[From Train's History, 1845]




Retrospective glance at Manks Chivalry — Sports and Pastimes — Prize Shooting and Horse Racing encouraged by the Earl of Derby in the seventeenth century — Costume of the Peasantry — Carranes — Sunday Blanket — Character of the People — Formerly governed by arbitrary Laws — Yarding, a singular custom — Rural Tribunal — Choice Children — Peculiar Laws relating to the employment of Servants — Minor Punishments —The Quaaltagh — Festivals of Laa’l Breeshey — Shrove Tuesday — Good Friday — Laa Boaldyn — Vigil of St. John — Gule of August — Sanative Wells — The Mheillea — Halloween — The Hunting of the Wren — Christmas Usages — Marriage Customs — Peculiar Observances at Births and Baptisms — Funeral Rites and Ceremonies.

IF the romantic spirit of chivalry, which overspread the greater part of Christendom in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, induced any of the Manks people to join the ranks of the crusaders, the part which they enacted in that great drama is now forgotten. But if the Manks knights did not go forth in search of adventures into foreign parts, neither were they cavaliers at a later period, nor their countrymen roundheads in the time of the commonwealth of England.

Bishop Meryk, in his letter to Mr. Camden, says " they abhor the civil and ecclesiastical dissensions of the neighbouring countries. There never were any religious feuds in the Island, but there never were any penal or incapacitating laws to create them or impede the inhabitants from worshipping their Maker in the form which their consciences dictate." 1

In England, at this epoch, all recreations were in a manner suspended by the gloomy fanaticism and rigid severity of the presbyterians and independents. All the bears in London, which were kept for the diversion of the citizens, were destroyed by the soldiery: this gave rise to the poem of Hudibras : horse racing was prohibited as one of the greatest enormities any people could be guilty of.2

In the Isle of Man, prize shooting and horse racing for plate was conducted under the permission of the Earl of Derby, previous to the year 1669, as appears by the following document, yet extant, in the handwriting of that nobleman :—" It is my good will and pleasure that the two prizes, formerly granted by me for hors running and shooting, shall continue, as they did, to be run and shot for, during my good will and pleasure. Given under my hand, at Latham, the 12th of July, 1669. DERBY."

" To my Governor’s deputy Governor and the rest of my officers in my Isle of Man."

The value of the plate to be run for yearly, on the 28th of July, the birthday of Lord Strange, was five pounds. Cattle bred in the Island only were eligible to run for the Derby plate. The race course appears to have been on the sands near Derbyhaven. " The two powles by the rocks are to be kept on the rider’s left hand, the fifth powle, which is set up at the lower end of the Conney warren, to be kept also on the rider’s left hand."3

It might be supposed that the bow and sling had now given place to the harquebuss, yet down to the middle of the last century " the young men were great shooters with bowe and arrows. They had shooting matches frequently, parish against parish, and wagers were laid which side would have the better."4

Like the Irish Gallowglasses, the ancient Manks peasantry wore their hair long and bound behind with a leathem thong : the ordinary covering for the head was called a bayrn. They generally wore what was called giare chooat, or short coatee and trowsers of kialter, a kind of untucked woollen cloth of the natural shade, called loaghtyn. Sometimes the dress of the better sort was yn cheeir lheeah, which was russet or dark grey, generally milled. On their legs they wore either oashyr voynnee, or the oashyr slobbagh the former is a stocking without a foot, the latter a stocking without a sole, but with a lappet over the instep, and a hole to loop on one of the toes of the foot.5

On their feet were fastened brogues of a very rude description, made of neat skin with the hair on, without having either been tarred or tanned—the skin being merely salted and dried ; these they call carranes. In the summer of 1836, I had an opportunity of observing that many of the peasantry in the uplands were still wearing these primitive-looking sandals. The hide is cut up so as to cover the sole and meet over the foot from the toe to the instep, when laced, as they generally are, with a thong. Formerly the vanity of the Manks peasantry was indicated by the length of the hair on his carranes.6 The spruce young bachelor cut it very short, while he of less fastidious taste perhaps preferred comfort to appearance, applied neither scissors nor knife, but allowed all the hair to remain on the skin ; latterly, however, it was generally shorn by the old as well as the young. The carranes, which are now very little used, were succeeded by the large-buckle shoe, which has made way for the present fashionable boot and shoe.

In order to resist the moisture that oozed through the raw hide when pressed against wet ground, some old persons make inner soles to their carranes of pitched sheep skin, when worn out in buoying the fishing nets ; but this effeminate practice was far from being general, even among the aged and infirm. The Manks peasantry are generally very hardy. " It is well known that more rain falls in hilly countries than in any others, and the Isle of Man is not singular in this respect ; but we never, during a long residence there, knew a native change his clothes on account of his being wet through."7

The Women wore in former times a short gown, and an oanrey or petticoat of eglhinolley, which in English signifies linsey-woolsey, dyed a dark reddish Colour with a kind of moss that grows on the rocks, called by the natives Scriss-ny-greg or cleaysh-lheeah.8

According to Bishop Meryk, " the women never went abroad but with a winding sheet about them to mind them of mortality." This winding sheet was, perhaps, nothing else than a cover similar to the broad plaid, formerly so common in the west of Scotland. Down to the close of the last century, women in Ayrshire seldom went abroad without having the plaid drawn over their heads, leaving only a small aperture for the eyes. Those of the poorer classes were made of plaiding, the natural colour of the wool. Young women wore them with a mixture of red and white yarn, and the colour of the aged matrons was generally black.

I am induced to believe that the winding sheet, alluded to by the bishop, was similar to the Ayrshire plaid from its being called a " Sunday’s blanket" in the Statute Book of the Island, and from its descending by law in heritage as a corbe to the female line of the first owner.9 The dress of many of the married women, nowadays, in the upland district, consists of a close linen cap, such as was formerly worn by old women in Scotland and called there a mulch. Over this they wear a round black hat, such as is worn by the men, which, with a short blue camblet gown, and a linsey-woolsey petticoat, completes the female attire of the lower class.

" A stranger is surprised to observe the small degree of complaisance which is paid by the male natives of the Island to the weaker sex. The men always ride to market on horse back, with a creel on each side, containing whatever they have to dispose of, while the women follow them on foot without either shoes or stockings, and carrying these ‘ superfluous coverings,’ as they call them, under their arms, till they approach the market town, when they then sit down to arrange their dress 'for fashion’s sake,' letting down at the same time their under garments, which before were tucked up higher than their knees, for the convenience of wading through the rivers, and to preserve them from the mire of the bogs and sloughs through which they have often to pass."10 All these rude customs have now disappeared. Subsequent to Waldron’s time, when it was necessary for a female to accompany her husband to market, she generally rode behind him on the same horse, using the creel as a stirrup. The present method of conveying farm produce to market is by carts ; a horse with creels is seldom to be met with.

If you hear flails at work, you may be sure to find them in female hands ; and it is surprising to see how well they use them.11

The Manks peasantry have been severely stigmatised for their indolent disposition.12 " It is said that so soon as the fishing season is over, they retire to their respective homes to enjoy the fruits of their toil, by indulging in the most unbounded latitude, in the only pleasure of life which they think worth attaining—intemperance and sleep." This writer finishes his description of the character of the Manks people, by saying—." The lowest classes are rude, ungovernable, and uncivilized, far below the common people of any other country I have had occasion to visit."13 But so far as I have had the means of judging, he speaks with unmerited severity. Sacheverell, who was governor of the Island, gives a more favourable account of the people in his time :—" The people are generally well-bodied, and inured to labour ; and it is observed, that those who are refined by travel, prove men of parts aiid of business."14 " The inhabitants of the Isle of Man," says Bishop Wilson, " are an orderly, civilized people, and courteous enough to strangers : if they have been otherwise represented, it has been by those who knew them not ; or perhaps because they have sense enough to see when strangers would go about to impose upon them, which they are not willing to suffer, when they can help it."15

Colonel Townley visited the Island in bad health, and during his residence there, went out only in fine weather for an hour or two daily, either in a carriage along the shore to enjoy the refreshing sea breeze, or on foot for a few hundred yards to the top of some little eminence, to examine the state of the atmosphere, and if a cloud appeared portending the slightest drizzle of rain, he returned with all possible speed to his lodging for the remainder of the day. Surely such a course afforded him little opportunity of ascertaining, accurately, the true character of the people he has depicted in such harsh sounding language.

Had he wandered alone over the mountains, calling at every cottage on his way for the purpose of making statistical inquiries, and conversing with every person he could find, however mean his appearance, as I did in the course of my tour, I am certain he would have entertained quite a different opinion of the islanders in general. I found every individual with whom I had the slightest intercourse, not only civil but obliging in the extreme.

Though the friends of the maltster went only to the houses of his customers to drink ale,16 it is generally admitted that, considering their limited means, there is no people more benevolent to the poor, and more hospitable to strangers, notwithstanding the opinion of Colonel Towuley and some others who have written in the same strain, without making due investigation The Manks have a proverb—" Tra ta ym derry vought cooney lesh bought elley, ta Jee hene garaghtee," which signifies, in English, " When one poor man assists another, God himself laughs"

To the arbitrary and impolitic measures formerly ex ercised by the legislative authorities may be traced the cause of the Manks remaining in such a state of primitive rusticity, while surrounding nations were advancing in civilization. Like the Chinese, they were shut out from the rest of the world. " If any inhabitant of the Island, not being a licensed trafficker, shall transport himself from it without special license from the governor, whether it be in his own boat or in the boat of a neighbour, he shall be proceeded against as a felon, and his goods and property confiscated to the Lord. And if any shipman shall transport, without license to do so, any person residing in this Isle, in any boat or ship without leave from the governor, he shall pay all the rent and debts of such person." 17 In the year 1736, this law was repealed ; and it was enacted, that the master of any vessel, who shall hereafter carry any person off this Island, without the governor’s licence for his departure, shall forfeit any sum not exceeding ten pounds to the Lord of the Isle, besides paying the debts which such person did owe at the time of his departure ; and if the master shall be absent or insolvent, the vessel to be then subject to the said fine and debts.18 This act, although not yet repealed, has fallen into disuse.

A privilege was given by an ancient customary law to deemsters, moars, coroners, and sergeants of baronies, of compelling certain persons of either sex into their services at a trifling fee, fixed by law. This they called yarding.19 The ceremony was performed by an officer called a sumner, who laid a straw over the shoulder of the person so required, and said, " You are hereby yarded for the service of the Lord of Man, in the house of his deemster, moar, coroner, or sergeant of barony ;" at the same time repeating the name of the person requiring such servant.

Persons declining or refusing to comply with the yarding authority of the sumner, were committed to prison and there kept on a daily allowance of one barley-cake and a pint of water, " till they yielded obedience to perform their service ;" the expence thereby incurred being deducted from the wages of the delinquent.

By virtue of the statute, all instituted parsons and vicars of the Thirds were allowed their " bridge and staff," which implied that their servants should not be taken from them by yarding. The servants of members of the House of Keys were likewise exempted from this arbitrary and unjust law. In every other instance the yarding of the sumner annulled all previous engagements of service ; and it was enacted, "That all servants yarded for the deemsters, moars, and coroners, shall be proclaimed and made known at the parish church or cross, where such servants then reside, the Sunday next after the day of yarding aforesaid, whereby the farmers may the timlier know, to provide themselves with other servants."

There was a customary ordinance, that the porridge or sollaghyn of a yarded servant should be so thick that the potstick would stand upright in the centre of the pot immediately before dishing the porridge ; and the cakes, given to a yarded servant, were required, by the same ordinance, to be as thick as the length of a barley corn.20

By an ordinance of the year 1561 and an act of 1609, the yearly wages of a yarded ploughman were fixed at 13s. 4d. ; the wages of a driver at l0s. ; and the wages of a horseman at 8s. In the year 1667 the wages of a ploughman were raised to 15s., and those of the house-hold fisherman to 13s. Nine shillings were also fixed as the yearly wages of a strong maid-servant. These arbitrary enactments 21 continued in force till the year 1777.

As it had been customary for the privileged personages to " make merchandize of such yarded servants as they did not require themselves," it was enacted in 1615, " That no person should receive any recompense for the goodwill of his yarded servant." On 7th November, 1747, the privilege of the deemsters, moars, coroners, and sergeants of baronies, of obtaining servants by yarding, was suspended for three years ; but it was again continued for fourteen years by an act of 1753. The legislature seems at length to have admitted that the wages of yarded servants were inadequate, and in 1763, some feelings of liberality were evinced, by the wages of yarded men being raised to £2, and those of women to £1. In the year 1777, it was revived and made perpetual, but has now deservedly fallen into oblivion.22

In the ancient contract of hiring betwixt the farmer and his servants, many peculiarities existed ; some of which are observed at the present day. In the insular statute book, a species of rural tribunal is recognized, termed a " Jury of Servants," which possessed the power of compelling the service in agriculture, of persons whom they considered as unemployed. " If there be a scarcity of servants to work the Lord’s lands, the farmer, upon complaint thereof to the deemster, is to have the benefit of a sheading jury of servants, consisting of four in every parish, who are to enquire for vagrant servants, and to serve the greater rent first, and then every farmer according to his rent ; and if there be no servants to be had, then he who bears a rent of five shillings to the Lord must serve him who bears a rent of ten shillings, and so on." 23

Young persons, who were required to attend old or in-firm relations, were exempted from this service, by obtaining a certificate to that effect from the "Jury of Servants"—a triumvirate established for that purpose, and they who obtained this privilege were called choice children. These regulations were termed in the statute book " Customary Laws," a title always given to customs of unknown antiquity.24

Ploughing the sea was always more congenial to the Manks than the less adventurous employment of tilling the land. Out of this propensity, perhaps, arose the necessity of establishing the rural tribunal of servants ; and a scarcity of hands to cultivate the soil was a circumstance resulting frequently from the great numbers that fell in battle, and at a later period, from the spirit of emigration.

We learn, by an act of Tynwald, " that all the industrious people and good servants had gone abroad for the sake of higher wages, and that none were left but the drunken, the idle, and the dissolute." By the practice of such emigratiion was expected inevitably to ensue the utter decay, not only of husbandry, but of all kinds of trade. It was therefore enacted, " That all natives who had ever done any kind of work for money, clothes, food, or other consideration, should not be permitted to leave the Island till they had obtained the age of twenty-five years, and had either been seven years in service or had served an apprenticement of five years."25 This was the last vain attempt of the insular government to curb the natural course of affairs.

Many antiquated laws appear in the statute book relating to the agreement between master and servants. A feed-man wishing to leave his master at the expiry of his engagement was required by law to give him notice of his intention on a certain day, " but lest the master might happen to be from home or might absent himself in a deceitful manner to take advantage of the servant, in either case the servant may repair with a competent witness to the place where the master usually sits, at the hearth or at meat, and there make a nick with his knife in such master’s chair, or if the door should be shut against him, he may make a nick in the threshold, which shall be authentic in law against such master."26 " If any servant shall either ignorantly, wilfully, through per-suasion, or upon any other account whatever, hire with two several masters, he must serve the first, and the second shall have his wages ; and if any servant shall hire more than twice, he shall be whipped at the parish church on Sunday, or at the market in the whipping stocks."27

Another singular punishment was inflicted on offenders at the market-place. If a person was convicted of having propagated a false report, he was placed in the whipping stocks with his tongue in a noose of leather, which they called a bridle. After having been thus exposed to view for a certain time the gag was taken off, when he was obliged to say thrice, " False tongue thou hast lied."28,29

The whimsical punishment for slander was supplanted by others of a more modern date. Any person who spoke slanderously against either the chief officers of the Island, whether spiritual or temporal, or against any of the twenty-four Keys, and " cannot prove the same, shall forfeit ten pounds and have his ears cut off besides."30

If a common thief from the north side of the Island should be Jaarboured by a person on the south side of the Island, or a thief from the south by a person in the north, the person affording such protection was a felon by law, and should suffer accordingly.31 Stealing or cutting beehives was "Felony to death, without valuation." " Stealing poultry, robbing gardens, or clipping other people’s sheep, if in any instance amounting to the value of sixpence, shall be considered felony to death as aforesaid, but if under that value, the person offending to be either whipped or set on a wooden horse at the discretion of the governor."32

Like the peasantry of other countries, in ancient times, the inhabitants of the Manks mountains yet attach ceremonial observances to particular days in the calendar, which shall now be noticed.

On New Year’s day, an old custom is still partially observed, called the Quaaltagh. In almost every parish throughout the Island, a party of young men go from house to house singing the following rhyme

" Ollick ghennal erriu as blein feer vie,
Sethli as slaynt da’n slane lught thie;
Bea asgennallys eu bio ry-cheilley,
Shee as graih eddyr mraane as deiney;
Cooid as cowryn, stock as stoyr.
Paichey phuddase, as-skaddan dy-lioar;
Arran as caashey, eeym as roayrt;
Baase, myr lugh, ayns uhllin ny soalt;
Cadley sauchey tra vees shin ny lhie,
As feeackle y jargan, nagh bee dy mie" 33

Of which the following is a translation

" Again we assemble, a merry New Year
To wish to each one of the family here,
Whether man, woman, or girl, or boy,
That long life and happiness, all may enjoy.
May they of potatoes and herrings have plenty,
With butter and cheese and each other dainty,
And may their sleep never, by night or by day,
Disturbed be by even the tooth of a flea,
Until at the Quaaltagh again we appear
To wish you, as now, all a happy New Year !"34

When these lines are repeated at the door, the whole party are invited into the house to partake of the best the family can afford.35 On these occasions a person of dark complexion always enters first, as a light haired male or female is deemed unlucky to be a first-foot or quaaltagh on New Year’s morning.36 The actors of the quaaltagh do not assume fantastic habiliments like the Mummers of England 37 or the Guisards of Scotland,38 nor do they, like these rude performers of the ancient mysteries, appear ever to have been attended by minstrels playing on different kinds of musical instruments.39

It would be considered a most grievous affair were the person who first sweeps the floor on New Year’s morning to brush the dust to the door, instead of beginning at the door and sweeping the dust to the hearth, as the good fortune of the family individually would thereby be con— sidered to be swept from the house for that year.40

On New Year’s eve, in many of the upland cottages; it is yet customary for the housewife, after raking the fire for the night, and just before stepping into bed, to spread the ashes smooth over the floor with the tongs in the hope of finding in it, next morning, the tract of a foot ; should the toes of this ominous print point towards the door, then, it is believed, a member of the family will die in the course of that year ; but should the heel of the fairy foot point in that direction, then, it isas firmly believed, that the family will be augmented within the same period.41

On the eve of the first day of February, a festival was formerly kept, called, in the Manks language, Laa’l Breeshey, in honour of the Irish lady who went over to the Isle of Man to receive the veil from St. Maughold. The custom was to gather a bundle of green rushes, and standing with them in the hand on the threshold of the door, to invite the holy Saint Bridget to come and lodge with them that night. In the Manks language, the invitation ran thus :—" Brede, Brede, tar gys my thie, tar dyn thie ayms noght. Foshil fee yn dorrys da Brede, as lhig da Brede e heet staigh." In English :—" Bridget, Bridget, come to my house, come to my house to-night. Open the door for Bridget, and let Bridget come in." After these words were repeated, the rushes were strewn on the floor by way of a carpet or bed for St. Bridget.42 A custorn very similar to this was also observed in some of the Out-Isles of the ancient kingdom of Man.43

The sportive fooleries described by Bourne,44 Brand,45 and Sir Henry Ellis,46 as observed on Shrove Tuesday in Great Britain, appear to have been as well known in the Isle of Man ; nor were the feasting observances of the day neglected—Shrove Tuesday being the last day of the carnival or time when eating was allowed by the church of Rome, before Lent. On this occasion it was customary to have sollagityn or crowdy for dinner instead of for break-fast, as at other times ; and for supper, flesh meat with a large pudding and pancakes : hence the Manks proverb:

" Ee shibber oie innid vees olty voig lane,
My jig laa caisht you traaste son shen."

" On Shrove Tuesday night, though thy supper be fat,
Before Easter day, thou mayst fast for that."47

Good Friday, which is considered the anniversary of the crucifixion of our Saviour, is, in some instances, superstitiously regarded in the Island. No iron of any kind must be put into the fire on that day, and even the tongs are laid aside, lest any person should unfortunately forget this custom and stir the fire with them ; by way of substitute a stick of the rowan tree is used. To avoid also the necessity of hanging the griddle over the fire, lest the iron of it should come in contact with a spark or flame, a large bannock or soddog is made, with three corners, and baked on the hearth.48

On May-eve, the juvenile branches of nearly every family in the Island gathered primroses, and strewed them before the doors of their dwellings, to prevent the entrance of the fairies on that night. It was quite a novel sight to a stranger to the custom to see this delicate flower plentifully arranged at the door of every house he might pass, particularly in the towns, on the night in question or early on the following morning. This custom is at present almost abandoned ; indeed, it was continued to a late date more through the habit and amusement of children, than from superstition. Persons more advanced in life congregated on the mountains on May-eve, and to scare the fairies and witches, supposed to be roaming abroad on that particular night in numbers greater than ordinary, set fire to the gorse or koinney, and blew horns. Many of them remained on the hills till sunrise, endeavouring to pry into futurity, by observing particular omens. If a bright light were observed to issue, seemingly, from any house in the surrounding valleys, it was considered a certain indication that some member of that family would soon be married ; but if a dim light were seen, moving slowly in the direction of the parish church, it was then deemed equally certain that a funeral would soon pass that way to the church-yard. Many stories are yet related, by old people, tending to perpetuate a belief in these omens ; but the present generation, in general, regard with indifference " the signs" which formerly afforded matter of joy or grief to their ancestors.49

Laa Boaldyn 50 or May-day is ushered in with blowing of horns on the mountains, and with a ceremony, which, says Waldron, " has something in the design of it pretty enough, and I believe will not be tiresome to my reader in the account. In almost all the great parishes they chuse from among the daughters of the most wealthy far-mers a young maid for the Queen of May. She is drest in the gayest and best manner they can, and is attended by about twenty others, who are called maids of honour. She has also a young man who is her captain, and has under his command a good number of inferior officers.— In opposition to her is the Queen of Winter, who is a man drest in woman’s clothes, with woollen hoods, fur tippets, and loaded with the warmest and heaviest habits, one upon another. In the same manner are those, who represent her attendants, drest ; nor is she without a captain and troop for her defence. Both being equipt as proper emblems of the Beauty of the Spring and the Deformity of the Winter, they set forth from their respective quarters, the one preceded by violins and flutes, the other with the rough music of the tongs and the cleavers. Both parties march till they meet on a common, and then their trains engage in a mock battle. If the Queen of Winter’s forces get the better, so as to take the Queen of May prisoner, she is ransomed for as much as pays the expenses of the day. After this ceremony, Winter and her company retire and divert themselves in a barn, and the others remain on the green, where, having danced a considerable time, they conclude the evening with a feast; the Queen at one table with her maids, the captain with his troop at another. There are seldom less than fifty or sixty at each board."51 For the seizure of her majesty’s person, that of one of her slippers was substituted, more recently, which was in like manner ransomed to defray the expenses of the pageant. The procession of the Summer—which was subsequently composed of little girls, and called the Maceboard,52—outlived that of its rival, the Winter, some years ; and now, like many other remnants of antiquity, has fallen into disuse.

The Pagan rites of the festival of the Summer Solstice may be considered as a counterpart of those observed at the Winter Solstice or Yule, both being changed by the fathers of the Roman church into Christmas and the Eve of Saint John the Baptist.53

The Midsummer festivities were seemingly observed with much devotion in the Isle of Man on the eve of Saint John the Baptist : the natives lighted fires to the wind-ward side of every field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn ; they folded their cattle and carried blazing furze or gorse around them several times ;54 they gathered barran fealoin or mugwort as a preventive against the influence of witchcraft ;55 and it was on this occasion they bore green meadow grass up to the top of Barule in payment of rent to Mannan-beg-mac-y-Leir.56 From the earliest period the Manks have continued to hold their great Tynwald Court with the attendant mart on this festival day.57

The Gule58 of August or Lammas day, called in Manks Laa’l Lhuanys, is one of the four great festivals of the Druids, and was the day of the oblation of grain.59 The first Sunday of August is called by the Manks peasantry yn chied doonaght a ouyr. On that day they crowd in great numbers to the tops of the highest hills, in the north to the summit of Snafield, and in the south to the top of Barule.60 Others visit the sanative wells of the Island, which are held in the highest estimation.61 The veneration with which the Pagan deities were regarded having been transferred along with their fanes and fountains to Christian saints, sanctified and sanative wells became the resort of the pious pilgrim,62 and by the credulous invalid libations and devotions were, according to ancient practice, performed at these holy springs, which were believed to be guarded by presiding powers to whom offers were left by the visitants. Many a wonderful cure is said to have been effected by the water of Saint Catherine's well at Port Erin ; by the Chibbyr Parick or well of Saint Patrick on the west end of the hill of Lhargey-graue ; by Lord Henry’s well on the south beach of Laxey, and by the well at Peel, also dedicated to Saint Patrick,63 which, says the tradition, first sprung forth where Saint Patrick was prompted by divine instinct to impress the sign of the cross on the ground.64 Many extraordinary properties were ascribed to the Nunnery well ;65 but the most celebrated in modern times for its medicinal virtues is the fine spring which issues from the rocks of the bold promontory called Maughold Head, and which is dedicated to the saint of the same name, who, it appears, had rnesseu the well and endowed it with certain healing virtues. On this account it is yet resorted to, as was the pool of Siloam of old, by every invalid who believes in its efficacy. On the first Sunday in August, the natives, according to ancient custom, still make a pilgrimage to drink its waters; and it is held to be of the greatest importance to certain females to enjoy the beverage when seated in a place called the Saint’s chair, which the saint, for the accommodation of succeeding generations obligingly placed immediately contiguous.66

The gathering in of the fruits of the earth has been generally celebrated by feasting and rejoicing from the earliest times.67 The harvest supper of the heathen nations was a custom taken from the Jewish feast of tabernacles,68 where the servant was indulged with the liberty of being placed on an equality with the master, as at our harvesthome or the mheillea of the Manks peasantry.69

The Manks mheil or reapers, at the close of harvest, bind up with ribbons the last handful of corn that is cut and bear it in procession to the top of a neighbouring hill, and there, while the Queen of the Mheillea waves the corn or kern baby70 over her head, the reapers express their joy in loud huzzas. This is supposed to be a rude continuation of the custom of presenting the wave-offering of corn at the close of the harvest, mentioned in scripture.71 After this ceremony is performed the reapers retire to partake of the mheillea. The reapers, young and old, assemble, and, with the family and friends of the farmer, join in the merry dance. This is called the mheillea or reapers’ rest, because the female share of the harvest labour then ceases, and they disperse.72

The Druidical festival of Allhalloweven, called by the Islanders Sauin, has been observed in the Isle of Man till a late period, by kindling of fires, with all the accompanying ceremonies, to prevent the baneful influence of fairies and witches. The Island was perambulated at night by young men who struck up at the door of every dwelling-house, a rhyme in Manks, beginning—

" Noght oie howney hop-dy-naw."
" This is Hollantide Eve," &c.

On Hollantide Eve, boys go round the towns bawling lines, of which the following is an extract ;—

Hop-tu-naa, This is old Hollantide night;
Trollalaa, The moon shines fair and bright..
Hop.tu-naa, I went to the well,
Trollalaa, And drank my fill;
Hop-tu-naa, On the way coming back?
Trollalaa, I met a pole-cat;
Hop-tu-naa, The cat began to grin,
Trollalaa, And I began to run;
Hop.tu-naa, Where did you run to?
Trollalaa, I ran to Scotland;
Hop-tu-naa, What were they doing there?
Trollalaa, Baking bannocks and roasting collops.

* * * * * *

Hop.tu.naa. If you are going to give us anything ? give us it soon,
Or we’ll be away by the light of the moon—Hop-tu-naa!

For some peculiar reason, potatoes, parsnips, and fish, pounded together, and mixed with butter, form always the mrastyr, or evening meal,73 on Halloweven and Christmas, the parsnips, however, being excluded from the Christmas dish.

On the 21st of December, a day dedicated to Saint Thomas, the people went to the mountains to catch deer and sheep for Christmas, and in the evenings always kindled a large fire on the top of every fingan or cliff.— Hence, at the time of casting peats, every one laid aside a large one, saying " Faaid mooar moayney son oie’l fingan ;" that is " A large turf for Fingan Eve."74

In some of the out-isles of the ex-kingdom of Man, many singular customs were observed after they had fallen into disuse at the seat of government.75

Hunting the Wren has been a pastime in the Isle of Man from time immemorial. In Waldron’s time it was observed on the 24th of December, which I have adopted, though for a century past it has been observed on Saint Stephen’s Day. This singular ceremony, says Mrs. Bullock, which is, I believe, peculiar to the Isle of Man,76 is founded on a tradition, that in former times a fairy of uncommon beauty, exerted such undue influence over the male population, that she, at various times, induced, by her sweet voice, numbers to follow her footsteps, till by degrees she led them into the sea, where they perished. This barbarous exercise of power had continued for a great length of time, till it was apprehended that the Island would be exhausted of its defenders, when a knight-errant sprung up, who discovered some means of countervailing the charms used by this siren, and even laid a plot for her destruction, which she only escaped at the moment of extreme hazard, by taking the form of a wren. But though she evaded instant annihilation, a spell was cast upon her by which she was condemned, on every succeeding New-year’s-day, to reanimate the same form with the definitive sentence, that she must ultimately perish by human hand. In consequence of this well authenticated legend, on the specified anniversary, every man and boy in the Island (except those who have thrown off the trammels of superstition), devote the hours between Sun-rise and sun-set, to the hope of extirpating the fairy, and woe be to the individual birds of this species, who show themselves on this fatal day to the active enemies of the race ; they are pursued, pelted, fired at, and destroyed, without mercy, and their feathers preserved with religious care, it being an article of belief, that every one of the relics gathered in this laudable pursuit, is an effectual preservative from shipwreck for one year ; and that fisher-man would be considered as extremely foolhardy, who should enter upon his occupation without such a safe-guard."77 When the chase ceases, one of the little victims is affixed to the top of a long pole with its wings extended, and carried in front of the hunters, who march in procession to every house, chanting the following rhyme:

"We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin,
We hunted the wren for Jack of the Can,
We hunted the wren for Robin the Bobbin,
We hunted the wren for every one."

After making the usual circuit, and collecting all the money they could obtain, they laid the wren on a bier and carried it, in procession, to the parish church-yard, where, with a whimsical kind of solemnity, they made a grave, buried it, and sung dirges over it in the Manks language, which they called her knell. After the obsequies were performed, the company, outside the church-yard wall, formed a circle and danced to music which they had provided for the occasion.

At present, there is no particular day for pursuing the wren ; it is captured by boys alone, who follow the old custom, principally for amusement. On St. Stephen’s day a group of boys78 go from door to door with a wren, suspended by the legs, in the centre of two hoops, crossing each other at right angles, decorated with evergreens and ribbons, singing lines called " Hunt the Wren."79

If, at the close of this rhyme, they be fortunate enough to obtain a small coin, they gave in return a feather of the wren ; and before the close of the day, the little bird may sometimes be seen hanging almost featherless. The ceremony of the interment of this bird in the church-yard, at the close of St. Stephen’s day, has long since been abandoned ; and the sea-shore or some waste ground was substituted in its place.

The Christmas festival is introduced by young persons perambulating the various towns and villages, in the evenings, fantastically dressed, and armed with swords, calling, as they proceed, " Who wants to see the White Boys act ?" When their services are engaged, they, like the Scotch Guisards 80or Quhite-boys of Yule 81 perform a rude drama, in which St. George, Prince Valentine, King of Egypt, Sambo, and the Doctor, are the dramatis personæ. " The fiddlers" go round from house to house, in the latter part of the night, for two or three weeks before Christmas, playing a tune called the Andisop. On their way they stop before particular houses, wish the inmates individually, " good morning," call the hour, then report the state of the weather, and after playing an air, move on to the next halting place.

Every family that could afford it, had a brewing called Jough-ny-nollick, that is, Christmas drink,82 prepared for the festivities of the season.

On Christmas Eve every one leaves off work, and ram-bles about till the bells begin to ring at midnight.83 Then all flock to the churches, bearing the largest candles they can procure, and forming a brilliant illumination.84 The churches are all decked with holly, and the service, in Commemoration of the birth of our Saviour, is called Oiel Verry.

Meanwhile, " the singers" go round the towns and neighbourhood, chanting " Christians Awake," and other appropriate hymns on Christmas morning. The choir is composed of males and females, accompanied by various musical instruments. A great concourse of young persons follow " the singers" in their perambulations ; and if the night be dark, a large lighted torch is carried in the middle of the group. The music has generally a solemn, yet pleasing effect upon those persons who are awakened by its strains. The inhabitants are particularly partial to this old custom.

As soon as the prayers at the Oiel Verry are over, says Waldron, Christmas commences, and there is not a barn unoccupied for the whole twelve days—every parish hiring fiddlers at the public charge, and all the youths, nay, sometimes people up in years, make no scruple to be among these nocturnal dancers.84

To these merry makings, people often came from a great distance, Carrying their children on their backs.85 "On the twelfth night, one of the fiddlers lays his head in the lap of some one of the wenches, and the mainstyr fiddler asks who such a maid, or such a maid, naming all the girls, one after another, shall marry ; to which he answers according to his own whim, or agreeable to the intimacies he has taken notice of during this time of merriment ; and whatever he says is absolutely depended on as an oracle ; and if he happen to couple two people who have an aversion to each other, tears and vexation succeed the mirth. This they call ‘ Cutting off the Fiddler’s head,’ for after this he is dead for a whole year."86

When two persons agreed to become united in the bands of matrimony, and this had been proclaimed in the parish church on three several Sundays,87 all the relations and friends of the young people were invited to the bridal, and generally attended, bringing with them presents for the " persons about to begin the world." Their weddings, as in Galloway, were generally celebrated on a Tuesday or a Thursday.88 The bridegroom and his party proceeded to the bride’s house, and thence with her party to the church ; the men walking first in a body, and the women after them. On the bridegroom leaving his house, it was customary to throw an old shoe after him, and in like manner an old shoe after the bride on leaving her home to proceed to church, in order to ensure good luck to each respectively ;89 and, if by stratagem, either of the bride’s shoes could be taken off by any spectator on her way from church, it had to be ransomed by the bridegroom.90On returning from church, the bride and bridegroom walk in front, and every man with his sweet-heart, in procession, often to the number of fifty. The expenses of the wedding dinner and drink are sometimes paid by the men individually.

Formerly, wedding processions to church were generally preceded by musicians playing " the Black and the Grey," the only tune struck up on such occasions.91 They have bridegrooms-men and bridesmaids, as in England, only with this difference, that the former carry ozier wands in their hands as an emblem of superiority. Formerly, before entering the church, the whole party marched three times round it, but that ceremony is now omitted. The marriage ritual being performed, and the party having cleared the churchyard gate, returning homewards, some of the most active of the young people started off at full speed for the bridegroom’s house,92 and the first who reached it received a flask of brandy, with which he returned in all haste to the wedding party, all of whom halted and formed a circle. He handed spirits first to the bridegroom, next to the bride, and then to the rest of the company in succession, each drinking to the health of the new married couple. After this, the party moved onward to the bridegroom’s house, on their arrival at the door of which, the bridecake was broken over the bride’s head, and then thrown away to be scrambled for by the crowd usually attendant on such occasions.93

On returning from church, the party generally sat down to a sumptuous entertainment, which is thus described by Waldron :—" Broth is served up in wooden piggins, every man having his portion allowed him. This they sup with shells called sligs, very like our mussel shells, but larger. I have seen a dozen capons in one platter, and six or eight fat geese in another ; hogs and sheep roasted whole, and oxen, divided but in quarters.94 Forks and knives are unknown to them, and though there were twenty guests at a table, there would not be more than three or four knives. They are admirably dexterous, however, in dis secting a fowl with their fingers, and if the operation happens to be more than ordinary difficult, they take one quarter in their teeth, and with both their hands wrench the limbs asunder. This I have seen done among very wealthy people, who would not deny themselves conve niences, if they had thought them of any consequence. On my growing better acjuainted with the customs of the people, I carried a knife, fork, and spoon in my pocket."95 The Islanders, in the Present century, know the use of knives, forks, and spoons, as well as their more fastidious neighbours. The night was generally spent in drinking and dancing ; but on such occasions, the concord of the party is yet often interrupted by the inharmonious blowing of neat’s horns, by idlers, who generally congregate around the house where the marriage folks are convened, and wind their rude instruments, till a discontinuance of their annoyance is purchased by such a gratuity as they may deem a sufficient reward for the racket they have made.96

Blowing of horns at weddings is a very old custom, and was formerly not very complimentary to the bride, being intended to remind the bridegroom that conjugal infidelity on the part of the wife, placed the emblems of that crime on the head of the inoffending husband.

Old customs were frequently mixed up with broad jokes, which in latter times have tended to prevent their continuance in polite society.

There were in the Isle of Man, as elsewhere, even so late as the close of the last century, many indelicate customs connected with a " lady in the straw," which I here pass over. There is one case mentioned by Waldron 97 of a woman, " who being great with child and expecting every moment the good hour, as she lay awake one night in her bed, saw seven or eight little women come into her chamber, one of whom had an infant in her arms. They were followed by a man of the same size, in the habit of a minister. A mock christening ensued, and they baptised the infant by the name Joan, which made her know she was pregnant of a girl, as it proved a few days after, when she was delivered."

It appears that midwives, formerly, took an oath, inter alia, not to " suffer any other body’s child to be set, brought, or laid before any woman delivered of a child, in the place of her own natural child, so far forth as I can know and understand. Also, I will not use any kind of sorcery or incantation in the time of the travail of any woman."98

From the time a woman was delivered of a child till thanksgiving for her safe recovery was offered up by some divine, or, according to the Manks, " till her candle was burnt,"99 as a protection for herself, against the power of evil spirits, it was deemed requisite that she should keep beside her in the bed, close to her person, a certain part of her husband’s wearing apparel ; and to prevent her infant being carried off by fairies,100 before being secured from their grasp by the sacrament of baptism, a person was invariably appointed for its special protection, and when this nurse had occasion to leave the child in the cradle, she would lay the tongs across it till her return.101

" The old story," says Waldron, " of infants being changed in their cradles, is here in such credit, that mothers are in continual terror at the thoughts of it. I was prevailed upon myself to go and see a child, who, they told me, was one of these changelings ; and, indeed, must own, was not a little surprised as well as shocked, at the sight. Nothing under heaven could have a more beautiful face ; but though between five and six years old and seemingly healthy, he was so far from being able to walk or stand, that he could not so much as move any one joint. His limbs were vastly long for his age, but smaller than an infant’s of six months ; his complexion was perfectly delicate, and he had the finest hair in the world . He never spoke nor cryed ; eat scarce anything, and was very seldom seen to smile ; but if any one called him a fairy elf he would frown and fix his eyes so earnestly on those who said it, as if he would look them through. His mother, or at least his supposed mother, being very poor, frequently went out a charing, and left him a whole day together. The neighbours, out of curiosity, have often looked in at the window to see how he behaved when alone, which, whenever they did, they were sure to find him laughing, and in the utmost delight.— This made them judge that he was not without company more pleasing to him than any mortals could be ; and what made this conjecture seem the more reasonable was, that if he were left ever so dirty, the woman, at her return, saw him with a clean face, and his hair combed with the utmost exactness and nicety."103 The thievish attempts of the Manks fairies, to carry off unchristened infants, were not, it appears, always attended with success :—" Soon after a woman had been delivered of a child, the family, about bed-time, were alarmed by a cry of fire ; all ran out of the house to see whence it proceeded, except the woman in the straw. Finding no cause for the outcry, they were returning, when, to their astonishment, they found the newborn babe at the threshold, where, they concluded, it had been left by a fairy thief, who had been foiled in attempting to carry it off."104

From the birth of a child 105 till after it is baptised, it is yet customary to keep in the room where the woman is confined, a peck 106 heaped with oaten cakes and cheese, of which all visitors may freely partake, and small pieces of cheese and bread called blithe meat, are scattered in and about the house for the fairies.107 As baptism is only per-formed in the church, the woman who carries the infant thither is supplied with a quantity of bread and cheese to give to the first person she meets on the way.108 After returning from church, the remaining part of the day and often a great part of the night, is spent in eating and drinking, to which " the whole country round" is invited, who, in return, give presents to the young christian.109 If, after child-birth, a woman does not recover her usual strength, so soon as expected, then she is declared to be the victim of an evil-eye ; some neighbour is soon suspected of having given the envenomed glance ; and to counteract its malignancy, a square piece is secretly cut out of some part of her garment, and burnt immediately under the nose of the afflicted woman. This is considered an infallible cure for eye-biting.110

" Before any person dies," says Waldron, " the natives of the Island tell you that the procession of the funeral is acted by a sort of beings, which, for that end, render themselves visible. I know several that have offered to make oath, that, as they have been passing the road, one of these funerals has come behind them, and even laid the bier on their shoulders, as though to assist the bearer. One person, who assured me he had been served so, told me that the flesh of his shoulder had been very much bruised, and was black for man.y weeks after.—. There are few or none of them who pretend not to have seen or heard these imaginary obsequies, (for I must not omit that they sing psalms in the same manner as those do who accompany the corpse of a dead friend,) which so little differ from real ones that they are not to be known till both coffin and mourners are seen to vanish at the church doors. These they take to be a sort of friendly demons ; and their business, they say, is to warn people of what is to befall them ; accordingly, they give notice of any strangers’ approach by the trampling of horses at the gate of the house where they are to arrive.

" As difficult as I found it to bring myself to give any faith to this, I have frequently been very much surprised when, on visiting a friend, I have found the table ready spread, and every thing in order to receive me, and been told by the person to whom I went, that he had knowledge of my coming, or some other guest, by these good-natured intelligencers. Nay, when obliged to be absent some time from home, my own servants have assured me they were informed by these means of my return, and expected me the very hour I came ; though, perhaps, it was some days before I hoped it myself, at my going abroad. That this is fact, I am positively convinced by many proofs."111

When a person dies,112 the corpse is laid on what is called a " straightening board," a trencher, with salt in it, and a lighted candle, are placed on the breast, and the bed, on which the straightening board bearing the corpse rests, is generally strewed with strong-scented flowers.113 The relations and neighbours of the deceased, used formerly, to convene in great numbers, to the " lyke wake" or farrar. The clerk of the parish sung a psalm, in which all the company joined. They afterwards smoked tobacco and drank strong beer, which was allowed them in great plenty. " This custom is borrowed from the Irish, as are indeed, many others much in fashion with them.114 The interment generally takes place on the third day after the decease. The relations and friends of the deceased attend the funeral, without any special invitation 115—all considering it a moral obligation, to assist in conveying a fellow mortal to the place appointed for all mankind.116 " I have seen," says Waldron, " sometimes at a Manks burial, upwards of an hundred horsemen, and twice that number of people on foot. All those are entertained at long tables, spread with provisions ; and rum and brandy fly about at a great rate."117 As " excessive sorrow is exceeding dry" the assembled company generally did ample justice to the funeral feast.118

In the funeral processions of the Irish, it was the practice for the women to howl, and the bards to chant the virtues and achievements of the deceased,119 which was similar to the Scotch coronach. The Welsh played the owdie barnat before the corpse, on the way to the church-yard.120 The Manks carry out the dead with psalmody, as was customary in the days of the primitive church.121 When they come within a quarter of a mile of the church they are met by the parson, who walks before them singing a psalm, all the company joining with him.122 In the present day, it is the clerk that gives out a psalm and sings, on these occasions ; the funeral is met by the minister at the entrance of the church-yard, and follows him into church. Psalm singing at funerals is rapidly falling into disuse.

All funerals used, anciently, to be solemnised in the night time, with torches, that they might not fall in the way of magistrates and priests, who were supposed to be violated by seeing a corpse.123 By the will of William de Montacute, earl of Salisbury, ex-king of Man, 29th April, 1397, twenty-four poor people, clothed in black gowns with red hoods, were ordered to attend his funeral, each carrying a lighted torch of eight pounds weight.124 But torches at funerals were subsequently forbidden ; and so late as the year 1594, it appears that other funeral ceremonies had also fallen into disuse ; as in that year there is an enactment to prevent the carrying of bells and ban-ners before the dead, and praying on the graves of the dead.’

Waldron observes~—." In every church-yard there is a cross, round which the funeral procession moves three times before it enters the church, when the service for the dead is performed. Coffins are only used by the higher class; the poor are carried on a bier, called in Manks, yn charbyd, with only an old blanket round them, fastened by a skewer.125 In like manner, a Danish warrior was always carried to the grave, on his shield.’ But this rude custom has long since been discontinued in the Isle of Man ; the poorest person being now interred in a coffin made of stained deal, with as much solemnity as those in a higher rank of life.


1 Quayle’s Agricultural Survey p. 150.

2 Hume’s History of England, cap. lxii.

3 Waverley Novels, vol. xxviii, p. 210.

4 Waldron’s Description of the Isle of Man, pp. 156, 157.

5 Cregeen’s Dictionary of the Manks Language.

6 Camden, in his Britannia, vol. ii, p. 1446, calls these shoes kerranes. They are not peculiar to the Manks : the peasantry of Calabria wore a kind of shoes of raw hide called curranes, or rough shoes without heels.—Anderson’s Royal Genealogies, p. 753. The Scotch Highlanders, likewise, wore shoes of untanned leather. "We, of all people, can tollerate colde going alwaies bare leggid, therefor the tendir gentlemen of Scotland call us ‘ reddshankes ;‘ we goe a huntyng, and after that we have slaine the redd deir, we flay off the skyne and setting of our foot on the insyde thereof, we play the sutter, i. e. , the shoemaker, measuringe so much thereof as shall retche up to our aucklers, pryckynge the upper part thereof with holis that the water may repass whenit enters, and streuched up with a thwange of the same mentioned above our said ancklers."—Letter from John Elder, a Highland Priest, to Henry viii: ap Transactions of the Iona Club, vol ,, part in, pp 29 30

7 Communication to tñe Editor of the Liverpool Albion, November, 1841.

8 Cregeen’s Dictionary ofihe Manks Language, pp. 60, 143.

9 Lex Scripta, p. 104.

10 Waldron, pp. 157, 187.

11 Townley’s Journal. The Isle of Man does not seem to be the only place where women perform such work. " In the Isle of Arran, down to a very recent period, the work of the fields was entirely performed by women, as the men confined their labours to the fishing, and passed their winters in complete idleness."—Lord Teignmouth’s Sketches of-the Coasts and Islands of Scotland, vol. ii, p. 394, London, edition 1836.

12 The workmen observe the singular custom of allowing an interval of two hours of rest in the middle of the day, and no inducement can prevail on them to encroach upon it. They may be seen at these times stretched under the hedge-rows by the road side. A Manksman will sometimes lose the chance of obtaining sixpence for a fish, if he has to walk a mile for it."—Lord Teignmouth’s Sketches, chapter xx. His lordship has, I think, been misled in this instance.

13 Townley’s Journal, vol. i, p. 117, vol. ii, p. 194.

14 Account of the Isle of Man, p. 7.

15 Camden’s Britannia, vol, ii, p1445.

16 Cregeen's.Dictionary, ‘ Coamrey vraghey

17 Statutes, anno 1422, 1664, and 1736 ; Lex Scripta, pp. 5, 21, 140, 272.

18 Mills’s Statute Laws, p. 242.

19 Waldron, p 140.

20 MS. Manks Customs.

21 Statutes, anno 1561, 1577, 1609, 1667, and 1777 ; Lex Scripta, pp. 64, 89, 163, 406.

22 Statutes, anno 1747, 1753, 1763, 1777 ; Lex Scripta, pp. 318, 348, 383, 406

23 Statutes, anno 1577 ; Lex Scripta, p. 70.

24 Statutes, anno 1662, 1664, 1667 ; Lex Scripta, pp. 135, 149, 164.

25 Statutes, anno 1691 ; Wood’s History, p. 237.

26 Customary Law, Original Statute Book, p. 105, ap Parr’s MS. Laws, p. 118.

27 Customary Law, pp. 104, 105.

28 Waldron, p. 142.

29 Appendix, Note i, " Minor Punishments."

30 Statutes, 1577, 1604, 1612, 1618, 1659, ]671, 1672, 1673, 1675.

31 Lex Scripta, p. 66.

32 Statute, folio67, anno 1566, 1551, 1629 ; Lex Scripta, pp, 102, 103.

33 Cregeen’s Manks Dictionary, p. 132.

34 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

35 Cregeen’s Manks Dictionary.

36 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

37 Fabyan’s Chronicle, edit. Pynson, 1516, fol. 169 ; Walker’s Historical Chronicle of the Irish Bards, p. 152 ; Brand’s Antiquities, by Ellis, vol. i, p. 250; Henry’s Hist. Brit., vol. vi, b. vi, c. v.

38 Chambers’s Popular Rhymes of Scotland, edition 1826, p. 300 ; Jamieson’s Scotch EtymologicalDictionary, ‘ Gysard.’

39 Strutt’s Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, London, 8vo., 1533 page 160.

40 MS. Account of Manks Customs collected for this work by a talented native of the Island, who understands the Manks language, and is thoroughly acquainted with all the ancient customs, superstitions, and legends of the peasantry.

41 MS. Account ofManks Customs.

42 Ibid.

43 The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in woman’s apparel, put it in alarge basket and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Briid’s bed, and then the mistress and servants cry three times, Briid is come, Briid is welcome. This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning, they look among the ashes expecting to see the impression of Brild’s club there, which, if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and a prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.Martifl’s Western Isles, 8vo., London, 1716, p. 119. " In Ireland, on St. Bridget’s eve, every farmer’s wife makes a cake called Bairinbreac, the neighbours are invited, the madder of ale and the pipe go round, and the evening concludes with mirth and ~ Essay on the Antiquities of the Irish Language, Svo., Dublin, 1772, p. 21 ; Ellis’s edition of Brand, London, 1841, vol. i, p. 190.

44 Bourne’s Antiquities of the Common People, Newcastle, edition 1725, cap. xx.

45 Brand’s Addenda to Bourne, Newcastle, edition 1777.

46 Ellis’s Brand enlarged, London, edition 1842, vol. 1, pp. 43-52.

47 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

48 MS. Account ofManks Customs. In other places the same customs are adopted on different occasions. Martin tells us that in St. Kilda, one of the Out-Isles of the ex-kingdom of Man, " on the festival of All Saints, the inhabitants bake a large cake in the form of a triangle, which, for some superstitious purpose, was to be eaten that night."—Ellis, vol. i, p. 210. These triangular bannocks seemingly represent the soul mass cakes of the Roman church—See Festa Anglo Romana, p. 109, ap. Ellis, vol. i, p. 217.

49 Communicated by Mr. P. Curphey, of Douglas. Such lights are common in Wales. ‘ ‘ It is a very commonly received opinion that within a short space before death, a light is seen proceeding from the house, and sometimes, it has been asserted, from the very bed of the sick person, and pursues its way to the church, where be or she is to be interred, precisely in the same track in which the funeral is afterwards to follow. This light is called canwyll corpt, or the corpse candle."—Cambrian Register, 8vo. edt. 1796, p. 431.

50 " The etymology of this word is not well known ; some say it is derived from boal, a Wall, and teine, fire (Irish), referring to the practice of going round the walls or fences with fire on the eve of this day ; others that it is derived from laa bwoailt chyn, the day that cattle or sheep are first put to the fold ; others, a corruption of blieauntyn, ‘ the month of three milkings,’ as the Saxons called the month of May."—Cregeen’s Manks Dictionary, p. 26. In Gælic it is called bealtuinn.— M’Alpin’s Dictionary, p. 32.

51 Waldron’s Description, p. 154 ; MS. Account of Manks Customs.

52 The Maceboard (probably a corruption of May-sports), went from door to door inquiring if the inmates would buy the Queen’s favour, which was composed of a small piece of ribbon.—MS. Account of Manks Customs.

53 Vide Bourne’s Antiquities, cap. xxvii.

54 MS. Account ofManks Customs.

55 Pulling grass, as an offering, on Midsummer-eve, may be traced to Pagan origin. On such occasions metrical invocations were sometimes employed.

56 Vide Appendix, chap. ii of this work, Note i, p. 50.

57 Lex Scripta, p. 131.

58 Dr. Pettingal, in the second volume of the Arcliæologia, p. 67, derives Gule from the Celtic or British Wyl or Gwyl, signifying a festival or holyday. This is confirmed by Blount, who tells us that Lammas day is otherwise called the Gule or Yule of August.—AP. Ellis, vol i, p. 191.

59 Vallancey’s Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, No. x.

60 The custom of going to the mountains on the first Sunday in harvest, (first Sunday after the 12th August,) is said to be handed down from the Israelites, whose daughters went to the mountains yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah, the Gileadite, as recorded in the eleventh chapter of Judges.—MS. Account of Manks Customs.

61 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

62 Dalzell’s Darker Superstitions ofScotland, chap. ii.

63 Peltham, pp. 241, 247, 258.

64 The author of the Irish Hudibras seems to have had this well in view, when he wrote the following lines :—

" Have you beheld when people pray
At Patrick’s well, on patron’s day?
By charm of priest and miracle
To cure diseases at this well,
The valleys filled with blind and lame,
And go as limping as they came."

 —Ellis, vol. iii, edition 1841, p. 232.

65 Waldron, pt 151.

66 Sketches of the Isle of Man, by William Bennet, London, 1829, p. 65.

67 After thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine, thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow that is within thy gates."-Deuteronomy, xvi, 13, 14.

68 Hospin. de Orig. Pest. Jud Stukius Antiq. Convival, p. 63, ap. Bourne’s Antiquities, cap. xxxi.

69 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

70 Brand’s Observations on Bourne’s Antiquities, cap. xxxi.

71 Leviticus, xxiii, 10, 11, 12, 20.

72 Quayle’s General View of the Agriculture of the Isle of Man, edit. 1812, p. 12l~

73 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

74 Cregeen's Manks Dictionary, p. 67.

75 The inhabitants of Lewis had an ancient custom to sacrifice to a Sea God, called Shony, at Hallowtide, in the manner following :—The inhabitants round the island came to the church of St. Mulvay, having each man his provisions along with him. Every family furnished a peck of malt, and this was brewed into ale. One of their number was picked out to wade into the sea up to the middle, and carrying a cup of ale in his hand, standing still in that posture, cried out with a loud voice, saying— ‘ Shony I give you this cup of ale, hoping that you will be so kind as to send us plenty of seaware for enriching our ground the ensuing year ;‘ and so threw the cup of ale into the sea. This was performed in the night time. At his return to land they all went to church where there was a candle burning on the altar, and then standing silent for a little time, one of them gave a signal, at which the candle was put out, and immediately all of them went to the fields, where they fell a drinking their ale, and spent the remainder of ths night in dancing and singing."—Martin, quoted by Ellis, vol. 1, p. 210.

76 Mrs. Bullock is not correct in this. In the south of Ireland, " the wren is still hunted and killed by the peasantry on Christmas day, and on the following Saint Stephen’s day, he is carried about (Hall’s Ireland, vol. i, p. 24,) in procession, made in every village of men, women, and children, singing an Irish catch importing him to be the king of all birds," as " the Druids represented the Wren to be." It was the augur’s favourite bird, and the respect shown to it gave such offence to our first Christian missionaries, that they caused it to be hunted and killed by the peasants. —Vallancey, ap. Collectanea de Rebus Flibernicis, vol. iv, No. 13. The inhabitants of the town of Ciotat, near Marseilles, armed with sabres and pistols, commence an anniversary hunting of the Wren about the same period. When it is captured, it is suspended, as if aheavy burden, from the middle of a long pole borne on the shoulders of two men, carried in procession through the streets, and weighed on a strong balance, after which there is a convivial entertainment.—Sonnini Travels, ap. Daizell’s Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 422.

77 Mac Taggart makes the following characteristic allusion to this belief. "CUTTY WRAN.—The Wren, the nimble little bird : how quickit will peep out of the hole of an old foggy dyke, and catch a passing butterfly. Manks herring fishers dare not go to sea without one of these birds taken dead with them, for fear of disasters and storms. Their tradition is of a sea sprit that hunted the herring tack, attended always by storms, and at last it assumed the figure of a Wren and flew away. So they think when they have a dead Wren with them, all is snug. The poor bird has a sad life of it in that singular Island. When one is seen at any time, scores of Manksmen start and hunt it down."—Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia, p. 157.

78 In 1842, no less than four sets were observed in the town of Douglas, each party blowing a horn.

79 Appendix, Note ii, " Hunt the Wren."

80 Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language ; Chambers’s Rhymes ofScotland, Edinburgh, 1826, p. 300.

81 Mac Taggart’s Gallovidian Encyclopedia, p. 502.

82 On such occasions, one brewing kettle generally served a whole neighbourhood, which gave rise to the Manks proverb :—" To go about like a brewing pan."—MS. Account of Manks Customs.

83 Waldron’s Description, p. 155.

84 Lord Teignmouth Sketches of the Coasts of Scotland and the Isle of Man, vol. ii, page 264.

85 Waldron’s Description, p. 155.

86 MS. Account ofManks Customs.

87 Waldron’s Description, p. 156.

88 Mills’ Statute Laws, p. 317.

89 Andrew Simpson, who was a minister in Galloway when be wrote his Large Description of that province in 1684, says—" I myselfe have married neer 450 of the inhabitants of this countrey, a]l of which, except seaven, were married upon a Tuesday or Thursday ; and it is looked upon as a strange thing to see a marriage upon any other day."—Description of Galloway, Edinburgh edition, 1822, p. 95.

90 This custom was not confined to the Isle of Man or to Galloway. In the works of John Heywood "newlie imprinted in London, A.D 1598, is the following distich :—

" And homeward, hitherward, quick as a bee,
For good lack, an old shoe cast after me."

91 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

92 " I knewe a Priest whiche, i fany of his parishoners should be maryed, would take his backe-pype, and go fetche theym to the churche, playnge swecteleye afore them, and then would he laye his instrument handsomely upon the aultare tyll he had maryed them and said masse. Which thyng being done, he would gentillye bringe them home agayne with backe-pype. Was not this priest a true minstrel, thynke ye ? for he dyd not conterfayt the minstrell, but was one in dede."—. Vernon’s Hunting of Purgatory to Death, London, 1561, folio, book 51 , ap. Sir Henry Ellis’s Notes to Brand’s Music at Weddings.

93 This custom was probably introduced into the Isle of Man when the Scots were masters of it, as the practice of riding for the broose is not yet wholly extinct in Scotland. On 29th January, 1813, was married at Mauchljne, Ayrshire, by the Rev. David Wilson, Mr. Robert Ferguson, in Whitehill, of New Cumnock, to Miss Isabella Andrew, in Fail, parish of Tarbolton. Immediatelyafter the marriage, four men of the bride’s company, started for the broose from Manebline to Whjtehffl, a distance of thirteen miles, and when one of them wassuïe of the prize, a young lady who had started after they were a quarter of a mile off, outstripped them all, and notwithstanding the interruption of getting a shoe fastened on her mare at a smithy on the road, she gained the prize to the astonishment of both parties.— Ellis’s edition of Brand’s Antiquities, London, 1841, vol. ii, p. 97.

94 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

95 Description of the Isle of Man, folio, London edition, 1731, p. 169 ; Logan's Scottish Gael, vol. ii, p. 359.

96 Waldron’s Description of the Isle 0f Man, London, 1731, p. 153.

97 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

98 Waldron's Description, p. 132.

99 Strype’s Annals of the Reformation, anno 1567, vol. i, p. 537.

100 MS. Account of Manks Customs. This seemingly alludes to the custom of keeping a consecrated candle burning in the chamber of a " lady in the straw." The form of hallowing candles is thus described in the Doctrine of the Masse Booke, &c., by Nicholas Dorcaster, 1554. "Prayer—O Lord Jesu Christ, blesse thou this creature of a waxen taper, at our humble supplication, and by the vertue of the holy crosse pour thou into it a heavenly benediction ; that as thou hast graunted it unto man’s use for the expelling of darkness, it may receive such a strength and blessing thorow the token of the holy crosse, that in what places soever it lie lighted or set, the devil may avoid out of those habitacions, and tremble for feare, and fly away discouraged, and presume no more to unquiete that serve thee, who with God," &c.— Ellis’s edition of Brand, vol. 1, p. 25. The churching of a woman, in the Manks language is called lostey-chainley, from the practice of burning a candle, in former times, during service.—Cregeen’s Dictionary of the Manks Language, p. 109.

101 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

102 The belief that fairies could only change their weakly and starveling elves for the more robust offspring of men, before baptism, was not confined solely to the Isle of Man. Spenser thus alludes to it :—

" From thence a fairy thee unwitting reft,
There as thou sleep’st in tender swadJing band,
And her bare elfin brood there for thee leflf;
Such men do changelings call, so chang’d by fairy theft."

Faery Queen, book i, cap. x ; see also Grey’s Notes to Shakspeare, vol. i, p. 257. In the Isle of Man, it was formerly common for women, who carried their young children with them to the harvest field, to observe great care in not leaving the child at the " headland," but in keeping it at some distance from the end of the field. For want of this caution, say the old tales of the Island, many serious consequences ensued, such as the child being carried off and a fairy left in its stead.—MS. Account of Manks Customs.

103 Waldron’s Description, p. 128. Sir Walter Scott quotes this story at full length in his introduction to the Tale of Tamlane in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. It is also quoted by Ellis in his edition of Brand.

104 Waldron, p. 129.

105 A still.born child was not allowed to be buried in the church-yard, unless the mother made oath that she had received the sacrament since the quickening of the child.—Camdem's Britannia, edition 1695, p. 1068.

106 This is a wooden hoop about three or perhaps four inches deep, and about twenty inches in diameter, covered with sheepskin, and resembling the head of a drum.— MS. Account of Manks Customs.

107 Communication from Dr. Oswald, of Douglas, July, 1830.

108 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

109 Ibid. The person who receives this homely present must give the child in return three different things, wishing it at the same time healthand beauty.—Ellis’s edition of Brand, vol. ii, p. 51. Hutchinson, in his History of Northumberland, vol. ii, p. 4, tells us that when an infant is first sent abroad in the arms of a nurse to visit a neighbour, it is presented with an egg, salt, and fine bread.

110 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

111 Waldron’s Description, pp. 139, 140.

112 The Councell of xxiij of the Land of Man, gave it for Law, A.D. 1419, that if any man dies, his son is to have, as corbes, his best pann or his best pott, a jack and sallett, bowe and arrows, sword and buckler, best board, and best stoole, his coulter and rackentree, his best chest, his best cup if it be wood bound with silver and gilt. Corbes for a woman—the best wheele and cardes, rackentree, a sucke or else a Manks spade, the best beade of jet or amber, the best broach, and the best crosse.— Lex Scripta, statute 1419.

113 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

114 Waldron’s Description, p. 170 ; Ellis, vol. ii, p. 143.

115 Neither was it in former times the custom of the Gallovidians,who are the nearest neighbours of the Manks, to give special invitations to their funerals. " As soon as ever the dead corpse is taken out of the house, in order to its carrying to the church-yard, some persons left behind take out the bed-straw on which the person dyed, and burne the same at a little distance from the house. There may be, perhaps, some reason for the burning thereof to prevent infection ; but why it should be done just at that time, I know not well, unless it be to give advertisement to any of the people who dwell in the way betwixt and the church-yard, to come and attend the buriall." —Symeon's Description of Galloway, Edinburgh, 1822, p. 95. When an Irish mart or woman of the lower order dies, the straw which composed the bed is immediately taken out of the house and burned before the cabin door, the family at the same time setting up the howl, whereupon the neighbours flock to the house of the deceased, and by their vociferous sympathy excite, and at the same time, soothe the sorrow of the family.—Glossary to Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, London, edition 1810, p. 214.

116 MS. Account of Manks Customs.

117 Waldron’s Description, p. 170.

118 The custom of giving a funeral feast was universally practised in Britain as well as in the Isle of Man, and also of giving a lyberal dole to the poor in proportion to the finances of the deceased. William de Montacute, ex-king of Man, directed by his wife, " that twentyfive shillings should be daily distributed among three hundred poor people, from the day of his death till the arrival of his body at the conventual church of Bustlesham, in which it was to be deposited."—Warner’s Typographical Remarks, vol. ii, p. 73.

119 Valltzncey’s Collectanea, vol. i, p. 124.

120 Logan’s Scottish Gael, vol. ii, p. 383.

121 When the body of Babylas, the martyr, was removed by the order of Julian, the apostate, the christians, with their women and children, rejoiced and sung psalms all the way, as they bore the corpse from Dauphne to Antioch. Thus was Paula buried at Bethlehem ; thus did Saint Anthony bury Paul, the hermit ; and thus were the generality of men buried after the three first centuries, when persecution ceased. In imitation of this, it is still customary, in several parts of this nation, to carry out the dead with singing of psalms and hymns of triumph.—Bourne’s Popular Antiquities, Newcastle, edition 1777 , cap. iii.

122 Waldron’s Description, p. 170.

123 Adams’s Roman Antiquities, 8vo., Edinburgh, 1792, p. 476.

124 Strutt’s Manners and Customs, vol. ii, p. 108.

125 Lex Scripta, Douglas, 1819, p. 72.

126 Waldron’s Description, p. 170. This pall or covering was called in the Manks language marre~vaaugh.- vide Cregeen's Dictionary, p. 111

127 Ante, p. 89,


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