[From William Cashen's Folk-Lore, 1912]


" THE old man ceased, and in the pause,
We watched the smoke against the hill,
As in a dream he told his tale,
As in a dream we listened still.
His sea-blue eyes though dimmed by years
Saw far beyond our time and space,
And child-like faith in unseen things
Had smoothed the furrows in his face.
His simple creed-to do his best
As guardian of that treasured pile,
Whose ancient towers and ruined choirs
Stand crowned about Peel's holy Isle.
And leaning on his staff he sat
Beside us in the sunny nook,
Embrasured by cathedral walls
Whose stones were all his sacred book."




WILLIAM CASHEN was born seventy-four years ago [1838] at Dalby, then the chief fishing place on the Island. His father was half fisherman, half farmer, as were many Manxmen in those days. When WILLIAM was still a little boy his father moved to the Niarbyl cottage, and there he and his nine brothers and sisters were brought up. He used to say that he and his brothers slept in the cock-loft with their noses nearly touching the scrawl, that not a window in the cottage opened, and not a doctor darkened the door! The Niarbyl beach was his play-ground as soon as he could walk. There the " childher" ran about while the mother worked in the house. Hard indeed she must have worked, and a fine woman she was. When he was an old man WILLIAM would often say how he remembered hearing his mother sing Yn Graihder Jouylagh, The Demon Lover, as she rocked the baby to sleep, and to him it was the sweetest song in the world. Sometimes he would go to old PAIEE COOIL, a weaver in Dalby, and though she could not read, she would recite Pargys Cailt, Paradise Lost, to him in Manx, while he filled the cuills, or bobbins, for her. The child thought it was fine to hear, and it is indeed a beautiful version of the poem.

WILLIAM went to school at Dalby to Mr. DUBOIS,n1 a Galway Irishman. After school hours he worked at jeebin 1 making, selling fish, herding, and running messages. He was always the boy-drid, or trotting boy of the family, he said. His first place away from home was with a farmer in Dalby, and his wages were material for fustian breeches, and hide for a pair of shoes ! At fifteen he went to sea, and served his time on a brig called Ada, trading between Dublin and Whitehaven. He used to go to night school when the brig was in port, and he took lessons in navigation and other subjects. I have often heard him lament that he had not the opportunities of good and free education that the youngsters of to-day have, then he might have been something greater than he was. "But," he would add, "the sun is going west with me." After four years he "went foreign." He sailed to Australia, China, the Pacific Islands, and Newfoundland, and fifty years afterwards he could vividly picture the great rivers he had navigated, and the ports where the ship had touched — Seville, for instance, where he once lay five weeks in port, and, he said, acquired enough of their lingo to do marketing. In Ireland and Scotland his native tongue helped him, he speaking Manx to their Scotch Gaelic or Erse. After "sailing foreign" for many years he was shipwrecked in Peel Bay, and the schooner Western Trader n2, of Whitehaven, went ashore at Traie Fogog. CASHEN was carried in a state of unconsciousness to a house close by, where he was nursed back to health by SUSANNA COWELL, the master's daughter, whom he afterwards married. They were a devoted couple to the end of his life. He now settled down in Peel and went to the herring fishing, first as one of a crew, and afterwards as skipper of the Fleetwing. The house in which he and his wife always lived, after some eighteen years of marriage, was built by his wife's grandfather, an old Cumberland "statesman" (farmer), who married a Manx girl. After some years at the fishing he became assistant harbour-master at Peel, a post which he held for nineteen years. For the last seventeen years of his life he was custodian of Peel Castle, where he was eminently the right man in the right place. None of the many thousands of visitors who have been taken round the Castle by him will forget his genial talk, and his thorough knowledge of what he had to shew. He was a real student, and was always adding to his information on the subject of the history, archæology, and legends of Peel, and of the Castle especially. He was, for instance, very anxious to vindicate the memory of good Bishop WILSON. He would ask what authority writers had for saying that the Bishop stripped the lead off the roof of Peel Cathedral to roof the church at Patrick. He compared writers who thus wrote to "sheep going through a gap, following one after the other." He had read that there was a new roll of lead in the Castle, which was used.

CASHEN was concerned in a public event which will be long remembered in the Island. fïe was the leader of the fishermen when, in 1874, they rose in protest against the levying of harbour dues by Governor Loch. It was he who organized their march, fifteen hundred strong, to the Tynwald, and who so conducted the affair that all ended peaceably : the Governor visited Peel to discuss the questions in point, and finally withdrew the dues. He also at another time headed a strike of fishermen who demanded higher pay than 9/- a week for overhauling and repairing the trains of nets during the winter.

CASHEN died on June 3rd, 1912, — whilst on duty at the Castle, — his end was sudden and peaceful, and such, one thinks, as he would have chosen.

It seems impossible to think of the Castle without him, — the real old Manxman, with his fine form and kindly, rugged face, was such a fitting guardian of the ancient Manx fortress. The chief interest in his life was his country, — her history, language and folk-lore, in all of which he was well versed. He could quote the English translation of the Chronicles of Man, — in fact, so well did he know these books that I think that if they had been lost he could have re-written them. He had a well-stocked library of books relating to Manx History and Folk-lore, many being presentation copies from the authors. He had also a goodly collection of books in Manx Gaelic. He many a time regretted that he had spent so many of his earlier years off the Island. Although he knew no English till he was nine years old, during his long absence from the Island in after years when he heard not a word of the language, he lost much of his fluency, but he spoke and read Manx as much as possible and it all came back to him again. He used to regret, too, the good stories, songs, and sayings of which he had heard so many: when it occurred to him, the old people had gone and so had their lore. He did, however, in .1892, soon after the publication of Mr. A. W. MOORE's "The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man," write down a good deal in an old ledger, which he gave to me many years ago. Some of his notes have been used by the late Mr. A. W. MOORE in his "Further Notes on Manx Folklore," which ran through "The Antiquary" ; also his songs in "Manx Ballads &Music." Mr. MOORE renders him a handsome tribute of thanks in his preface to the former, referring to " William Cashen . . . . who has a thorough knowledge of his countrymen " : so likewise does Sir JOHN RHYS in his preface to "The Outlines of the Phonology of Manx Gaelic." Our great poet T. E. BROWN thought highly of him. In one of his letters he says : "C., the assistant harbour-master, — a magnificent old salt, . . . . acute, sensible, and sincere. He made an absolutely perfect speech . . . . . That kind, sagacious, equitable old C!"

When CASHEN gave me his note-book, he said that he would add to it considerably during the long winter nights and give me the MS. to complete the book. This he never did, though he has told me many interesting stories and bits of lore. He thought that, perhaps, some day, after his death, his notes might be published, but he said, too, that they would have to be re-written and polished up for the press if this were ever done. Here they are, however, as he wrote them, except that they have been grouped in chapters. It seems to me better to bring them out in their original form, though they may be a little disconnected and abrupt, than to smoothe all the individuality out of them.

He was one of the best speakers of Manx in the Island and it will be remembered how, on the occasion of the visit of KING EDWARD and QUEEN ALEXANDRA to the Castle in .1902, His Majesty asked him to give him a specimen of his mother tongue. The following is CASHEN's own account of the visit

"The Royal party were in the Castle and sent to me to come to explain to them the epitaph on Bishop RUTTER's 2 tomb in the Cathedral. I read the epitaph, which is said to have been written by the Bishop himself, and reads

'In hac domo quam a vermiculis accepi (confratribus meis) spe resurrectionis ad vitam jaceo, Sam. permissione divina Episcopus hujus insulae.

Siste lector — vide et ride palatium episcopi.'

In this house which I have received from the little worms (my brethren) in the hope of resurrection to life, I lie, Sam., by divine permission Bishop of the Island.

Stop reader — look and laugh at the palace of a bishop..

While there I told the Royal party the story of Bishop RUTTER'S skull, which is, that about thirty years ago3 the Cambrian Association paid a visit to Peel Castle, would have Peel Castle cleared up, and discovered this tomb of Bishop RUTTER. They had the tombstone lifted, and they discovered the remains of Bishop RUTTER, and part of the coffin in which he had been buried; and one fine gentleman called Dr. OLIVER, takes up Bishop RUTTER'S skull and puts it under his coat and carries it away with him. He hadn't it long till he sickened and died, — and to make a long story short it got into the possession of nearly a dozen of the leading families of the Isle of Man, and each family, as it got Bishop RUTTER'S skull, went to death and misery. At last it got into the possession of the High Bailiff of Peel, and he took sick and was at death's door, and given up by most of the leading physicians of the Island. When a lady friend of his wife's came in, in the evening, and enquired — "Have you got Bishop RUTTER'S skull?" she said, "Yes." Her friend said, "Send and bury it at once, it never brought anything but death and misery." The skull was sent over and buried that night in Peel Castle. The following day there was an improvement in the High Bailiff, and he continued from that day to get well, and here he is to-day, your Majesty, the picture of health. His Majesty said

' It is a very interesting story.'

Lunch being ready in the meantime the Royal party went to it. When it was over the King lit his cigar, and came down to me at the gate where I was in charge, and he said

' I understand that you can speak the Manx language.' I said, `Yes, your Majesty.'

He said, 'I never heard it. Will you say something to me in Manx.'

I said, 'Dy bannee Jee nyn Ree as yn Ven-Rein dy-palchey, treishteil dy bee shin son ymmodee bleeantyn spaarit dy reill harrish shin.'

The King said, `Thank you, it is a very nice soft language. What is the meaning of what you said ?'

I said, 'May God bless our King and Queen abundantly, hoping that they may be spared for many years to rule over us.' Then I told him how sorry we were for the death of her late gracious Majesty, that she had been Queen before I was born, and that we had loved her as our Mother for her many gracious acts to the Manx people. I said too that I took it to be a great privilege that I had the opportunity of assuring his Majesty, on behalf of Manx people like myself, that there was not a Manxman at home or abroad — and there were numbers abroad — who would not die for England's King and Queen, their honour and their glory. He thanked me very kindly. I told him also that we had a terrible time of suspense here, while he was ill, but thanked God that he looked very well now, and I hoped he would live for many years to be our King. Just then a gentleman came behind my back and suggested that I should ask the King for his autograph. His Majesty said, 'I will write it.' Then I expressed a wish to get the Queen's autograph, when he banded the pencil to the Queen, and said, 'Here Alexandra, write your name here.' Her Majesty then wrote her autograph. I have these autographs framed, with the blacklead pencil with which they were written. One of the lords in waiting came up and laughingly pressed a sovereign into my hand with the request that I should keep it in memory of their Majesties' visit. I may say that the autographs and sovereign are not for sale, as there is no person rich enough to buy them.

The Royal party being then ready to depart, his Majesty shook hands with me, and said, `Good-bye,' and I said, `May God bless your Majesty,' and thus ended the Royal visit to Peel Castle."

CASHEN afterwards had a brass plate put into the wall at the entrance of the Castle. The inscription runs thus


He paid for it out of his own pocket, and it is the only public memorial in Peel of the visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

He acted as one of the judges of Manx at the Music Guild many years ago : he has read a lesson in Manx at the Oie'l Voirrey Services in Peel Church and in Kirk Patrick Church : he has also read at Manx Language Society's entertainments. Lastly, the greatest ambition of his life was fulfilled, — he twice read the laws in Manx on Tynwald Hill. Those who heard him will never forget how sweetly and sonorously our old language rolled from his lips.

He was very proud of the little museum of interesting Manx relics which he had collected or borrowed and which were housed in a watch-house at the Castle. He had a great love for the Castle and the Cathedral on St. Patrick's Isle. To us who have known and loved him it seems that his spirit must linger there still.

Personally, I shall greatly miss our almost daily coozsh 'about things Manx, and our readings together of the Manx Bible in his cosy kitchen in long winter evenings. He could see at a glance the inner meaning of a line in Manx, so that to read with him was a revelation of the beauty of the language. I am indeed indebted to him for his teaching.


Peel, August, 1912

1 "A deeping of nets," Cregeen's Manx Dictionary.

2 Died 30th May, 1662

3 August, 1865.


n1: Herbertus Dubois was noted as master at St Barnabas' School in Douglas in 1843 and 1848 - cannot find any reference to him in school at Dalby - suspect Morrision is incorrect. In 1846 Charles O'Brien shown as master

n2: Western Trader, Master Brown, bound from Carlingford Lough to Whitehaven sheltered from a southwest gale in Peel 19th Oct 1862 - the wind changed and drove it onto the rocks below Creg Malin - according to Corkill (Dictionary of Shipwrecks) all crew were lost - either there was another boat of same name or again the story is misremembered


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