[taken from Chapter 9 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]

THOMAS SHIMMIN (d. circa 1876),

commonly known as "Tom the Dipper," combined the functions of rag-gatherer and poet. During his early life his headquarters were at Port Erin., from whence he sallied forth with his donkey cart which bore his name and the legend " True Manninagh" (True Manxman). In his later days he erected, by permission of the High-Bailiff of Castletown, and with the help of his wife, a small cottage on the mountain, near Ballakilpheric. With reference to this dwelling he remarks in a footnote to one of his poems: -

I will now conclude by saying, as the Queen of Sheba said, when she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to see and hear the wisdom of Solomon: "But a greater than Solomon was here," for he with all his kingly power and riches never built a cottage in the heather and left it to the poor(!)

His numerous doggerel effusions were occasionally in Manx, but more often in English. One of the former is Yn Coayl jeh'n Lillee, "The Loss of the Lily," a vessel which was blown up, with loss of many lives, at Kitterland, in December, 1852. Of his English poems the two most remarkable are those on the " Happy Marriage of the Prince of Wales," and "The Royal Manx Railway, or £5 of wit for a penny." A specimen of the former will suffice to show his style :-

But the despised metropolis,
I call it Castletown,
Although the Governor were amiss,
In honour did abound;
'Twas not alone the poor were fed,
But tradesmen and there spouse,
To the Town Hall were freely led,
And quickly filled the house.


So long live good Queen Victoria,
Likewise the Prince of Wales,
May Britain prove victorious,
And tell her wondrous tales.

It will be perceived that he considered the exigencies of rhyme more important than those of grammar or sense.

A slightly more disreputable story is told by Hampton Creer - Thomas Shimmin was convicted, in 1843, of theft of nets and rope and sentenced to transportation. He was sent to the hulk Justicia but was pardoned and released in July 1847. Having become something of a preacher and teacher on board the hulk, he continued when he returned to the Island. However he was not fully reformed and was again convicted of theft in 1851 and landed back in gaol. Died in June 1879 from a severe cold; buried in a pauper's grave.

 Hampton Creer Never to Return Douglas: Manx Heritage Foundation 2000 (ISBN 0-952-4019-7-5)

J A Brown refers to him as a smuggler (of rum) and a notorious liar.

[The cottage is now removed though there is a plaque on the spot]


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