[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]
STATEMENT BY MR. R. S. CORLETT, H.K.
May 3rd. 1911.
Referring to the letter I wrote you yesterday re
evidence I wished, as all old member of the Keys, to
give before the Commission on Manx Reform, and
which you thought I should not be able to get in. as
there were so many others to hear.
I now think I had better take your advice and
" elaborate " what I had written to you yesterday, and
accept your kind offer to lay same before the Commission.
though I would much have preferred being cross-examined.
I have been to London for a week recently, and
could not get to Douglas the day I was booked to give
I wished especially to make clear to the Commission
the real bedrock reason for this Reform Cry in the
Isle of Man, and it has not been given to the Commission.
It is simply a question of Church v. Chapel.
Nonconformists, mostly Wesleyans, who represent
a good half of the population of the Isle of Man, are
very sore that three members of the Council (about
one-third of the whole) are there just because of their
being Churchmen,the Bishop and Archdeacon, appointed
by the Crown, the Vicar-General by the Bishop. On the
other hand one-third of the Keys are local preachers,
and these are the men who are fighting so hard for
Reform of the Council, and to get the Church of England
element reduced or taken away altogether.
Just to prove, in a way, the statement above, from
the actions of the Keys themselves, I give the Commission
the following facts.
In 1907, I think it was, a Committee of the Keys on
Reform was appointed. At that time there were, I think,
14 Nonconformists and 10 Churchmen in the Keys. In
selecting the Committee it was settled beforehand that
each member of it, should have a majority of the
House, 13 votes. The result was every man appointed
was a Nonconformist, except the Speaker, who at the
time was Mr. Moore ; he was appointed ex officio. Mr.
Hall Caine was one, he does not belong to the Church
of England, so I put him with the others.
Now I will take the last Committee of the Keys
appointed on Reform a few weeks ago, to prepare
evidence, &c., to lay before the Commission. Mr.
Crennell, member for Ramsey, fought hard to have
each of the Committee have 13 votes of the Keys
before appointment, which would mean the usual
packed Committee. This time the Keys were fairer, and
appointed Mr. J. D. Clucas and myself with five Non-
conformists (four of them local preachers, Mr. W. M.
Kerruish, Mr. W. Goldsmith, Mr. T. H. Cormode,
Mr. Joseph Qualtrough), and Mr. Crennell might be
fairly described as head of the Nonconformist body in
The seven members of Keys named were the
Committee appointed by the Keys. We met two
or three times, but as Mr. J. D. Clucas and myself
would not fall in with the views of the others
Mr. W. M. Kerruish formally proposed that we be
asked to resign. Mr. Cormode, member for Peel,
seconded, and said in doing so we were dishonourable
men in opposing the wishes of the Keys. The other
three supported. Mr. Crennell, of Ramsey, courteous
as usual, expressed pointedly that he did not consider
us dishonourable, but it was a pity we took the view we
I replied that the Keys knew my views when they
appointed me, and declined to resign unless asked to do
so by the Keys.
Mr. Kerruish then suggested we adjourn. I asked
them to name the day, and I should be there again.
Mr. Clucas, of course, also refused to resign.
It was then proposed that a sub-committee be
appointed of five members, to prepare evidence for
Mr. Kerruish (1), Mr. Goldsmith (2), Mr. Crennell
(3), Mr. Qualtrough, Mr. Cormode, were appointed, and
these have, at least three of them, 1, 2, 3, given
evidence (as representing the Keys). Dr. Marshall and
W. J. Corlett (five) have given evidence before you
and the whole body of them only represent ten members
of the Keys at the very most, as the Speaker held
more moderate views.
In our committee meeting, the members were (five
Nonconformists) in favour of only lay members acting on
an Advisory Council. I opposed this, which meant that
the Bishop, although allowed a seat on the Council, would
only be a kind of half member, an inferior member to
all the rest. Then a happy thought struck me, and I
said I would agree to the proposal. We would not
allow the Bishop on an Advisory Council, and at the
same time we would not allow any local preacher. As
the committee were nearly all " locals," this was rather
a shell amongst them, and Mr. Cormode, member for Peel,
replied after a long pause that I would not dare say
that in public-meaning I would endanger my seat in
the Keys. But I quite meant to tell the anecdote to the
Commission, and take my chance over my seat, even
though the Nonconformists of Ayre Sheading did put
me in the Keys.
I mention all this to show how parties stand here.
This political feeling of Church v. Chapel is stronger in
the Keys than anywhere else in the Island. The different
religious bodies are all on the best of terms, especially
in the country.
Now I tried to find a valid reason for retaining
Archdeacon and Vicar-General in Council, but I could
not, so years ago I spoke in favour of not allowing
them to sit there. I recognise the grievance of the
Nonconformists, and am in favour of that reform, even
though the Archdeacon is a personal friend living in
The energy of these Nonconformists in the Keys is
surpassing, also their strategy. Ten keen reformers a
minority against fourteen moderates, a good many of
them wishing for very little reform. One of the thirteen
gets in evidence, Mr. J. D. Clucas ; four of the minority
get heard. Church v. Chapel is now sufficiently elaborated."
Second Point.-I wished to refute Mr. Kerruish when
he said municipal government was better here than
national. I think the latter infinitely the better. Look
at our National Debt. In very few years (under ten) it
will be extinct probably. The towns are all very heavily
in debt, Douglas nearly 700,000l., and the other towns
in proportion; it takes nearly every third house in
almost every town to pay the rates. If the county was
ruled in such a way agriculture could not stand it, it
would be ruined.
Another of Mr. Kerruish's illustrations-Education.
Well, he was right as regards Higher Grade Schools
in the towns and Secondary Education there. But in
the ordinary Board Schools in the parishes the education
is wretched. A boy leaving school at fourteen years
can hardly do a rule-of-three sum. The system under
English Code is quite wrong ; we had a far better
education in our Parish Schools forty years ago, and
children attending school when they left school were far
better educated. It was not compulsory then, and
many were never at school. Now all get a smattering
of education. One illustration-a concrete case: A
workman complained to me bitterly because the Keys
compelled boys to go to school; his boys had been
going for six years, and they were not as well educated
as himself; he could read, write, and do sums far better
than his boys, and the father was only at school two
years, and in those two years he worked in the summer
at thinning turnips and in the harvest.
I went for two or three years to a school close to
here (St. Jude's) ; there was only one woman teacher.
I went until I was ten years, and when I left to go to
Ramsey Grammar School I could do rule-of-three sums
It was the system. In those days boys had lessons to
learn every night at home, which had to be said in the
morning. Now, even boys at fourteen years Have no les
sons to learn at night. The Isle of Man pays 30,000l. for
education in rates and grants, and gets no fair value for
it. In old days. forty years ago, the schoolmaster and
schoolmistress had to earn their living. If they could
not get the children on in their work, they would get no
children to teach. Now the enforcing officer drives all
the children to school, and whether they learn much or
little or nothing the schoolmaster and mistress draw
their salary whether they can teach or not.
Of course the masters have to pass exams, but
passing exams does not make teachers.
School Buildings.-The Council of Education, under
Whitehall Code, forced Ramsey, a poor little town. to
spend 11,000l. in building one board school. The
Attorney-General was on the Council of Education in
those days, and liked a building with an air of " education"
I went to the Ramsey Grammar School forty-five
years ago-it was one room-room for about sixty
boys, and the Rev. Head Master was an M.A., and
besides him a Frenchman taught French, a German
taught German and Latin, and boys at fifteen to sixteen
were well-up in Latin, Greek, French, and Euclid
and algebra; but we had to work two or three hours
3rd. The 10,000l. Mr. Crennell tried to reason away
and avoid paying towards the Army and Navy.-Personally,
there is nothing I am so willing to pay
towards, and the Manx people are loyal enough to pay
their fair share. A good many Manxmen are in the
Army and Navy. It would be unfair that we paid in
the same proportion as England, Ireland, or Scotland;
look at the enormous number of millions of money you
spend in labour every year, in making ships, guns, etc. ;
you contribute the money, yes, but you get any amount
of it back again in wages, we get nothing back; you
have a voice in the control, we have not a word to say,
only pay-a wonderful difference.
Look at the money you give to Ireland for all
manner of things.
4th. Crown Lands.-You get from 4,000l. to 5,000l.
from us yearly for these. I think you might give us
enough out of it to pay His Excellency's salary and
house, even though he is probably the most popular man
in the Isle of Man to-day. I and the majority of the
men in the Island hope he will be here for life, in spite
of what some people say-that talk the loudest.
5th. Our Main Industry, Agriculture. I have been
through various parts of England, Ireland, and Scot-
land, and nowhere will you see such a large proportion
of the land under cultivation in proportion to the
acreage or such a number of people employed on the
land; it is the backbone of the Isle of Man, and the
reason it is more prosperous here than in England,
Ireland, or Scotland is because we have less taxes to
pay-no income tax, land tax, death duties.
If these had to come out of the land, there would
be a margin left for cultivation; we would have to do
what they do in Ireland, turn the land into cattle
ranches, or as you do in England and Scotland. I
went from Liverpool, L.N.W., to Euston the other day.
What did I see most of the way ? Mostly grassland as
far as the eye could reach, and undrained grass at that
-rushes told me that, even at sixty miles an hour.
Here, every acre is cultivated except the hills that
will not pay to cultivate; they are a sheep-run, where
forty years ago grew turnips and oats.
I have farmed all my life, but I would not cultivate
a hill farm rent free. Then our low meadows are not
cultivated. For centuries these meadows have been dug
up and used as turf-you cannot have your cake and
In 1885 we had 100,000 acres under cultivation, now
we have 95,000; 5,000, the deficiency, is mostly hill land
gone under gorse, fern, ling, heather.
6th. Judges.-Far best leave them as they are. They
are generally speaking the best, the most independent,
the ablest members of the Manx Tynwald Court; they
do a beat deal of work on boards, committees, four
which they do not get one cent.
If some of them were only Nonconformists, you
would never have heard a word against them.
Speaking to some of my Nonconformist constituents,
I recommended there to breed a few Deemsters, Clerks
of Rolls, and Attorney-Generals (they have managed
to breed a Receiver-General) for the Council. If that
could be done there would be no grievance.
Mr. Elliott told me to elaborate (yesterday). I hope
I am not elaborating too much.
Still, I would like to name a few of the Council
that have lived in my time who were beyond doubt
the ablest men in the Tynwald Court in their
day, and generally the most popular all over the
Island, popular because of their independence, even
when we had rather despotic and strong-willed men
like Governor Lock, Ridgeway, Walpole. I refer to (the
little Deemster as he was nicknamed) Sir William
Drinkwater, Deemsters Dumbell, Sherwood, Gill, and
the present Clerk of Rolls, another of the same
It is quite true they have not enough work to do on
the Bench, but they help in other ways. Our judges get
1,000l. a year and little work; yours get 6,000l. and
plenty of work.
Take Archdeacon and Vicar-General out of Council,
have two elected in their place, one to represent Agriculture,
one the Visiting Industry, give the Keys a
little more power over the purse, and you will have
pleased the Isle of Man; and I do not think there is a
man in it that knows more Manx people than I do from
the Point of Ayre to the Calf of Man.
I am quite opposed to Death Duties here, they will
cost a great deal to collect, and mean very little when
The Keys got it through by a bare majority, and
then suspended the standing orders and had the Second
and Third Reading on the one day, a scandalous thing
with such an important business.
I challenged any sheading member to face his con-
stituents and fight for his seat on Death Duties question,
to resign my seat for. Ayre and my seat on the
Harbour Board, and fight any sheading member on his
own dunghill for his seat-the question to be Death
Duties and Old Age Pensions-as passed in our Acts.
No man ventured.
And still I am not against Old Age Pensions on
fair lines. Under our Act a man with 1,000l. in a bank
bringing in at 2 per cent. 20l. a year would get a
pension. If he sank his 1,000l. he would for the Isle of
Man be a rich man for life.
I suggested to the Keys the following way of rais-
ing some money for Old Age Pensions.
Real estate in the Island is estimated to be worth
9,000,000l. sterling, and it is mortgaged fully 5,000,000l.
The owners of real estate here pay heavy rates, the
moneyed man owning 5,000,000l. pays naught. I suggested
he should pay ½. per cent.; that is to say, suppose
A borrows 1,000 from B on his land at 4 per cent.
interest, when the time comes for A to pay his interest
40l.. then B should put on a sovereign receipt stamp
-if the amount was 500l. then 10s. stamp-the money
would cost nothing to collect almost, because a receipt
would be useless without the stamp. We would then
raise 5,000l. a year towards Old Age Pensions, from a,
class that do not contribute a penny to the Isle of Man.
(Signed) R. S. CORLETT, H.K.