[taken from W.Y Evans Wentz ed. 'Fairy faith in Celtic Countries ' - see comments re S.M - also review in Manx Quarterly #12]
Introduction by SOPHIA MORRISON, Hon. Secretary of the Manx Language Society.
The Manx hierarchy of fairy beings people hills and glens, caves and rivers, mounds and roads ; and their name is legion. Apparently there is not a place in the island but has its fairy legend. Sir Walter Scott said that the ' Isle of Man, beyond all other places in Britain, was a peculiar depository of the fairy-traditions, which, on the Island being conquered by the Norse, became in all probability chequered with those of Scandinavia, from a source peculiar and more direct than that by which they reached Scotland and Ireland.
A good Manxman, however, does not speak of fairies the word ferish, a corruption of the English, did not exist in the island one hundred and fifty years ago. He talks of ' The Little People ' (Mooinjer veggey), or, in a more familiar mood, of ' Themselves ', and of ' Little Boys ' (Guillyn veggey), or ' Little Fellas '. In contradistinction to mortals he calls them ' Middle World Men ', for they are believed to dwell in a world of their own, being neither good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell.
At the present moment almost all the older Manx peasants hold to this belief in fairies quite firmly, but with a certain dread of them ; and, to my knowledge, two old ladies of the better class yet leave out cakes and water for the fairies every night. The following story, illustrative of the belief, was told to me by Bill Clarke
' Once while I was fishing from a ledge of rocks that runs out into the sea at Lag-ny-Keilley, a dense grey mist began to approach the land, and I thought I had best make for home while the footpath above the rocks was visible. When getting my things together I heard what sounded like a lot of children coming out of school. I lifted my head, and behold ye, there was a fleet of fairy boats each side of the rock. Their riding-lights were shining like little stars, and I heard one of the Little Fellas shout, " Hraaghyn boght as earish broigh, skeddan dy liooar ec yn mooinjer seihill shoh, cha nel veg ain " (Poor times and dirty weather, and herring enough at the people of this world, nothing at us). Then they dropped off and went agate o the flitters.
'Willy-the-Fairy, as he is called, who lives at Rhenass, says he often hears the fairies singing and playing up the Glen o nights. I have heard him sing airs which he said he had thus learned from the Little People. Again, there is a belief that at Keeill Moirrey (Marys Church), near Glen Meay, a little old woman in a red cloak is sometimes seen coming over the mountain towards the keeil, ringing a bell, just about the hour when church service begins. Keeill Moirrey is one of the early little Celtic cells, probably of the sixth century, of which nothing remains but the foundations.
And the following prayer, surviving to our own epoch, is most interesting, it shows, in fact, pure paganism ; and we may judge from it that the ancient Manx people regarded Manannan, the great Tuatha De Danann god, in his true nature, as a spiritual being, a Lord of the Sea, and as belonging to the complex fairy hierarchy. This prayer was given to me by a Manxwoman nearly one hundred years old, who is still living. She said it had been used by her grandfather, and that her father prayed the same prayer - substituting St. Patricks name for Manannans :
Manannan beg mac y Leirr, fer vannee yn Ellan,
Bannee shin as nyn maatey, mie goll magh
As cheet sliagh ny share lesh bio as marroo " sy vaaiey ".
(Little Manannan son of Leirr, who blest our Island,
Bless us and our boat, well going out
And better coming in with living and dead [fish] in the boat).
It seems to me that no one of the various theories so far advanced accounts in itself for the Fairy-Faith. There is always a missing factor, an unknown quantity which has yet to be discovered. No doubt the Pygmy Theory explains a good deal. In some countries a tradition has been handed down of the times when there were races of diminutive men in existencebeings so small that their tiny hands could have used the flint arrow-heads and scrapers which are like toys to us. No such tradition exists at the present day in the Isle of Man, but one might have filtered down from the far-off ages and become innate in the folk-memory, and now, unknown to the Manx peasant, may possibly suggest to his mind the troops of Little People in the shadowy glen or on the lonely mountain-side. Again, the rustling of the leaves , or the sough of the wind may be heard by the peasant as strange and mysterious voices, or the trembling shadow of a bush may appear to him as an unearthly being. Natural facts, explainable by modern science, may easily remain dark mysteries to those who live quiet lives close to Nature, far from sophisticated towns, and whose few years of schooling have left the depths of their being undisturbed, only, as it were, ruffling the shallows.
But this is not enough. Even let it be granted that nine out of every ten cases of experiences with fairies can be analysed and explained awaythere remains the tenth. In this tenth case one is obliged to admit that there is something at work which we do not understand, some force in play which, as yet, we know not. In spite of ourselves we feel "There's Powers that's in ". These Powers are not necessarily what the superstitious call 'supernatural'. We realize now that there is nothing supernatural that what used to be so called is simply something that we do not understand at present. Our forefathers would have thought the telephone, the X-rays, and wireless telegraphy things 'supernatural '. It is more than possible that our descendants may make discoveries equally marvellous in the realms both of mind and matter, and that many things, which nowadays seem to the materialistically-minded the creations of credulous fancy, may in the future be understood and recognized as part of the one great scheme of things.
Some persons are certainly more susceptible than others to these unknown forces. Most people know reliable instances of telepathy and presentiment amongst their acquaintances. It seems not at all contrary to reason that both matter and mind, in knowledge of which we have not gone so very far after all, may exist in forms as yet entirely unknown to us. After all, beings with bodies and personalities different from our own may well inhabit the unseen world around us : the Fairy Hound, white as driven snow, may show himself at times among his mundane companions ; Fenodyree may do the farm-work for those whom he favours ; the Little People may sing and dance o nights in Colby Glen. Let us not say it is 'impossible' .
PEEL, ISLE OF MAN,
1 " Willy-the-Fair," otherwise known as William Cain, is the musician referred to by the late Mr. John Nelson (p. 131). The latters statement that William Cain played one of these fairy tunes at one of our Manx entertainments in Peel is perfectly correct.SOPHIA MORRISON.
[All his informants, of whom he would appear to have been extremely credulous were introduced by Sophia Morrison - some of the tales were to appear in her 1911 collection of fairy tales so one suspects she had already tapped the same sources - my comments on the sources and/or tale are given as here in [..] ]
[ SM had used the Ballaleece wife tale in her fairy stories (see pp75 but it had been used by Moore in 1891 (see chapter 3 where he attributes it to Jenkinson (1874) see pp 35 so I wonder just how these got around.
South Barrool does indeed have an iron-age fort on the top - almost certainly used as a place of meeting (eg annual fair) rather than a strong hold - many such iron-age 'fort's were on sites visible for great distances]
Mrs Leece can be found in the 1881 census under Malew at Rheast :
LEECE Mary ((Samuel)) Head M F 46 Farming
born Patrick IoM
CRELLIN Edward Son In Law (Head) M M 30 Lead Miner Arbory IoM
CRELLIN Louisa Wife M F 23 --- Arbory IoM
CRELLIN Thos. E. Son U M 2 --- Malew IoM
CRELLIN Ann J. Daur U F 6 --- Malew IoM
strange entry - unless husband is away
fishing - in which case the most likely is :
Vessel "Sunbeam" CT91 LEECE Samuel --- M M 55 Fisherman born Arbory IoM
Thus assuming he met these people in Jan 1910 she would have been 76]
ON THE SLOPES OF SOUTH BARRULE
I was introduced to the ways and nature of Manx fairies in what is probably the most fairy-haunted part of the isle the southern slopes of South Barrule, the mountain on whose summit Manannan is said to have had his stronghold, and whence he worked his magic, hiding the kingdom in dense fog whenever he beheld in the distance the coming of an enemys ship or fleet. , And from a representative of the older generation, Mrs. Samuel Leece, who lives at Ballamodda, a pleasant village under the shadow of South Barrule, I heard the first story :
Baby and Table Moved by Fairies. I have been told of their (the fairies) taking babies, though I cant be sure it is true. But this did happen to my own mother in this parish of Kirk Patrick about eighty years since : She was in bed with her baby, but wide awake, when she felt the baby pulled off her arm and heard the rush of them. Then she mentioned the Almightys name, and, as they were hurrying away, a little table alongside the bed went round about the floor twenty times. Nobody was in the room with my mother, and she always allowed it was the little fellows.
MANX TALES IN A SNOW-BOUND FARM-HOUSE
When our interesting conversation was over, Mrs. Leece directed me to her sons farm-house, where her husband, Mr. Samuel Leece, then happened to be ; and going there through the snow-drifts, I found him with his son and the family within. The day was just the right sort to stir Manx memories, and it was not long before the best of stories about the ' little people ' were being told in the most natural way, and to the great delight of the children. The grand- father who is eighty-six years of age, sat by the open fire smoking ; and he prepared the way for the stories (three of which we record) by telling about a ghost seen by himself are thought to be spirits.
Under ' Fairy ' Control.'About fifty years ago,' said Mr. T. Leece, the son, 'Paul Taggart, my wifes uncle, a tailor by trade, had for an apprentice, Humphrey Keggan, a young man eighteen or nineteen years of age ; and it often happened that while the two of them would be returning home at nightfall, the apprentice would suddenly disappear from the side of the tailor, and even in the midst of a conversation, as soon as they had crossed the burn in the field down there (indicating an adjoining field). And Taggart could not see nor hear Humphrey go. The next morning Humphrey would come back, but so worn out that he could not work, and he always declared that little men had come to him in , crowds, and used him as a horse, and that with them he had travelled all night across fields and over hedges. The wife of the narrator substantiated this strange psychological story by adding :' This is true, because I know my Uncle Paul too well to doubt what he says. And she then related the two following stories
[ Humphrey is a very unusual name on
Island - so most likely fit from 1881 census is at Jurby, Castle
CALLISTER Alicia Head W F 78 Farmer of 16 Acres born Braddan IoM
KAIGHIN Humphrey Son in law M M 43 Farmer born Ballaugh IoM
KAIGHIN Elizabeth Daur M F 38 Farmers Wife born Jurby IoM
CALLISTER Thomas Brother in law U M 79 Annuitant born Ballaugh IoM - the ages fit
There were Taggarts at Ballamoda and Clycur (next door to each other ) in 1881 - however there was only 1 Paul Taggart in 1881 and he was 92 (living at Knockrushen with his relatives) so not sure re the 50 years ago tailor bit ]
Heifer Killed by Fairy Womans Touch.'Aunt Jane was coming down the road on the other side of South Barrule when she saw a strange woman ' (who Mr. T. Leece suggested was a witch) ' appear in the middle of the gorse and walk right over the gorse and heather in a place where no person could walk. Then she observed the woman go up to a heifer and put her hand on it ; and within a few days that heifer was dead.
The Fairy Dog. This used to happen about one hundred years ago, as my mother has told me :Where my grand father John Watterson was reared, just over near Kerroo Kiel (Narrow Quarter), all the family were sometimes sitting in the house of a cold winter night, and my great grand- mother and her daughters at their wheels spinning, when a little white dog would suddenly appear in the room. Then every one there would have to drop their work and prepare for the company to come in : they would put down a fire and leave fresh water for them, and hurry off upstairs to bed. They could hear them come, but could never see them, only the dog. The dog was a fairy dog, and a sure sign of their coming.
TESTIMONY OF A HERB-DOCTOR AND SEER
At Ballasalla I was fortunate enough to meet one of the most interesting of its older inhabitants, John Davies, a Celtic medicine-man, who can cure most obstinate maladies in men or animals with secret herbs, and who knows very much about witchcraft and the charms against it. ' Witches are as common as ducks walking barefooted, he said, using the duck simile, which is a popular Manx one ; and he cited two particular instances from his own experience. But for us it is more important to know that John Davies is also an able seer. The son of a weaver, he was born in County Down, Ireland, seventy-eight years ago ; but in earliest boyhood he came with his people to the Isle of Man, and grew up in the country near Ramsay, and so thoroughly has he identified himself with the island and its lore, and even with its ancient language, that for our purposes he may well be considered a Manxman. His testimony about Manx fairies is as follows :
[ John Davies I couldnt find in 1881, he may have been fishing but I couldn't immediately find him though a John Davis is in 1881 directory at 18 Maughold st and Grace Davis is still there in 1894 directory thus suspect his family is:
Maughold: 18 Maughold St DAVISE Sarah J.
Head W F 66 Provision Dealer Down Ireland
DAVISE Grase Daur U F 31 No Profession (At Home) born Ramsey IoM]
Actual Fairies Described. I am only a poor ignorant man ; when I was married I couldnt say the word " matrimony " in the right way. But one does not have to be educated to see fairies, and I have seen them many a time
I have seen them with the naked eye as numerous as I have seen scholars coming out of Ballasalla school ; and I have been seeing them since I was eighteen to twenty years 'of age. The last one I saw was in Kirk Michael. Before education came into the island [ie 1872 Act making school attendance compulsory] more people could see the fairies ; now very few people can see them. But they (the fairies) are as thick on the Isle of Man as ever they were. They throng the air, and darken Heaven, and rule this lower world. It is only twenty-one miles from this world up to the first heaven. There are as many kinds of fairies as populations in our world. I have seen some who were about two and a half feet high ; and some who were as big as we are. I think very many such fairies as these last are the lost souls of the people who died before the Flood. At the Flood all the world was drowned ; but the Spirit which God breathed into Adam will never be drowned, or burned, and . it is as much in the sea as on the land. Others of the fairies are evil spirits : our Saviour drove a legion of devils into a herd of swine ; the swine were choked, but not the devils. You cant drown devils ; it is spirits they are, and just like a shadow on the wall. I here asked about the personal aspects of most fairies of human size, and my friend said : ' They appear to me in the same dress as in the days when they lived here on earth ; the spirit itself is only what God blew into Adam as the breath of life. It seems to me that, on the whole, John Davies has had genuine visions, but that whatever he may have seen has been very much coloured in interpretation by his devout knowledge of the Christian Bible, and by his social environment, as is self-evident.
1 This is the Mid-world of Irish seers, who would be inclined to follow the Manx custom and call the fairies ' the People of the Middle World
TESTIMONY OF A BALLASALLA MANXWOMAN
A well-informed Manxwoman, of Ballasalla, who lives in the ancient stone house wherein she was born, and in which before her lived her grandparents, offers this testimony
Concerning Fairies. Ive heard a good deal of talk. about fairies, but never believed in them myself ; the old people thought them the ghosts of the dead or some such things. They were like people who had gone before (that is, dead). If there came a strange sudden knock or noises, or if a tree took a sudden shaking when there was no wind, people used to make out it was caused by the fairies. On the 11th of May we used to gather mountain-ash (Cuirn) with red berries on it, and make crosses out of its sprigs, and put them over the doors, so that the fairies would not come in. My father always saw that this was done ; he said we could have no luck during the year if we forgot to do it.
TESTIMONY GIVEN IN A JOINERS SHOP
George Gelling, of Ballasalla, a joiner, has a local reputation for knowing much about the fairies, and so I called on him at his workshop. This is what he told me :
Seeing the Fairies. I was making a coffin here in the shop, and, after tea, my apprentice was late returning ; he was out by the hedge just over there looking at a crowd of liitle people kicking and dancing. One of them came up and asked him what he was looking at ; and this made him run back to the shop. When he described what he had seen, I told him they were nothing but fairies.
Hearing Fairy Music. Up by the abbey on two different occasions I have heard the fairies. They were playing tunes not of this world, and on each occasion I listened for nearly an hour.
Mickleby and the Fairy Woman. A man named Mickleby was coming from Derbyhaven at night, when by a certain stream he met two ladies. He saluted them, and then walked along with them to Ballahick Farm. There he saw a house lit up and they took him into it to a dance. As he danced, he happened to wipe away his sweat with a part of the dress of one of the two strange women who was his partner. After this adventure, whenever Mickleby was lying abed at night, the woman with whom he danced would appear standing beside his bed. And the only way to drive her away was to throw over her head and Mickleby a linen sheet which had never been bleached.
Nature of Fairies. The fairies are spirits. I think they are in this country yet : A man below here forgot his cow, and at a late hour went to look for her, and saw that crowds of fairies like little boys were with him. [St.] Paul said that spirits are thick in the air, if only we could see them ; and we call spirits fairies. I think the old people here in the island thought of fairies in the same way.
The Fairies Revenge.William Oates now happened to come into the workshop, and being as much interested in the subject under discussion as ourselves, offered various stories, of which the following is a type :' A man named Watterson, who used often to see the fairies in his house at Colby playing in the moonlight, on one occasion heard them coming just as he was going to bed. So he went out to the spring to get fresh water for them ; and coming into the house put the can down on the floor, saying, " Now, little beggars, drink away." And at that (an insult to the fairies) the water was suddenly thrown upon him.
A VICARS TESTIMONY
When I called on the Rev. J. M. Spicer, vicar of Malew parish, at his home near Castletown, he told me this very curious story :
The Taking of Mrs. K. The belief in fairies is quite a living thing here yet. For example, old Mrs. K,about a year ago, told me that on one occasion, when her daughter had been in Castletown during the day, she went out to the road at nightfall to see if her daughter was yet in sight, whereupon a whole crowd of fairies suddenly surrounded her, and began taking her off toward South Barrule Mountain ; and, she added, " I couldnt get away from them until I had called my son." '
A CANONS TESTIMONY
I am greatly indebted to the Rev. Canon Kewley, of Arbory, for the valuable testimony which follows, and especially for his kindness in allowing me to record what is one of the clearest examples of a collective hallucination I have heard about as occurring in the fairy-haunted regions of Celtic countries :
A Collective Hallucination. A good many things can be explained as natural phenomena, but there are some things which I think cannot be. For example, my sister and myself and our coachman, and apparently the horse, saw the same phenomenon at the same moment : one evening we were driving along an avenue in this parish when the avenue seemed to be blocked by a great crowd of people, like a funeral procession ; and the crowd was so dense that we could not see through it. The throng was about thirty to forty yards away. When we approached, it melted away, and no person was anywhere in sight.
The Manx Fairy-Faith. Among the old people of this parish there is still a belief in fairies. About eighteen years ago, I buried a man, a staunch Methodist, who said he once saw the road full of fairies in the form of little black pigs, and that when he addressed them, " In the name of God what are ye ? " they immediately vanished He was certain they were the fairies. Other old people speak of the fairies as the little folk. The tradition is that the fairies once inhabited this island, but were banished for evil-doing. The elder-tree, in Manx tramman, is supposed to be inhabited by fairies. Through accident, one night a woman ran into such a tree, and was immediately stricken with a terrible swelling which her neighbours declared came from disturbing the fairies in the tree. This was on the borders of Arbory parish. The Canon favours the hypothesis that in much of the folk-belief concerning fairies and Fairyland there is present an instinct, as seen among all peoples, for communion with the other world, and that this instinct shows itself in another form in the Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints.
FAIRY TALES ON CHRISTMAS DAY
The next morning, Christmas morning, I called at the picturesque roadside home of Mrs. Dinah Moore a Manx woman living near Glen Meay ; and she contributed the best single collection of Manx folk-legends I discovered on the island. The day was bright and frosty, and much snow still remained in the shaded nooks and hollows, so that a seat before the cheerful fire in Mrs. Moores cottage was very comfortable ; and with most work suspended for the ancient day of festivities in honour of the Sun, re-born after its death at the hands of the Powers of Darkness, all conditions were favourable for hearing about fairies, and this may explain why such important results were obtained.
Fairy Deceit. I heard of a man and wife who had no children. One night the man was out on horseback and heard a little baby crying beside the road. He got off his horse to get the baby, and, taking it home, went to give it to his wife, and it was only a block of wood. And then the old fairies were outside yelling at the man : " Eash un oie, scheap tou mollit ! " (Age one night, how easily thou art deceived !).
A Midwfes Strange Experience. A strange man took a nurse to a place where a baby boy was born. After the birth, the man set out on a table two cakes, one of them broken and the other one whole, and said to the nurse: " Eat, eat ; but dont eat of the cake which is broken nor of the cake which is whole." And the nurse said : " What in the name of the Lord am I going to eat ? " At that all the fairies in the house disappeared ; and the nurse was left out on a mountain-side alone.
A Fairy-Baking. At night the fairies came into a house in Glen Rushen to bake. The family had put no water out for them ; and a beggar-man who had been left lodging on the sofa downstairs heard the fairies say, " We have no water, so well take blood out of the toe of the servant who forgot our water." And from the girls blood they mixed their dough. Then they baked their cakes, ate most of them, and poked pieces up under the thatched roof. The next day the servant-girl fell ill, and was ill until the old beggar-man returned to the house and cured her with a bit of the cake which he took from under the thatch.
A Changeling Musician. A family at Dalby had a poor idiot baby, and. when it was twenty years old it still sat by the fire just like a child. A tailor came to the house to work on a day when all the folks were out cutting corn, and the idiot was left with him. The tailor began to whistle as he sat on the table sewing, and the little idiot sitting by the fire said to him : " If youll not tell anybody when they come in, Ill dance that tune for you." So the little fellow began to dance, and he could step it out splendidly. Then he said to the tailor : " If youll not tell anybody when they come in, Ill play the fiddle for you." And the tailor and the idiot spent a very enjoyable afternoon together. But before the family came in from the fields, the poor idiot, as usual, was sitting in a chair by the fire, a big baby who couldnt hardly talk. When the mother came in she happened to say to the tailor, " Youve a fine chap here," referring to the idiot. " Yes, indeed," said the tailor, " weve had a very fine afternoon together ; but I think we had better make a good fire and put him on it." " Oh ! " cried the mother, " the poor child could never even walk." " Ah, but he can dance and play the fiddle, too," replied the tailor. And the fire was made ; but when the idiot saw that they were for putting him on it he pulled from his pocket a ball, and this ball went rolling on ahead of him, and he, going after it, was never seen again. After this strange story was finished I asked Mrs. Moore where she had heard it, and she said : ' I have heard this story ever since I was a girl. I knew the house and family, and so did my mother. The familys name was Cubbon.
The Fenodyrees (or ' Phynnodderees ') Disgust. During snowy weather, like this, the Fenodyree would gather in the sheep at night ; and during the harvest season would do the threshing when all the family were abed. One time, how- ever, just over here at Gordon Farm, the farmer saw him, and he was naked ; and so the farmer put out a new suit of clothes for him. The Fenodyree came at night, and looking at the clothes with great disgust at the idea of wearing such things, said
Bayrn dan chione, doogh dan chione,
Cooat dan dreeym, doogh dan dreeym,
Breechyn dan tom, doogh dan tom,
Agh my she ihiat Gordon mooar,
Cha nee ihiat Glion reagh Rushen.
(Cap for the head, alas I poor head,
Coat for the back, alas ! poor back,
But if big Gordon [farm] is thine,
Breeches for the breech, alas I poor breech,
Thine is not the merry Glen of Rushen'
And off he went to Glen Rushen for good.
[ William Cashen was SM's friend - Miss Morrison was among those who were instrumental in forming the Manx Society (then styled the Manx Language Society), in March, 1899, and prior to that she had, in conjunction with the late Mr. W. Cashen and others, formed a class in Peel for the study of the Manx language - the tales recounted here appear in Cashen's own book on Folklore]
TESTIMONY FROM THE KEEPER OF PEEL CASTLE
From Mrs. Moores house I walked on to Peel, where I was fortunate in meeting, in his own home, Mr. William Cashen, the well-known keeper of the famous old Peel Castle, within whose yet solid battlements stands the one true round tower outside of Ireland. I heard first of all about the fairy dogthe Moddey Doo (Manx for Black Dog)which haunts the castle ; and then Mr. Cashen related to me the following anecdotes and tales about Manx fairies :
Prayer against the Fairies. My fathers and grandfathers idea was that the fairies tumbled out of the battlements of Heaven, falling earthward for three days and three nights as thick as hail ; and that one third of them fell into the sea, one third on the land,. and one third remained in the air, in which places they will remain till the Day of Judgement. The old Manx people always believed that this fall of the fairies was due to the first sin, pride ; and here is their prayer against the fairies :" Jee saue mee voish cloan ny moyrn " (God preserve me from the children of pride [or ambition]).
A Mans Two Wives. A Ballaleece woman was captured by the fairies ; and, soon afterwards, her husband took a new wife, thinking the first one gone for ever. But not long after the marriage, one night the first wife appeared to her former husband and said to him, and the second wife overheard her : " Youll sweep the barn clean, and mind there is not one straw left on the floor. Then stand by the door, and at a certain hour a company of people on horseback will ride in, and you lay hold of that bridle of the horse I am on, and dont let it go." He followed the directions carefully, but was unable to hold the horse : the second wife had put some straw on the barn floor under a bushel.
Sounds of Infinity. On Dalby Mountain, this side of Cronk-yn-Irree-Laa the old Manx people used to put their ears to the earth to hear the Sounds of Infinity (Sheean-ny- Feaynid), which were sounds like murmurs. They thought these sounds came from beings in space ; for in their belief all space is filled with invisible beings. '
TO THE MEMORY OF A MANX SCHOLAR
Since the following testimony was written down, its author, the late Mr. John Nelson, of Ramsey, has passed out of our realm of life into the realm invisible. He was one of the few Manxmen who knew the Manx language tradition really well, and the ancient traditions which it has preserved both orally and in books. In his kindly manner and with fervent loyalty toward all things Celtic, he gave me leave, during December 1909, to publish for the first time the interesting matter which follows ; and, with reverence, we here place it on record to his memory :
[John Nelson was another member of the Manx Language enthusiasts - he had had a varied careeer but before his death ran the Waterloo Hotel in Ramsey]
A Blinding by Fairies. My grandfather, William Nelson, was coming home from the herring fishing late at night, on the road near Jurby, when he saw in a pea-field, across a hedge, a great crowd of little fellows in red coats dancing and making music. And as he looked, an old woman from among them came up to him and spat in his eyes, saying: " Youll never see us again " ; and I am told that he was blind afterwards till the day of his death. He was certainly blind for fourteen years before his death, for I often had to lead him around ; but, of course, I am unable to say of my own knowledge that he became blind immediately after his strange experience, or if not until later in life ; but as a young man he certainly had good sight, and it was believed that, the fairies destroyed it.
The Fairy Tune. William Cain, of Glen Helen (formerly Rhenass), was going home in the evening across the mountains near Brooks Park, when he heard music down below in a glen, and saw there a great glass house like a palace, all lit up. He stopped to listen, and when he had the new tune he went home to practise it on his fiddle ; and recently he played the same fairy tune at Miss Sophia Morrisons Manx entertainment in Peel.
Manannan the Magician.Mr. Nelson told a story about a Buggane or Fenodyree, such as we already have, and explained the Glashtin as a water-bull, supposed to be a goblin half cow and half horse, and then offered this was a great magician, and that he used to place on the sea pea-shells, held open with sticks and with sticks for masts standing up in them, and then so magnify them that enemies beheld them as a strong fleet, and would not approach the island. Another tradition is that Manannan on his three legs (the Manx coat of arms) could travel from one end to the other of his isle with wonderful swiftness, moving like a wheel.
TESTIMONY OF A FARMER AND FISHERMAN
From the north of the island I returned to Peel, where I had arranged to meet new witnesses, and the first one of these is James Caugherty, a farmer and fisherman, born in Kirk Patrick fifty-eight years ago, who testified (in part) as follows :
Churn Worked by Fairies. Close by Glen Cam (Winding Glen), when I was a boy, our family often used to hear the empty churn working in the churn-house, when no person was near it, and they would say, " Oh, it 's the littlefellows." '
A Remarkable Changeling Story. Forty to fifty years ago, between St. Johns and Foxdale, a boy, with whom I often played, came to our house at nightfall to borrow some candles, and while he was on his way home across the hills he suddenly saw a little boy and a little woman coming after him. If he ran, they ran, and all the time they gained on him. Upon reaching home he was speechless, his hands were altered (turned awry), and his feet also, and his finger- nails had grown long in a minute. He remained that way a week. My father went to the boys mother and told her it wasnt Robby at all that she saw ; and when my father was for taking the tongs and burning the boy with a piece of glowing turf [as a changeling test], the boy screamed awfully. Then my father persuaded the mother to send a messenger to a doctor in the north near Ramsey " doing charms ", to see if she couldnt get Robby back. As the messenger was re- turning, the mother stepped out of the house to relieve him, and when she went into the house again her own Robby was there. As soon as Robby came to himself all right, he said a little woman and a little boy had followed him, and that just as he got home he was conscious of being taken away by them, but he didnt know where they came from nor where they took him. He was unable to tell more than this. Robby is alive yet, so far as I know ; he is Robert Christian, of Douglas.
EVIDENCE FROM A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF KEYS
Mr. T. C. Kermode, of Peel, member of the House of Keys, the Lower House of the Manx Parliament, very kindly dictated for my use the following statement concerning fairies which he himself has seen :
Reality of Fairies. There is much belief here in the island that there actually are fairies ; and I consider such belief based on an actual fact in nature, because of my own strange experience. About forty years ago, one October night, I and another young man were going to a kind of Manx harvest-home at Cronk-a-Voddy. On the Glen Helen road, just at the Beary Farm, as we walked along talking, my friend happened to look across the river (a small brook), and said : " Oh look, there are the fairies. Did you ever see them ? " I looked across the river and saw a circle of supernatural light, which I have now come to regard as the astral light " or . the light of Nature, as it is called by mystics, and in which spirits become visible. The spot where the light appeared was a flat space surrounded on the sides away from the river by banks formed by low hills; and into this space and the circle of light, from the surrounding sides apparently, I saw come in twos and threes a great crowd of little beings smaller than Tom Thumb and his wife. All of them, who appeared like soldiers, were dressed in red. They moved back and forth amid the circle of light, as they formed into order like troops drilling. I advised getting nearer to them, but my friend said, " No, Im going to the party." Then after we had looked at them a few minutes my friend struck the roadside wall with a stick and shouted, and we lost the vision and the light vanished.
The Manx Fairy-Faith. I have much evidence from old Manx people, who are entirely reliable and God-fearing, that they have seen the fairies hunting with hounds and horses, and on the sea in ships, and under other conditions, and that they have heard their music. They consider the fairies a complete nation or world in themselves, distinct from our world, but having habits and instincts like ours. Social organization among them is said to be similar to that among men, and they have their soldiers and commanders. Where the fairies actually exist the old people cannot tell, but they certainly believe that they can be seen here on earth.
TESTIMONY FROM A PAST PROVINCIAL GRAND MASTER
Mr. J. H. Kelly, Past Provincial Grand Master of the Isle of Man District of Oddfellows, a resident of Douglas, offers the following account of a curious psychical experience of his own, and attributes it to fairies :
A Strange Experience with Fairies. Twelve to thirteen years ago, on a clear moonlight night, about twelve oclock, I left Laxey ; and when about five miles from Douglas, at Ballagawne School, I heard talking, and was suddenly conscious of being in the midst of an invisible throng. As this strange feeling came over me, I saw coming up the road four figures as real to look upon as human beings, and of medium size, though I am certain they were not human. When these four, who seemed to be connected with the invisible throng, came out of the Garwick road into the main road, I passed into a by-road leading down to a very peaceful glen called Garwick Glen ; and I still had the same feeling that invisible beings were with me, and this continued for a mile. There was no fear or emotion or excitement, but perfect calm on my part. I followed the by-road; and when I began to mount a hill there was a sudden and strange quietness, and a sense of isolation came over me, as though the joy and peace of my life had departed with the invisible throng. From different personal experiences like this one, I am firmly of the opinion and belief that the fairies exist. One cannot say that they are wholly physical or wholly spiritual, but the impression left upon my mind is that they are an absolutely real order of beings not human. Invoking Little Manannan, son of Leirr, to give us safe passage across his watery domain, we now go southward to the nearest Brythonic country, the Land of Arthur, WALES.
1 ' May 11 = in Manx Ole Voaldyn, " May.day Eve. " On this evening the fairies were supposed to be peculiarly active. To propitiate them and to ward off the influence of evil spirits, and witches, who were also active at this time, green leaves or boughs and sumark or primrose flowers were strewn on the threshold, and branches of the cuirn or mountain ash made into small crosses without the aid of a knife, which was on no account to be used (steel or iron in any form being taboo to fairies and spirits), and stuck over the doors of the dwelling-houses and cow-houses. Cows were further protected from the same influences by having the Bollan-feaill.Eoin (Johns feast wort) placed in their stalls. This was also one of the occasions on which no one would give fire away, and on which fires were and are still lit on the hills to drive away the fairies. 'SOPHIA MORRISON.
2 I am wholly indebted to Miss Morrison for these Manx verses and their translation, which I have substituted for Mrs. Moores English rendering. Miss Morrison, after my return to Oxford, saw Mrs. Moore and took them down from her, a task I was not well fitted to do when the tale was told.
3 It has been suggested, and no doubt correctly, that these murmuring sounds heard on Dalby Mountain are due to the action of sea-waves, close at hand, washing over shifting masses of pebbles on the rock.bound shore. Though this be the true explanation of the phenomenon itself, it only proves the attribution of cause to be wrong, and not the underlying animistic conception of spiritual beings.
4 In this mythological role, Manannan is apparently a sun god or else the sun itself ; and the Manx coat of arms, which is connected with him, being a sun symbol, suggests to us now ages long prior to history, when the Isle of Man was a Sacred Isle dedicated to the cult of the Supreme God of Light and Life, and when all who dwelt thereon were regarded as the Children of the Sun.