[from A Six Day Tour, 1836]
" For we have many a mountain path to tread,
And many a varied shore to Sail along.",
GOLDSMITH travelled over Europe on foot; and I conceive the only possible way of becoming properly intimate with a country, is by pedestrian travelling. The usual way of making the tour of this island, is to hire a carriage sufficiently spacious to contain half-a-dozen, and rattle round the country in a couple of days; like carriers or chaise drivers, counting only the taverns on the road. The happy medium is the pleasantest; as much of the country as is desirable to the eye, may be seen on horse back; tying the bridle occasionally to a hedge or gatepost, to peep at anything out of the way. Moreover, I was not much of a pedestrian, not choosing to make a toil of a pleasure, to gratify my eyes at the expense of my feet. In conjunction with a companion, I set off very early from the Castle on my way to Castletown, well mounted on one of Mr. Gillon's stud.
It was a lovely day, especially made for pleasure. We passed through Douglas along Atholl street, whose drowsy denizens were but then venturing to peep from behind their curtains, before they committed themselves to their clothes. As we passed over Douglas bridge, I was much struck with the beauty of the scenery looking up the river towards the Nunnery. At times of high spring-tide, most of the field called the Lake is covered with water. It would be very easy, by damming up the banks of the river, to prevent this overflow.
The bridge itself is by no means Douglas worthy of notice, except from its extreme inadequacy and unfitness for its purpose; being the main passport from the town along the most frequented road on the island. Its width I believe does not exceed thirteen feet in the clear; and it is stuck, as if by the laws of contradiction, which most uncivilised countries observe, at right angles to the direct line of road.
The proper exit from the town is decidedly across the lake, through the timber yard of Messrs. Quiggin and Co., in a line with the north quay, and embouching under the Nunnery mills. The remnant of an old arch over the river here, seems to indicate that a road once ran in this direction.
The old entrance to the Nunnery is just beyond the mills. In consequence of a right of road being claimed by the public through the grounds in this direction, a new approach to the mansion has been cut through the park, about half-a mile further on. The fine wood which borders this estate for a considerable distance, gives great beauty to the line of road. The commissioners of high roads would not do amiss to let a little more of the light of heaven be seen here, by lopping a few of the over-hanging branches which interrupt the same, rendering the road always damp.
About three quarters of a mile from Douglas is a small catholic chapel, dedicated to St. Bridget, the fair saint who founded the Nunnery, and (attached) the residence of the priest. The attendance here seeming to be considered as a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance; the fitting up of an establishment of this nature in the town, at the end of Atholl-street, appears to put in question the utility of this structure, or at least its locality.
A little further on, where the old and new roads to Castletown begin to diverge, we have one of the prettiest inland prospects in the country, looking down upon the estates of Ballaughton, Kirby, and up the beautiful valley of Port-y-chee.
old road to Castletown is Old Road the shortest and most picturesque;
being much nearer the shore, but being more hilly, and out of level,
is not, of course, so easy for a carriage as the new road. We took
the old line of road, passing successively Oak Hill, Hampton Court,
and Seafield; under the last of which runs the valley of the sun-a
very pretty little dell, at the bottom of which flows the small river
of Greenack, emptying itself into a creek of that name. Overlooking
this creek is a large barrow, called the " Cronk-na-myrrhow," and on
each side a cavern, the one called the Devil's Cave, and the other
the Parson's Cave-why they should thus be associated is more than I
Oak Hill is one of those sweet seclusions you meet with in every country, where the traveller feels disposed to sit down contented with what he has seen, and enjoy life. It has latterly been taken by Mr. Garvin for an academy for gentlemen; a finer situation for an establishment of this nature could not be picked out.
By the church of Santon, or St. Anne, there is a bridle-road along the shore to DerbyHaven.
A little above Ballasalla, the two lines of road again join, where we have a fine view of the College and Tower, Castle Rushen, and (overlooking Ballasalla) Balladoole and Kentraugh, a fine champaign country intervening between these places-in the distance, the bay and harbour of Port Le Mary.
The village of Ballasalla is distanced from Castletown about two miles. The venerable ruins of the old Abbey of St. Mary of Rushen, give importance to this otherwise inconsiderable hamlet. The Abbey is situated very beautifully on the banks of the Castletown river, possessing all the requisites for secluded enjoyment. The Abbey was founded by Mac Marus, in 1098; the establishment consisting originally of an abbot and twelve monks, who lived by manual labour, and denied themselves the indulgence of shoes, linen or flesh meat; but this apostolical mode of living was, in fact, only a bait for the generosity of the credulous. The Abbey was subsequently endowed with a third of the tithes of Man, and the primitive humility and self-denial of its inmates soon yielded to monastic pride, luxury, and indolence. Olave, king of Man, having previously granted some possessions to the abbey of Furness, in Lancashire 1134 the original constitution of this religious establishment was changed; a magnificent edifice was built, at the expense of the abbot of Furness, and the Cistertian order of monks planted here. This edifice is said to have taken 130 years building; from whence we should judge that it must either have been much more magnificent than we might be led to fancy from its present insignificant remains,or that the ancient process of building must have been snail and tortoiselike, compared with the more rapid movements of the present day.
Many of the kings of the isles are buried in this abbey. According to Robertson, there were still, in 1798, vestiges of a subterranean road joining the abbey and castle of Rushen, though nothing of the kind is now to be seen; and connected with which, is the romantic tale of Ivar and Matilda, two lovers of the thirteenth century, from the materials of which, one might have fancied Pope had constructed his beautiful story of Abelard and Eloisa.
A singular fact connected with the history of monastic establishments is, that most of them were founded in the eleventh century. A general expectation seemed to prevail throughout Christendom, which the clergy took care to encourage, that the world would be destroyed after a thousand years from the birth of Christ, the immediate consequence of which was, that large properties and possessions were given up to the church, to secure, if possible (agreeably to the piety of those times), the good favour of heaven in such am emergency. And as this expectation became in the course of years falsified by experience, the church found herself suddenly in the midst of unbounded wealth, which she devoted to the extension of her power and authority, the building of abbeys and monasteries. It was thus that in less than half a century more than fifteen hundred of these edifices were built in England alone. Ecclesiastical history furnishes us with some extraordinary facts, we would do well to dwell upon.
The Abbey of St. Mary of Rushen is now in possession of the Rev. W. Hurtwell, one of the Vicars General, and Minister of St. George's.
Towards the close of the last century these was a cotton work established here, which afforded constant employment to many poor families. Considering the natural advantages which this country holds out for establishments of this nature, from the plenty of water, the cheapness of labour, and contiguity of excellent markets for manufactured produce, it seems strange that speculations of this kind have not as yet taken firm footing in the country.
The Abbey Bridge is romantically situated, and, according to Manx tradition, of great antiquity. Standing on the Bridge, and looking up the river, the stranger will not fail to be delighted with this rich and voluptuous retreat.
We arrived at Castletown, or, as it was formerly called, Rushen, in the humour for a good breakfast, making our bead quarters at the George, a very comfortable new-built hotel in the centre of the parade, indeed the only respectable house in the town, possessing the largest and best stabling accommodation on the Island. After having given our morning appetite its quietus, we began to look around us.
The first object is the Castle, a fine remnant of ancient architecture. The original structure was a square tower or keep, built in the tenth century, by Guttred, son of Orry, the first Danish king, who lies obscurely buried in the edifice he founded. The chronological account of which, seeming to be confirmed by the discovery of a date in Arabic characters, 947, marked upon a beam of oak placed over a sally-port leading from the bottom of the great tower, and which was laid open in 1815, some alterations being then made in the Castle. This date is apparently the earliest example of the Arabic character to be found in the kingdom, the one which has hitherto been considered the earliest being 960. Since the construction of the great keep or tower, it has been subsequently flanked by four square towers; judging by the style of which, we must fix their date about the time of our Edward the First. The stone glacis which surrounds the tower is attributed to Cardinal Wolsey. The Castle of Rushen is said by travellers to resemble that of Elsinore, rendered famous by being made the scene of Shakspeare's immortal drama of " Hamlet, Prince of Denmark."
It is built upon a rock, and, from its present perfect state of preservation, seems likely to brave the mouldering tooth of time for at least another thousand years. It is to be hoped the demolishing hand of no modern Goth will be allowed to deface its majestic features by further alterations and additions. It was some few years back gutted and modified for its present purposes - a state prison. In the outer court are the remains of a tank or reservoir, which supplied the Castle with water in times of siege, and which was conducted by pipes from some distance. From the summit of the Castle we have a commanding view of the whole country for miles round. Among these venerable towers a house was constructed, in wretched taste, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and appropriated for the residence of the Lieutenant Governor, and which has been occupied as such until within some twelve months back. It would be no sacrilege to have this barbarous excrescence demolished.
The Castle is not only used as a prison for debtors and felons, but most of the law courts are held here, and the Rolls Office is also situated within the walls. It is to be hoped the contemplated alterations, in the proposed extension and better arrangement of the law courts, and offices appertaining thereto, will have some reference to the character of the building, and not be altogether sacrificed to reckless fancy, or the mere consideration of pounds, shillings, and pence. We are surely guilty of idolatry, in worshipping the "gilt and gingerbread " image of economy, in preference to every other deity.
Before the subjugation of Man by the English the kings of the Island resided here, in all the warike pomp of those barbarous ages. It was here that the Countess of Derby, after the decollation of her husband James, the seventh Earl of Derby, for his loyalty to Charles the First, sought with her children an asylum from the fury of the republic. The fortress was, however, betrayed by her General, Christian, and surrendered to Colonels Birch and Duckenfield who, with ten armed vessels, invaded the Island and she was made prisoner. She was never theless treated in her captivity, by the republican soldiers, with generosity and respect, who remembered with admiration her gallant defence of Latham House. General Christian was subsequently, upon the turn of affairs, shot for treason. Castle Rushen underwent a siege of six months, in 1313, by Rolbert Bruce.
Not far from the Castle stands the House of Keys, where the members of the local legislature convene for business. This island may boast of affording an example of representative government at an era when the rest of Europe was sunk deep in the slough of feudal vassalage. The House of Keys, or deputies, was first founded in the ninth century, by Orry, son of Guttred. Originally every King of Man and the Isles directed the inhabitants to send twenty-four representatives to assist him in his government; sixteen for Man, and eight for the out-isles: but the Constitution of the Ke.ys, as connected with Man alone, was first fixed in 1430, by Henry Byron, Lieutenant of the Isle, which was confirmed soon after by the lord himself, Sir John Stanley, second of this name that succeeded to the sovereignty of Man. The royalty of the Isle was granted to the House of Stanley by Henry the Fourth, in 1414. After many attempts to extend the prerogative beyond the limits of the constitution (followed by repeated tumults and insurrections of the people), at a solemn convention held at Tynwald in the year 1430, the Lord of the Isle, by his Lieutenant, thought it prudent to yield to the demands of the nation; and out of thirty-six freeholders elected by the people, six from every sheading, selected twenty-four on this memorable occasion for the House of Keys, or the Taxiaxi, to assist him in his government. Since then, however, the House of Keys have assumed to themselves the power of electing each other, and now form a sort of inaccessible select vestry, acknowledging no constituency. The mode of proceeding, when a vacancy occurs, being this-the members themselves select two people of property and respectability in the country, of whom the Lieutenant-Governor chooses one for a Key. It is perhaps a matter of very little moment, in a small community like this, over which, with a free press, public must have irresistible power, whether the election of members for the House of Keys proceed from the people themselves or their betters. The question at issue between the two political parties being probably of as little importance to the interests of the community, as the dispute between two nations mentioned by Gulliver in his travels, as to which end of the egg should be broken when eaten; which, however, produced a bloody war before it could be settled. If one could believe the gloomy account of the state of feeling and affairs given by the radicals, one might fancy the condition of the inhabitants of this country, at the present moment, was like that of the Danes in the seventeenth century; who, to get rid of an oligarchy over which they had no control, and which acknowledged no responsibility, voluntarily made a surrender of their yet remaining liberties into the hands of the sovereign, and made him absolute; thus preferring the total annihilation of every vestige of freedom, to its insecure and vexatious possession under a multitude of masters. It is an historical fact, that the construction of the House of Keys is not at present agreeable to the original constitution of that house; but, in the lapse of four hundred years, has imperceptibly merged into its present form. Whether it would be worth while, for the sake of form, to maintain the principle, and go through the tumult of electing twenty-four people from the four winds of heaven to manage the local affairs of a mere parish, is the question to be asked.
If a revolution of such piddling importance be indispensable, at any rate let the number of representatives be reduced one-half; for while it may be said on the one side that "in the multitude of councillors there is wisdom," it may be affirmed on the other, and with equal truth, that " too many cooks spoil the broth."
A dozen men of moderate capacity are at any time sufficient to manage the internal affairs of a thinly populated district, thirty miles by twelve. A singular feature in the way of conducting business in the House of Keys, is the making a majority of thirteen indispensable to any act. So that if twenty members only attended the house, and twelve voted for any measure and eight against it, it could not become law because twelve is not thirteen. This reminds me of the expedient of the French minister, M. Calonne, at the commencement of the French revolution, to outwit the nation; who, in convening the assembly of Notables in 1737, ingeniously contrived to make 44 a majority of 140, by dividing the assembly into seven committees of twenty each, and making a majority of committees a majority of the assembly, eleven being a majority of each committee, and four committees a majority of seven, 44 members were thus, by a shuffle of state magic, made a majority of 140.
The title of " Lord of Man " was substituted for that of " King of Man," in the reign of Henry the Eighth, to satisfy the restless jealousy of that monarch.
The new Chapel of St. Mary, in the market place, was rebuilt, a few years back, on the foundations of the old. When the old Chapel was pulled down, three Roman coins of Germanicus and Agrippina were discovered.
The Parade is a fine open square, where the market is held, in the centre of which it is in contemplation, I understand, to erect a monument to the memory of the late Lieutenant Governor Cornelius Smelt, who for twenty-eight years presided over the affairs of this country. The design, suggested by Sir William Hillary, Bart., is a Grecian Doric column, upon an elevated base, and is to be executed of white freestone, under the direction of Mr. John Welch, Architect.
There is a very remarkable sun-dial opposite the hotel, which well deserves the notice of the learned in dialling.
Castletown has generally a quiet village-like appearance, the monotony of which is only now and then broken in upon by the law courts and meeting of the Keys; though travellers during the summer season are pretty thick upon the ground, and give a little more animation to the picture. The sombre appearance of the place during three parts of the year, (when left to itself,) would daily lead one to imagine the inhabitants were called upon to walk after some funeral procession, and were thus habituated, as it were, to melancholy. Or one might fancy it a city of Quakers, whose taste (borrowing the observation of a certain writer), had it been consulted at the creation, would not have suffered a flower to blow or a bird to sing, but all would have been silent and drab-coloured. The people want stirring up with a long pole, or shaken in some way like a bottle of physic. " It is better," says the celebrated moralist Falstaff, "to be scoured to death by perpetual motion, than eaten to death with perpetual rust."
Nevertheless, Castletown may be considered the court-end of the island. Here the Lieutenant Governor resides, and around him as a nucleus are gathered all those who delight to bask in the sunshine of authority. What little aristocracy of pride and feeling has its existence in the island may be found here.
The population does not exceed 2500. The town has considerably increased since the building of the New College, but it is never likely to extend to any magnitude, the residence of the Governor and its proximity to the College being the chief props to this otherwise sinking community. The site of the town is bare and exposed, the wind whistling through a man's teeth again, in every direction-and the appearance of the immediate neighbourhood, especially bordering the shore, bleak and inhospitable, cold and comfortless; for ever exposed to the driving, insatiable fury of a south west wind, not a tree can be reared without shelter-nor a shrub brought to perfection w ithout being nursed as extravagantly as the only scion of some noble house.
Round the outskirts of the town are many neat villas and mansions, the principal of which is Lawn House, the residence of the Governor, who derives an income of about a thousand per annum from his office, not more than one-third of what it ought to be; the revenue of the Bishop (a comparatively useless sinecure) being three thousand per annum. It is a matter of impossibility to keep up the requisite dignity of Lieutenant-Governor upon this paltry consideration, without encroaching upon private income.
On the parade I observed one of the fattest old men I have seen in this or any other country, who, to make use of an observation of Mirabeau, "seemed to have been created for the sole purpose of showing to what extent the human skin might be stretched." It is said of Gibbon, that when once paying his addresses to some blooming widow, and down on his knees passionately urging his suit, he found himself' unable to get up again from being so fat; and the widow, not relishing the idea of so familiarly handling the historian, was under the necessity of ringing for the footman to rescue the gentleman from this awkward position. I should apprehend a difficulty of this kind might occur with our hero, under similar circumstances. It must have been many a long year since he has seen his knees. If turned on his back like a turtle, it would be impossible for him to rise without assistance; or on his belly, you might spin him round like a top without his legs or arms touching the ground. That man is sure of going to heaven, for (on the authority Shakspeare, if the profanity might be tolerated,) " the devil will not have him damned, lest the oil that is in him should set hell on fire."
There are some few originals in this country. :In Douglas you may occasionally see a man moving down the streets, opening his legs like a pair of compasses, and looking into the houses through the windows of the second story-six feet ten and a half inches in his stocking feet. As Cassius said of Caesar,
" He cloth bestride the world like a colossus,
While we petty men walk under his huge legs, And seek ourselves dishonourable graves."
In the new edition of Joe Miller you may read an anecdote of this gentleman.
Not quite a mile from Castletown, on the road to Derby Haven, is the small mound of Hango Hill, upon which are the remains of the ancient place of execution where General Christian was shot. Women convicted of any capital crime were formerly in this country tied up in a sack and thrown into the sea, as the Turkish women are now thrown into the Bosphorus upon being convicted of any misdemeanor. Upon this part of the bay of Castletown the sea is rapidly encroaching, and threatens very shortly to swallow up the road, and enter the college land, unless some bulwark is thrown up on the beach, to break the fury of the waves which thunder along the coast before a south west wind.
Beneath this precipitous cliff of Hango Hill (the property of James M'Crone, Esq.), on which stand " the grim ruins of the gallows", is a soft sandy beach, resorted to by the inhabitants as a bathing ground, indeed the only comfortable spot for such purpose on the bay. On a fine summer's day, standing here, one might fancy one had stepped back to the time of the Greek Olympiads, when racing naked was considered an edifying amusement; for here the college lads at stated intervals are allowed to exhibit their pranks in and out of the water, in all the gradations of dress, from full garment to natural buff.
The first stone of the New College (just behind) was laid on the twentythird day of April, 1830, by the Lieutenant Governor Smelt. It was carried into execution from funds principally collected in the Island, though no particular benefit (except what the country at large enjoys from such an institution) accrues to the subscribers. The building is not yet completed, though five thousand pounds have already been expended upon it. Some three or four thousand pounds more will require yet to be laid out, before the supply of convenience and accommodation will meet the growing demand. The out offices at each end are merely temporary. The original draft of the design was made by Messrs. Hansom and Welch, Architects, but the execution of the work, and the additions and alterations, including the design for the great tower, were under the direction of Mr. John Welch. The great tower affords one of the finest specimens of masonry, out of rough material, to be found in this country. The College was opened in the summer of 1833, and already numbers 170 pupils. The establishment is principally conducted by the Rev. Edward Wilson and the Rev. William Dixon, first and second masters, who have the highest repute for respectability and talent. The property is vested in the hands of trustees, who are, the Lieutenant Governor, Bishop, Clerk of the Bolls, Archdeacon, one Deemster, Vicar General, and Attorney General. The College is built upon what are called the Academic Lands, bequeathed by that justly eminent man, Dr. Isaac Barrow (for a short time Bishop of this Isle), for the purpose of educating ministers for the Manx Church, and also for supplying the youth of the Island with education. It may be remarked here, that during the middle ages the Isle of Man was a great seat of learning, many of the kings and princes of the surrounding countries having been educated here; so far indeed did its reputation for learning extend at that time, that an ancient special law of Scotland provided that her princes " be educated in Man." His present Majesty has condescended to allow his name to be coupled with this establishment (though the purport of such a request has hitherto turned out to be "fishing in shallow streams ;") and it now bears the name of King William's College. The country is principally indebted to the clear head and enlightened policy of John M. Hutchen, Esq., Clerk of the Polls, for this acquisition, though the present Lord Bishop of the Isle would very willingly monopolise the honourable reputation of founder. The style of the building is Elizabethan, the chapel and tower early English.
About half a mile beyond the College is Derby Haven, deriving its name probably from the small fortified tower, built by the Earl of Derby, in 1603, on the point of Langness.
Derby Haven has nothing to recommend it to notice, more than its natural adaptation for a fine channel harbour, the material for such an undertaking being on the spot. The peninsula which divides Derby Haven from Castletown Bay is called Langness Point, on which are the remains of an ancient chapel, the precincts of which are still used as a burying place for Roman Catholics and shipwrecked mariners lost on the coast. It has been suggested to cut a sort of canal or channel through the neck of sand which joins this rocky peninsula to the main land, as the most ready way of making Derby Haven an efficient harbour, approached from the bay of Castletown. There is a great objection to such a scheme; besides the enormous cost of forming such a channel, and lining it with masonry, it would be constantly choking up with the sediment of Castletown Bay, driven into it before the prevailing winds. The shipbuilding establishment of Messrs. Humberston, Taggart, and Co., now situated at Ramsay, would have been now in operation here had parties consulted their own interests. A little beyond Derby Haven is Ronaldsway or Rannesway, a fine estate of five hundred acres of land, late in the occupation of Mr. Faulder, the great agriculturist. The land round Castletown is better cultivated than any other portion of the Island, from the convenience of manure; lime being on the spot, and sea-weed being found in great quantities along the shore, which is mixed with earth and lime, and thus made into an excellent compost. The best species of manure seems to be that of crushed bones, which has hitherto been in a great measure supplied to the British agriculturists from Holland.
Some experiments were made at Ronaldsway by the Duke of Atholl for coal, but without success. Geologists are of opinion that coal may be found on the island, but in such thin beds or fields as not to be worth working. The received opinion through out the country is, that coal has been found here, but that the discoverers have been bribed by the Earl of Lonsdale, who owns the coal fields on the opposite coast, near Whitehaven, from whence the Isle of Man and the North of Ireland are mostly supplied. It is easy to see that this opinion is groundless. A company has latterly been formed, for the purpose of trying this question; but I should conceive there is no further chance of finding any quantity of this very useful material, than the alchemysts of the middle ages had of discovering the philosopher's stone.
We now turned our steps again to the town. The majestic outline of the Castle of Rushen, towering the country, gives great point and effect to the scenery all round Castletown. The small tower and lantern of the church of St. Mary rather interferes with this effect. It was not the best taste to put this comparatively insignificant structure in competition with the messy grandeur of Castle Rushen; it savours too much of the fable of the frog and the ox. The castle should have been left the predominant feature of the town.
After a hasty lunch at the George, dales we mounted our horses again, and set off for the Foxdale Mines, escorted by our worthy host, Mr. Kneen, who very kindly offered his services on the occasion. About a mile out of the town is Kirk Malew, the parochial church, a little beyond which we have the extensive lime-rocks and kilns of Messrs. Moores and Messrs. Jeffersons, from whence the country is principally supplied with this material. There are also other lime works, at Port Le Mary, whence the coast of Ireland is supplied to a great extent, and bricks brought as ballast home. The limestone district extends in a direct line for about seven miles along flue coast, from Port Le Mary to beyond Ronaldsway, the greatest depth inland is perhaps two miles. The sand stone and sand district, on the contrary, is in the north west of the Island, from Peel to the Point of Ayr. The backbone and body of the country is composed of mica and greywacke slate, the centre line of which runs diagonally from Brada to Maughold Head. If there is any coal in the country, it will be found under the magnesian limestone round Ballasalla and Derby Haven, or under the old red sandstone in the neighbourhood of Peel.
From the brow of the hill under South Barule, the view looking back is sweeping, yet monotonous, bounded by the trackless ocean; the most conspicuous object being still the Castle of Rushen, far below.
We were strewn much attention and civility by Mr. Beckwith, the agent of the Foxdale Mining Company. These mines are now being worked by a company from England, to whom the Duke of Atholl leased all the mines and minerals of the Island, excepting coal; and exclusive of the parish of Lonan. There is an unexpired term of nineteen years of this lease yet to run. No place in the united kingdom abounds more with metal than Man. Silver, copper, lead, blonde, ochre, and iron, show the internal riches of this country. In a few years there is every probability of these forming the staple wealth of the Island. The late extraordinary rise in the value of metals, has given an additional spur to the trade here, as elsewhere. Symptoms of metal are to be found in every direction; a bunch of ore is kicked up by the point of the shoe, or discovered by the stroke of a pick. Besides the mines at Foxdale, veins have been found, and are now working, at Bradahead, Glenrushen, Kirkpatrick, Laxey, &c., which promise a rich harvest for comparatively trifling labour.
The iron and coal mines of Great Britain have been a greater source of wealth to her, than the silver and gold mines of Peru and Mexico to Spain. And while the one country has been impoverished by these pursuits, the other has been enriched beyond all calculation.
A single fact connected with the relative condition of these countries, in the midst of such engagements, deserves to be mentioned.
After wallowing in the wealth of America, the Spanish government was at one time so poor as to be unable to pay the expenses of her own messengers and couriers from province to province; whilst the productive power of machinery in Great Britain at the present moment equals the labour of four hundred millions of men, and her very insurances from fire amounted, in 1834 to the average annual sum of seven hundred and fifty six millions of money. And the extent of human labour applied in the latter country to raw material may be judged of when it is known, that iron ore to the value of fourpence, when wrought out into watch-springs, becomes worth some thousands of pounds.
The Foxdale lead is by no means so rich in silver as that of Laxey; but what is deficient in quality is made up in quantity.
From Foxdale we rode up to South Barule, to view the slate quarry; which, though not producing slates of equal quality with the quarries of Wales, would afford a prospect of considerable improvement, were the company to take a little more pains in opening and clearing the rock, and not scramble over the surface. The Manx slate is coarse and heavy; in bleak situations, better qualified to resist the storm than the more feathery material of Bangor or Carnarvon.
The whole surface of this part of the country is covered with detached masses of coarse granite; though there appears to be no quarry of this description in the neigh bourhood; many of the houses are built of this material.
Descending from the mountains again, we visited Kirk Arbory, a very quiet little village situated out of the common road. As its name indicates, this place was once famous for wood, though but little remains to bear testimony to the propriety of its ancient cognomen. Among other circumstances which appear to prove that the Isle of Man was at one time well wooded, we may mention the historical fact, that, in 1065, Goddard Crownan, in preparing for an engagement near Ramsey, concealed three hundred of his men in a wood near that town; not a vestige of which is now to be seen.
In the village of Kirk Arbory are situated the remains of an ancient friary, the history of which is but little known. Just above the the village, is the sweet retirement of Parville, the seat of G. Quirk, Esq., Water Bailiff, and Receiver General; to whom, in conjunction with J. M. Hutchen, Esq., Clerk of the Rolls, the country is indebted for the succinct and clear abstract and epitome of the nature and history of the Manx Charities.
From Kirk Arbory we rode to Port Erin, passing through one of the best agricultural districts in the Island; the cottages about here having more the English appearance of comfort and cleanliness than any I had seen. The most prominent object in the neighbourhood is Kentraugh, the seat of Edward Gawne, Esq., a man who by indefatigable activity and industry has acquired immense wealth and influence, and who always (it is said) rises before five in the morning, and gets most of the business of the day over before other people are out of bed.
Ancient druidical temples, tumult, cairns, barrows, are to be met with in every direction in this country; there is a large one in the parish of Rushen.
Port Erin is a beautiful little bay, forming a sort of three-quarters circle, the opening being to the sea. The precipitous Brada head is its northern boundary. Port Erin derives its name from being directly opposite Ireland, affording shelter for vessels trading along the Irish coast. The mountains of Mourne are very frequently to be seen hence. The direct distance across to Ardglass is twenty eight miles.
At Port Erin we embarked in a boat for the Calf, sending our horses to meet us at Port Le Mary, on our return round by Spanish Head; by which course we wished to have a view of the fine bold shore from the Calf to Port Le Mary. The sea was beautifully calm,
"With scarce a ripple spilt upon the beach;"
not a breath of air disturbed its unruffled bosom, and the deep shadows of the overhanging rocks were distinctly pourtrayed on its surface, through the cool retreat of which we skimmed along our peaceful way. The " dangerous trade " of samphire gathering is followed on the precipitous sides of Brada.
Passing the Sound is a strong current or swell. In the midst, betwixt the main land and the Calf, is the small isle of Kitterland, on which we observed some fine sheep grazing, and where (as we were informed by our intelligent Cicerone) they soon fatten.
The Calf of Man is approached with considerable difficulty; though the shore shelves gradually from a little above the water's edge (on this side the Island), until it attains a fearful height at the southern extremity; on which are built two elegant lighthouses, elevated as upon the margin of a sea wall five hundred feet above the surface of highwater.
" On the last limits of the land and main,
Whore ancient Tethys and old Ocean reign."
The general aspect of the Island is wild and romantic in the extreme-not a single tree diversifying and adorning the interminable waste, and only here and there small patches of green giving any sign' of habitation and occupation; on the three quarters of the circle bounded by the trackless sea, on the fourth by the black rocks of the parent isle, dashed at the base with the white of oceans foam. The Calf of Man was the property of the late Wm. Drinkwater, Esq., who purchased it from the Crown for £3000. It contains about six hundred acres of land, and is rented by Mr. Dawson; who, I am told, pays his rent out of the sale of rabbits, which abound here, and which are regularly sent all over the Island; though I have been latterly told that these are almost exterminated by the immense quantities of rats which have accumulated there. This property has been very considerably improved since it came into the possession of Mr. Drinkwater, a great deal more of the waste land having been enclosed and cleared, fences formed, and drains made, in all directions. There are but three families resident here, that of Mr. Dawson, above alluded to, and the keepers of the two light-houses. That group of rocks to the south, scarcely jutting above the surface of the water, is called the Chickens, on which many a noble vessel has struck and become a wreck. Puffins or sea-parrots, greatly prized by epicures, formerly abounded here, as on Puffin Island, bordering the Isle of Anglesea, but they have within a few years taken their departure.
It is said, the rats here, as there, have driven them away. We were hospitably entertained by Mr. Dawson with a slice of bacon and bread and a glass of good ale, which, at such a moment, surpassed the most dainty luxury, being in excellent cue for relishing even the Lacedemonian black-broth, at which Dionysius made such wry faces, for want of the proper seasoning, hunger.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Calf of Man was celebrated as the residence of a hermit, who, through some fit of jealousy, murdered a beautiful woman attached to the court of that queen; and thought this exile the most satisfactory way of expiating his crime. This was also the resort of one BUSHEL, during the reign of James the First, who was induced by Lord Chancellor Bacon to ascertain whether a pure system of vegetable diet, and a life of extreme simplicity and abstinence, would not promote longevity; and thought this the most suitable place for the experiment. After fancying he had almost attained his object, like the vain Paracelsus, who, having boasted that he had discovered a medicine that would make man immortal, died as other men, in the midst of privation and disappointment; discovering, when too late, that all may not be, if they would, Lewis Cornaros.
Descending again to the shore, we got into our boat, not far from that singular rock called the Eye, forming a beautiful natural arch, which having for some time examined and admired, we proceeded towards Port Le Mary.
The Race of the Calf (which we were now crossing) is sometimes so strong as to sweep vessels coming within its current to almost certain destruction, on the formidable rock of Kitterland, at the foot of the Calf; something in effect (though comparatively insignificant) like that of the Maelstroom off the coast of Norway, which sucks within its vortex vessels even a mile distant. It sometimes happens that vessels pass through the Sound in safety, though the passage is like that of Scylla and Charybdis; if you avoid the one, you can scarcely help falling upon the other.
The sail from the Calf to Port Le Mary, especially when near enough the shore, is singularly beautiful, on account of the savage wildness and romantic grandeur of the beetling rocks which overhang the sea, whence poor old King Lear might as satisfactorily have leaped as from Dover Cliffs. On this part of the coast, part of the Spanish Armada was wrecked and lost in the reign of Elizabeth; hence denominated to this day Spanish Head; the stone of which, of a long, stringy, fibrous quality, is used throughout the Island for the external lintels of doors and windows.
One of the greatest natural curiosities of the Island is here to be seen-the SPLIT ROCKS, so called from the whole country for two or three miles in circumference, being rent and torn asunder like a rotten garment, and presenting frightful chasms and crevices of great depth. In the reign of Ivar III. Prince of Wales, a remarkable earthquake is recorded to have taken place in Man, which is most probably the origin of this phenomenon, it having every appearance of being the effect of some such convulsion of nature.
The face of the country, from the Calf to Port Le Mary, presents no appearance of cultivation, but nevertheless made gay by the purple bloom of the heath-bell and the yellow gorse blossoms, forming together a charming combination of colour, with which the mountain slopes and acclivities of this country are generally tinted. Throughout the Island (the south in particular) gorse forms most of the fences, growing on the top and from the sides of the various banks and hedges, and when in blow is really beautiful. It is moreover used as food for cattle, after having been chopped and pounded in the various mills constructed for this purpose wherever a stream of water is seen rushing down its channel to the sea. At St. Petersburg, the English gorse (considered so common and noxious with us) is held in great estimation, and treasured in their green-houses as a rare exotic.
We reached Port Le Mary about five o'clock, coming round into the harbour, alongside the new and beautiful pier, instead of landing at the usual place. As we passed the head, we saw two or three small vessels loading with noble blocks of black limestone (in great abundance here), destined for the new pier of Ardglass.
The whole village of Port Le Mary, with the exception of one house, belongs to James Holmes, Esq., banker, who purchased it at the sale of the crown property. Some accommodation for strangers is very much wanted, in the shape of a good public house or hotel. This place has been very much improved latterly by building the new pier, from whence agricultural produce, cattle, and corn are exported to a great extent. Port Le Mary is a pretty place, with great capabilities about it, but the bay is not considered very safe for shipping. perceive a Methodist chapel built here, on the most beautiful site the village affords, which has been copied from the Scotch kirk at Douglas; and these ingenious imitators have contrived also to copy sundry errors and mistakes too; which reminds me of what is said of an English captain getting a new coat made by a Chinese tailor, and sending the knight of the celestial thimble an old patched and mended one as a pattern; when the new coat was done, and sent home, the captain found, to his great astonishment and mortification, that not only had the form and size of the old garment been most minutely copied, but every patch and stitch, the artist fancying that such were some national decorations which he must not omit.
From Port Le Mary we rode along the shore to Castletown, distanced about five miles; passing the pleasantly situated mansions of Ballachurry, Mount Gawne, &c. We were fortunate enough, through the medium of our intelligent companion, to get a peep over the gardens and pleasure-grounds of Kentraugh, the seat of Edward Gawne, Esq. before mentioned, to whom we were introduced, and who showed us much attention and hospitality, insisting upon our taking some refreshment after our long jaunt. The gardens of Kentraugh are noted for producing the finest fruit in the country. The young and beautiful plantation forming the avenue leading clown to the house, skews to what extent the difficulty of rearing trees, even in the most exposed situations in this country, may be overcome by good skill and management. A sort of shelter or breakwind has here been formed of old trees, on the outside of the other, under the cover of which has luxuriantly shot up a fine and thriving plantation. The mansion, which has not been completed many years, is exceedingly well built and finished, though not exactly in the purest taste. Of its proprietor it has only to be said, that his table daily groans under the weight of princely hospitality, and the lovers of " good old English cheer " may here have what is expressly meant by-a benefit.
On the opposite side of the Bay to Port Le Mary is Poolvash, the stone from which place (a kind of black bastard marble) is universally used throughout the country for chimney-pieces and tombstones, though very liable to split and shill when exposed to the sun. The steps of St. Pauls Cathedral are formed of this material, presented by Bishop Wilson. Passing Poolvash, we have on our right the and estate of Balladoole, and on our left the seat of Mrs. Quilliam.
We reached Castletown as the Castle bell tolled seven.
" Blest be the hour, The time, the clime, the spot where I so oft
Have felt that moment in its fullest power Sink o'er the earth so beautiful and soft."
After this long and fatiguing excursion, we sat down to pay our devoirs to " The Chinese Nymph of Tears, Green Tea," to which we had an excellent relish of lobsters and crabs, which abound here, and on the dressing of which our worthy host prides himself, and for which he is truly famous, deserving His Majesty's patent. When King James was once travelling in his dominions, he came to a certain village, an inhabitant of which, to testify his loyalty, climbed to the summit of the spire, and then requested a reward; upon which that facetious monarch granted him a patent for climbing steeples, prohibiting any other of his Majesty's subjects from doing the same during his life-time. I cannot see why His Majesty's patent might not with as great propriety be granted for dressing crabs.
A beautifill moon rose at eight, under the light of which we galloped along the new road to Douglas, up hill and down dale.