empty barrels were on the wharf, and on the morning of the 24th I got up pretty early. My bag was made up the night before.

I had just got on the wharf when the mate came up from aft to go for’ard to call the boys. I happened to see his head and I got behind the barrels till he had gone back again, and then I went up the Tongue. There was an archway going under a warehouse. I then followed the first street that I came to—Schoolkill Bridge—and I walked on until about dinner time, when I got tired and hungry. I had no money ; so, coming to a house alongside the road, I went in and asked for work. I got my dinner instead, and they directed me to where I would get work. I walked on till it was getting dark, and I met a man and asked him. I was almost straight on the place, but I had to go through a field, and afterwards to cross a river. There were four or five large stepping-stones, but I couldn’t step to one of them, and I had to wade across. However, I got through, and found the house I wanted. It was then dark. I went in, and the old man was very civil. He ordered supper for me, and then got a light and showed me upstairs to bed. I slept very well. When I got up in the morning and got breakfast, he took me out in the yard to help him to feed the cows with Indian corn. When that was done, he took me upstairs to the mill, and told me to go to work with his son. I went up, and was put to work to card cotton. They made it in sheets for quilting or for wadding. He used to glaze it, but he didn’t do any then. The weather was warm, and when I went in I tucked up my sleeves. The windows were all open, which caused a draught, and I caught cold, and before night I had to be carried in the house. I was blind. The old man made a basin of catment tea. It is the wildest kind of ment. He brought it up to me, and I was all right in the morning, and got up and had my breakfast, and went to work again.

I worked with that man a year and a half ; but as soon as hay-cutting came on everbody had to drop their trades and go to cut the hay and save it. When the harvest was on we were cutting the hay in the morning and putting it in the barn in the evening. During that time our day was 16 hours long, from sunrise to sunset.

Now the days are like our days — 10 hours. I cut the hay and worked in the harvest three summers, but didn’t get half-paid for it. I worked the last year for 50 dollars, that is equal to £10, and some pocket money, but that wasn’t much. There they only hire for nine months, and then go where you like for the other months ; for they don’t do anything outside but feed the cattle and thresh.

Some thresh it with horses tramping it out, others with bullocks, but we had a little mill that one horse drove. The horse was in a box, and there was a belt going round under his feet. It was wood, in joints, running on small wheels. I never saw one like it.

We had to put the refuse away every Saturday, and shell the Indian corn. It wants to be threshed, too.

In summer, when we cut the hay, we were well fed. We got up in the morning before sunrise, and got something before going out to work, and, as soon as the cook got the breakfast ready, we were called in to it. Again, at 10 o’clock, there was lunch brought out to the field ; and at dinner-time there was a dinner like a. feast—you couldn’t tell what to take first. Before you tasted them all you were finished. At four o’clock, again, there was another lunch. We then worked on till the sun went down, and, after partaking of supper, went to bed. There was no time to waste, as we had to be up again by the break of day. There were no wet days.

The first summer I was there I had to help to put the wheat in on the Sunday. It was a very wet harvest. I don’t recollect any more of that sort of weather.

After the first fall of snow comes it snows no more on the winter. The last year I was there it fell in the night, and when I got up in the morning I had to cut a road to the stable, and that road stood all the winter, for it snowed no more that winter. It froze so hard that it was like the road itself. You could drive a waggon on it. It is all waggons that are used there.

One day we had to go to the barn, which was about half a mile from the house, to get a load of Indian corn. We also wanted fodder for the cattle. All the hay, straw, and such like, is kept in barns. I never saw a stack in the same country. They have all wooden barns to store the stuff. Sleighing was the only mode by which we could travel— sleighs to go to market and every place we went.

I was once going from home with the master and his wife, and we had to go over a bridge (the bridges are all made of oak). As we were going on, the horse was about to fall, when I noticed him and stroked him. The bridge was covered like a house, and there was no snow on it. We had to get out till we got through. After that the horse was all right again.

When it rains it fairly pours. The last summer I was there it rained for about an hour on one occasion, and there was a little run of water about a yard wide, and it rose up to about nine feet. I could have sailed a boat in it. The whole meadow was the sable. The water was even up at the dairy. It wa.s the same as if a waterspout had bursted. When the rain abated, the field was covered with small frogs. The water had been drawn up from a logh. The next day I didn’t see any more of them.

There was a neighbour lad living near me, and he was telling me that he had lived in Canada, and that the cold there was so intense that if you put your hand on the latch of the door it would take the skin off it. You dare not put your bare hand to any iron. You had to wear gloves.

In Lancaster County, where I spent the last New Year’s Day I was in the country—it is 48 years past—I was going from our house to a neighbour’s. I was running, and I had to stop and turn round to get breath, the cold was so intense.

I lived about six months in the town of Chester, in Chester County. When I went there first, I went to work for two lumpers, who cleared out the foundations of houses and dug out cellars. When their lumping was done,—one was English and the other Irish—the Englishman got me a place in a brass-founder’s shop. My master kept two horses and two cows, and I had the care of them. He had a warehouse in which he kept all sorts of stoves—great cooking stoves and sheet-iron stoves, and lead piping. I also had the care of all these. He was captain of a company of soldiers. I have seen him drill them several times. We put tin on the houses in place of slates. There were no slates, but wooden shingle split out of black oak. We used to go up the country laying lead pipes to carry the water from a distance to the farm houses. I have seen us carry the water half a mile.

The black oak grows so large that three men cannot get their arms round the trunk. It is split up for slates. The chestnut tree they make into fencing posts. Another kind of a fence was what was called a worm-fence. It was zig-zag, like a worm travelling.

In those days they didn’t know bow to grow potatoes. They simply planted them in ridges, and covered them up, and let them lie that way until digging time, when they were no larger than pigeons’ eggs. However, one day I began to tell the man I lived with about the way we were doing them at home, and he said, " Go and do them the same." It was just about the right time then, and I went and set them as we did at home. I last of all moulded them up and left them till we were ready for digging. He was going to Lancaster market on Saturdays, and the first day he went he got them sold like other folk who were there. The next week they would not give him time to get the horse out of the cart, they . were in such a hurry for the potatoes. I didn’t know any-thing about this at the time, until one day, at the dinner table, he began to tell me the story about how the people were fighting for the potatoes, and was laughing heartily over it. His brother had a field the other side of the road which contained four or five acres, and it was planted with potatoes, but he hadn’t half as much on his whole field as we had on our one acre of ground.

They even did not know how to grow turnips properly. They sowed them broadcast like rape. But they knew how to grow apples. You could go into] an orchard and eat as much as you wanted. There was a cider-cooler in the middle of the orchard, where you could drink as much cider as you wanted, and no man to find you fault. I believe I was 20 years before I could eat an apple at home.

All along the road side is planted with black cherry trees. I was travelling on the road one day, when I became hungry, and I got up into one of those trees and filled myself with cherries. When I came down I was greatly refreshed, and walked on till night. There were not two tables making at that time, but I don’t know how it is now. I suppose it is like England.

When I lived in Delaware County with old Jonathan Hatch, I took a notion to leave and try somewhere else. I was to have met him in the city, but I walked on to a factory after a place, but I didn’t succeed. I didn’t go to the city, but turned back and went right home again. On the way I felt hungry, and went into a house to ask for bread. The woman was washing the baby, and she told me to go to the next house ; but, because I was denied, I wouldn’t go to the next house, and I walked on until I came to a river. I don’t know how I got across, as it was 30 yards wide. I had to get over it both ways. There was no bridge, and I don’t recollect having a boat. I have been thinking about that affair many a time.

Anyhow, I got back again to my old house, and the master was glad enough to see me. I stayed a good while after that.

One Sunday, while I was there, a few of us boys went. up to the woods and caught a young oppossuni and brought him home. We threw him on the ground and went into the house. We were about 10 minutes in the house, when one ot the boys said, " Go out and see if Mr Oppossum is there.’ But he was gone, and all hands went off again to the place we had first] got him, and found him in exactly the same place. We brought him home again, but I forget what became of him. I cannot recollect any more about him.


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