[From A Second Manx Scrapbook]


1. Folk-songs.

THE ensuing remarks on Manx folk-songs are confined to the folk-lore associated with the airs and the words. In some cases the air belonging to a certain set of words has been lost, in others words have been refitted with airs not belonging to them ; but to discuss these bereavements and remarryings would require a knowledge of music, which I do not possess. Those who are interested in the musical side of the subject should consult Nos. 28, 29 and 30 of the Folk-song Society's Journal.

In a volume devoted mainly to folk-lore first place must be given to the " fairy tunes " which, according to tradition, have been overhead by fiddlers and singers when travelling the country, or near their own homes. One such man, known to the older generation of Lonan people as the Fairy Tailor, was a craftsman who had friendly relations with the Little Ones. He lived far up the Laxey valley, a few dozen steep and rugged yards above the brink of the river, where it pours musically among boulders and rocky basins.

He was therefore in a position, both physically and psychically, to hear these seductive melodies, and being a musician himself, was able to commit them to memory. His method of doing this, an old native tells me, was to " scratch the music in a way he had of his own " on the rocks of the stream with little pebbles, after singing it over to himself. When he was thus engaged his voice could be heard for a distance of two miles ; which beats the record set up by St. Columba in preaching. That would be somewhere about eighty years ago. None, however, of the Manx airs now known as fairy tunes is attributed to him, nor are any, so far as I can make out, still decipherable on the rocks below the ruins of his little house ; but I must repeat that I do not easily read music in any notation.


Chief among the fairy tunes which have survived is the " Bollan Bane." The tradition of its supernatural origin is so strong that three or more localities are indicated in which it is said to have been given to mortals, the man and the circumstances differing in each case.

1. It was got from the fairies by Juan Brew, a great-uncle of the Mrs. B., aged about 80, who told me the story. He was one of seven big, strong sons reared in a sod-house in the great glen of Ballaugh. The house consisted of two rooms and a loft. One was the living-room, the other was the sleeping-place of the parents and any current babies or small children ; as the children grew bigger they were accommodated in the loft above.1Well, this Juan had a long journey to make from his home in Glion Mooar as far as Douglas itself. The way he would lose only one day's work he started late in the evening,2 meaning to come back home the night after. The road he took was the shortest road-over the tops. Towards midnight, while he was walking along the Croggan Road in the mountains between Glion Dhoo and Injebreck, thinking of nothing, like the Irishman, what did he hear but music coming from some place he couldn't rightly see. He was greatly taken up with the tune, and got it off by heart with whistling it over and over on his way down to Douglas. He was not a singer or a fiddler, but he played on the clarionet,2 and before he would take bite or sup after getting back nothing would do but he must reach down his clarionet off the laf'. And that was the first time the " Bollan Bane " was ever played by a man.

2. " Old Bill Pherick was coming home late one night across the mountains from Druidale, and heard the fairies singing, just as he was going over the river by the thorn-tree that grows there. The tune they had was ' Bollan Ven,' and, as he wanted to learn it from them, he went back three times before he could pick it up and remember it, but the third time he was successful; just then the sun got up, and the fairies immediately dispersed, for they always go at sunrise. He came home whistling the tune, and since then it has always been very popular, and very much played on the fiddle ; the words of the song ' Yn Bollan Bane' are sung to it. Many people think that Bill Pherick invented the tune ; but he didn't, he got it straight from the fairies."(Miss A. M. Crellin, of Orrisdale, in Yn Lioar Manninagh, ii., 195.)

A field on Ballabeg in Ballaugh parish, lying between the Bayr Jegga and the river, is still called " Croit Bill Pherick," Bill Pherick's Croft, and the croft itself is named in a record of 1697. If this is where Bill of the " Bollan Bane " lived, his whistling progress from Druidale homeward would inevitably take him down Glion Mooar and past the dwelling of the rival claimant, Juan Brew. Let us trust that they flourished at different periods of history, and that no unfortunate meeting occurred.

3. In Moore's Manx Ballads, page 76, the learning of the tune is made the motive of a short anecdote in the first person, with which an air, or a fragment of one, must have been interwoven in the traditional mode of telling it ; probably it was accompanied by a dance also. Briefly, the narrator says that he went up the Big Mountain one snowy New Year's morning after sheep, and heard the tune being played on the big fiddle as he was coming down the Laaghagh ; but when he had got as far on his journey as Shen Curn he found he had forgotten it. He turned back to where he had heard it, and They were still playing it. He resumed his way home to Bishopscourt after having been out all night, and tried it over to see whether he still remembered it ; and his wife was scandalized to hear him playing such a merry tune on a Sunday: in English, " Poor Paddy, is it not Sunday morning with thee ? " He threatens her in round Falstaffian terms: " Away to bed with thee, Moll, or I will make the sun shine through thy ribs like they were a ribbed stocking! " and goes on with his song.

Slieu Curn overlooks Ballaugh and Kirk Michael; y Clieu Mooar, " the Big Mountain," in that part of the world is usually understood to mean Snaefell. Snaefell is certainly a long way from Slieu Curn and Bishopscourt ; but admitting the data, Paddy must have got his tune somewhere in the upper part of Sulby Glen, which agrees roughly with the other versions.

4. W. H. Gill's Manx Music, Introduction, page vi., says the tune was learned by a fiddler who described the circumstances to a man still living when Gill wrote, not long before 1898. This is the only account which explains why the tune was called the " Bollan Bane." The fiddler had plucked the herb of that name to protect himself from the fairies. Feeling safe because he was wearing it, he followed them and their music till he thought he knew it. " When he had crossed the Slieu Dhoo and got to the big Carnane where the Giant lies buried " he found he had forgotten it. He went back a mile or so up the mountain slope and learned it again. It was now Sunday morning, the sun just rising as he crossed the shoulder of Shen Curn, and made for his cottage in Orrisdale. His wife Molly scolded him for staying out all night, but he placated her by playing her the tune.

By " the big Carnane where the Giant lies buried " was probably meant the cairn on the summit of Slieu Curn in Kirk Michael parish. In this account may perhaps be traced a forgotten point in the tradition—namely, that the 24th of June, or the eve of it, was the date of the transaction , for the Bollan Bane being the Manx national flower, Manxmen wore it in their hats on Tynwald Day.

5. A version of which I have been able to get only the rudiments says the " Bollan Bane " " was first heard coming over the top of a hedge in Sulby Glen late at night by a man who was walking there," the hedge, of course, being the usual stone wall.

In addition to the two well-known airs called " Bollan Bane," both of which are given in Manx Ballads, a third, quite different from. either, has been found, also in the North of the Island, by Miss Mona Douglas, and recorded in the Journal of the Folk-song Society, No. 28. It is a mere fragment or prelude, haunting in outline and capable of infinite variation and extension. By its briefness it fits admirably into the interludes, where the music is wanting, in Paddy's monologue as given by Moore. With it is associated a cante-fable which is a Laxey-side version of Moore's but somewhat more fully told, though the hero is nameless. He still gets the tune from near the base of the Big Mountain—Snaefell—but actually on the Mullagh Ouyr to the South-East.

1 Such was the universal habit of life among the lower classes for untold generations, and the remains of this type of cottage can still be seen here and there, especially in the North. Not all had the upper floor. As a family reached maturity it hived off by individuals; in the present case one of the boys went to live on Sulby Curragh, one to the Laxey district, and others to the unknown regions of the South.

2 In the country the evening begins as soon as the morning is over.

3 Probably in church, where the music was formerly instrumental.


The two songs which have in the past been dearest to the Manx people relate incidents in the lives of two legendary figures. In " Ny Kiree fo 'Niaghtey," "The Sheep under Snow," the owner of the lost sheep is Nicholas Kelly, or, in another version, Colcheragh, which is equivalent to Qualtrough. In either case he is Nicholas Raby, Raby being the name of his farm in Lonan. One branch of the tradition says that he himself composed the song while he lay in Castle Rushen Gaol under a false accusation of murder, from which he afterwards cleared himself by an alibi. Another story runs to the effect that he died of grief for the loss of his beloved sheep, and that the song was inspired by the tragedy. This is equally improbable, for the song says nothing of Nicholas's death; it is a lament for the destruction of his flock. But whoever composed the words, they have almost certainly been fitted to a much older air.

The Qualtrough family farmed Raby in the 17th and 18th centuries, and their name crops up in documentary records in a way which shows that the Qualtroughs or Colcheraghs were influential in the parish ; but they have, I believe, now died out in that region. The name is still common in Rushen, whence the Lonan Qualtroughs must have migrated.

The words of " Kiree " have not undergone many variations. In the course of a chat with an old friend living in a poor quarter of Douglas two or three years ago she surprised me by volunteering several songs in Manx. Into the words of " Kiree " she imported not only a phrase from " Mylecharaine," but replaced an orthodox line with one which struck me as both unusual and pathetic :

" O irree, my guilley, as gow shin dys clieu,
Son to kiree fo sniaghtey, dhowin, dhowin dy liooar ;
Ta ny kiree s'yn loghtyn, as dy glcoayr s'yn Clieu Ruy,
As ny gheed'n veggey keayney, 'Maa, Maa, c'raad to shin ersooyl ? ' "

The last two lines she gave on another occasion as :

. . . . . Clieu Lliean,
As ny gheed'n veggey keayney son ny moiraghyn meen."

S'yn loghlyn she explained as " in the pinpound " ; y laggan, " the hollow place," is standard here. Gheed'n, she said, meant lambs, though she knew the word eayin well enough [a note in my copy by Mark Braide states correct north-side usage] . The English would then be, literally:

" O rise up, my lad, and go to the mountain,
For the sheep are under snow, deep, deep enough;
The sheep are in the pinpound, and the goats in Sheu Ruy,
And the little lambs crying, 'Mammy, mammy, where have you gone ? ' "


" And the little lambs crying for their gentle mothers."

For Clieu Ruy the singer also gave Clieu Dhow as an alternative ; " or some say Slieu Hiarn," i.e. Sheu Chiarn Gherjoil. These, together with Clieu Lhean, all lie near each other.


In contrast with the simple theme of " Kiree," " Mylecharaine " is a jumble of motives which have only the old fellow's name to connect them. The piece as we find it in Moore's Ballads* seems to consist of three different songs relating to him:

1. Stanzas 1 to 3 : questions from an unknown person, and his replies, respecting the discovery of his treasure.

2. Stanzas 5 to 9: his daughter's reproaches for his unfashionable costume, and his answer, which attempts to placate her by promising her a share of his wealth.

3. Stanzas 10 to 12 : a curse upon him for dowering her at her marriage. Stanza 4 is related to the same subject.

The lines are interspersed throughout with an irrelevant refrain, evidently belonging to a love-song or lover's lament ; it probably formed part of an earlier set of words sung to the air, and is more in keeping with its extreme melancholy.

All that emerges with clarity is that Mylecharaine was an eccentric miser who had become rich fortuitously. He was a sufficiently conspicuous figure to inspire the song-makers ; when and where he lived there is little to show, but it must have been in or near the Curragh not later than some time in the 18th century. The earliest bit of his legendary biography is furnished by Kennish, who says he dwelt in Andreas, and found a crockful of money when digging turf in the bog. " I got it embedded deep deep 'neath the moor " is Kennish's rendering of the Manx.2 He adds that the song was much sung at harvest suppers. George Borrow visited a family of the name in the Curraghs in 1855, who told him they were lineal descendants of the great man. As " Mylcraine " the name is still extant. Why he should be cursed for giving his daughter a marriage-portion is unintelligible, unless it can be referred to a time when it was customary in Man, as it formerly was in Iceland, that the bridegroom should pay the bride's parents a sum of money in exchange for her. Even so, the bitterness seems excessive, lacking a knowledge of the circumstances.

The earliest known set of the words, discovered in manuscript by Mr. Cyril Paton, are datable to somewhere about 1780;3 they show clearer traces of the love-song which must have belonged at one time to the air. Several sets of words may have been current at the same time, as in the case of other songs, and may have since become amalgamated. In the version given by Moore an attempt has been made to apportion the various parts to different speakers.

The missing silver cross of the Mylecharaines may not be wholly foreign to the buried treasure which is part of the subject-matter of the song. The illustration of the cross, dated 1870, in Harrison's second Mona Miscellany, was probably drawn by himself, as it bears the initials " W.H." At all events, he borrowed the cross, together with " some other small valuables," from a person unnamed, and before being able to examine it thoroughly had to clean off " the soil and peat which filled up some parts of it." Is it possible that this is the same hoard as one which was known to Waldron in the first quarter of the 18th century, and apparently had not long been dug up ? " 'Tis certain," Waldron says, " that they have no Timber, but what they find in Bogs or Sloughs when they dig for turf. . . . In searching for it, they sometimes meet with greater Prizes : I myself saw a very fine Silver Crucifix, and many pieces of old Coin, not only of Copper, but also of Gold and Silver. They were got into Hands which would not be prevailed to part with them, tho' they knew neither the Age nor Meaning of them." Though Harrison's cross was not a crucifix, it bore an incised figure on the upright portion.

Harrison concludes his short notice with a tradition that Mylecharaine was an illegitimate son of one Christian of Milntown, who, fearing an invasion, hid some valuable property in the Curragh. This son afterwards secretly dug it up.

A version of the Manx words was supplied by Harrison to Notes and Queries, 4th ser., v., 468, with a ridiculous translation bv another hand. In his Mona Miscellany, vol. ii., he says he sought in vain for any family history. Doubtless he meant history of a documented kind, for fragmentary traditions are still floating about the North of the Island. An old Ballaugh woman whom I know claims, not incredibly if a generation or two be added, that she is the great-grand-daughter of the chief figure in the song. Their family tradition concerning him runs that he always went dressed in leather clothing which he tanned for himself, using the hide of a cow for his coat, a calf-skin for his breeches, and wearing a leathern hat. He wore odd carranes, one black and the other white. His daughter got a sweetheart and grew proud, and she wanted him to dress better and more like other people. He had a crock of gold under his bed, the savings of his lifetime. The girl was wanting money to get married, and she stole some from his crock one day while he was out on the brooghs. The next time he looked at it he found this out, so what did he do but he took it away in the night-time and hid it in a turf-lag in the Curragh. Christian Milntown got some of it too, but he had no right, and the narrator's uncle, Juan Brew, got some and bought Scroundal Mill out of it ; but most of it was never found. It seems Mylecharaine must have died soon after he hid it, and lots of people have been looking for the rest of the treasure since that time, but they have never been able to find it. " It belongs to us by rights, and we would be rich now if we could find it."

These particulars, it is perhaps needless to say, are not put forward as being historically accurate ; but some authentic family traditions seem to be mixed up with them. There are documents in the Rolls Office which show that Philip Mylchraine of the Glaick bought Scroundal Mill from one Brew in 1830, when Brew had been in possession for sixty years, i.e. since 1770.

Those mysterious malefactors the Carrasdhoo Men are sometimes brought into the affair, the idea being that they and Christian were conspirators, that he profited by their acts of wrecking or smuggling, and that Mylecharaine somehow got a share of the proceeds. The willow-screened " glen " which Esther Nelson in her ballad says the Carrasdhoo Men inhabited may be explained as the Lhen watercourse, which is sometimes thus pronounced. Mylecharaine's wealth is said in the oldest version (Paton) to have eventually " gone down the Lhen." It is curious that the scenes of these two traditions lie so close to each other. Curious too to find in Ballaugh a hundred years ago an Ann Mylecharaine being sued for digging unlawfully in a man's meadow ; but her object, ostensibly at any rate, was to get turf-fuel, not treasure.4

What member of the celebrated Christian family is supposed to have been involved it is impossible to say. A broad belt of land-holding Christians extended from Maughold to Jurby and Ballaugh for centuries. As regards those in Jurby, Keble's Life of Bishop Wilson alludes to the punishment of a Captain Christian (parish Captain, no doubt) of Jurby for " misconduct " in 1713. In 1732 a Captain William Christian of Jurby contributed to the purchase of land for the new parish church of Lonan. (Statutes.) Both William Harrison and my octogenarian descendant of the miser-hero of the Curragh introduce, it will have been noticed, a Christian into the Mylecharaine legend, but their statements conflict. The tradition reported by Harrison is that the treasure belonged to Christian and that Mylecharaine got hold of it. The tradition I have heard, from a woman who would have been about 20 years of age at the time when Harrison was investigating, says that the treasure was Mylecharaine's and Christian got hold of it. But she was a Mylcraine, and perhaps Harrison's informant was a Christian. Except for the fact that the affair forms the theme of the most famous of Manx songs, no importance attaches to it at this time of day. I shall therefore merely summarize an enquiry which was held before a special jury in Jurby in the year 1698, in case it may bear on the two foregoing statements, or even on Waldron's. The report itself, slightly abridged, will be found in Appendix III. by anyone who may be sufficiently interested to run through it.

The enquiry arose out of a previous trial, at Ballakeage in Ballaugh, of one Mylecharaine of Jurby, and a Steven Tere of the same parish, for slandering a Captain Christian by saying he was in possession of a bag of money. Mylecharaine (he is called both Thomas and William in the course of the Traverse proceedings, but affixes his mark to the latter name) had evidently been convicted of having uttered the slander after hearing it from Tere, but the Traverse Jury reversed the verdict of the Slander jury, on the grounds that the Lockman had stated the charge incorrectly, that Mylecharaine had not been given sufficient time to clear himself, and that Christian had confessed that there was some excuse for what had been said. It is inferable that Mylecharaine had affirmed or implied that Christian had come by the money wrongfully, though the report of the enquiry says nothing of this, merely that Christian was accused of possessing the coins and sharing them out to another man. It seems clear that Tere and Mylecharaine were actuated by an aggrieved feeling ; but whether their grievance had any connexion with the treasure which forms the subject of the song, or exactly what lay behind the whole affair of the slander, must remain, I suppose, a trifling but insoluble enigma.

1 On page 53 of the Ballads the word Vorts should be prefixed to line 11

2 Mona's Isle, page 36.

3 Proceedings of Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, vol ii., No. 3.

4 Mona Miscellany, ii., 231.


"The Song of the Fairies," possesses several features worthy of notice from the folk-lorist's point of view. In it Finn MacCoole and his band are, like the Finoderee, well on their way to becoming supernatural beings. The song has four or five variants ; and as neither Harrison 1 nor Moore 2 states when or where he came by his set of words, perhaps we may conclude that it was formerly familiar to everybody. Of this curious specimen of the grotesque in literature I append a versified translation :-


What would'st thou do if the pot-hook and hanger
Sprang up in anger, scrimmaging hotly ?
Sprang up the pot-stick and dozens of dishes,
Banging viciously each against each ?

Sprang up the pot-stick and both the round tables,
Cressads and basins, goggans and platters,
Fell all to fighting, scratching and biting,
Till they would smite thee flat on the floor ?

What would'st thou do if the blotched Tarroo-ushtey
Nabbed thee ? Or grabbed thee the horrible Glashtyn ?
Gripped thee Finoderee, thick-kneed and waddling,
Rammed thee for bolster 'twixt him and the wall ?

Finn with his Fenians from Alba, from Eirë,
Glen-taking fairy and glaring buggane,
Were they to gather this night at thy bedside,
Steal thee they would in a straw suggane !

" Cressads " were the crucibles in which lead and pewter were melted to be run into moulds for spoons and other implements. " Goggans " were small wooden vessels holding less than half a pint - the English " noggin."

The violent antics of the kitchen utensils described in the first two stanzas are, I think, to be understood as something more than a mere effort of the versifier's fancy. They picture activities of an invisible force which, for convenience, students of such subjects call telekinesis, or a poltergeist, and the Manx people call a scaan, or a drogh spirrid. The transition, therefore, from such disturbers of domestic peace to the Buggane, the Water-bull, the Glashtyn, the Finoderee, and even to the Fairy of the Glen, whoever she may have been, is not so abrupt as might appear on the surface. The inclusion with these gentry of Finn MacCoole and his fraternity is in accord with his position in modern North Irish folk-lore and folk-tales as distinguished from the more literary side of the cycle. In the latter the Fenians are the heroic hunters of the bardic lays, magnified human beings with little of the magical atmosphere about them. They are seen thus in the Manx " Fin as Oshin " fragment with its Scottish antecedents ; and very noticeable is the contrast of their implied status in the " Arrane ny Ferrishyn." The final line of the song, which threatens the hearer with abduction by the bogies in the straw rope, does not, any more than the rest of their proceedings, stand alone. This was a recognized, though not the regular, fairy method of stealing human beings.3

Roeder found a variant of the last stanza which does not differ in sense from that given above, except that instead of simply " suggane," a straw-rope, a " clean suggane " is to be used for transporting the victim.5" Clean " might be translated " basket " or " creel," or " pannier," but if its commonest equivalent, " cradle," be adopted, it harmonizes with what appears to be the song's purport, namely, that it was sung to amuse children, and perhaps to overawe the naughty ones.

There is another Manx tale in which the inrush of the fairy mob on a kidnapping raid causes a magnetic disturbance of the furniture. A woman of Kirk Patrick, the mother of the story-teller, when alone in the house and in bed with her baby, heard Them come swarming in and felt the pull at the child in her arms. She called upon the Almighty, and the intruders rushed for the door. As they swept by, a little table beside the bed " went round about the floor twenty times."6 Their whirlwind campaigns are more often noticed out of doors.

In a similar vein to the first half of the " Arrane ny Ferrishyn " is a Munster song cited by Roeder,+ as an Irish wren-song. The earlier lines are familiar in Man also.

" The Wren, the Wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze ;
. . . .
A [little] cock-sparrow flew over the table,
The dish began to fight with the ladle,
The spit got up like a naked man
And swore he'd fight with the dripping-pan,
The pan got up and cocked his tail,
And swore he'd send them all to jail."

The word translated " waddling " in the third stanza of " The Song of the Fairies "-sprangagh-is defined by Kelly as " knock-kneed," with consequent peculiarities of gait-lameness or waddling. Cregeen explains sprangagh to mean " irregular." A Manx-speaking friend tells me it might be understood also as " odd, eccentric in behaviour or appearance," which is evidently an extension of Cregeen's definition. The word is obsolete in Scottish Gaelic and absent from the Gaelic dictionaries I have consulted ; but sprancdha occurs in the Glenmasan MS. (Celtic Review, iii., do7), where Prof. Mackinnon translates it as " active, vigorous." The 14th-century progenitor of the Clan McIain of Islay, Ian Sprangach, is called in English John the Bold. These significations are so totally opposed to the Manx definitions that the resemblance between sprangach and sprangagh must be deemed superficial and deceptive ; the Scottish sprangach is probably a nasalized form of spracach, which seems, by the way, to reappear in the English dialect word " sprack " with the same meaning.

The point of interest involved in the use of sprangagh here is anthropological. Of Finoderee's physical characteristics, as handed down by tradition, the most striking are his extreme hairiness and the peculiar structure of his legs ; and these, together with his name, may some day furnish a clue to a better understanding of his affinities. Those mysterious early invaders of Ireland, the Fomorians, were led by a chief named Ciocal, the son of their Queen ; and Ciocal is particularly described as being " rough and knocker-kneed." But that alone does not warrant us in classing Finoderee as a Fomorian, nor does he now show any other characteristics of that demonic race.

1Mona Miscellany, ii., 64; here it is called " the Phynnoderee Song."

2 Manx Ballads, page 70. It is the only ballad of which Moore omits to mention the provenance.

3 In Westray, Orkney, the fairies came to take away a woman who had been delivered of a child, that she might suckle one of their own, " but she loosed the ropes as fast as she was tied." (Orkney and Shetland Old-Lore, 29th April, 1909.) At Bowden in Roxburghshire a man, while he "was tying his garter with one foot against a low dyke, was startled by feeling something like a rope of straw passed between his legs," and he was carried away to the Eildon Hills, a fairy headquarters. The rope broke at a ford (note the barrier of running water), and he heard a thousand voices in the air about him. (Folk-lore of the Northern Counties, page 196.) In modern Greece the tables are turned, and the straw-rope nullifies the maleficence of certain demons who, in the Isle of Man, would be given honourable rank among the bugganes : " You may render the Callicantzaros harmless by binding him with a red thread or a straw rope." (Lawson, Modern Greek Folk-lore, page 202.) The red thread, and a black cock which Mr. Lawson mentions in the same connexion, are known in the Island also as safeguards against evil influences.

4 Lioar Manninagh, iii., 136.

5 Evans Wentz, The Fairy Faith, page 120. He does not reveal the exact locality of the affair, but it is said to have happened in Dalby. In Scotland similar attempts are attributed to witches.

6 Lioar Manninagh, iii., 191.


" The Nimble Mower," celebrates the prowess of Finoderee, who thereby shares with Manannan and Berrey Dhone the honour of a song entirely devoted to himself. A verse translation will not obscure its single and doubtful allusion to a magical practice in the second line ; I have, indeed, slightly accentuated the point with a simile which is not found in the original. (Similes are rare in the Manx ballad poetry, which prefers to stick grimly to its facts.)


Finoderee stole at dawn to the Round-field,
And skimmed the dew like cream from a bowl;
The maiden's herb and the herb of the cattle,
He was treading them under his naked sole.

He was swinging wide on the floor of the meadow,
Letting the thick swath leftward fall;
We thought his mowing was wonderful last year,
But the bree of him this year passes all !

He was lopping the blooms of the level meadow,
He was laying the long grass ready to rake;
The bog-bean out on the rushy curragh,
As he strode and mowed it was fair ashake !

The scythe that was at him went whizzing through all things,
Shaving the Round-field bare to the sod,
And whenever he spotted a blade left standing
He stamped it down with his heel unshod!

The first line of the original Manx as given in Moore's Ballads is otherwise remembered as Finoderee hie ad lheeaney ny lomarcan, or ad lheeaney lomarcan. In that case the meaning may be that Finoderee went to the meadow alone; or lheeaney ny lomarcan may be understood as a field-name comparable with " Glion ny Lomarcan " above the Dhoon in Maughold. Was Lomarcan, " the Lone One," ever a name for the Finoderee or some similar personage whose place in folk-lore he has usurped ?

Luss y voidyn, which in line 3 I have translated literally as " the maiden's herb," is, according to Kelly's Dictionary, " maidenlip," whatever plant that may be. Is loss y voidyn the same herb as the Irish lus na Maighdine Muire, which Dinneen says is the St. John's wort or yellow pimpernel ?

" The cattle herb," luss yn ollee, is known in England as the goutweed, Aegopodium podagraria (P. G. Ralfe).

Yiarn, literally " iron," in the last stanza, translated " scythe," is sometimes used for a sickle. Folder, in the title, certainly implies that he mowed with a scythe, but the title of a Manx song may be much more recent than the words. Scythes, however, were known in the Island at least so far back as 1577, when " a Sickle or Syth " is an alternative in the Customary Statutes. Finoderee therefore mowed the Lheeaney Rhunt, or the Lheeaney ny Lomarcan-as well as all the other meadows he has mowed unsung-with a scythe ; but his may have been a scythe of the obsolete type, which had the blade almost in the same plane as the straight, thick shaft ; a much heavier implement than the modern scythe, and one demanding greater strength and stamina, while correspondingly wider in its sweep.

Finoderee's handling of his yiarn mooar was nonetheless masterly, as might have been expected from one of his superb physique. Moreover, in that age of gold, before he suffered his rebuff from the thankless farmer near St. Trinian's, he was more willing and more energetic than ever since. He was more numerous, or more ubiquitous, too, and most of the larger farms were lucky enough to possess one of him. As we may gather from the song, he was then not too shy to start work at daybreak and let himself be seen and admired in the grey light by the respectful villagers, while they peeped over each other's shoulders through the sallies and alders that screened the little verdant meadows of the Curragh Glass. In the days ere he lost confidence in Manxmen he not only mowed for them, he raked and carried for them, reaped, made bands, tied sheaves and built the stack for them, threshed it and stacked the straw again, herded sheep and cattle, and whisked horse-loads of wrack and stone about the land like the little giant he was. He attacked his jobs like a convulsion of nature, making the hard ground soft and the soft ground waterhence the Curraghs. When he mowed he flung the grass to the morning star or the paling moon without heed to the cock's kindly word of warning from the near-by farmyard. He could clear a daymath in an hour and want nothing better than a crockful of bithag afterwards. The concentrated fury of his threshing resembled a whirlwind, an earthquake, Doomsday; his soost was a blur and the air went dark with the flying husks. In the zeal and zest of his shepherding he sometimes drove an odd animal over the cliffs, allowing, but he made up for that by folding in wild goats, purrs and hares along with the sheep. For he was a doer, not a thinker, mightier in thew than in brain, and when he should have been cultivating his intelligence at the village school between his nights of labour he was curled up asleep in some hiding-place he had at the top of the glen.

Or so we may imagine him to have been in the days of his glory, since we can no longer hope to meet him unless in a degenerate aspect hardly distinguishable from humanity. Superhuman he may have been, but not supernatural. Indeed, in the second line of the " Nimble Mower " it looks as though he were operating an ordinary process of human magic, that of lifting the dew between daybreak and sunrise. Drawing a cord of plaited horsehair behind them along the grass before sunrise, especially on May Day, was a favourite morning exercise of women who wished to divert the milk and butter of their neighbours to their own dairies ; when a cow afterwards walked over the track of the cord the spell began to work upon her milk. Possibly it could then be milked out of the same cord hung from a nail in the witch's house, but of this I know nothing, nor wish to. Or the dew of the neighbour's land could be collected into a vessel, with the same intention. But it may be that Finoderee, who owned neither house nor churn, was merely removing the moisture which is such a hindrance to early-morning mowing. Since there is room for doubt, let us impute the better motive.*

* It has even been said that the dew of May (besides beautifying the complexion) gives, in the Isle of Man, immunity from witches. (Rhys, Celtic Folklore, ii., 302.)


" I would direct special attention," wrote T. E. Brown, " to ' Berrey Dhone ' ; it is a witch-song of the ruggedest and the most fantastic type." Like " Mylecharaine " and " Kiree," it was inspired by the doings of a personage who is now legendary, but in Berrey's case a doubt may be entertained whether she was ever other than legendary. The words of the song have as many variants as " Mylecharaine," and are even more obscure ; but their obscurity may be due to an intentional allusiveness. It is, at any rate, in keeping with the character of Berrey, who, according to what dim memory of her now survives, was an arch-sorceress.

Partly for the sake of illustrating the verbal alterations which are liable to take place in songs of this class, I append two specimens of the essential portion. That they both belong to the same district is shown by the place-names. The first is from a MS. of Robert Gawne of the Rowany, written about 1830, and printed in Moore's Manx Ballads, page 72 ; I have made a few trifling corrections :-



Vel oo sthie, Berrey Dhone ?

Art thou within, Berrey

C'raad t'oo shooyl,

Dhone ?

Mannagh vel oo ayns immyr

Where walkest thou,


Unless thou art in a green strip

Lhiattagh y Barrule ?

On the side of Barrule ?

Hem mayd roin gys y clieu

Let us go to the mountain

Dy hroggal y voain,

To lift up the turf,

As dy yeeaghyn jig Berrey Dhone

And to see will Berrey come

Thie er yn oie.

Home to-night.

Hooyl mee Carraghyn

I walked upon Carraghyn

As hooyl mee Sniaul,

And I walked upon Snaefell,

Agh va Berrey cooyl dorrys,

But Berrey was behind thedoor.

As y lhiack er e kione.

And the slab on top of it.*


Hooyl mee Carraghyn

I walked upon Carraghyn

As hooyl mee Clieu Beg,-

And I walked upon Slieu Beg;

Va Berrey cooyl dorrys

Berrey was behind the door

Cha shickyr as treg.

As safe as a rock.+

Hooyl mee Pennypot

I walked upon Pennypot

As hooyl mee Clieu Ouyr ;

And I walked upon Slieu Ouyr ;

Va Berrey cooyl dorrys,

Berrey was behind the door

Eddyr carkyl y stoyr.++

'Mid a circle of the treasure.

* Or " the slab on her head."
+ Or " snug as a beetle."
++ Query, for " Eddyr carkyl as stoyr," " Between circle and treasure " ? Immyr Glass may be a place-name. Dorrys, likewise, may be the Creg yn Dorrys, a rock below the summit of Snaefell on its East side.



Vel oo sthie, Berrey Dhone ?

Art thou within, Berrey Dhone ?

Myr mannan you shooyl,

Like a kid thou wert walking

Riyr, harrish ny Drinan Glass

Last night, over the Drinan Glass

Lhiattagh y Barrule.

On the side of Barrule.





Hie ad roin gys y clieu

They went before us to the mountain

Dy hroggal y voin ;

To lift it from us ;

Cha yerkyms jig Berrey Dhone

I do not expect Berrey Dhone will come

Thie er yn oie.

Home to-night.



Hooyl mee Carraghyn

I walked upon Carraghyn

As hooyl mee Clagh Ouyy ;

And I walked upon Clagh Ouyr ;

Va Berrey cooyl y dhorrys

Berrey was behind the door

Cha jeen as ghoayr.

As sheltered as a goat.


Hooyl mee Cayyaghyn

I walked upon Carraghyn,

As hooyl mee Clieu Ruy ;

And I walked upon Sheu Ruy ;

Va Berrey ey y Vurroo

Berrey was on the Burroo

As raun ayns yn aaie.*

And a seal in the home-field.

* I am indebted to Miss Mona Douglas for the Manx of the above; it was heard by her on the border of Lonan and Maughold some years ago.

The scanty relics of the Berrey Dhone legend, inclusive of the song, might be pored over for a year and a day without satisfactory results. One potet, if not much else, stands out clearly : Berrey was a woman of the mountains, a witch, sibyl, hag or giantess of the upper regions. In addition to her hauntings of the central hill-tops, her name and her oracular presence are attached to a pool or ford of a highland stream in South Maughold, at which divination was practised.1It is familiar knowledge that such circumstances usually connote a tradition of the drowning of the personage in question at the spot; the tradition purports to account for a placename which is, in fact, that of a river-spirit or deity of the waters. Here the tradition exists only in a distorted and barely recognizable shape.. As recorded by William Harrison it relates that an Amazonian character called Margayd y Stomacher or Margayd y Stamina, whose doings have got entangled with Berrey's own legend, killed an ox named Berrey Dhone at this pool, hence its name " Lhing Berry Dhone." Beside this may be placed the local assertion that a water-bull which, in a folk-tale still extant, emanated from the Laxey river about four miles away and haunted the Moaney farm, was occasionally called " yn Dhow Vargayd," Margaret's Ox.

Certain scraps of ancient Irish folk-lore are brought to mind by this association of an ox or bull with Berrey Dhone, and by her reputed haunting of the Gob ny Scuit on North Barrule in the shape of a spectral bullock. Though popular tradition avers that she assumed a bovine form occasionally, in an earlier stage of the legend it may have been that she merely fostered an animal of the kind which has since become confused with her amorphous self. Such companionships between cailleachs and beasts are frequently found in Irish lore. One Dil, a witch or giantess, had her calf, cow or ox, which is called Brega in the Dindsenchas of Magh Breg,2 but elsewhere Damh Dili, Dil's Ox, " a fabulous ox of antiquity." It was the offspring of an ordinary cow and a bull which came out of a lake in Tvrone. Another Irish mountain-hag, Bera, owned a bull named Tarbh Conrui, Curoi's Bull ; as reported to Kuno Meyer, he swam across a small stream to reach a cow, and Bera destroyed him by turning him into a stone which can still be seen there. In a second account he was Curoi's own bull, and was apt to emerge from rivers and lakes, like the Dhow Vargayd in Lonan. Though normally a giantess of the heights, Bera is credited with having constructed the causeway of stones across the ford of the Cammogue below the fairy hill of Knockainy, Aine's Hill, and in some parts of Ireland she is identified with Aine the water-goddess or fairy, daughter of Culann. Aine also owned a bull-a red one-with which she entered her green hill.

But the most of what little material exists for the deciphering of Berrey's secret is provided by the song upon her. Although its two surviving versions differ verbally, they agree in mentioning nearly all the mountains in the neighbourhood of the Laxey and the North Laxey valleys, as well as others more distant, and it is more than probable that she was understood to be buried on, and to haunt, a mountaintop, as were and did the Cailleach Bhera in Ireland and Scotland, and "Michael" on Slieu Carn Vael in Kirk Michael. In that event, the " vel oo sthie," the " dhorrys," and the " clagh er e kione " would be intelligible as alluding to a cairn, monolith or dolmen corresponding to the Cailleach Bhera's Houses on a number of summits in the North of Ireland.

Wirt Sykes 3 relates a legend he gathered personally on the spot, concerning a " witch " who slept by day under a cross-roads stone on a mountain-top near Crumlin, Monmouthshire, and came forth at night ; and records another legend of a cannibal " witch " who slept under a stone at Llanberis. Here " witch " is evidently to be understood as hag or giantess-a calliagh, not the human wielder of spells.

In Irish folk-lore Bera has grown from human size, or shrunk from the stature of a nature-goddess, into a " witch " of the Welsh type just mentioned, and of the type of Berrey Dhone. It would be difficult to decide whether Bera in Ireland is a euhemerized demi-goddess or a semi-deified human being, or whether again beings of each kind have not coalesced in her folk-lore. Rhys appears to have regarded her as wholly human in origin. In the course of some remarks in The Welsh People, page 58, he says : " The stories have not been found, so far as we know, in any very ancient MS. ; but there appears to be no reason to suppose them to have begun late. They would seem, however, to have been developed relatively so late that Bera has only succeeded in attaining to the status of a witch or wise woman, of a nun or hag, of a revered person or a giantess, not quite to that of a goddess, unless it be in Argyll, where she ruled the storm." A Bera was brought over from "Spain" to be the bride of a legendary Irish king, and another (or the same) Bera was filia Ocha Pyincipis Brittonum Manniae, " daughter of Ocha, chief of the Britons of Man." What is meant by Mannia is doubtful.

These resemblances in name and character are put forward in a tentative spirit, not in the hope of showing that Berrey is a graft of Bera, or of any other Celtic sorceress, on Manx traditional lore. In the Insular witch-tradition she heads a graded corpus of witches, and this points rather towards the opposite side of the Irish Sea and the witch-system of Scotland and England; while her name, with its short first vowel, comes nearer to that of the Teutonic Bertha (Berchta) than to Bera's.4 To connect Berrey with Bertha a Teutonic link would be needed. As the witch-cult in the Isle of Man contains elements from Teutonic as well as from Celtic sources, it may well be that the same mixture would be discovered in a figure who seems to have been regarded as the chief representative of that cult, if we had more material to work upon. But unhappily the stone is on her head too long for much to be remembered about her.

She may have been no more than a human witch of long ago, one pre-eminent in her profession, around whom a mass of legend accreted during the centuries. But on the whole, the impression I get personally from a study of the words of the song-it may strike others differently-is that it celebrates the apparitions of a legendary being who was believed to be buried within or under an erection of stones, or in a cave, from which she issued to wander about the hill-sides, sometimes in the form of an animal. Nothing very different is deducible from the tiny scraps of tradition extraneous to the song ; a song which is remarkable, even among Manx folk-songs, in its inference of the mass of legend which has perished during the last hundred years or so.

1 For particulars see A Manx Scrapbook, page 395.

2" Brega, the name of Dil's ox, i.e. Dil, daughter of Lug-mannair, who went from the Land of Promise, or from the land of Falga. . . In the same hour that Dil was born of her mother the cow brought forth the calf named Falga ; [rette Brega]. So the King's daughter loved the cow beyond the rest of the cattle, for it was born at the same time ; and Tulchine was unable to carry her off until he took the ox with her. .The land of Falga was the Isle of Man. From the same root as this Irish custom no doubt grew the Lappish one of giving a reindeer calf to a child when baptized, to be kept as his or her own.

3 British Goblins, page 368.

4As she was called " Bery " in 1700 by a woman who was almost certainly speaking in Manx, there is no ground for suspecting that the name is a dialect form of Betty, as " Kirry " is of Kitty.


One of the shorter pieces in Manx Ballads runs, in English, as follows:-

Spin, wheel, spin,
Spin, wheel, spin,
May every branch upon the tree
Spin above my head;

The king shall have the wool,
And I shall have the thread,
For old Trit Trot she shall never get.

In Manx Fairy Tales it is :-

Spin, wheel, spin,
Sing, wheel, sing,
Every beam upon the house
Spins above my head;
His / Hers is the wool,
Mine is the thread,
She little knows, the lazy wife,
My name is Mollyndroat !

The bearings of this remnant of a song, unintelligible by itself, are elucidated to some extent by Rhys's discussion 1 of a fairy personal name which in Teutonic, Welsh and Scottish tales takes such forms as Tom Tit Tot, Trwtyn Tratyn, Trit - a - Trot, and others innumerable. In Sir George Douglas's Scottish Fairy Tales it is Habitrot.2 This is a fairy personage—the sex varies in the different versions—who is a skilful spinner and helps a woman to accomplish a task of that kind on condition that she discovers the name of her elfish benefactor. In two Swedish spinning-tales the unknown name is Titel-tata, Titeliturë, and other perversions. In the Manx story belonging to the above song the benefactor is a giant, whose name Mollyndroat must be guessed. The last line in version No. 1 should therefore be read " Old Trit Trot shall never get me."

In the Folk-lore journal, vol. vii., pages 138-143, and in Folk-lore, vol. ii., pages 246 and 132, where many specimens of the tale are collected, " Trit-a-Trot " is the Irish name of the supernatural spinner. Grimm 3 mentions the use in Germany of alte trute for " old witch," and the quieting of noisy children by the words " Hush ! the drut will come." He remarks that she exactly fills the place of Frau Holla or Frau Berchta, and can therefore more appropriately be the ancient Valkyr. Both Holla and Berchta, be it noted, were spinning goddesses, and, later, fairy queens.

This is one of the fairy-tale motives which have been interpolated among the annals of witchcraft. It turns up in the trial and criminal confession of Major Weir's sister, in Edinburgh, who acknowledged that the Queen of the Fairies had helped her to spin an unusual quantity of yarn.

Taken literally, the exhortation in the song to the beams, or to the branches, to spin the thread, does not explain itself. A clue to the meaning may, perhaps, be found in a Lonan legend which I versified in A Manx Scrapbook. There a woman is helped in her spinning by outdoor spiders of no common variety. In the song it may be that the spiders of the roof or of the branches were expected to spin under fairy control.

And why does the singer assert that the thread is to belong to her ? A note in Teutonic Mythology, page 1396, on the Lithuanian version of the story, in which weaving takes the place of spinning, explains the line in the Manx song. The Lithuanian " Lauma," who is very like Berchta and Holda, Grimm says, appears in houses and helps the girls in their weaving. The work flies apace, but in return the girl must guess the fairy's name. If she can, she is entitled to keep 4 the linen she has woven ; if not, the Lauma takes it away.

1Celtic Folklore, pages 583 to 598.

2 Some light may be cast on this fairy name by a remark in Teutonic Mythology, page 232, that " Ecke, Vasat, Abentrot, are styled brothers." Ecke is a folk-lore counterpart of Aegir and therefore of his equivalent Hler, both of them gods of the sea.

3 Teutonic Mythology, page 423.

4 " Their women are said to spin very fine, to dye, to tissue, and embroider." - Kirk, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves and Fays.



A Peel version of this old Hollandtide Eve song (11th November) is given, presumably by Miss Sophia Morrison, in An AngloManx Vocabulary, page 84. A slightly different one, for the most part written down for me by Mr. J. G. Callister, late of that city and s.s. Tyyconnell, as he used to sing it in his boyhood, runs as below-the refrain " Hop-to-naa " precedes every line :

" Put in the pot, Put in the pan,
I scalded my throat, I feel it yet.
I ran to the well, I drank my fill.
What did you see there ? I saw a pole-cat.
The cat began to grin
And I began to run.
I saw Jinny the Whinney +.
Go over the lake +
A griddle in her hand
All ready to bake;
Her teeth were green
And her eyes were red,
And a thickness of hair at her
Upon her head;
Baking bonnags,
Toasting sconnags ;
I asked her for a bit,
Guess, the bit she gave me!
A bit as big as my big toe !
I dipped it in milk,
Then happed it in silk,
And went home by the light of the moon." *

+ Or: Jinny the Whinney
Came out of the lake.

The word "lake" suggests that some, at least, of the lines have been borrowed from an English source, and the colour of Jinny's teeth helps us to identify her with the water-spirit " Jenny Greenteeth " of Lancashire and other Northern counties. In Lancashire Jenny was a " boggart " who lived in ponds and pools, especially those having a slimy or reedy surface, into the depths of which she dragged down the unwary.

Jinny and jenny have relatives abroad. " In a Danish folk-song the Nõkke . . . wears a green hat, and when he grins you see his green teeth."1 In Bohemia the water-demon is named " Greenteeth." In Brittany the female korrigans have red eyes. A good deal of forgotten Manx folk-lore has left its traces in the old and often apparently nonsensical songs; the baking activities of Jinny, and the remarkable luxuriance of her locks, resembling those of the mermaid, may have had their value in stories which have now evaporated. There is a vague notion that she inhabited " some place in the Curraghs," as would have been congenial to her, but where the Whinney was I do not know. 2 At any rate, she must once have been a popular figure in folk-lore circles ; an old woman who lived in a roadside cottage between Ballaugh Old Church and the smithy some thirty years ago was nicknamed Jinny-the-Whinney.

Among the specimens and fragments of this song collected by Roeder 3 is an exceptional one from Glen May which begins :

" I went to the rock,
The rock gave me cold,
The cold to the smith," etc.

" Cold " should perhaps be " gold." There is a rock called the Gold Stone above the junction of Glen May with Glen Rushen, from which gold of a sort was extracted, and used for gilding crockery.

The Hop-to-naa boys who went about in a dressed-up procession on Hollandtide Eve expected, like the Wren-boys on St. Stephen's Day, to profit by their vocalism. Having no feathers to dispose of, they collected beforehand all the salt herrings they could come by, each boy bringing his contribution obtained by fair means or foul from the household stock. These they carried round the town with them in buckets, singing their song and exchanging their herrings for sugar and butter with which to make themselves a feast of " taffy." Sometimes coppers would be given them instead.

1 Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, page 491. The Nõkke was a water-spirit.

2 There was formerly a " Lough Gat y Whinney " near the place now called Gat y Whing in Andreas.

3 Lioar Manninagh, iii., 186.


Although Rutter was not a Manxman, the excellence of the songs he composed during his residence in the Island, and the Manx flavour of some of them, induce me to add a few words to Harrison's outline of his life in The Mona Miscellany, i., 225.

His family and birthplace have not yet been ascertained. Harrison says "he was probably a native of Lancashire." Moore quotes from an unspecified source a tradition that he was a grandson of John Rutter, a miller on the Derby estate at Burscough, in Lancashire.1

The name, however, was scattered through various English counties from the 13th century, and was particularly strong around Tarporley in Cheshire, where Rutters held land until the 17th century. A search through Lancashire and Cheshire records should therefore bring Samuel's name to light, and the results might fittingly be added to the Dictionary of National Biography.

It is possible that his association with the Stanleys arose from their connexions with Wirral in general (where the name of Rutter was not uncommon) and with Bidston in particular. The Bidston estate and its hall belonged to a branch of the Stanleys in the first half of the 17th century, and at the same period the Bidston Parish Registers record Rutters in that place.

Rutter's position as domestic chaplain to the seventh Earl of Derby and his consequent residence with the family in Castle Rushen doubtless smoothed his way to an Archdeaconship, and, in 1661, to the See of Sodor and Man. His earlier reverend offices in the Island, and another in England, did not check the engaging swing and gusto of his drinking songs.

" Cast away care and sorrow, the cankerworm of the brain,
For hee that cares for the morrow has spent a good day in vain,
And hee's but an ass, and hee's but an ass,
That drinks not and drinks not again!

Wee count him a dangerous fellow, as any that lives in ye State,
Who when his neighbours are mellow doth trouble an addle pate,
With thinking too much, with thinking too much,
And all about living too late !

Let our Hostess fill up the flaggon, and let her good ail be brown,
And let it spitt fire like a draggon, till our heads be the wisest in town,
'Tis a life for a King, . . . '

or for his Cavalier chaplain, or even a 17th-century Archdeacon ; but the parting between the Bishop and his Muse must have been painful to him.

The above links are taken from Manx Ballads. Only a portion of Rutter's songs appears to have seen the light, but some may well be floating about the world unidentified.

A. W. Moore noted at Knowsley a MS. dated 1648, and entitled " A Choice Collection of songs composed by Archdeacon Ryter."2 These were known to William Harrison forty years previously ; the complete superscription which he quotes shows that the pieces were composed before Rutter became a Bishop. 3 Such a MS. collection of Rutter's work was reported in The Times Literary Supplement about seven years ago to have been purchased at an auction and sent to the United States.

1History of Isle of Man, i., 480.

2Lioar Manninagh, i., 105. [sic 110]

3 Mona Miscellany, i., 227.


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