[From 3rd Manx Scrapbook ]
1. Fairy Washers.-2. Red Women-3. White Ladies. 4. Other Fairy Matters.-5. Giants.-6. Demons, Friendly and Malign.
THE Fairy Washerwoman, also called the Washer of the Night, Washer at the Ford, and Singer of the Night, is well-established in Scotland and Ireland. She has been seen in Wales, very frequently in Western France, less often in other parts of France and Switzerland ; even far Korea knows her. In Ireland she appears as a bit of mythological folk-lore before the end of the 10th century. The hero-tale Bruiden- daChocae narrates the adventures of, among others, King Cormac Conloingeas, the eldest son of Conchobar mac Nessa deceased, and his followers. " They went to Druim Airthir, which is now called The Garman. There they unyoked their chariots. As they were there they saw a red woman on the edge of the ford washing her chariot and its cushions and its harness. When she lowered her hand, the bed of the river became red with gore and with blood. But when she raised her hand over the river's edge, not a drop therein but was lifted on high ; so that they went dryfoot over the bed of the river." They asked her what she was doing there. " And then, standing on one foot, and with one eye closed, she chanted to them, saying : ` I wash the harness of a King who will perish . . . ! ' The messenger came to Cormac and told him of the evil prophecy which the Badb had made for him." Cormac himself then interrogated her, and learned that the blood-stained equipment did indeed represent his own and his men's. (Extracted from a translation in the Revue Celtique, xxi. 157.)
A similar incident occurs in The Battle of Gabhra, in which heroic tale Oscar and his 300 Fians meet with a fairy woman washing clothes at a river. There is blood on the clothes and blood is showing on the water. She foretells the disaster and slaughter which ensue. The reciter of a Highland version (The Fians ; Argyllshire Series, IV, chap. ii.) said that the tradition of the Washer's fatal character arose from this vision of Oscar's ; before then she " had not been an omen of evil." Cuchulain likewise saw this apparition washing his bloodstained gear. (Hull, Folk-Lore, xii. 6¢). In another adventure he meets, also at a ford, a chariot drawn by a red horse, which is driven by a red woman with red eyebrows and red clothing. Alongside her walks a huge man wearing a red cloak. The woman prophesies that she will entangle Cuchulain's feet in his coming combat at the ford of Ardee, in the shape of a water-snake (Leahy, Heroic Romances, ii. 132ff.). In this incident there is no mention of washing.
In mediæval times the Washer reappears as Brõnach Boirne, the Mourner of Burren Head, in Co. Clare.
She foreboded the great slaughter at Corcomroe Abbey in 1318 by washing skulls and bones at the edge of Lough Rask (Wood-Martin, Elder Faiths, i. 366). The deaths in battle of Prince Donchad O'Brien and all his kindred were foreshadowed by a vision of her at the same lakeside, busily washing " human limbs and heads, with gory weapons and clothes," so that the lake was defiled with blood (Westropp, Folk-Lore, xxi. 187-8). An English army encountered the same apparition washing armour and rich robes in the river Fergus. Through an interpreter she told the invaders that her name was Bronach and she " lodged in the green fairy mounds of the land." Next day de Clare, his sons, and most of his troops, lay dead near the ford of Dyscrt. Before any grave disaster happened in her own territory, Aoibhill, the fairy queen of South Munster, used to show herself with twenty-five attendants, washing clothes in a lake near Inchiquin. Yeats, in his Secret Rose, page 73, introduces the Washer in an episode which is probably a genuine legend. Five English troopers see her washing a corpse at a river in Sligo, and each man recognises his own features in those of the dead. Misled on their further way by her consort they ride over the edge of a cliff, and all five are killed.
So recently even as 1907 the Washer at the Ford has foreshadowed calamity in Clare ; see Westropp, loc. cit.
Modern Wales seems to have forgotten her, but in 1556 the dogs of Llanferras in Denbighshire had a habit of gathering at a ford in the parish and barking at a fairy woman washing clothes there. She told Urien Rheged, " I am the daughter of the King of Annwn," which amounted to saying that she was a princess of the Land of Shadow. Nevertheless, she was a source of life, not of death, for a son and a daughter were born to her and King Urien (Aberystwyth Studies, vol. iv, where Miss Gwenan Jones adds a conspectus of the subject of the Washer). Lhwyd the antiquary related in 1693 that a young woman used to be seen coming out of a lake above Bettws-y-Coed to wash clothes, which she folded up and took back into the lake (Celtic Folklore, page 133). Rhys identifies the lake as the Llyn Glaslyn of the maps.
In Cromarty a tall female was once seen beetling more than 30 bloodstained smocks and shirts on a river-stone and spreading them along the grassy bank. That evening the roof of Fearn Abbey fell in and killed 36 worshippers (Miller, Scenes and Legends of the N. of Scotland, page 297). On the Isle of Mull she sang a beautiful melody while cleansing bloody garments before a man's death in battle (MacCormick, The Island of Mull, page 87). Recently collected Highland folk-lore depicts her washing the shroud of the fated one and singing his dirge, as she sometimes does in Brittany. If she can be intercepted she will grant a wish in exchange for her liberty, like a mermaid. She is not everywhere a forerunner of calamity. In the Reay district of Ross-shire she left descendants, as she did in Denbighshire. A typical Highland specimen of her is described in MacCulloch's Misty Isle of Skye, page 242, and a more innocent one in the Trans. of the Gaelic Soc. of Inverness, xxii. 205. See also Folk-Lore, xxv. 87ff.
There is a note on early French lavandiëres de nuit in the Revue Celtique, iii. 421, and on a modern form of the belief in Souvestre's Le Foyer Breton, i. 144, where they appear in a company, and do not predict death but inflict it. In Sébillot's Folk-lore de France other varieties of the Washer are recorded. Most of them belong to Brittany, where, if you accept an invitation to help with the wringing, your arms are screwed round and broken. Garments and lace washed by the more harmless fairies are often of miraculous fineness, and lucky to steal. Breton Washers tend, like most Breton apparitions, to become revenantsspirits of the dead who have sins to expiate. In France the lavandiëres are generally white, and wash their own linen. The red ones, a minority, wash the garments of those about to die. A very few are black, and males are equally rare. Some of the women, perhaps deprived of their ancient fords, wash under bridges. All kinds may be seen in daylight, but the night is their favourite season.
In one at least of the modern French stories of the Washer she might easily pass for her Irish forerunner of a thousand years ago. When a boy was passing a place on the bank of the river Indre which had the reputation of being haunted by her, a tall female figure, all of a red colour, rushed out at him, wringing a handful of bloody linen.
The Manx fairy's candle is not a property of typical Washers elsewhere. It may be due to an assimilation of her to Will o' the Wisp, as in a district of Western France, where the feu follet has become a spirit which does laundry work at the little bridges. To placate it a small article of dress should be thrown over the parapet as one crosses, and next morning it will be found there, carefully washed and neatly folded. In the Department of Ille-et-Vilaine " a kind of light " is seen under old bridges when the Washers are at work there (Sëbillot, ii. 353). The Manx view of the Washer as a bringer of bad weather is paralleled only, so far as I am aware, in Provence, where she squats on Mont Ventoux and wrings out torrential rains (Sëbillot, i. 230). There is, however, the popular saying, not confined to the Isle of Man, that when rain falls in sunshine the fairies are doing their washing.
In Yorkshire, as in the Isle of Man and parts of the Highlands, the superstition has lost its atmosphere of fatality. At a well near Kettleness in the West Riding the fairies were well known to wash their clothes by night, and the thumps of their " battledores " were heard even at Runswick (Atkinson, Forty Years in a Moorland Parish, page 53).
So far away as Korea a spirit in the form of a woman is seen washing clothes in the rivers. Anyone who ventures too near her is caught and drowned (FolkLore, xi. 332). Possibly she is what botanists call " an escape."
Surely the washing fairy is one of the oddest of all the odd creatures inhabiting the Celtic wonderland ! Even as a goddess of battle and death in battle she was addicted to imitating a prosaic human occupation, and this became her chief characteristic when she emerged into Christian times as a banshee in the popular sense of the word, heralding death and singing the dirge of the dead-to-be. But the Manx Washer, as will be seen, is the tamest and least picturesque of the sisterhood.
The fairy-washerwoman of Maughold haunted a crossing-place on the Struanny-Nice named Boayl-ny-Nice, " Place of the Washing," q.v., Part One, chap. vi. A local man, R. L., calls this spectral laundress a Liannanshee, and says she held a lighted candle in one hand while she beat the clothes, or whatever it was she had, with her sladhan held in the other. A still older native of the district, K--, whose father actually saw her, and was not frightened at all, says she was " a lil red woman, and used to have a candle stuck in the bank beside her " (which was more sensible and convenient than holding it). In both versions she came out of the river, and to see her was a sure sign of dirty weather at hand, but of nothing worse. (I enquired carefully about that.) The Washer may not have been thought to be always the same personage, or a party of fairies may sometimes have been seen, for I have heard the Boaylny-Nice casually alluded to as " the place where the fairies washed their clothes." But I could meet with no more than the two accounts just given.
In other places in the Island it was always in parties that they did their washing. There was a flat stone, not now discoverable with certainty, in the Rhenab river a little way below where the lodge now stands, and at this the fairies were both heard and seen at night and early in the morning, washing clothes.
At the side of the Gretch river in Lonan, in a spot called " the Fairy Ground," the fairies used to be seen washing their babies. These solicitous mothers, like the Maughold laundresses, always wore red costumes.
Three other fairy washing-places, which have been mentioned in print but are not included in any volume of folk-lore, may be added here. At a river-crossing in Glen Rushen the fairies soaked, beat, and shook out their garments, and hung them on the gorse-bushes to dry. One article, a beautifully-made cap which was too small for the smallest child in the glen, was brought home by a man who saw it being put on a bush ; but his mother made him take it back, " for fear the fairies would be afther it, an' there wouldn' be res' in the house on the night " (Lioay Manninagh, iv. 161). Again, at an unnamed place in Arbory the fairies were often heard " beetling and bleaching their clothes down at the stream." In another glen, children saw the fairies' newly-washed linen spread out on a rock to dry (Chambers' Journal, 1855). Similar sights may have given its name to " Glen Nee-a-nee " in Kirk Bride, thus spelt in Quarrie's verses. The name probably contains the same word as Boayl-ny-Niee, where the sound would be better represented by " N'yee."
From washerwomen, either human or spectral, comes the name of the river and of the places on its banks : the Stream of the Washing and the Place of the Washing, and Chibber-ny-Niee, the Well of the Washing, at its source. Near this is a small bridge under which, traditionally, women performed ritual ablutions in order to qualify as witches. The river-name may have travelled up its course from the Place. But this does not satisfy dealers in derivations of the pseudohistorical brand. They relate that a long time ago there was a great battle on Sulby Claddagh in Lezayre, and above it at Ballamannagh, between the Sulby Cossacks (a local nickname for the natives), and some Danes or Norwegians who came over from " Greenock." (Another version says it was fought between the Druids and the Romans.) The Sulby boys came on shouting their war-cry, " Giare minnagh ass ! ' - ` Cut out their bowels ! " and this gave its name to the farm of Ballamannagh. (The narrator pronounced minnagh as mannagh, perhaps to suit his etymology.) But the bloodthirsty invaders bested them, and eventually made their way into Maughold, where the Maughold ones (the narrator was a Maughold man) beat them in a battle on Slieu Lewaigue, and killed every man of them. After doing this they came down to wash the gore off their hands and clothing at Boayl-ny-Niee, and the river ran red as far as Cornaa Mill.
In the parish of Maughold especially, I have been struck by the prevalence of " the Little Red Woman," whose Manx name, Ben Ven Jiarg, is still to be heard, though not often. Even in a specimen of the ubiquitous changeling story, the fairy who exchanges the two children in the harvest field, and re-exchanges them when her own child howls, is a Little Red Woman. These Red Women are more important members of the Manx fairy-world than I had realised, and a census might reveal that they are more numerous, proportionately, in Maughold and Lonan than in the other parishes. We have seen that the Washer at Boaylny-Niee was of this sinister hue, and among the sisterhood is perhaps also to be reckoned the celebrated little red-cloaked woman who patrolled the Northern mountains, the Ben Veg Cayraghan.
In the second half of the 19th century the principal cottage, now a ruin or worse, at the top of Port Mooar in Maughold, was occupied by two men named Kissack, father and son, both weavers. One harvest-time the younger man went off to visit some cousins at Douglas. It was before the days of the electric tramway, and perhaps he wanted to save the coach fare ; anyhow, he walked there and back. At about 10 in the evening he left Douglas, and came home by the most direct route-through Old Laxey, across the Monks' Bridge, up the Puncheon Road, past the Ballarragh, down the Dhoon Steps, past the Barony Gate and Rhenab Mill to Cornaa Mill, making for Rhullick-ny-Quakeryn and Port Mooar. As he was going up the Lag Vollagh road from Cornaa he noticed that the sky was brightening before him, and he said to himself, " The day is with me, I'll take rest." So he sat himself down on a convenient place there is in the hedge on the right side going up, and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, what did he see but a little Red Woman sitting in his lap ! He went to grip her, but as soon as ever he moved his arms she slid down and away with her. He exclaimed aloud, " Ta mee rieau dy clashtyn dy row ny feryishyn ny noon as noal ayns Ellan Vannin, as dar Yee to mee fakirs 'nave noght ! "" I've always heard there were fairies going to and fro in the Isle of Man, and by God I've seen one to-night ! "
The Brummish, a field close to Ballaglass farmhouse, contained the once-celebrated inn, the " Brummish Veg." There were in fact two licensed houses there, and the stones of the larger one are still in the haggart walls. Two were needed, for in those days the population was both denser and thirstier. Fishermen, farm-boys, and miners from the lead-mine on the bank of the Ballaglass river, often spent their nights in these public-houses, drinking, singing, playing cards and spinning yarns. (The mine was started by some foreigners. They were good miners, and mighty clever at making " beads and glass things." They lived at the Brummish.) Many a man coming up from Port Cornaa to his home in the upper part of the parish would get no further than the Brummish Veg. Jimmy Fargher and Peter Kermeen on their way to it saw, just about where the electric tramline is now, a lil Red Woman-the Ben Veg Jiarg-going in-under a gorse-bush almost at their feet. Peter gave the bush a kick as he passed it, but Jimmy said, " Leave it alone, it's doing us no harm." A terrible bad pain came into Peter's leg, though he was but a young fellow then, and it never left him after. He was lame from that time out.
Another man, who remembers hearing of this affair at the time it happened, says it was not a Red Woman but a little white dog they saw. Perhaps the original story was that the Red Woman had a white dog with her. This would be the fairy dog so frequently met with in the company of Themselves.
A woman who was shearing (reaping) on the farm of Ballagilley had left her baby on the ground close to the hedge. While the work was going on, one of the other reapers, who had stopped for a moment to straighten his back, saw a little Red Woman come to the child and pick it up, leaving another baby lying in its place. She then carried the woman's baby away with her. The one she had left behind set up such a piercing howl that everybody stopped working to look, and the mother dropped her reaping-hook to run to it, thinking it was her own. But the man held her back, saying, " Wait now, till we see what'll happen." They all stood watching, and the child kept on screaming. In a minute or two the fairy-woman came hurrying back down the field from somewhere they couldn't see-she must have come through the (stone) hedge-with the right baby in her arms, laid it down where she had found it, and disappeared through the hedge again with her own child.
Such stories, with local variations, are of course common. I give this one on account of the abducting fairy's colour.
Why the Ladies are always white and the Women red I cannot explain, nor yet why " White Lady," unlike " Red Woman," has no equivalent in the native tongue. True, there was a celebrated Ben Vane in Marown early in the 18th century, but she was only a witch. Liannanshees, however, are often called White Ladies.
The Liannanshee seems to have preferred the men of the South of the Island to the Northerners. Some of these fascinating vampires have been described by Charles Roeder and others appear in my previous volumes, but the census is still far from complete. One attached herself to old Harry Ballahane of Rushen Parish, " and when he would sit to meat wouldn't he be throwing her a sup of porridge ? " (Blanche Nelson's MSS.). Another, recorded by the same historian of manners in 1898, followed Nick Kermode's grandfather, when he was a young man, from the fields right into the house. It was dark outside, and he thought she was Shen Moll, his wife, though he was puzzled when she didn't answer him. But when he got in his wife was already there. She couldn't see the fairy woman, and wondered why he wasn't eating his supper. " Don't you see this one ? " was his explanation. At that she grinned at him shocking and went through the door. And there was another man, a White Woman was seen walking at his side from Cregneish up the Mull one night, when he was going on the hill to "take the stars." When they taxed him with he couldn't deny it. This actually occurred in 1898.
A retired lighthouse-keeper whom I know fairly well has a tale about his father and another man. They were walking past Kirk Arbory (?) one night, and they saw the figure of a woman dressed all in white standing in the angle of the wall just opposite the Church gate. When the man went across to speak to her she took him by the arm and spun him round and round till he was dizzy, and then let go of him so suddenly that he nearly fell down on the road. The marks of her fingers remained on his arm up to the day of his death-dark imprints on the biceps.
A very similar recontre is related in Blanche Nelson's MSS., but for Kirk Christ Rushen. In that adventure the apparition was standing just outside the Vicarage front-door, which was shut. The two men thought at first it was the wife of the Vicar, who sometimes put her out. She gripped the man who accosted her, and he had a hard job to get free. He looked years older afterwards, and always had her finger-marks on his arm.
A sexton of Kirk Christ Rushen, now long deceased, told me a very similar story many years ago, so it may be regarded as common property.
She was often seen on Lewaigue Bridge, which crosses the little stream close to the farm gate. One time she came right into the house itself and walked upstairs, dressed in rustling silk, in front of a woman who was living there. The woman was so frightened that she wouldn't stop at Lewaigue any longer, and went away to live at Creg-ny-Mult.
This White Lady is believed to have some connexion with the celebrated Christian Lewaigue. The woman he wronged in his unregenerate days certainly haunted the road from the farm to its junction with the Douglas road, and further than that, apparently, since she waylaid him at Ballure Bridge, as related in the Second Scrapbook, page 75. But after Christian's time she showed herself to Mark Harrison's father when he was farming Lewaigue. He went out of the house one Saturday night to look for a man and a pair of horses that were very late getting back from Ramsey. When he was between the gate and the bridge he heard " a rattling (i.e. rustling) like a silk dress, and someone passed him like a shadow and went into the house." But when he returned, no stranger had been there.
Another man, when passing exactly the same spot one night, saw nothing unusual, but his dog stopped, and stood as though pointing at the bit of a shrubbery there. It then drew back slowly, step by step, and finally turned tail and bolted up the road. The dog, this man assured me with all the conviction of a dog-lover, would have defended him against any earthly odds, whether man or beast, and never showed fear in its life except that night. It was our passing the place together that put him in mind of the incident.
"That's a great fairy place, I've always h'ard," observed the stranger reflectively, after a pause. We were standing on Kirk Bride brows, and looking across the shining level of Ramsey Bay to where Maughold slanted up into the clouds around Barrule. Unless I had influenced his thoughts silently it was a spontaneous remark, for till then we had been discussing the weather and the prices of stock at Ramsey Mart, subjects in which I am keenly interested as stepping-stones to higher things. Then my new acquaintance turned to me and added swiftly, "But when you came into Bride you came into the finest little parish in the Island ! " He would not have Bride outfamed, even by Fairyland. (And I have noticed that parochial patriotism is more vocal in Bride than in other districts, for some unascertained reason. Perhaps it was originally inspired by George Quarrie, a man of Scotch descent. The Manx people are like that.) Not that Kirk Bride has lacked fairy inhabitants, far from it. No parish in the Island has. And if the North is richer in them than the South, it must be because the less spacious South has always been a little overstocked with human beings and Government officials.
Whatever parish they may grace, many of the Manx fairies are of an imitative disposition, just as in other countries. In mines, quarries and boat-building yards they have been heard, and occasionally seen, carrying on at night after the men have finished and gone home -but without any noticeable result next morning, wherein they differ from Fenoderee. A sidelight on the latter's chief characteristic reached me lately in a Maughold man's comment on Fenoderees. " You had to do a bit of the work yourself first," he said, " to start it, to show them how lek, and then they'd go on with it for you." It was his belief that Fenoderees used to be numerous, each one attached to his own neighbourhood ; not merely a single journeymanworker for the whole Island. And this seems to be the correct view of the matter ; yet folk-lorists write of " the Phynodderee of the Isle of Man " as historians write of " the Governor."
Among these mostly invisible bands of fairy workers the best known to the general public are the woodworking elementals of the Ooig-ny-Seiyr, the Cave of the Carpenters, on the coast of Patrick. The explanation of their activities that one meets with in print is that they were engaged in making barrels for the herring they were going to catch and cure ; and it is averred that to hear them promised good fishing. The sounds heard coming from the cave, however, are accounted for in two other ways. One is that they were building new boats for their fishing-fleet. The other is that they were making coffins, but not for themselves. They were heard going at it with unusual vigour before a well-remembered disaster to the Peelside boats. Consonant with this explanation is the belief that good fishing for the fairies meant poor fishing for the sons of men, and vice versa. Also that to see their boats, or rather the innumerable twinkling lights of them, at sea, was a warning to put in, for it heralded a storm.
The supernatural classes of Manx society have as many ties of kinship outside the Island as the less interesting half of its population. One example of this truism will not, I hope, be thought too digressive. In my Second Scrapbook, page 90, is an account of how a ghostly arm pushed back a wayfarer who was about to walk into a swollen river in the dark. The woman thus protected, whom I had known well for many years, had certainly never read C. G. Leland's Legends of Florence. It was only after publishing that minor miracle that I happened to read them myself, and I was amused to find in the Second Series that the little Glen Aldyn stream is, in this matter, to be coupled with the more famous Arno. The Italian legend, as related by Leland, runs thus. " Lo Spirito del' Arno. This spirit appears as a white hand, which makes a sign to those who are in danger. This hand will, when anyone is a true believer in such spirits, place itself on him and push him back from danger." It will even bear him up if he falls into the water. The same hand knocks at the doors of the riverworkers to summon them when one of their fraternity is in peril of drowning. When the case is thus urgent, the spirit even carries a rescuer in a moment of time, he knows not how, to the bank of the river. (If it can do that, why cannot it effect the rescue itself ?) The warning hand and the spirit it belongs to are carved, Leland says, on the stonework of the oldest bridge in the city ; and the 14th-century inscription makes it clear that this is the friendly river-spirit, the God of the Arno. (Legends of Florence, collected from the people ; 2nd. ser., page 17.)
A well-informed but anonymous article in Chambers' Journal of 1855, entitled " A Manx Recruit," furnishes us with some interesting information about the fairies of nearly ninety years ago. Their haunt can be identified. The recruit is Hughie Corkill of " Ballabalsalla," and the mother of the children who are familiar with them had " washed for the Governor." These children are all " strong believers in the supernatural, like most of their elders ; and will, if you gain their confidence, tell you startling tales of glamour-how, playing at twilight on the brink of the deep glen adjoining their cottage, they have seen in the hollow far below the newly-washed linen of the fairy households spread out on the rocks to dry ; how they have heard the tinkling sounds of tiny musical instruments blending with the gurgle of the unseen brook beneath the gnarled and ivy-clad trees , and how, above all, one memorable day towards dusk, two of the little people were beheld advancing hand in hand, as if to speak to themwithered hobgoblins, three feet high, clad in little jackets and short red petticoats." The children unfortunately fled. (This kind of fairy, or fairies in this disguise, are still being seen in Ireland-vide English newspapers of 1938.)
Fairies belonging to the colony at the top of Glen Rushen used to come down late at night to go fishing from Glen May shore, where they kept their boats hauled up in the caves. One time they found a party of Irish fairies just landing. There was a great battle with fists and stones between the two clans, and many were killed and many wounded. A man was watching from the brews, and he wanted to shout a "good word" to scatter them, but his tongue wouldn't stir in his head. At last a troop of fairy cavalry galloped down to the beach, headed by a rider on a white horse. He laid on to the Irish fairies with a stick he was carrying, and drove them back to their boats, but in doing this he got pitched into the sea and drowned. As he went down he cried out
" Yee mie ! "-" Good God ! " Now these were the very words the man who was watching had been trying to get out. The rider was not exactly a fairy, but a Glen May man who had been picked up at sea by them when he was drowning, to help them in their fishing and fighting. After this he was never seen by any person again.
Visions and dreams are made of the same stuff. The words the onlooker was trying vainly to utter he heard spoken by the man he saw ; and this externalization or dramatisation of a wish in a dream is familiar to most of us.
What were most likely the same lot of fairies figure in another Glen May story. Two men were due to go to the fishing at Peel early one morning. A. asked B. to give a whistle and a knock at his door in the village street as he would be going past. A. and his wife heard a whistle and a knock, and he went to the door, but no one was there.
He hurried up the hill in the hope of catching B. A little later exactly the same signals were heard again by A.'s wife. She opened the door and found B. standing there. He had just come from his house lower down. She told him her husband had gone, and B. started off to overtake him, but neither he nor anybody else ever saw A. again. The only trace of him was his cries heard in the lower part of the Glen whenever the boats were going out at Peel, and he was believed to be held captive by the fairies. They must have overheard what he asked B. to do, and done it themselves first. A regular fairy trick.
A party of youngsters rambling one Sunday afternoon about the Calloway inlet in Perwick, Rushen, came across an iron bolt, with a mooring-ring attached, firmly fixed in the rock. They made rather strange of this, because none of them had ever seen it before. They used all their strength to get it out, but it would not budge for them. A few days later they went there again to have another try at it, but there was no trace of bolt or ring, nor any hole in the rock at that spot. They or their elders came to the conclusion that the thing had been accidentally left there by fairies who had been using it to tie up their fishing-boats. (But would it in that event have been made of iron ? More probably they made it seem like iron to the boys.)
A man who lived on the Howe in Rushen was crossing a field called the Naiee Veg late one night, and he saw a flock of little white things jumping up nearly at his side. At first he thought they were ponies, but very little ones. All of a sudden they changed into tiny women and made for him. He took to run, and they ran too. Half way across the Naiee Mooar he thought they'd have him. As he ran he could hear a chain rattling. He just got home before them and banged the door to. Next morning he couldn't stand, and hadn't the use of his legs for months.
A woman, while lying in bed with her husband a short time after the death of her baby, heard " a dreadful noising on the stairs, like a whole troop of feet coming up and a log getting dragged." She was frightened, knowing well it was the fairies coming to take her. They crowded into the room, and she could hear them planning together in dreadfully coarse voices what they were going to do with her. They wore red caps and had " terrible nice little ears, something the shape of gin-bottles the men used to be bringing from Holland." One of them said (in corrupt Manx), " Let's take her out with us." At last when she was nearly " freckened out " she found strength to rouse her husband. As soon as he woke they were " in the splutter " to get away, and made just the same noise again going down the stairs. Auntie Ett afterwards " allowed enough " that they would have had her away with them only that she got the man wakened, and they " angry mos' pirriful " that he wakened up. The log, it appears, was to take her place in bed till they could get clear away with her. (From Blanche Nelson's MSS. By a postscript this occurrence can be dated to the middle of the 19th century.)
The soddhag-rheynney, "dividingcake," was an extra bit of dough baked in a flat cake, broken into small pieces, and scattered on the kitchen floor or just outside the house for the fairies to enjoy in the night-time. When a Kirk Bride girl baked, cleaned up, and went to bed without having made the soddhag-rheynney, the fairies gave her a smack in the eye to wake her up and remind her. Perhaps this was on November Eve or May Eve, when such offerings were compulsory. Roeder, Lioar Manninagh, iii. 152, appears to refer to this custom in Rushen : " When the fairies are coming in the houses in the night, you are always obliged to keep a broken cake, if not they make a great row."
This element in the doctrine of fairydom is well seen in an account of how the Little People came regularly into the North Lonan schoolhouse when one Tommy the Clerk was master there. (He got this name because he held at the same time the positions of Parish Clerk, Notary Public, and other important clerical posts.) No matter how securely this scholarly Tommy locked the doors before going to bed, Themselves would find their way into the house and disturb his slumber. But in 189- the new Electric Railway Company brought their line just behind Tommy's cottage and school, and in making the necessary cutting they unearthed a large quantity of stone coffins, human bones, and other relics of interments, as Manx archaeologists are well aware.
After these had been removed the fairies were seen and heard no more. (See Manx Quarterly, No. 7, page 617.)
The Manx fairy dog has its counterpart in Germanic countries. There Fran Gauden or Fru Gode (feminine forms of Woden, according to Grimm) sends her little pet dog into the houses, especially on the Eves of Christmas and the New Year. It whines at the hearth all night, and in the morning greets the family with a wagging tail. It speaks and behaves just as fairy changelings do, and can be got rid of by the same means. This is evidently the dog that Odin and his Wild Huntsmen used to leave behind them when they passed through a human dwelling on their nocturnal flight. It whined at the fireside for a year, until the huntsmen came back and it jumped up joyfully to rejoin them. Its behaviour in the Isle of Man has been well described by " Cushag " in her poem " The Fairy Dog " (Ellan Vannin, page 18) :
" An' the poor lil doggie is weenin', Comin' in from the wet an' the mire, An' sweesin' himself, an' sweesin'
To see will he get to the fire.
" An' the poor lil doggie is weenin', Sittin' all by himself on the flureOh Mammy! don't leave us! They comin', Thrailin' in at the crack of the dhure ! " " They," of course, are the fairies.
The Norse blood which is strongest in the North of the Island has produced human giants such as Arthur Caley and Big Christian, but these others who follow, though Northerners too, have no names , they are just " a giant," " a foawr," or " the Big Man." Some had wives of corresponding dimensions and vagueness. The first item in this section is a folk-tale kindly sent me by Miss Mona Douglas. It was heard by her in the Laxey district in three versions, all rather rambling, which I have unified.
A Laxey miner got lost in the workings, and while trying to find his way out came to a great room hollowed in the rock, with tables and chairs in it all of stone. The light in the room was yellowish, and seemed to come from above. Six great powerful men in queer rough clothes were sitting there and staring at him. He asked them in Manx to direct him to the upper world. They spoke among themselves in a language he could not understand, and then one turned to him and told him he was under Laxey Bay, and a good way out too. " This is the castle of the giants that used to be living in Laxey, and you are the first man that ever found his way down here." They said they were just putting in the time till the Island would be fit for heroes to live in again, and they had been waiting there hundreds of years. Then one of them gave him a cled on the head, and he didn't know anything till he found himself outside the big door. He could never hit on the way down again.-This was heard with variations from two or three different people, " and I remember," says Miss Douglas, " that in a mine disaster that occurred when I was about eight years old one or two of the bodies were not found, and some people thought the giants had taken those men, and they weren't dead at all."
The Big Man (who was not the same personage as the Fenodereee) did work for the Christian family of Ballure, near Ramsey. He was often seen knocking about their land. Willy Carberry, an Irish pedlar who always wore a top-hat and carried a big box on his back, was coming up the old Douglas road (a rough green track) one St. Simon's Fair night (ist November). There was a middling strength of moonlight in. When Willy got to Cronk-yRushen on the Rhoan, where the little river crosses the road to fall into Ballure Glen, he felt he would like a drink, and knelt down to get it. As he rose up again he saw the Big Man standing above him on the other bank. " He was half the height of a telegraph pole." (To make sure he was not the Fenoderee I enquired whether he was clothed or naked. " He was fully dressed, and carried a long staff in his hand.") At the sight Willy took to his heels.
This road, by the way, is the one on which Betsy Juan-y-Whilya or Crowe was murdered some 50 or 60 years ago, as is well-remembered, for murders are rare in the Island. When I explained to the friend who told me of Willy's adventure why I had asked him about the Big Man's costume, it reminded him of much gossip concerning the Fenoderee. All of it was familiar except that when old clothes and porridge were offered to him he said indignantly, " Trousers without legs to wear them, food without a mouth to eat it ! If Ballure Glen is not for me I'm away to Glen Rushen." He said this in Manx, naturally. Does it mean that he was understood to be a spirit ?
Over some domestic question which is lost to history these two worthies fell out one day and threw stones at each other across the lower part of the Dhoon Glen. Three of these stones dropped close together and still stand as the boulders called Meir-ny-Foawyr, " Fingers of the Giants." The two disputants can yet be heard brawling on rough winter nights by anyone who ventures near enough. On certain stones at Lhergydhoo in Kirk German to which the same name is given, gigantic finger-prints can be seen by the imaginative ; but this does not explain the name of the Dhoon stones, some other legend about which must have perished.
What are locally described as " the tracks of a giant who lived on North Barrule " are to be seen at the river below Thallooqueen, Maughold, and this is the way he made them. First he threw a big boulder from the top of the mountain into the river, and then he came down himself and scrambled across. But he slipped doing that, and his cheek hit the rock in one place, and his foot (or fist) left another mark in another place.
This, in Manx Track-ny-Foawr, its usual name, is on Ballacannell (now part of Ballafayle), Maughold. It lies almost at the edge of the steep cliff beyond the farm-hedge, and overlooks a small bay. It is well-hidden by the long grass that has grown over it in recent years, but when this is cleared off there appears cut or hollowed out in a bulge of rock a rough likeness of a human right foot, much larger than modern feet. The depth is about 3 inches ; the toe end narrows sharply to a strip about an inch wide and three inches long, which is open at its termination. Though now concealed and nearly forgotten, the " print " was formerly well-known to the young people of the neighbourhood, who used to gather there in their spare time and amuse themselves by putting their feet into it. The giant who made it swam over from Cumberland, and climbed the cliff by a path which has now crumbled away.
A boulder on the highest point of Shellag brows, close to the Jackdaws' Church, if you know where that is, bears the finger-marks of the giant who threw it from the top of North Barrule at an enemy's ships which he saw approaching the coast of Bride. The name of the boulder is Claghvedn, " White Stone," and the Jackdaws' Church is a stretch of the clayey cliff-side where a large congregation of birds nest annually.
More about Gob-ny-Seuit.
" We follow
The crags that Northward shoot,
And find ourselves within the hollow
Of Gob ny ScuitSpout-mouth-so-named because
It seems as if a giant's jaws Gaped wide."
(T. E. Brown.)
A spirit must have dwelt on this spot ever since the first settlers on the East slope of North Barrule heard the wind howling and moaning among the rocks and peered timidly into the fissure below the summit. From the name of his holding here " oul' Gob-ny-Scuit " has taken his title, as many less memorable Manxmen have from theirs. His personal name, if he ever had one, has been forgotten, but he belongs to that numerous and influential family, the Bugganes of the Isle of Man. Local people who incline to historical explanations for such problems say that he was originally a man who killed another man in the corner of a field on Ballagorry, and ran away to hide in the Towl Buggane, " Buggane's Hole," at Gob-ny-Scuit. There he lived for a long time, and when he died-or without going through that formality, for different tellers have different versions-he was turned into the spirit who afterwards haunted the mountain-side and used to be seen occasionally going down to Ballure shore in three strides. Sometimes he did threshing for farmers, but his chief function was to shout " Ha-oo, ha-oo " before stormy weather. By this thoughtful act he saved many a harvest ; nor did he confine his demonstrations to harvest-time. Sometimes he ventured down nearly as far as the Hibernian to utter his friendly warning. One September Sabbath morn, when all the people were worshipping in Cardle Chapel, they heard him shouting insistently, " Cluck hoods "-" gather in ! " So they didn't make a long service of it that day, but away with them as fast as they could, to get their corn in. and they worked all night till they saved it. Well, would you believe it, next day turned out lovely And the night after that they heard old Gob-ny-Scuit again, shouting as hard as he could go. He liked having a joke with them sometimes.*
* The Big Buggane of North Barrule is very like some of the " Paotrs " of Lower Brittany. A typical specimen, the Bull of Port-en-Dro at Carnac Plage, was, like Gob-ny-Scuit, un revenant, and could re-assume his human shape at will. He warned the coastal villages of coming storms, and his bellowing made the whole countryside tremble. He used to shout to them in the night-time to gather the seaweed, as soon as he saw a sufficient quantity cast up. After one of these messages they went down at daybreak, only to find the shore bare and himself out in the water, laughing at them and clapping his hands. So M. le Rouzic tells us in his little collection of Carnac superstitions, which are no less interesting than the collection of local objects in what used to be his Museum.
The Gob-ny-Scuit buggane was heard roaring terribly on the seashore t00. Once at least he was even seen there. An old man named Corkill who lived at Straledn in Port Mooar used to go down early in the mornings to see what the tide had brought in. One day he was startled to see the buggane standing at the mouth of the big cave called Hee-Kerna Mooar. The thing said to him, " If you don't look at me I'll not look at you," so he passed on. The cave is believed to connect with the fissure on Barrule.
It was near the scene of Corkill's adventure that a girl named S-- found, about 50 years ago, a little lump of gold on a rock above high-water mark. Seven years later she sold it, she told me recently, for £2 i7s. 6d. to a Liverpool pawnbroker, after having refused better offers. Much industrious searching by local people followed her discovery, but no more gold was found. I think it was tacitly attributed to the fairies. The Huggane of Kione Dhoo. Port St. Mary men used to pour a noggin of rum (half a gill) into the sea from their boats as they passed the headland of Kione Dhoo on their way to the Kinsale and Lerwick fishing grounds. The object of their sacrifice was a cave called Ghaw-Kione-dhoo, " Black Head inlet." The late J. J. Kneen told me that rum was occasionally thrown from the top of the cliff also, with the words " Gow shen, y veisht ! ' -" Take that, evil spirit ! " or monster. (This dedication resembles that which accompanied the fish thrown to the merman at sea "Gow shen, dooinney varrey ! ") Frederick Swinnerton contributed to Moore's Folk-lore of the Isle of Man (page 73) an anecdote of a man's " seeing " a crew of red-capped sailors rowing into this cave, which had been used as a store-house by pirates. Roeder (Lioar Manninagh, iii.) has the pirate legend also. An expression used by Roeder's informant to explain the presence of the evil spirit, " they killed a man to guard the treasure," deserves attention. The recesses of this cavern are fabled to be connected with the dark caves near Port Erin breakwater.
An earlier sojourner on the Island, Miss Leney (Shadowland in Ellan Vannin, page 149), heard a story about a cave at Spanish Head (most probably the Ghaw-Kione-dhoo) and its inhabitant. The latter, which she calls " the gobold," stole a farmer's sheep one by one, and surreptitiously milked his cows. When the farmer's son searched the cave he found the floor littered with sheep-bones, and in one corner stood a sack which proved to be stuffed with gold and silver. This he carried home, and the family became one of the wealthiest in the South. Miss Leney's " cobold or gobold " may be meant for the Manx cabbyl (ushtey), water-horse. The Kione Dhoo buggane had some resemblance to a horse.
The respect entertained locally for this demon led to the naming of a Castletown fishing-boat after him, the " Beisht-yn-Kione-dhoo." Other boats in the fleet, mentioned in Roeder's Manx Notes and Queries, had an equally supernatural flavour : " Glashtin," " Ben rein Ferrish," and " Buggane-y-Smelt." The lastnamed was supposed to be the ghost of a member of the Gawne family of Kentraugh.
When he was a young man at Ballafesson, K--, who is far from being a neurotic subject, was walking home one evening from Castletown by the shore road. Near Strandhall " some big black thing " came out of the sea and crossed the road just in front of him. Further on he had to pass through three field-gates. Although the night was windless every gate was shaking violently. When he tried to climb one of them to get out of the field there was such a commotion all round him that he took fright and scrambled over the hedge (stone wall) at another place. After he had got home and was just starting on his supper, there was a terrific crash overhead. He left his supper and went straight to bed without even taking off his boots, believing the monster had followed him home and was hanging about outside.
The Moddey-dhoo of Peel Castle has a world-wide and mis-spelt celebrity, thanks to Scott. But there are supernatural black dogs all over the Island. Those I know best haunt the North. Of the Milntown one I have written in a previous volume, but in further confirmation would add that a friend of mine met it in 1930, by night, coming from the direction of Sulby. As usual, it had enormous fiery eyes which lit up its face and shoulders, and a long shaggy coat. It was black, and bigger than any natural dog. It turned aside and leapt right across the road, to disappear up Glen Aldyn.
In the parish of Lezayre, at any rate, the Moddeydhoo is a harbinger of evil. In the foregoing case his appearance was followed, a few nights later, by the cloudburst among the Northern hills which laid much of Glen Aldyn in ruin.
Two men going home from their work at the North Laxey Mine were walking along the highroad near Ballagorry Chapel and the Dhoon School. Just about there a " spooyt " comes out of a field into the road. It was two o'clock in the morning, with a drizzle of rain and weak moonlight showing through it. As the men walked along they discussed some jaunt they were going to take next day. Suddenly they heard a great splashing and noising at the spooyt just in front of them, and in the glimmer of moonlight they made out the shape of an animal about the size of a Newfoundland dog coming out from the dub or ditch under the spooyt. " Its eyes were blazing like saucers " (brilliant hendiadys !),
" and it troddled over the road into the ditch opposite and down towards Creg-ny-Mult. It was black, and half the size of a calf." Next shift they told the other miners about it, and an elderly one said, " John, don't you know what that was ? " " No, what was it ? " "It was the Moddey-dhoo of the Rhenab road."
There is a stretch of road in Ballaugh Glen, between Scroundal Mill and Ballathoar house, which has had in the past a very bad reputation at night. One of its manifestations was a black dog which appeared suddenly at people's feet without their having seen it coming, and disappeared in the same mysterious manner. A friend of mine avers that he was " the finish " of this apparition, and this is how he exorcised it. As he was passing Ballathoar gateway late one evening he saw it standing there, a few feet away from him. He made a grab at it and managed to get his hand on its neck, but it sprang from him and " cleaned off," and was never seen by anyone again. At least, not at night , for he knew the dog well enough. It was a trained animal, and if its owner showed it a strange sheep in a flock by daylight and told it to go and get the same sheep later, the dog would bring it to him after nightfall. Hence its nocturnal wanderings. This explanation of a moddey-dhoo is nearly as marvellous as the more usual one, that it is the incarnation of a lost soul.
A small barren gully at the North end of the Mooragh brows near Ramsey is haunted by a black dog, and possibly by something even worse. At any rate, it is a spot that a few people, I am told, dislike to pass at night, even since a summer bungalow has been planted at the mouth of it. It runs immediately below the old earthwork marked " Fort " on the Ordnance maps, which has been identified with an ancient place of execution named Cronk-y-Croghee, " Hill of Hanging."
This neighbourhood, at the Southern limit of Maughold parish, was haunted by a particularly large and terrifying specimen. Sometimes it was seen coursing an invisible quarry over the edge of the cliff, sometimes merely lurking by the roadside. Once, when Kewley of the Booilley Mooar was a boy, over So years ago, he was driving home from Ramsey with his father, and they met this moddey-dhoo. The horse shied violently, throwing them both out of the trap or cart, and bolted for home. As they were picking themselves up they saw the dog in the act of jumping over the cliff-edge, apparently into space. Thus far one authority. Another, at the opposite end of the parish, has told me, quite independently of the foregoing affair, how an extremely evil spirit was laid at Dreem-y-Jeeskaig, which I suspect to be the one just mentioned. At any rate, it was such a violent and obstinate demon that they had to call in Ewan Christian, generally known as Christian Lewaigue, himself, for no one else could do any good, though many had tried. The first time he addressed it, it told him to come again on a certain night, alone. He went the second time as requested, and after that it was seen and heard no more ; but what passed between the two of them he would never tell. He was never the same man again, after this affair.
In Ramsey Mooragh dwelt a Tarroo-ushtey or Water-bull whose roaring and splashing often disturbed the occupants of a cottage situated towards the Southern end of the garey. (The cottage was pulled down when the park and lake were made.) So fully accepted was this creature's existence by the townspeople that when the foghorn of the newly-installed Bahama lightship blew its first blast, the men of a large timber-yard adjoining the harbour rushed out in force, armed with whatever they could pick up in a hurry.
In a field called the Booilley Grongan, " Cattle-fold of the Humps," above Booilley Velt in Maughold, a young lad saw what he took to be a calf running after one of their cows. When he got home he told his father that one of the cows had calved. The father was dubious, but went to the field to see. He could find no calf. He went back home and said to the boy, " You'll not tell me again there's a calf when there's no calf," and laid hold of a stick to give him a thrashing. But it was the Tarroo-ushtey, for they were smaller than the ordinary cattle, and generally black. They did not, as a rule, harm human beings, but preferred to avoid them. It was on account of the cattle that they were so much disliked. They used to get into the fields and bull the cows, and cause abortion, or else lead them into danger. Once a man named Murray, coming down the road to Cornaa Mill, saw the Tarrooushtey in the act. That was near the Brummish.
These particulars were related in a manner even more rambling than usual, and I could not make out how the boy was proved, after his thrashing, to have told the truth. As there is a pool thereabouts called Dem-ny-Tarroo-ushtey that was probably the place from which it issued. Though harmless to mankind, its roaring heard at Ballafayle was followed shortly by the death of a man there. The most curious thing I have heard about it was that " it was like a snake," a phrase which seemed to slip out accidentally and irrelevantly in the course of a narrative.
Rhenab Glen, the " Glen Mona " of the exploiters, was haunted by a black Tarroo-ushtey which was greatly disliked. At the cascades below the gatehouse the ivy at one time hung down into the water, and a number of wild cherry-trees grew there. These made convenient roosts for the hundreds of woodpigeons that came over from Cumberland every year at the beginning of harvest to feed among the stocks and the cherries. They had to be discouraged with shotguns, so one evening when the moon was full two men went with their guns to thin them out and get something for the next day's dinner. One man had his foot on the stone wall to get over it, when he saw a dark shape like a bear coming up the path just below him, and it began roaring like a bull. It was the Rhenab Tarroo-ushtey. The two men went away in a hurry and left the pigeons alone.
The same black Water-bull used to be seen near the beach at Port Cornaa, in the little swampy clump of sallies which borders a wooden bridge across the Rhenab river. This was probably one of its lairs. Young Jimmy Fayle, who lived in the stone but just above the beach, was coining home before dark by the Glen road. He happened to look down at the shore, and saw the Tarroo lying out on the bank of pebbles. And that was not the first or the last time he saw it round there, either.
The Glashtyn is a kind of water-monster, ill-defined but not, I think, to be confused with the Glashan of the Scottish Highlands. Little is now heard of the Glashtyn in the Isle of Man, and perhaps its legend has been taken over by the Tarroo-ushtey. The same suggestion may be made concerning the Cabbal-ushtey or Water-horse, a dangerous creature. However, at Ballagorry Chapel in Maughold there used to be a bog-field, a marshy hollow which has long been filled up ; and an old woman who lived adjacent often heard the Glashtyn " tearing " at night in that field. But it was never seen, as the Tarroo was. That would be between 50 and 60 years ago.
One sunny September afternoon about six years ago I chanced to meet two elderly Maughold men, one an old friend, the other a recent one, who had been friends of each other from boyhood. The conversation soon assumed the form of a duet between the two on the fruitful theme of old times and happenings. Between them they evoked from their memories, among other interesting matters, a story about the mountain at the foot of which we stood. The father of one of them and the grandfather of the other went up its South side with their dogs in a south-easterly snowstorm, when the snow was drifted higher than the tops of the hedges. They were searching for sheep that had been snowed under, and digging them out. While they were busied with their work between Park Llewellyn and the summit, the elder man happened to look upward, and saw on the skyline what appeared to be a pony, or a small horse of the old Manx breed, as white as the snow itself. It was standing there and gazing down at them. He drew the other's attention to it. The younger man said, " Will you come up with me and see what it is ? " But his companion would not venture, and the younger man was afraid to go alone. For no ordinary horse would or could have been on the tops at that time. The horse stood there watching them for something like a quarter of an hour, while they were going along looking for breathing-holes made by buried sheep. Then it moved off Northward. They were both oldish men, so the affair may be dated to between 70 and 80 years ago.
A White Horse associated with the sacred source of the river Senne in the Jura is seen at twilight standing on a mountain-top. In countries possessing Celtic traditions the White Horse is a fairy steed.
Another White Horse used to be seen in the adjoining parish of Lonan, on the rough road that goes Westward from Cushington.
Sometimes it was near a hollow in a field there, sometimes it was right down in the hollow. It was a small horse, quite distinctly seen, but its rider was not so clearly visible, or the description of him had been forgotten by the man who told me. If any special significance has ever been attached to the apparition, that is forgotten too.
The sound of invisible galloping horses is often heard in many parts of the Island. Two children sent from Thalloo Queen in Maughold at night to get the doctor, heard a horse coming up the road after them when they were above the Barony gate. It had nearly got up to them when the sound stopped. Nothing was seen.
Two shepherds belonging to Park Llewellyn on Barrule were sheltering from heavy rain against the pillars on the road near Park Llewellyn house. They heard the sound of " a tremendous heavy horse, galloping like thunder." It seemed to leap the gate into the field and go off towards Barrule tops. Again nothing was seen. This was between 1 and 2 a.m.
Many winters ago, but not so far back as the sight of the white pony on Barrule, a four-legged creature with " half a hoof on each foot, one in front of the other," was tracked right across the North Maughold farmlands in the snow. No one was able to tell what sort of a creature could have made the footprints. They were most clearly visible across the Ards. My informant knew perfectly well what the tracks looked like, but though I questioned him till he began to get irritated he was unable to explain them more lucidly.
The Kistey Mooar, " Big Chest," is the name of a great stone slab in Ballaglass Glen, on the North bank of the river a couple of hundred yards above Cornaa Mill. A crock full of gold was found under it once. A howling sound coming from it on still days or nights is a sure sign that there will be a storm in a very few hours. Personal testimony to the truth of this, from personal experience, comes from J. K. and others, with further corroboration from G--, the miller. Up to this stone come the salmon in their spawning season, but never a yard beyond it. In a " tunnel " under the bank a little further upstream a man hid from a press-gang that wanted him. They walked right over him and never knew he was there. But I sense more striking traditions about this stone, if they could only be got at before they fade.
In the Lar Wood on the opposite side of the river there used to be seen a figure like a man in a long white shirt with large shining buttons.
The route formerly used by people travelling on foot or horseback between Laxey and Sulby went up through Agneash and the Northern fork of the Laxey river, across the rough track which has since since been improved into the Mountain Road, and down into Sulby Glen by Block Eairy. At the watershed between the two river-heads, a short distance south-west of Clagh Ouyr, stood the important boundary-cairn called Clagh Height, where three sheadings and three parishes meet. Only its fragments now remain. At this spot it was quite usual for wayfarers to hear music and voices proceeding from some unseen source, just as at the Granane in Laxey Valley, at a spot on Dalby Mountain, and at other places. The ground at Clagh Height is quite level for some distance around, and there could be no flow of underground water, whatever might be the case at the other spots. Nor have its uncanny manifestations always been confined to the hearing. In more recent times, Robbie F--, called the Plumber, though in fact a mason, saw at this place, in daylight, a donkey standing without any owner in sight. He concluded it belonged to some tinker on his travels about the Island ; but while he was looking at it, it suddenly changed into a great black dog and ran off along the Mountain Road towards Ramsey. This same Robbie the Plumber was the subject of other remarkable experiences which do not come under the present general heading ; but one of them will be found in the next Chapter.
A man was starting from Ballaglass farm just before daybreak to go to Ballasalla for a load of lime from the lime-pits there. As he went through the gateway he saw something black in the ditch outside. The horse saw it too, and would not pass it till he was forced to. Coming back from Ballasalla the horse fell dead near the Brown Cow in Santon. The man himself was ill for months. He ought to have gone out some other way, when the horse jibbed like that.
Empty or ruined houses that are haunted are sometimes seen by passers-by in the night-time to be lit up for a few moments and then to go dark again. Two brothers were walking one evening along the road under the hills from the Chen Heear, the West side of Bride parish, towards the Lhen Mooar, for the fishing. Not far from Ballabeg they passed an old house that had the name of being haunted. It was all in darkness as they went by, but when they were about a hundred yards further on one of them happened to look back, and " every window was shining like a thousand candles." His brother saw the same thing when his attention was drawn to it, and so did many other people before that and afterwards.
" A ghost haunted a fine old mansion near Sulby Bridge," observed the local newspaper on the last day of 1932. Or was it less the house itself than a part of the estate ? The haunting of the K-- is generally ascribed to the ghost of a murderer, but the accounts of him vary widely, after the fashion of many oral traditions. As they are not entirely distinct from each other in the public mind I shall run them together.
A man is buried in a corner of the Bridge field. He had been hanged on the farm. The hanging was performed quite unconventionally. The Coroner of the day, one Cowley of C-- in Lezayre parish, wished to save the time, trouble and expense of a formal execution at Castletown, so he tied the rope round Comaish's (the criminal's) neck and slung him over his shoulder for so long as was necessary.
Alternatively, the Coroner paid a man to hang a criminal there, along with a girl of weak intellect who was implicated in the murder of the man's wife. The girl, a native of Sulby, was the last woman hanged in the Island. She was buried under the roadway just outside the Bridge field. This was done with the intention that everybody should walk over her grave, because she had been so wicked. Or, Comaish gave his wife arsenic in Ramsey and walked, or drove, home with her. At the bridge she fell dead. He was hanged in a field on the Kella and buried at the cross-roads.
In short, the true features of the case have become horribly distorted in the course of time ; but with the actual history of the affair I am not concerned. Enough to say that the spot has for a long time been in bad odour, and I am not sure that one or two fatal accidents there during the motor-cycle races were not secretly attributed by some people to this malign atmosphere.
The Brown Bobby inn formerly stood on the left side of the Peel road a little short of the Quarter Bridge. After a murder there, for which nobody was ever brought to trial, the spot was haunted by the spirit of the victim, and it was difficult sometimes to induce horses to pass it late at night.
A carriage and pair used to be heard driving up the avenue to the front door of the Nunnery house, and this was followed by sounds as of people alighting. Then there was silence. Nothing was ever seen.
Both these " takings" are mentioned in Mrs. Forrest's Manx Recollections, chap. ii.
The father of my Ramsey informant, R. F., was sitting alone in the kitchen of the Lhergy Rhenny, Sulby Glen, about 10 o'clock on a clear June evening. The house being situated high on the hillside there was still a little light, and he was able to note the dress of an elderly woman who suddenly appeared at the opposite end of the room, went up to the fireplace, turned round, and walked out through the doorway. There was no such woman about the house-no woman of any age, at the time. Twenty years after this happened, an Englishman living and farming at the same house, for whom my informant had been working, told him of a strange woman he had seen when he was in the house alone. He said she wore an old-style white sunbonnet, a red shawl and a dark skirt, and asked F-whether he had ever heard of anything being seen there. F-- then told him of his father's experience, which tallied exactly as regards the costume. B--, the Englishman, seemed to know whose " spirit " it was, F-- thought, but would not give her name.