[From Wood's Account of IoM, 1811]
From Castletown to the Calf of Man and to Peel.
PORT-LE-MARY is a mile and a half from Castletown; and Port-Erin two miles further, along a circuitous road. Of these small villages the last mentioned is the most considerable, on account of its good harbour and the herring fishery. Between them, on the right-hand side of the road, are the " Giant's Quoiting Stones," two pieces of unhewn clay-slate standing on end, about ten feet high, between four and five feet wide, and nearly two feet thick. Half a mile further is Fairy-hill, a large mound, said by some to be erected and inhabited by fairies; by others, to be a barrow, raised by the Danes in commemoration of Ivar, who was killed on this spot, fighting in single combat with Reginald.
While waiting at Port-Erin for the departure of a herring-boat, which was to convey me to the Calf, a fisherman introduced himself by warning me to take care of the fairies which I should meet with there, telling me that he had charms against their power. Another fisherman who that morning had very civilly walked near two miles out of his way to show me a road, pretended to laugh at his companion's tales; but, upon being questioned seriously upon the subject, he confessed his firm belief in the existence of these aerial beings. He said the his father once met with a flock of them, and he was not a man to tell a lie. They were invisible but cackled like geese close to him, when there were no geese within sight.
Port Erin is the usual place for hiring boat for the Calf of Man. A small sailing vessel, or one manned with four rowers is most convenient and, if the sea is calm, safe enough: if not, I recommend the traveller to stay on shore. The tide runs strong, and there are many rocks about this little island. The distance is three miles, and the demand for the boat. is from seven shillings to half a guinea, according to the number of company, and the length of the intended visit. In the narrow channel which parts the island from the main land, are several little rocks, and one large one called Kitterland Isle, with herbage and sheep upon it in summer. The cliffs of Spanish-head, though not very high, are bold, with the sea dashing against them.
When the tide is not too low the landing is easy, and is usually effected in a small creek on the northern side.
On the shore I met Mr. Gourlay, the farmer and tenant of the island, who received me very civilly, but was fearful that the accommodation which he could afford me for the night would not be very great, as the house in which he then resided was not yet finished. He and his wife had just been fishing, and, in the course of two hours, had caught one hundred fish, killack and coal-fish, the former weighing, upon an average, one pound each; and the latter, four ounces. The bait which they use is composed of the ends, one inch and a half long of two or three white feathers from the wing of a goose or gull. These being placed in one direction are tied to a hook. While fishing, Mr. Gourlay is constantly rowed about, and the bait is taken at the surface of the water, often as quickly as he can throw in his line. His rod is rather long, but not very pliable. The bait he calls a fly, but believes the fish take it for the under part of a small herring.
The circumference of the island on the accessible parts, is computed to be five miles, and the included area, six hundred acres. It is the property of the Duke of Athol; is tithe free and one tenant rents the whole upon lease. The house in which he lives will be very commodious when finished. His late dwelling, a few hundred yards off, is now occupied by a labourer. These are the only inhabitants.
In this island are two fields of oats, one in very good condition, one field of grass, and a plot of potatoes. The remainder of the land consists of sheep walks, some very fine, and of heath. Thrift grows plentifully about the rocks and frequently usurps the place of the grass Except in the farmer's garden there is not a tree or shrub three feet high upon the island; even here not more than four exceeding six feet, and these few not ten. I observed, in the course of my walk, eight or ten head of cattle, as many horses, and a few score of sheep.
Rabbits every where abound, and are the farmer's chief source of profit. He takes about two thousand annually, between the months of October and April. The common toothed rat-trap, placed close to the boroughs, and catching them by the legs, is the most successful. Of this sort not less than one hundred are nightly set. He makes use also of a net with large meshes, two hundred yards or more in length, which, in the night time, he cautiously places in a perpendicular direction, supported by poles, and having three or four feet trailing upon the ground, between the boroughs and the place of pasture. Men are then sent round to frighten the rabbits. They immediately flee towards their homes, not seeing the net run against it, and are irrecoverably entangled by their legs. It is essential to the success of this stratagem, that the wind should not blow from the men who place the net towards the rabbits.
In the spring of the year this place is a great resort for sea-fowl, who come hither to lay their eggs and rear their young. They do not confine themselves to the inaccessible parts; and so numerous are they, that my conductor assured me that, in the course of an hour, he had been able to collect three hundred eggs. Woodcocks are the only usual game.The farmer once brought over a few hares, male and female, but having turned them loose never saw one of them again.
This island is said to have been the retreat of two hermits; one of whom in the reign of Elizabeth murdered a beautiful woman in a sudden fit of jealosy, and spent the remainder of his life in solitude, penance, and the severest mortifications; the other, Thomas Bushell, in the reign of James, made it his abode for only a few years. A supposed letter of his, still extant, is to this effect: ;
" The embrions of my mines(1) proving abortive by the fall and death of Lord Chancellor Bacon, were the motives which persuaded my pensive retiremerit to a three years solitude in the desolate isle, called the Calf of Man, where in obedience to my dead Lord's philosophical advice, I resolved to make a perfect experimen upon myself, for the obtaining of a long and healthy life, most necessary for such a repentance as my former debauchedness required, by a parsimonious diet of herbs, oil, mustard, and honey with water sufficient, most like to that of our long lived fathers before the flood, as was conceived by that Lord; which I most strictly observed, as if obliged by a religious vow, till Divine Providence called me to a more active life."
What is called Bushell's House, now ruinous, consists only of one narrow entrance, and an adjoining room, probably a bed-chamber, with a recess about three feet wide and six deep, wherein it is supposed his bed was placed. This building is situated upon the highest ground in the island, and within a few yards of a rugged cliff nearly perpendicular.
The two rocks of the Stack are of a triangular shape, of the computed height of one hundred feet, and base of sixty feet. They are ten or fifteen yards from the bottom of the cliff, with deep water intervening. Oft the south-east shore is the Eye or Borough. a large mass of rock, half as high again as the Stack, with steep rugged sides, accessible only at one part, and there with difficulty, and the only place where rabbits are not visible. On the top is a place called Bushell's Grave; but thought by some to have been intended for a hiding place. It is an excavation of the rock, in the form of a cross, each of the two longitudinal cavities being about six feet long, three wide, and two deep. Immediately at the edge of the cavities is a wall of stone and mortar, two feet high, except at the southern, western, and eastern ends, which wvere left open perhaps for ingress, egress, observation, and the admission of light. The whole is covered with slate and mortar. Salt water is often to be found at the bottom, the consequence of the sea's breaking over the rock in stormy weather; and of the stone being too solid to admit its passage. The borough is joined to the Calf at low water; but at high water there are forty feet of intermediate sea.
The day which I spent on this retired but hospitable island' was the harvest-home, the meller of the Manks, a time of jubilee. The labourers had plenty of ale, and the master dealt out his excellent rum with a cautious, not sparing hand Though of ten or twelve people all were merry, none was absolutely intoxicated A dance in the barn concluded the festivity the day and Mr. Gourlay conducted me to the opposite shore in his own boat.
Very near Port-Erin is Kirk Christ Rushen so called, according to Chaloner, from being built on the side of a "rushy bog." Of church I know nothing worthy of remark.On a a sun-dial, by the steps at the eastern entrance of the church-yard, is this motto:
"Horuldi dum quota sit
"Quaeritur hora fugit."
Proceeding towards Balasalla, we enter the parish of Arbory, and immediately perceive the church on our left. The name is said by Chaloner to be derived from the number of trees, " arbour-like," which formerly surrounded the church-yard. None of them remain. Here is a vertical monument of Poolvash limestone, a frequent material for this purpose, thus commemorating Mr. Stevenson:
Coat of Arms.
This monument was erected by Mrs. Alice Stevenson to the memory of her son.
Here lie the remains of Richard
Ambrose Stevenson, Esq. who departed
this life, February 27, 1773, aged 30 years.
"Adieu blest shade; oh! cease to mourn;
Nor strive to wake the silent urn.
Rather each care, each thought employ
To meet thee in the realms of joy."
Surrounding iron rails keep the people at a respectable distance
Westward of the church is the little village of Colby.
Continuing our journey, the next object of attention is South Barrule. The direct way to it from Castletown or Peel is along the mountain road between the towns, and the ascent may be made on horse-back or on foot. The view from its summit is nearly equal to that from Snawfel. Of Ireland, may be discerned the Arklow mountains, the high point of land on this side the bay of Carlingford, and the hills behind Strangeford; of Wales, the towering Snowdon, Great Orm's Head, and other mountains: of England, part of the coast of Cumberland: and of Scotland, all the high land between Dumfries and Fort Pattick. Of nearer scenery is the Calf, the: mountains to the north-east obscuring part of the English coast, and a concentrated view of the chief part of the Isle of Man.
On the side of the road, opposite this mountain, are the abandoned lead mines of Foxdale. Further, on the left, is a mountain torrent tumbling down a rock of the height of about forty feet, nearly perpendicular, and of twenty or thirty oblique. A few ash trees, chiefly at the bottom, improve the scenery
Having crossed a bridge we take the first cross road on our left, leaving St. John's and the Tynwald mount for a future visit. At the end of three miles and a half we arrive at Kirk Patrick, erected in the year 1710. This building, with many others, is owing to the religious zeal and exertions of Bishop Wilson. Besides a hundred pounds towards bettering the endowment, he gave a pulpit, reading-desk, clerk's seat, communion-table, carpet and rails.
Not far off is the valley of Clanmy, now called Glenmay. This is the prettiest spot upon the island, and a most delightful one. It is, as its name imports, a glen, with deep, rocky, woody banks; in some places nearly perpendicular, terminated by a rivulet murmuring over the rocks, and, in one place, forming a cascade. The scenery here is highly romantic. The ground is well covered with the chesnut, the lintel, and the ash, apparently all planted. The northern bank is a perpendicular rock, of the height of sixty feet, here and there making its appearance through a covering of luxuriant ivy: at the top and bottom the holly flourishes. The southern bank, though not perpendicular, is very steep and well wooded. The valley winds considerably, and by excluding foreign objects renders the scenery more romantic. The spectator descends by a circuitous path, Toward the sea the glen continues pretty, but the wood of the southern side soon disappears. The bottom was too rugged, and the sides were too steep to permit my intended ramble through it. Being obliged to leave it, I walked on the top of the bank, and when, on the first opportunity, I again descended, found its beauty much diminished. Above the fall is a mill and above this where the vale opens, are a few cottages, pretily situated, with trees about them.
1 The writer was a mineralogical projector.