[From A Second Manx Scrapbook]
The supernormal faculties so marked in the Manx are by no means limited to an awareness of death impending, to encounters with the dead and the distant dying, and to warning visions and dreams. They bring their possessors-or rather, those whom they temporarily possess-into psychic contacts with their living fellow-creatures from their birth onward. An instance of a man's learning of the birth of a child through the Second Sight occurs in a passage in the poems of T. E. Brown, which is the more interesting inasmuch as supernatural motives and incidents are rare in his works. It is, I think, highly unlikely that he invented this episode, notwithstanding its superficial resemblance to Shelley's vision from the shore at Lerici two months before he was drowned. Amid the breaking surf, in strong moonlight, he saw, it will be remembered, a naked child smiling and clapping its hands.
Tom Baynes loquitur :
" Listen ! I'll tell you a thing
The very night Kitty was tuk-1
Just three days,
If you plaze, out of Dantzic, there was a sea struck
Close-hauled, ye know, and I navar tould ye,
But behould ye !
In the trough there, rowlin' in it,
Just that minute
I saw a baby, as plain,
Passing by on a slant of rain
To leeward, and his little shiff
Streamin' away in the long gray driff.
I saw him there-you didn't regard me
But his face was toward me
Oughtn't I to know him ?
Well, I saw him a fore Kitty saw him!
I saw him, and there he ess,
There upon his mother's breast,
The very same, I'll assure ye ;
And I think that'll floor ye !
And his body all in a blaze of light
A dirty night!
'Where was he goin' ' ?
Who's knowin' ?
He was in a hurry, in any case,
And the Baltic is a lonesome place
But here he is, all right! "2
" Mock christenings," says Waldron, were commonly seen by pregnant women, and he gives particulars of one. In these, as in the man's prevision of the railway line (mentioned in the first section of this chapter), the actors are called fairies, but the phenomena are essentially those of the Second Sight and Second Hearing. By them the sex of the child was foreknown, as it was apparently by Tom Baynes. Waldron was told also that " the fairies " celebrated at a certain spot " the obsequies of any good person." In that part of Scotland which lies nearest to the Isle of Man the name of " fairy funeral " is similarly given to those sombre processions which are the shadow cast by the approach of Death.3
Formerly the voice of an approaching visitor was sometimes heard while he was yet far out of natural earshot, and Waldron tells us how his own arrival at a Manx homestead was thus foreknown to its inmates. Similarly, Leland in writing of modern Italy says, " Ere a visitor arrives his voice may be heard." 4 These mysteriously-carried sounds belong to the domain of clairaudience, an ally of the Sight, and a precisely similar experience is related in St. Adamnan's Life of the psychically-endowed St. Columba.
An esteemed friend of mine professed, like many elderly Manxmen, a hearty scorn of all branches of the supernatural which are not exemplified in Holy Scripture, but he was not quite so robust a skeptic as he believed himself to be. With most of his fellow-countrymen, he accepted as facts in natural history the growth and multiplication of stones in the fields and on the shore, and the transformation of hairs from horses' tails into thin eels. He and other boys, he stoutly affirmed, had often proved the truth of the latter theory by leaving the hairs in water for a certain timenot more than a week or twoand then finding hairlike eels wriggling about in their place. (In this belief he had the support of Izaak Walton and William Cobbett.) With better reason he was inclined to place faith in some of the stories which he told me at odd moments while we were working together on his little farm or walking about the hills after his sheep. One anecdote that comes under the present heading ran as follows.
His cousin, while sitting at her wheel in a house near Castletown many years ago even at the time of the telling, fell without warning into what he termed " a sort of a faint." On coming out of this trance or whatever it was, she related the following adventure. She had found herself walking up a long garden path and through the open doorway of a cottage, where she saw an old woman and a young man sitting together at a table. They appeared to be bending over something which she could not see, but she heard the woman say to the man, " This is your future wife." Then everything vanished, and she came to herself again in her own house. A year or two later the man she had seen in the vision came to the Island to buy horses, and she met and eventually married him. When, after their marriage, she told him that she had seen him in her " faint " before meeting him in the flesh, he confessed that about that time he had consulted a " wise woman " living in a cottage close to his home in Wavertree, near Liverpool, in the hope of being shown his future bride, and hers was the face which appeared to him. My friend could not be sure how it was shown, whether in a mirror or in a basin of water, or in some other medium, but " it was some sort of a reflection he saw." It is thought unlucky to reveal previsions of this kind to the other person concerned, in the same way, perhaps, that we should not divulge the secrets we learn from the spirits or the benefits conferred upon us by the fairies. In this case the husband-Fazackerley by name -in time treated his wife harshly, and she left him.
A man belonging to the South of the Island, who is himself a seer and has described to me many of his visions of the living and the dead (some are included in this chapter), went to sea when he was twelve years of age, getting sixpence a day for his wages. During one of his early voyages their barque got into difficulties in the Baltic, off a place on the Swedish coast of the Kattegat named Anga. They could not get the anchor to hold, and she was in imminent danger of being driven ashore. The skipper was striding up and down the deck and telling them that every man must look out for himself, for they might not have much longer to live. On this same night the boy's mother at home in Port St. Mary saw him, when she was awake, clambering up over the foot of her bed, which had been a favourite trick of his as a small child. The ship was not lost, however. Another barque which had been lying hove-to near them suddenly ran for it ; thinking she knew of some place to shelter in, they followed her course after she had disappeared into the thickness, and found anchorage off the harbour of Gothenburg.
The mother, in her turn, appeared to him more than once in his later years, after her death.
The same little boy suffered at times from a severe pain in his head, which was liable to trouble him until he grew into manhood. Once, when they were fishing off Kinsale, he felt so bad with it that he thought he was going to die. Though his mother did not see him on this occasion, she knew very well that he was in some trouble or danger, and when he came home she asked him what had been the matter with him at a certain hour of a certain day-the time when he had been in such pain.
The power to return home from sea in a spirit-form, without being impelled by fear of death, is shared by some Manxmen with the Finns and the men of the Scottish islands. It seems to be a sleep-walking of the soul when it is consciously or unconsciously homesick. A Peel man in a boat which was fishing off the South of Ireland would often say to his mates of a morning, " I was back home again last night, boys." They only made fun of him or abused him for a liar, according to their individual temperaments. One morning he turned out looking very tired and Wilt, and told them he had been home again last night, and felt worn out after it. " It's dreaming you were," they said as usual. But in the next letter that came from his wife, she was complaining that he had been making a lot of noise in the house on a certain night (the night he said he had been home), waking them up and disturbing them all; it was not the first time, and she wanted him to stop it.
Another family, also living on the West side of the Island, consisted of the father, the mother, a son, and three daughters. With all of these, except the son, I was more or less acquainted before they became scattered by various circumstances. One night, when the son was supposed to be in America, shortly after retiring to bed all the rest of the family heard footsteps coming upstairs which they recognized as his, and the mother (but none of the others) also heard his voice calling. She got up and went to the head of the stairs, where she was joined by some of the others, but they found nobody there. At the time this happened the lad, unknown to them, was crossing the Atlantic to go into training in England, the European War having broken out not long before. He had been unable to get permission to visit the Island first, and did not see his family till he came home on leave from France. Then they told him what they had heard, and he asked the date and the hour. After reflecting, he said that at the time of the occurrence the ship in which he was crossing from America was at the nearest point of her course to the Isle of Man. Whether he was awake or asleep just then I do not know.
The premonition which came to a girl whom I have called Y.Z. in the description of it on page 52-a premonition of a young man's death-happened about twenty years ago. Between two and three years ago the same woman saw her nephew, aged 20, pass swiftly through the kitchen close to where she was standing, and disappear without a word or a look. She had not been thinking of him just then. At that time he was in England awaiting a serious operation, naturally in a state of considerable anxiety, and longing, as he told her afterwards, to be safely out of it with her in the Island.
From a friend of many years standing, the widow of a former Speaker of the House of Keys, I have the following account of a visionary message from a battle-field. One afternoon while walking home from a visit, she saw, on reaching the stile to the East of the Crossags Farm, near Ramsey, a form which she knew to be that of her stepson, coming towards her, but still a considerable distance away. When they drew near to each other she realized with horror that he had no head. He then vanished. She went home feeling depressed and unwell, and fearing that some misfortune had befallen him. Soon afterwards a letter came with the news that he had been wounded. Some weeks later, when she visited him in hospital, he told her that while he was in the company of five other men a shell which killed the others outright had flung him some distance away and buried him, causing severe injuries to his head. When this was happening the thought of her flashed through his mind, and she seemed to be present.
A man I have known well for the last dozen years was working, three summers ago, in the company of several other men, on the flat, open part of the Douglas Recreation Ground, where hockey and other games are played. The hour was about midday, the air clear, and the light consequently good. A motor-mower was being driven up and down. My friend happened to be looking up from his work at the others, who were scattered about the ground, and saw a vague outline of a human shape pass from the body of one man towards that of another about fifty yards away. The shape was of a violet colour, deeper and denser in the middle and paler at the edges, which faded into the light. It moved swiftly over the grass in the sunshine and disappeared into the body of the other man. Nothing further happened. My friend, being educated and intelligent, was able to give me an exact account of what he saw, though he had no explanation to offer. It would have been interesting to hear whether the two men concerned stood in any special relation of friendship or enmity towards each other, and whether the one from whom the form appeared to issue was thinking of the other at the time.
A case of intentional and highly-intensive haunting of the living by the living is so recent that it is even more advisable than usual to omit the names of the locality and the principal actors. The facts are well known in the village where it happened, a much modernized place containing a considerable proportion of English residents. A woman holding an official position there took an uncontrollable fancy to a middle-aged man named S. living near her, and went so far as to haunt him night after night until her unwelcome presence " had him nearly distracted." No securing of doors and windows availed to keep out the disembodied intruder. He only got peace from her when she was off the Island, and was once heard to complain, on a day when she was due to return, that he could feel her in his bones the moment she landed. Finally, by acting on the instructions of an old woman skilled in such matters, he was able to " send " his tormentress to another man in the same village, a member of the local Council, whom she plagued in the same manner. How this affair ended I do not know. It appears to reverse, as regards the sexes of the principals, the haunting of a Jurby girl that was effectually dealt with by Ewan Christian of Lewaigue. The paucity of detail in that story, as I heard it, (see page 78), leaves room for doubt whether the afflicting spirit was that of a dead or a living man, though it was probably the latter. In the present case the haunting is explicitly ascribed to the living woman. The finding of a substitute, by which means alone can the victim rid himself of his visitor, occurs in some of the Irish Lhiannanshee stories, but Manx speakers of a bygone generation would, I think, have called this particular apparition a scaa-goanlyssagh or a scaan-olk-a revengeful double.
The seeing of living doubles is not commonly followed by the death or illness of the person so seen, or by misfortune or accident. An uncle of the woman who told me of the following occurrence at the place where it happened was out on the long jutting reef on the West coast of the Island called Niarbyl, fishing with a line. During the afternoon he was "seen" by two people simultaneouslyone of them my informant's husband, who corroborated herto come up to the cottage and walk round to the side of it out of their sight. They had no doubt it was he ; his features and figure were unmistakable, even down to a peculiar limp. All seemed so normal that they took it as a matter of course and wondered why he did not come in, until he really came back (for the first time) an hour or so later. Though they could find no natural explanation for the incident, nothing unusual happened afterwards of which it might have been deemed an omen.
The man who saw this, himself a fisherman, saw on another occasion his wife in the act of drawing water at the neighbouring well, and then walking off with the two buckets she had been filling. He went after her to lend a hand, but she turned the corner towards the door of the house before he could catch up with her. When he entered he found her and another woman, a caller, sitting quietly by the fireside. She had not been to the well at all. It was probably a mere trick of the brain or the eyes ; at any rate, no misfortune ensued.
An anecdote implying genuine, though seemingly accidental, clairvoyance is told of a man named Moore, foreman in a Douglas cabinet-maker's factory not a great many years ago, and in his leisure a maker of violins which are said to be developing remarkably fine qualities. In his youth he sailed to foreign parts. When the ship put in at a port on the Bosporus he landed to take a look round. In the course of conversation with an old man on the quay he felt prompted to ask him if there was not a high building somewhere over there, behind the others, which had a deep crack in the wall, running right down to the ground. " Yes, there is," replied the local man, " but you can't see it from where we are standing. You must have been here before." " I have, but not in the body," was the answer. For Moore attributed his experiences of this sort, and others, to his being a reincarnated personality.
1 Brought to bed.
2 Collected Poems of T. E. Brown (Macmillan), page 34-" The Christening."
3 Gallovidian Encyclopedia, page 201.
4 Etruscan-Roman Remains, page 165.