[taken from A L J Gosset Shepherds of Britain: Scenes from Shepherd Life London:Constable 1911]




The native stock is small and hardy, and would endure the roughest weather with little loss, and the meat tasted fine. This is still the mountain breed. There is also a peculiar breed, called laughton,1 of the colour of Spanish snuff, and these are not so hardy, and more difficult to fatten. The natives like the cloth and stockings made of the wool.

1 For spelling see page 64. loaghtan, or "laughton,"


From The Sheep, 1837

The sheep are small on the hills, seldom exceeding eight to ten pounds the quarter, and producing fleeces of short or middle wool weighing two and a half pounds. They have much resemblance to the Welsh sheep, and have most of their peculiarities and bad points. They are narrow-chested and narrow—backed, long in the leg, and deficient in shoulder. They are found both horned and polled, mostly of a white colour; but some of them are grey, and others of a peculiar snuff or brown colour, termed in the island "laughton" colour. This colour, either covering the whole of the sheep or appearing in the form of a patch on the neck, is considered as the peculiar badge of the Isle of Man sheep. In the valleys a larger sheep with longer wool, a proper long-woolled sheep, is found. The flesh of both breeds is said to be good, and the wool of the hill sheep valued in the manufacture of stockings and some of the worsted goods.




 Sheep used to keep their own places upon the mountains without fence of any kind, but the land is now enclosed. The Crown has also enclosed the commons, which are let. Before "disforestation of the commons" in 1860, any one, by paying a nominal rent, might send sheep to feed on the mountains. A good many of the shepherds are Scotsmen. The Manx shepherds turn their hand to any farm-work, and the farms and flocks not being large several farmers act as their own shepherds, assisted by a son or some other farm-hand. The sheep when taken from the mountains have a way of returning to their old haunts, as is the custom with sheep in Wales and elsewhere. This is very tiresome when there are other plans for them, or when they have changed owners. The name for one of these places is oayll (a haunt, a place frequented). The Manx shepherd often makes a pet of some of his flock, and particular favourites may be seen running to meet him as soon as he appears. On the mountains are small yards made of stone without mortar, and called paabs ; these are used for catching sheep in, and would seem to be much the same as the "rude enclosures" of Shetland, which are called punds.’ Both in Shetland and in the Isle of Man it was the custom to hunt the sheep with dogs1.

Loaghtan Sheep

There are three kinds of sheep in the island :—
1. The loaghtan, or "laughtan," as it is variously spelt (loagh is pronounced like the Scotch loch), which is the name popularly given to the brown flocks of the old Manx breed, though, as elsewhere pointed out, it is really the name of a colour, not of the breed itself.
2. A white sheep with a yellow face.2
3. The keeir or black sheep, a mouldy grey (keeir in Manx means dark grey). The loaghtan, or rather lughdoan, which is the correct spelling according to Cregeen’s Manx Dictionary, is, he tells us, derived from lugh (mouse) and dhoan (brown), these colours when mixed producing the shade which is understood by loaghtan; it cannot be from lhosht dhoan (burnt brown), though this better describes the colour. The loaghtan is said by some to be a purely Manx breed and only known to the islanders by the Manx name. This, however, is not correct, for similar sheep are to be found in Shetland, though not in Orkney, and a few also in Scotland. When the pretty soft brown wool of the loaghtans becomes weather-beaten it gets lighter at the edges. There sometimes occurs in a loaghtan flock white sheep with patches of brown, but when a flock of loaghtans is named it is understood that brown sheep are meant. They have two and in some cases four horns. The race had become almost extinct in the Isle of Man in the earlier part of the last century, their place being taken by larger sheep brought over by Scotsmen who rented Manx commons. A Manxman in Baldwin, Quirk by name, who was of a conservative disposition, kept some of the old stock. He was quite a character, and believed, as he put it, "the oul’ times were bes’ for all." He ploughed with oxen, and would not have any new-fangled English improvements about his farm, but held on with his poor little loaghtans while his neighbours went in for the larger English and Scotch breeds which paid them better. Thus the loaghtans were being gradually displaced for such breeds as the Shropshire and Leicester in the lowlands, and by the Scotch mountain breed in the highlands. Many years after, Colonel Anderson, who still lives in the island, on passing through Baldwin, high up in the fastnesses of the Manx mountains, there saw these sheep. He brought some to his place at Michael, and later on other landowners also bought some of them. In these days when picturesque, even if less useful, types are gradually passing away, it is refreshing to hear of conservative Quirk and those who followed his example. Mr. J. C. Bacon, of Santon, Isle of Man, writes "I have a brown flock of pure Manx mountain sheep. The word loaghtan only refers to the brown colour, which is what the Shetlanders call moorit or moor-coloured. It is, however, not really the name of the breed but of the colour. Our Manx sheep are very small and finely shaped, a well-defined and handsome variety of a breed which for want of a better name I call the short-tailed sheep of Northern Europe. They were no doubt at one time wild; and on the island of Soa, one of the St. Kilda group, are still practically in a state of nature. The domestic short-tailed sheep is found pure in Iceland, the Faroe Isles, -the Shetlands, Isle of Man, and a few in the Outer Hebrides, where I saw one or two good specimens this year. Probably there may still be some in the more remote Scotch highlands and in Ireland. The breed runs in peculiar colours—white, black, brown, grey, and frequently in piebald mixtures of these colours. They have a tendency to produce four horns, and sometimes have even five or six. They are very hardy and picturesque, make excellent mutton, and except in very cold climates yield wool of exceptional quality. The Shetland shawl-wool is, of course, renowned. One peculiar feature of this breed is that the tail never reaches the hocks, and another is, that if not shorn they cast their fleece in summer. The Shetlanders, Faroes, and Icelanders never clip these sheep, but simply pull the wool off when it becomes loose. Black four-horned sheep found in some English parks are invariably described as St. Kildas, and some no doubt came originally from there. It is said, however, that the only sheep there now are the Scottish blackface, and the little brown, nearly wild flock just mentioned as occurring on the Isle of Soa."

1 See page 97.

2 Sacheverell, in Account of the Isle of Man, published 1707, writes of some sheep on the island " of a yellow or rather buff colour."



Shepherd Caley of Ramsey tells us that the old Manx sheep-dog was a "holding," not a driving dog. It kept to heel, and when a particular sheep was wanted, the shepherd would point to it and say in Manx, "There, Spring, go and hold that rough fellow," and the dog would seize the sheep behind the neck, throw it down, and hold it with his paws, never hurting it. These dogs are now extinct in the island; they did not work the sheep as the collie does. They are described as smooth—haired, of various colours, very big and strong. Dr. Tellet of Ramsey writes : "I recollect having seen one of these dogs about sixty years ago, which belonged to an old man who lived near Ramsey. It was smooth-haired, and my impression is that it was about the size of a Scotch deerhound, coloured black, grey and tan—the tan so intiniately mixed with the grey in parts as to produce a rust colour. I see the colour in the dogs we have now, a number of which are descendants of crosses between the dog in question and the Scotch collie. The collie is said to have been brought to the island by the Scotch shepherds who came over to take charge of the larger sheep farms. The first I saw on the island I remember distinctly ; it was black and white with very silky hair. A Mr. Metcalf had the credit of introducing the old English sheep-dog also at this date. The collies were not generally used until about 1860. I have heard my father say that the Manx dog was only a holding dog. A few days ago I was talking to an old shepherd, who described the way it threw the sheep down." Miss Sophia Morrison of Peel writes : "Some years ago a Manx shepherd told me some wonderful tales of an old sheep-dog. This shepherd used to go to the mountains with his father to look after the sheep, and his father had only to point his finger at any one sheep in the flock and say, ‘Grein yn nane shoh, Coly’ (‘Seize that one, Coly’), or ‘Greim mee shen’ (‘Seize that for me’), and the dog at once put his paws on the sheep pointed out to him in the midst of the flock, and held it till the old man came up." Another person remembers sheep-dogs not in the least like the sheep-dogs of to-day they were larger, smooth-haired, and were known as "houl’ers, because they were good to houl’ on." These dogs upset the sheep on to their backs and kept them down until the shepherd came to them. This old shepherd did not think that these were native sheep-dogs, but that they had had special training to make them "houl’ers." An authority in the island remarks "that if there had been a breed peculiar to the Isle of Man, some of the historians who wrote about the native pony, sheep, and cat would have mentioned it. They were probably introduced by the Norsemen, and existed in other places in the United Kingdom at the same time, i.e. about fifty or sixty years ago, and were only sheep-dogs by special training."

Ralph Fleesh tells us that the dog applies his mouth to the wool as well as his paws to the neck, but the skin of the sheep is never injured; adding, "To upset a sheep is a mistake, since the process involves a shock that some times leaves bad results. I knew a ‘beardie’ collie named ‘Roy ‘—one of the heroes of his day—who could hold up any sheep without upsetting it. He was a powerfully built dog, and so by seizing the wool of the sheep’s neck, and meeting by quick movements every effort of his charge, his strength and weight being a sufficient barrier, complete victory was easily and promptly achieved." There are local shepherds’ dogs in various districts in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, as well as in the Isle of Man, but these local breeds cannot be regarded as distinct, since they lack uniformity of type.

Sheep marking in the Isle of Man [pp184/5]

In old days ear-marking was the custom in the Isle of Man and was called " cowrey keyrragh " or " bein er y chleaysh." Now it is usual for the sheep to have initials painted on their fleeces, or when the wool is dark, as with the laughtans, to brand the horns. Their noses were never branded with a hot iron. The following in respect to unmarked sheep in the island is interesting :-


According to the " Ordinances " of the Isle of Man, anno 1510.

" The fforester or his deputy ought to go forth on St. Collum Eve through the iforest, and ride to the highest hill-top in the Isle of Man, and there blow his horn thrice ; this done, to range and view the iforest, and on the third day to go forth and take such company with him as he shall like, to see what sheep he findeth unshorn. If he finde any, he ought to take them with his dogge, if the said sheep be not milk sheep, to shear them and to take the fleece to himself and to put a private mark upon said sheep, to use all he finds within the precincts of the iforest so at the time, to the intent that if any of the said sheep be found the next year by the same iforester, he to certify the comptroller and receiver of the same, that they may be recorded in the Court Rolls and so priced and sold to the Lord's best profit, etc."

An old Manx man says that the forester's mark in his young days was to cut a tiny strip of skin almost off the tail underneath, and to twist it tightly into something like a tag. The office of forester was abolished by the Isle of Man Disafforesting Act of 1860, sec. 16.

1 The day was altered to 21st of June by statute of 1748, chap. vi.





Mr. A. W. Moore, in Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man (1891), gives an account of an oural losht (burnt-offering) in the parish of Jurby in 1880, remarking that even within the last five years there have been several sacrifices, but it is difficult to obtain particulars.

"On May Day eve the people of the Isle of Man have from time immemorial burned all the gorse bushes in the island, conceiving that they thereby burned all the witches and fairies which they believe take refuge there after sunset. The island presented the scene of a universal conflagrations and to a stranger, unacquainted with our customs, it must appear very strange." 1

It is thus clear that the Manx people placed very great reliance on the influence of fire in protecting them from the power of evil. This influence was also made use of —or would seem to have been made use of—by sacrificing animals as propitiatory offerings to the powers above mentioned. Such a method would naturally be supposed to have belonged to past ages only, if there was not evidence that lambs have been burnt on May Day eve or May Day son oural (for a sacrifice) within living memory. Such sacrifices seem to have been distinct in their purpos I from the burnings of animals for discovering witches or driving away diseases, instances of which have also occurred in quite recent times in several parts of England May 12, Laa—Bouldyn (the Beltaine), as it is called in Irish, the first of the great Celtic feasts, was held at the opening of the summer half of the year. Professor Rhys met with some trace of a tradition of sacrifice on this day, an old woman having told him of a live sheep having been burnt in a field in the parish of Andreas son oural (as a sacrifice) when she was a "lump of a girl."

On May Day (O.S.) it was a custom to burn a sheep for a sacrifice. Professor Rhys adds in his Manx Folk-Lore and Superstitions: "Scotch May Day customs point to a sacrifice having been once usual, and that possibly of human beings, and not of sheep as in the Isle of Man."

An old farmer in the parish of Patrick, Isle of Man,. gives me the following charm which has been used by his father at sheep-shearing. It was said when he let go his grip of the sheep

"Gow magh dy lhonie as trooid thie dy mollagh, lesk yn eayn bwoirrin as yn coamrey sonney" (" Go out bare and come home rough, with the she-lamb and the plentiful covering ").

Manx people sometimes put into their .purses the lucky bone of the sheep. A young woman accidentally:dropped one out of her purse before me yesterday. The bone is shaped like Thor’s hammer. I have been told that if a traveller loses his way at cross-roads, not knowing which path to take, he throws the sheep’s lucky bone before him, and then follows that path towards which the hammer-end points.

1 Mona’s Herald Newspaper, May 5, 1837.

The following is added for interest though no obvious manx connection



An old farmer in the county of Sussex, rather more than half a century ago, observed that a drover, from whom he wished to purchase some sheep, made use of an unusual set of numbers (which began with een, doit,l tree, and ran up to twenty) by which to reckon them. Feeling a very natural curiosity in this discovery, he determined, if possible, to ascertain their origin. The numbers were written down, and compared with the numerical systems in various dialects, when it at once became obvious that, although several of them could not be identified at all, the remainder were clearly connected in some way with the numerals of modern Welsh, from which latter they might at first sight appear to have been derived. In 1878, however, a paper was read on the subject by Mr. Alexander Ellis, who published in the Transactions of the Philological Society (in 1878, p. 316) a collection of more than fifty such sets of numerals, an analysis of which shows that these numerals came from many parts of England, and that instead of appearing most persistently in the counties bordering upon Wales, they appear with greater persistency in counties very far removed from the Welsh borders-in Surrey and Sussex, Essex and Lincolnshire, for instance. Out of the entire list, in fact, seven sets came from the northern counties, and the rest from the counties just mentioned. It was, moreover, clear (according to the view taken by Mr. Ellis himself) that the oldest of these sets of numerals might in 1878 be traced back upwards of two hundred years ; and that although in modern times these numerals have come to be used by schoolboys in playing games, by nurses and mothers for amusing their babies, and by old women for counting the loops in their knitting, and so forth, their special association even in this degenerate stage was with the counting of sheep.

1 The "t" at the end of "doit" (="two") is purely adventitious, and has most likely come from doubling the "t" at the beginning of the word for "three." Thus "een, doi, tree" would become "een, doi, ttree," the "t" being subsequently tacked on to the end of "doi" from the beginning of "tree" in something of the same way that the "n" in "nadder" by wrong division got tacked on to the end of the indefinite article.

From the foregoing considerations therefore, and from their advanced state of corruption, it seemed not unreasonable to conclude that these old sheep-counting numbers are less likely to have been borrowed from Modern Welsh than to have come down to us through long ages from the time of the ancient Britons, who were left behind either as serfs, or perhaps here and there in small semidependent communities in various parts of the country, when the great majority of their fellows were driven into the mountains of Wales, of Cumberland (whose very name is taken from that of the ancient race), and of Cornwall. As Professor Skeat, in a letter to the author of this book, categorically puts it : "The Britons, whose traces we find in Yorkshire and elsewhere, are now restricted in language to Wales." Indeed, modern research seems to be coming more and more to the conclusion that the number of ancient Britons who were not expelled or forced to flee by the invaders must have been much greater than was at one time assumed. It is to be recollected, moreover, that the vast majority of the ancient Britons who remained in England must have come under Saxon masters, and must therefore have inevitably taken the lowest place in the social scale then existing. Their lot must have been little better than that of the " hewers of wood " and " drawers of water " of whom we read in the Bible, and they would tend to become the keepers of the sheep. After the Norman Conquest their former taskmasters, the Saxons, were driven to these same occupations, which they must have shared with such of the Britons as still remained. There is a trace of this stage (when the Saxons in their turn became shepherds and drovers) in the preservation of the Saxon terms, which survive to the present day in the phraseology of those professions. It must have been in this way that the Saxon shepherds acquired the sheepcounting terms from their British fellow-sufferers, viz. through sharing their hard lot.

And though the matter may be incapable of direct and conclusive proof, still having in view the distribution of these ancient methods of numeration in England, almost all being far removed from the Welsh border, it appears fair to assume that we have in these old sheep-counting scores the corrupted, broken remnants of the ancient British score." And we may further say that this assumption appears the safer, since it would alone explain adequately the extreme state of corruption and decay into which these " scores " have fallen. For we do actually find in them just such changes as would be produced by a thousand years of possible popular interpolation, misinterpretation, and confusion. If these scores had been derived in comparatively recent times from a Modern Welsh source or sources, the disintegration would hardly have been likely to have proceeded so far as has undeniably been the case. I will now take as an example one of the new sets of the score, which still " holds " with some of the old shepherds of Lincolnshire

No. of Sheep.
1. Yan.
2. Tan.
3. Tethera.
4. Pethera.
5. Pimp.
6. Sethera.
7. Lethera.
8. Hovera.
9. Covera.
10. Dik.

No. of Sheep.
11. Yan-a-dik.
12. Tan-a-dik.
13. Tethera-dik.
14. Pethera-dik.
15. Bumpit.
16. Yan-a-bumpit.
17. Tan-a-bumpit.
18. Tethera-bumpit.
19. Pethera-bumpit.
20. Figgit (sic, ?Jiggit).

Here it is probable that the forms tethera-dik and pethera-dik for thirteen and fourteen should really be written tether-a-dik and pether-a-dik, as in the case of eleven and twelve (yan-a-dik and tan-a-dik). The words for thirteen and fourteen appear to have been in fact wrongly divided, and it was no doubt in some such way as this that we come to find forms like tethera and pethera, instead of tether and pether, for three and four, the a representing Welsh and British ar. And the same remark would apply to eighteen and nineteen as well. Unfortunately there is no surviving record of any of the ancient British forms, and so we are reduced to comparing the forms of the " score " numerals with Modern Welsh, and with Old Welsh, which is only of the thirteenth century, and is technically called Middle Welsh. In the case of this particular list we should then have

English Sheep-scores. Middle and Modern Welsh Numerals.

4. Pether. M.W. petuar, W. pedwar.
5. Pimp. M.W. pimp, W. pump.
10. Dik. M.W. dec, W. deg.
15. Bumpit. M.W. pymthec, W. pymtheg.

In all the cases the correspondence of the modern" score " to the older forms is plain, and we should also have what is much stronger than the mere verbal correspondence between individual numerals in English and Modern Welsh-viz. an unmistakably close correspondence in the formation of the system. Thus we have

English Sheep-scores. Welsh Numerals.

11 Yan-a-dik. un-ar-ddeg.
12. Tan-a-dik. deu-ddeg.
13. Tethera-dik (i.e. tether-a-dik). tri-ar-ddeg.
14. Pethera-dik (i.e. pether-a-dik). pedwar-ar-ddeg. And so forth.

When to these general and specific correspondences we add the close resemblance of fifteen, bumpit (English sheep" scores "), with M.W. and Welsh pymthec and pymtheg (pumtheg), or even the much slighter resemblance of twenty, figgit (sic, ? jiggit), of the English sheep-score to the Welsh igain or ugain and M.W. uncent, it will be clear that the correspondence is more than a case of merely borrowing words. It was the system that was borrowed, and the English sheep-counting score and the M.W. and Welsh score are quite clearly in this respect of identical origin. Indeed, the M.W. and Welsh score of reckoning from sixteen to twenty inclusive, by recommencing the scores at fifteen and adding one, two, three, and four as units, is all but unique in the languages of the world, and this too is found in the score of the English shepherds.'

Translated into English, the numbers of both these forms of the score, from ten upwards, would run as follows

10. Ten.
11. One-and-ten.
12. Two-and-ten.
13. Three-and-ten.
14. Four-and-ten.
15. Fifteen.
16. One-and-fifteen.
17. Two-and-fifteen.
18. Three-and-fifteen.
19. Four-and-fifteen.
20. Twenty.

This is about as strong an instance as could perhaps be found of reckoning by " pentads " or fives, though it is possible to find a parallel for it in the Jaloff system of numeration, once described by Mungo Park. The Jaloffs, who were negroes, on reaching fifteen, counted up to twenty by means of numbers which may be translated

15. Ten-and-hand ;
16. Ten-and-hand-one;
17. Ten-and-hand-two ;
18. Ten-and-hand-three ;

and so on. " Hand " in this case is, of course, used as a numeral, the equivalent of five, from the fact that the five fingers were employed by the Jaloffs in counting, as indeed they have been at some stage or other in almost every part of the world.

1 A remarkable exception to this is recorded by the celebrated traveller and physician of Henry VIII.'s time, Andrew Borde, who in 1542 gives the Cornish numerals as follows

1. Ouyn.
2. Dow.
3. Tray.
4. Peswar.
5. Pimp.
6. Whe.
7. syth.
8. Eth.
9. Naw.
10. Dec.
11. Unec, i.e. one-ten.
12. Dowec, i.e. two-ten.
13. Tredeec, three-ten.
14. Peswar-deec, four-ten.
15. Pymp-deec, five-ten.
16. Whe-deec, six-ten.
17. Syth-deec, seven-ten.
18. Eth-deec, eight-ten.
19. Naw-deec, nine-ten.
20. Igous, twenty.
21. Ouyn-war-igous, one-and-twenty. Etc.

Andrew Borde adds : " No Cornish man doth number above thirty, and is named 4 deecwar-negous' [i.e. ten-and-twenty], and when they have told thirty they do begin again, one, two, three, and so forth, and when they have recounted to too, they say ' kans,' and if they number to 1000 they say ' myle."'

It is very remarkable that this Cornish system of counting up to twenty, after reaching fifteen, does not follow the Welsh, but the English method. On the other hand the usual "Welsh" method of counting from sixteen to twenty is also found in Cornwall.

The peculiarity in this case, as in that of the old British and Welsh score, lies in the recommencement of the counting after fifteen is reached. The much more usual method is to reckon a complete series of teens from ten to twenty, made by adding units to ten. Our English system is different again, since our teens do not begin to run regularly in the ascending scale till thirteen is reached, the irregular forms of eleven and twelve pointing to some check in the course of development. We now come to the question of the relation in which the forms that cannot be identified with the M.W. or Welsh numbers stand to those that can be thus derived, and here we cannot do better than quote a letter from Professor Skeat, written to the Rev. W. W. Hunt of Shermanbury Rectory, which appeared in The West Sussex Gazette; it is now reproduced by the kind permission and courtesy of Mr. Hunt (the editor of the Gazette), and of Professor Skeat himself. This letter, written on June 21, 1907, ran as follows

The original Celtic numerals were frequently forgotten, and their places supplied by words that were more or less founded on rhyme. And sometimes the Celtic words were supplemented by English ones. Owing to the corrupt forms that thus resulted, many of the formulae are of slight philological interest or value. That the original counting was in Celtic, chiefly appears from some forms that still remain. Thus the Welsh pump, five, explains the Eskdale pimp, and the Knaresborough pip, and others. The Welsh deg, ten, explains the forms dix, dec, dick, dik. But yan (whence yain, yaena, yah) is only a dialectal form of the English one. And tain, taena, tean are merely altered forms of two, whilst the rest of the word is made to rhyme: e.g. yain, tain, yaena, taena ; yan, tean ; yah, tiah ; and so on. The Welsh pedwar, four, has become first peddero (also pethera and pether) and afterwards meddera, methera, mether. Especially clear is the form for fifteen, when the Welsh pymtheg, with its variant bymtheg (in which the y is pronounced like the English u in pump), has given us such forms as bumfitt, bumper, and probably bobtail. How much these forms can degenerate is well shown by the Welsh ugain (pronounced something like iggain), which became jigget and jigger, and even figget and ecack."

In conclusion, it is perhaps worth while to remark that the introduction of rhyme points to a more or less conscious effort on the part of the English shepherds, who learnt these forms of the " score " from their British associates, to memorize words by no means too easy to remember without the aid of rhyme and rhythm. It is certainly to mnemonic requirements that the extension of this rhyming principle among schoolboys and children is due, the result being the production of such forms as Eena, deena, deina, duss (or dust), and any number of similar examples in the counting-out games of children. It was also noticed by Mr. Alexander Ellis (whose article, written in 1878, is still the standard authority on the subject) that in some of these counting-out rhymes of children another ancient and very interesting principle is illustrated, viz. that of reckoning the numbers by four at a. time, in accordance with the old-world practice of count ing by fours, which has left some trace even upon our own Modern English numerals, as for instance upon " eight," which, as its original termination in Old English shows, is grammatically a dual form.

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