DOUGLAS derives its name from the junction, a little above,the town, of two rivers, the Duff and the Glass the waters of which meet the sea at Douglas bay. Of the antiquity of the four towns I can say little: we have no historical account of their origin; and in the times, the transactions of which are recorded in the Chronicle of Man, all appear to have existed, though the first mentioned are those of Rushen and of Ramsey. Of their prosperity and magnitude we are nearly as ignorant, and can judge of these circumstances only by the general wealth and population of the country. Douglas contains upwards of five, some say, six thousand inhabitants, and though not the capital, is supposed to be nearly equal in size to Castletown, or Rushen, Peel, and Ramsey put together. Many of the houses are good, but none costly. The custom-house, lately the residence of the Duke, and now of the collector, is the best building.
The streets are very irregular, and in some places extremely narrow. I had the curiosity to measure the chief street opposite the projecting corner of a house, and found that it did not execeed seven feet, its average width being twenty or thirty, but without a pathway. The shape of the town is a triangle, the longest sides extending from the bridge at the upper part of the harbour, in a north-eastery direction towards the coast; and the shortest from the bridge to the pier. On the opposite side of the harbour is a red-herring house, and a row of modern houses of very good appearance, At the commencement of the pier are a court of justice and temporary prison, the latter being only used for securing prisoners till their removal to Castletown. Very near it, to the eastward, is an ancient tower, used for a similar purpose till this was built, a wretched dungeon, and now in ruins. The walls are completely naked, and do not form a pleasing object. The pier, constructed under the direction of Mr. Stewart, architect, and finished nearly ten years ago, is the chief beauty and great attraction of Douglas. Its length is five hundred and twenty feet; its breadth forty, and it is well paved with flagstones. At the distance of four hundred and fifty feet, it suddenly expands fifty feet to the right. This broad part is raised flared or four feet above the other, and terminates in a semicircle. In the middle of the area is a handsome and very useful light-house. The whole of the building cost the English government stewards of 22,000l. The: pier is the promenade of the town, and in fine veather is crowded with genteel company. Immediately to the left is seen a range of hills, and beyond these the mountains of Penypont and Snawfel. Turning towards the east, we see the cliff of Clayhead, with a spacious intervening bay; and, to the right of it, a long extent of the coast of Cumberland, crowned with distant mountains, delightful objects to the eye. Still turning towards the right, nothing but the ocean is visible, till we discern, through a clear horizon, the high lands of Wales. The view is now obstructed by Douglas head. From the pier, directly across the harbour, is an elegant castellated mansion, till within these few years the residence of Mr. Whaley, usually called Buck Whaley. Its vicinity to the sea diminishes the verdure, and prevents the growth of trees about the grounds.
The bay is nearly two miles across; it has good anchoring, excepting on the northern side, and is sheltered from all winds but the east. Both points of the bay are rocky and dangerous; and in the middle lies a large bed of rocks, just covered at high water.
The harbour is accounted the best dry one in the Irish Channel, and admits vessels of considerable burden to come at high water close to the quay, the depth at spring tides being from fifteen to twenty feet.
Northward of the town are extensive sands much frequented by company in carriages, on horse-back, and on foot. 'I'he water of the bay is so calm and transparent, that a person, standing on the pier, may often, even at high water, distinctly see the bottom. In the most stormy weather the breakers rarely exceed the height of fifteen inches. These circumstances render the bathing particularly safe and delightful to the ladies: but only one machine is yet provided for the use of the company.
The market-place is small and destitute of shops and shambles. It is usually well supplied by the neighbouring farms; but, on a rainy day, it is sometimes impossible to purchase either a pound of butter, a shilling's-worth of eggs, or a kishon of potatoes; and, unless these are by chance to be sold in the town, the inhabitants are obliged to wait for then till the expiration of another week.
Almost every article of necessity or convenience may be purchased at one or other of the shops.There is only one person here, or, I believe, in any part of the country, who sells books, and he is by trade a bookbinder; and only two who sell stationary. I tried in vain to buy a sheet of blotting paper. Wines and spirits are retailed by grocers, bakers, and linendrapers.
Of inns in this town, the largest, and, I believe, the best, was the Globe, now divided into two. There are also the Duke's Arms, the Liverpool Hotel, the Liverpool Coffee-House, and one without a sign, kept by Clague, the oldest of all, situated between the market-place and the post-office. There are several boardinghouses, one of the best of which is kept by Mrs Pratt, of Muckle's-gate. There is no want of public houses; their usual sign in the towns is, "Ale sold here;" and in country places an empty barrel by the door.
Some years ago a theatre was built, and were acted at Douglas; but even for a few weeks the proprietor did not meet with sufficient encouragement, and they are consequently discontinued. An assembly every three or four week is the only public amusement of the inhabitants They are fond of visiting, and of cards, and, ill-natured people say, of scandal.
A public circulating library and reading room have been lately established, and are a great acquisition to the town. They have commenced on a moderate scale, and contain, at present, a very small, but well chosen collection of books The number of proprietors, all of one class, does not exceed ninety. The funds are divided into guinea transferrable shares, every share-holder paying one guinea a year for contingent expenses and the improvement of the library. On the arrival of every packet, the room is crowded vith subscribers, flocking thither to read the English news. On other occasions it is little frequented, and the conversation is always more political than literary. To particularise any might appear invidious to others; but every one will be pleased with the urbanity of manner and general knowledge of the present High Bailiff, a native of the island.
All letters for the Isle of Man are brought from Whitehaven to Douglas by a packet, which ought to leave that port every Monday night; but which, owing to had weather and the difficulty of getting out of harbour, is sometimes in the winter season for two or three weeks delayed. It remains three days at Douglas, and then returns. It contains good accommodations for passengers; but not superior to those of the Duke and of the Duchess of Athol trading to Liverpool; and perhaps not equal, in this respect, to the Chesterfield packet which sails weekly from Liverpool with passengers only.
The passage from Whitehaven is nine shillings, and from Liverpool half-a-guinea. The letters are sorted from the post-office; and those for Castle-town, Peel, and Ramsey are forwarded in the order of their names. The letter-carrier stops one day at Ramsey, and then returns by the same route with the letters for England. Everybody expecting letters applies for them at the post-office; and such as are not immediately sent for are stuck up in the window, ready to be taken down and delivered to any one who claim them, and will pay the postage.
There are in the town two billiard tables for the amusement of gentlemen. Ely Shaw is, in the same house, a billiard-table keeper, a woollen draper, a publican, and he keeps a post chaise for the use of travellers, with a steady and civil driver.
One side of the market-place is formed by a chapel, dedicated to St. Matthew, which claims no Particular notice. To the west of the town, on rising ground, is St. George's chapel, for the building of which a subscription was made, and the funds were lodged in the hands of Bishop Mason. He died insolvent not long afterwards, part of the money subscribed being thereby lost, and some of the artificers remaining to this day unpaid. This is, I think, the largest place of worship upon the island; the inside is neat, and the voices of the congregation are regulated by an organ. The pews are let by auction to the highest bidder for the term of seven years. On a recent occasion the high sum of 71. per annun was given for the best pews. The Dissenter' exercise their devotion at a Methodist meeting house and a Scotch kirk.
Nearly a mile and a half on the Peel road, in a very pleasant valley and surrounded by trees, is Kirk Braddon, the parish church of Douglas. Of the names of places, Chaloner's etymologies, for want of better, I shall generally follow.
Braddon is supposed to be a corruption of the Manks word bradan, signifying salmon; this fish during the season being formerly very plentiful in Douglas bay; And the name of the parish, commonly called Kirk, and of the parish church being always the same. The building does not appear ancient, nor has it any thing remarkable about it, except a large church-yard literally crammed with graves. These, for the most part, have either a blank stone at the heads or one on which are engraved the initials or name of the deceased. They are little orna mented with productions of the Tragic Muse. At the upper part of the church-yard is a lofty and plain monument of Arran sand stone, erected to the memory of the late Lord Henry Murray, brother to the Duke of Athol. On the edge of a stone, forming a stile, is a Runic inscription, thus read and translated by Mr. Beauford:
'` Durlifr nsaci risti crus dono Aftfiac sunsin frudur sun safrsag-"
"For Admiral Durlif this cross was erected by the son of his brother (the son of) Safrsag."
About half a mile north of Douglas is Mona castle, a modern building of the present Duke, intended for his future residence. This is a stately edifice, and has none to vie with it upon the island. In the front is a noble ball-room equal in height to two stories of the other parts of the mansion. It is at present bare of trees; and how far the young plantations are likely to flourish seems very doubtful. His former place of abode was in the midst of some territory, which he kept in his own hands, called Port-e-shee, one mile from Douglas, on the right-hand side of the Peel road, valley land, and apparently well cultivated The building is now occupied by the tenant, and has the appearance of a good farm-house. Hence he removed to the custom-house, a house which he had purchased, soon after the sale of the island, for 3001. but which is now occupied by Mr. Scott, who transacts the duties of public accountant, and of his private agent.
A few hundred yards westward, by the river, is the Nunnery, the seat of Major Taubman, taking its name from the late contiguous ruin of anunnery, founded, in the beginning of the sixth century, by St. Bridget, who received the veil of virginity from St. Maughold, the fourth bishop of the isle. Such is the Manks' account. Tradition commands not implicit faith. The Irish, who claim St. Bridget as their tutelar saint, give the following history of her life: She was born in the year 453, and at the age of fourteen years received the veil from the hands of St. Patrick. In 484 she founded the nunnery of Kildare: about the same time a monastery was founded under the same roof; and this illustrious and immaculate lady presided both over the nuns and the monks till the time of her death in the year 523. The prioress of Douglas nunnery was anciently a baroness of the isle; held courts in her own name; and possessed temporal authority equal to a baron. Here the trees grow with great luxuriance, particularly at the back part', where there is a very pretty bank of wood with the river at the bottom. The garden walls are well covered and the hothouses well stocked. Here may be found every comfort and luxury of life; and here, had I the choice of the seats of the island, would I take up my abode.
Douglas is pretty well supplied with white fish throughout the year; with a little salmon, and of course with herrings during the summer months. A good deal of trade is carried on in the building of fishing-boats, both for home and foreign use, the workmen having acquired the character of being singularly skilful. The springs in the town not being good, water is brought from a declivity behind it, in large casks, resernbling those used for a similar purpose in England, and sold at one halfpenny per pail.
A weekly newspaper is printed and published by Mr. Jefferson.. The circulation of it is considerable; and it is to be regretted that he does not amuse his readers, by a recital, as they occur, of the more interesting cases of Manks law.
The chief part of the military are stationed at Douglas; and, by their drums and fifes, render some annoyance to the inhabitants. The band, which is good, makes however sone amends. On a Sunday it plays through the town, and sometimes it enlivens the assembly.
I was struck with the sang-froid with which at market woman would, if her stocking, was down, pull up liar petticoats and refix it with a garter its proper situation: but, in many towns of Ireland, the practice is still more prevalent. It is in all cases confined to the sober and matron-like class, and never followed by the younger damsels.
The more we see of the world the less subject are we to surprise. Had I previously, as I have since, spent an autumnal month at Liverpool, these trivial things would hardly have been noticed. It is the custom of the Lancashire people to give themselves, once a year a thorough washing. In order to effect this purposes the inhabitants of the interior of the country, especially about Bolton, club together and contribute a weekly sum to pay the expense of an excursion to Liverpool in the course of the autumn. The scene commences a little below the Old Church, and continues till impeded by the bathing houses, a distance of two hundred yards. Within this short space I have seen, when high-water has happened in the morning, as many as two hundred people, including men, women, boys, and girls, in the water or on the beach, The men are naked, except occasionally one or two still clad in inexpressibles. Some of the women wear bathing dresses; others' their shifts: some do no more than pull up their clothes, others retain nothing but their flannel petticoats. The girls of eight, ten, or twelve years old appear as nature made them. Though the sexes generally undress in detached parties upon the beach, they mix together in the water. In shallow places I have seen girls dancing, and in deeper water pursuing, and pursued by, the lads. To say that delicacy is determined altogether by custom might perhaps appear an unfounded and barbarous assertion: but where none is imagined little can exist. Persons engaged in this practice of annual ablution do not appear to consider it indelicate. Below the fort a similar scene is presented; and a little further on are about thirty large bathing machines, used promiscuously by ladies and gentlemen. The bather is usually desirous of getting as many an he can into one vehicle. A lady, with whom I am acquainted, went with a companion early one morning to bathe. A country-woman and her husband were about to follow them into the carriage. The woman apologised for introducing ber husband by expressing the fear she had to go into the water alone. I need hardly add, that they were obliged to seek another conveyance. The gentry of Liverpool resort chiefly to the corporation baths, but usually bathe in the river to which a flight of steps conducts them. The partition between the ladies and gentlemen is deal boarding, out of which a little knot or two have made their escape, and through which the hand of curiosity iotas bored two or three holes. Many of the stronger sex swim a quarter of a mile from shore, but beyond the boarding the more beautiful rarely venture.
With respect to cleanliness or filth the inhabitants of Man deserve not national encomium or stigma. I have never witnessed the nastiness of Scotland, but had an instance of Scotch dirt in the person of my landlady. I was waiting in the kitchen for the boiling of a can of water: she came down to warm her feet. After holding them for some time alternately to the fire, she observed, that lately she had found it very difficult to get her feet warm; that she had not washed them for some time; and she supposed. the fire could not easily penetrate the dirt.