[From A Manx Scrapbook]


" I believe there is no Place whatever in the known World, abounds with more [Wonders] than the Isle of Man."

It is common knowledge that the younger generation likes to begin where its elders left off. In that spirit the concluding words of Waldron's little work are placed at the head of this one, with reservation of the right to quote them again as often as may be found necessary; for the repeated overstatement of a truth is a capital way of drawing attention to it.

It is less a truth and more an overstatement than in Waldron's time. Skirra-go-hiffirn, " Slipping-to-Hell "-inferni, the Shades, rather than a place of punitive fire-is the delightful name recorded by Joyce for a deep - plunging Mayo waterfall. It describes with equal accuracy the condition of Manx folk-lore of every kind, now-in its present forms at least-sliding swiftly into the cold night of forgottenness. In its present forms ; for the intelligent reader will perceive that a waterfall (to readjust the metaphor slightly), though it may vary in volume, colour and other properties, continues to fall. The intention in the succeeding pages is to preserve a few drops of the dwindling stream, the springs of which lie hidden in regions still unexplored.

The survivals from a formerly abundant flow of tradition which are here collected are rarely substantial enough to bear much critical comment; but to some I have appended similar and illustrative matter from external sources. With them are associated a number of little known and mostly obsolescent place-names, which, though they are a department of philology from one point of view, from another epitomize many of the motives of a bygone social life, not excepting its customs and superstitions.

Most of the native folk-lore contained in the present volume was come by, more or less casually, in the Island during the last ten years. Its recent date will, I hope, encourage others who may enjoy the advantages of insular kinship and lifelong residence to continue the inquiry, or to communicate what they already know. It may be doubted whether a better acquaintance with the language than I can claim would help them greatly in their search. When Waldron had the good fortune to live in the Island during the first quarter of the 18th century the countryman kept his more intimate thoughts locked up in Manx from the inquisitive stranger. To-day he thinks and speaks in English only, and though he has much less to tell or let slip, it is more easily elicited ; yet not so very easily.

In the first chapter I have made use of all the printed references which I was able to find - they are inconspicuously scattered-bearing upon particular Wells. The oral information embodied chiefly in the last two chapters came from friends, acquaintances and chance-met strangers. It has seemed best for various reasons not to make public the names of members of so small and self-interested a community; in some instances, at least, gratitude expressed in that form would be decidedly unwelcome. This restriction may, I trust, be infringed in the case of Miss Mona Douglas, already well known as a fortunate collector and felicitous translator of Manx folk-songs, whom I have to thank for many items relative more especially to the North Lonan district.

Enough material having overflowed its limits to provide a nucleus for a further collection, I hope to take that opportunity of remedying some of the errors and shortcomings which are sure to be found in the present volume. Communications, therefore, referring to any of the subjects touched upon herein, particularly that of folk-lore, will be welcomed and acknowledged.



index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004