[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]



THE so-called King Orry's Grave will be found in the sweetly clean, whitewashed village of Minorca, overlooking Old Laxey. The ancient burial-place, consisting of two chambers of huge stones, rudely cut, is of prehistoric date. The bones or the calcined ashes of no Orry King ever rested here.

Beyond Laxey Head wonderful views of mountain, wood, and rugged coast are obtained. Bulgham Bay is famous for shell-fish. Barony Hill revives old memories, much of this land being once the property of the Priory of St. Bee's, in Cumberland.

Returning from the summit of Snaefell, and proceeding on our northward journey, we reach the entrance to the Dhoon. Locally the mispronunciation is ' Dood'n'-two clear syllables, with the first D almost elided. It is also spoken of as ' Thoon' or Thune'-a close approximation to the Norse; but visitors, brushing aside all etymological technicalities, regard the h in such a position as unnecessary and unsoundable. Without any equivocation, therefore, the visitor gives it as ' Doon,' and everybody knows what he means-which cannot always be said of his struggles with Maughold, Lewaigue, or Ballaugh. The Glen is well worthy of a visit. It has many waterfalls, of which the chief are some 60 and 70 feet respectively.

The Dhoon granite-quarries are close at hand. Some day the docks of another Rosyth naval-base may be faced with hard granite quarried on this spot. (The steps of St. Paul's Cathedral were for centuries of Manx stone.)

Farther on we reach The Corony, the birthplace of Kennish, author of ' The Melliah,' or Harvest Home, and ' Oie'l Verrey,' a corruption of Oie feaill Voirrey' (Eve of Mary's Feast).

Ballaglass Glen is one of the sweetest glens of the island, and until recent years it was a veritable glimpse of paradise, wholly free from the intrusion of man's handiwork. I cannot pause to attempt any measure of justice to these exquisite sylvan retreats, which are truly the distinguishing glory of Man. I remember that the Rev. T. E. Brown, whose love for the island was a complete absorption, if not a religion, often made this the point of studious walk. Sometimes it was a rendezvous.

His joy in meeting old friends amid beautiful surroundings on such a day as is typical of our June was, as I well remember, as wonderful as it was exhilarating. His laughter was as heartsome as that of any boy, his conversation as vivacious as that of any girl, always with this difference: behind every look, every laugh, every word, there was a great heart, the tenderness of a woman with the wisdom and learning of an intellectual giant.

Glen Mona, another stopping-place, is a succession of surprises. Its unexplored beauty is its greatest charm.

Thereafter we leave the tramcar route at Ballajora to visit Kirk Maughold, where a wonderful collection of Runic crosses dating from the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries will be found under cover on the right of the churchyard gate. Of the church itself, and all the hallowed souls that gather round, what can I compress into a word or two ? If you wish to be rid of the world, of all its vain and strenuous strivings for what matters not a jot, come up here on Sunday evening, and let your spirit pass into that realm of ' higher absorption,' of which Brown speaks (` Letters,' i.152). I dare not attempt another defining word.

Wander over the face of the great headland-at some hazard, admittedly-with the salt spray from the waves breaking on the rocks below, leaping into our faces on the wings of the wind. Or let us sit down in such shelter from a friendly bush as we can find, leaving the ladies to search out for themselves a tiny well, variously called the Holy Well, St. Patrick's Well, St. Maughold's Well, and the Ladies' Wishing Well.

Narrow paths, in bewildering profusion, wind through the tall grass, heather, and pigmy gorse. But the true daughter of Eve does not lightly resign the quest that is hers alone, even though the blusterous gusts of wind, rushing over the surface of the sea and up the face of the headland, threaten her discomfiture. Near a narrow gate there are steps over the stone wall. A steep path through the bracken leads direct to the well.

Found at last! Now touch your lips with the waters of the crystal stream. Pay homage to the good fairies by dropping into the dark abyss anything of value-it need only be a halfpenny. or a farthing, or merely a pin, if you count your good luck of so little account-and you will return to Man within the twelve months a radiantly happy bride.

Favours there are to the bride. But observe caution. Drink not of the waters too deeply, or a year hence it may take both arms to hold the fairies' blessings.

Maughold has many historic and personal associations. It was here the early Christian missionaries from Iona made a settlement. Two or three centuries ago the Quakers came, but Lord Derby, gravely distrusting any form of faith of which he was not a revered head (he would not admit of appeals to York), made bitter war upon the unoffending people. He seized one of the leading converts by way of warning. William Callow was lodged in Peel Castle, and his offence was ` religious contumacy.'

Callow was a man of station, education, and influence; but even Prince Rupert, who interceded for him, could not induce the Lord of Man to relax the cruel punishment of banishment from the island. This was mild treatment, however, compared with that which the Quakers suffered elsewhere. Their offence, however, was not so much their religious views as their refusal to acknowledge royal or civil supremacy. The old Quaker cemetery above Ballajora is still an object of interest-and of neglected beauty too.

But there are many twists' in the pre-nuptial song,' and Callow did not go without his reward. The exile found sympathetic ears for his tale of suffering. Consolation came to him in marriage with a great heiress.

A sundial on the village green is inscribed ` Evd. Christian, A.D. 1666.' This Edward was the son of the Captain Christian whose name and fame are imperishably preserved by Scott in ' Peveril of the Peak.' '

Crowville is linked with the memory, not always of the tenderest, of Hugh, known throughout the West Indies aforetimes as ` Cap'n Crow,' or ' Mind your Eye Cap'n.' Our island and its near waters were not spacious enough for so daring an adventurer.

Cap'n Crow sailed from the Mersey to the West Coast of Africa, and there engaged in the cruel iniquities of the slave traffic; sailing thence with his human freight to the West Indies, where the half of his cargo that survived were engaged on the highly remunerative sugar plantations.

Massa Crow' was, I fear, more than a merely passive witness of certain of the nameless horrors of ' The Middle Passage.' He pictures himself as a paragon.

The exploits of the adventurous old seadog are recounted in the vivid, stirring pages of Mr. Gomer Williams, in a volume entitled ` The Liverpool Privateers,' a veritable storehouse of inspiration for the writer of boys' stories.

As to the present-day literary interest of this country-Kirk Maughold, Port Moar, Port-yVullin, Lewaigue, etc.-I need not say a word of what is so familiar. But I recall an incident as I write. The author, during a period of ill-health in his early manhood, filled up a gap by acting as master at the village school. In his leisure hours he wrote deeply serious articles for The Mona's Herald on questions that were European rather than insular in their interest. They were good enough to enlist the encouragement of John Ruskin.

The writer, however, then a budding architect, found more suitable occupation and a physical tonic in work in the open air. A man who could design houses ought to be able to build them. So he turned a hand, as practical mason, on a cottage on the main road, facing the old Hibernian Inn. A stone over the porch, on which 'Phoenix Cottage' was engraved, became in later years so much an object of scrutiny and comment on the part of visitors that the old lady inhabiting the little house became very angry. She deemed so much attention an intrusion, and had the face of the stone redressed.

We pick up the tram-route at Lewaigue, and after snatching a pretty panoramic view of the bay en route, we are in a few minutes in the heart of Ramsey town (I am quoting from Boosey's Manx National Songs,' edited by my fellowcountryman, Mr. W. H. Gill)

Ramsey Town, O Ramsey Town,
Shining by the sea!
Here's a health to my true love,
Wheresoe'er she be!'

"Twas once I loved a lass,
I swore I loved her true,
And that did I, so long as we
Held Ramsey still in view.

Her hair was like the gold,
Her eyes, like clouds, were grey;
We sailed away for the blazing south,
All on a summer day.

No grey eyes southward are,
Nor locks of curly gold,
But in the flash of eyes of jet,
Lies wealth of love untold.

My heart is not so small
To stop at one, good lack!
I'll love 'em all, or twenty such
Grey eyes, or brown, or black!'


back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2018