[From Chrononhotonthologos, Phantasmagoria. Cotillions and Supper Entertainment in the Isle of Man 1793-1820 ]
Manx Worthies complied by A. W. Moore, "John Christian Curwen (1756 -1828) was the eldest son of John Christian of Ewanrigg and Milntown, and Jane, eldest daughter of Eldred Curwen of Workington Hall He was educated at Eton and Cambridge. He first married Margaret, daughter of John Taubman in 1776; she died in 1778 and he later married his first cousin, Isabella Curwen, in 1782. He was elected M. P. for Carlisle in 1786." Moore states that he changed his name in 1791 to Curwen but the Cumberland Pacquet refers to him as Mr. Curwen during the reports on the Rights of the Isle of Man Bill 1790. "Nor, notwithstanding his Parliamentary labours, did he forget his native island. He was a member of the House of the Keys, and took a leading part in opposing the claims of the Duke of Atholl in that house, as well as in Parliament." He was successful and the Islanders wined and dined him.
The Cumberland Newspaper dated the 15th of September 1790 reports the celebrations in the Island following the defeat of the Duke's claims,
"Isle of Man. The following is the substance of a variety of intelligence transmitted to us, relative to the Manx Gala.
Mr. Curwen and his lady, (with the others of their party, as mentioned in our last) arrived at Douglas, in the Prince Edward cutter, (Capt Cooke) at two o'clock on Sunday morning, the 5th instant. Their approach was announced by firing a salute from the cutter, which gave intelligence to the inhabitants, many of whom, notwithstanding the early hour of their landing, attended to welcome the Defender of their Rights, and his company; who were immediately escorted to the Nunnery, the seat of Capt. Taubman, which is only divided from the town of Douglas, by the river, over which a new stone-bridge was lately erected.
As a testimony of esteem and gratitude, for the eminent services rendered by Mr. Curwen to the Isle of Man, in the last session of Parliament, it had been previously resolved to honour that gentleman's visit, by a general illumination: which, accordingly took place on Monday evening. The inhabitants seemed to vie with each other in this demonstration of their respect, and the whole formed a very fine and brilliant appearance; exhibiting in many places, striking and suitable devices, too numerous for us to particularise; and less necessary to be related, as an equal zeal for the occasion was evident, however the mode of expressing it might be varied by the ability to opportunity of individuals.
Amongst the objects, most distinguished for the splendour, was the new foot-bridge, the parapets of which were lighted with by an hundred torches, or flambeaux, under the direction of, and at expense of Mr. Woodhouse, a gentleman belonging to Liverpool. A great number of bonfires also presented themselves in different places; the night was particularly favourable, being clear and serene; and the tide being in, the reflection of the lights upon the surface of the water, and both a surprising and agreeable effect.
At eight o'clock, when the scene was the most refulgent, and people were giving a loose to their triumph in loud and repeated acclamations, Mr. and Mrs. Curwen, with other strangers, Capt. Taubman and a great number of ladies and gentlemen belonging to the Island, walked into town, and upon the quay. It is needless to observe that they appeared highly delighted with the joy that shone forth in every countenance, and in every place. - The shouts of applause, which resounded from the greatest multitude, ever seen in Douglas, accompanied the party in their perambulation through every part of the town; - and, on their return, over the bridge, the populace took down the flambeaux, and lighted the company to the Nunnery; - Mr. Curwen ordered several barrels of ale to the market-cross, where the populace were regaled, and the health of the Manxmen's Friend went round with every mark of the proudest exultation. Several select parties met in town, to commemorate the occasion which gave birth to this public festivity; amongst whom many applicable toasts were drunk, expressive of their loyalty to His Majesty's person and government; respect to the Honourable House of Commons; and their particular obligation to Mr. Curwen, and other members who so nobly defended the Rights of Mona.
Mr and Mrs. Curwen were expected at Castletown, on Monday; where preparations had been made to give them a reception that should correspond with the public celebrity already mentioned, and evince the uniform sentiments and applause of the islanders. - Of this, in our next."
The festivities continued into the following week when Mr. Curwen was again wined and dined at Castletown, Ramsey and Peel. The Cumberland newspaper reports on 22nd September that the illuminations at Castletown outdid Douglas except that the Douglas bridge could not be outdone. A week later the newspaper reports the progress to Ramsey where (he) was saluted with seven guns (eighteen pounders) and the town was illuminated at night. Back in Douglas, "he gave a ball and cold collation on Friday evening, which exceeded any kind ever seen there. The company amounted to more than two hundred and fifty of both sexes. - The first country-dance was led off by Mr. Curwen and Mrs. Cosnahan, the bride", so reports the Newspaper issued on 29th September.
In June 1794 the Mercury was pleased to announce that the King's birthday had, "This day was observed here as usual with every demonstration of joy and attachment to the throne. About eleven o'clock the detachment of General Douglas's Regiment paraded at the Hills,where they fired three volleys, (volleys) which were answered by a detachment of Fencibles drawn up in the market-place. The officers had an elegant dinner prepared at the Hotel and the greatest loyalty and harmony prevailed. In the evening a little firework was displayed at the theatre. All the officers, attended by their band, entered the house in procession, and were joined by the performers on the stage in `God Save the King,' which was chorused by all the auditory. The Manager, as President of the Catch Club, gave several loyal toasts, which were warmly applauded; - viz.
1st The triumph of the day - The King's most sacred Majesty
Long may he reign with increasing splendour and prosperity over a truly amiable and happy people.
2nd The Queen and Royal Progeny and may this auspicious day long return to them with undiminished blessings
3rd The Three Boasts of Britain, the delicacy of women, the loyalty of men and the constitution of the country, - and may he never live to enjoy the blessings, who would not die in their defence.
4th The land we live in.
5th Success to the British Army abroad and to the smile that prepares the rewarding laurel at home.
6th The Ladies Catch Club and cardinal supporters of it. - Wit, Beauty and Wine &c.,&c.,&c."
Not to be outdone by Douglas, Castletown held a similar celebration. "In honour of this day the Royal Manx Fencibles and a detachment of Lord Douglas's Regiment were drawn up at the market place, where the former fired three vollies (volleys) with singular steadiness and regularity. In the evening a brilliant Ball was given by the gentlemen of the town and its vicinity, consisting of a genteel and numerous company whose mutual endeavours to please were extremely successful.
In addition to the honour and entertainment for the night was composed and sung by a gentleman of the party, the following song, which was chorused by the whole company with that spirit which fully convinced the loyalty of their sentiments. The song was encored, and concluded with three hearty cheers.
A Song to the tune of Rule Britannia, `In Honour of His Majesty's Birthday."'
"In August 1807 the King's birthday was observed with a suitable demonstration of loyalty. The Manx Fencible and Volunteer regiments fired volleys in honour of the day and dinner parties were formed and a splendid Ball was held."
Two years later in 1809 a Ball to celebrate the same event was reported by the newspaper; it took place at the Assembly Room. This must have been organized by the Assembly Committee as the advertisement carries the names of the Assembly Stewards. The King's birthday was again celebrated in 1810, 1812 and in June 1816 the armed Schooner the Alban which was lying in the bay fired a royal salute. The day ended with a Ball held in the evening.
The Newspaper issued on the 29th October 1793 reported on the King's Ascension to the throne being commemorated by, "an agreeable party of gentlemen met in the evening in Mr. Twenyman's long room where an elegant supper was provided. After the cloth was removed. - Mr. Samuel Boardman in the chair, - the following loyal toasts were given: - The King - The Queen and the Royal Family - Commanders of Toulon, - Armies of Great Britain, &c., &c. The evening was spent in the greatest harmony; and the company broke up at an early hour.
"The King's Accession Ball was held on the 25th October 1809 to commemorate His 50 t` Anniversary and was well reported affair being celebrated throughout the whole Island with more than usual demonstrations of joy. In the morning an excellent sermon was preached in St. George's Chapel by the Rev Mr. Howard from Psalm xxi,ver.24, 'Thou gavest him long life.' - Afterwards the Fencibles and Volunteer
Corps fired a feu de joie and several public dinner parties were formed upon the occasion."
"At Castletown a most numerous and respectable assembly of gentlemen were collected from all parts of the Island; and after hearing an appropriate sermon, by the Rev. Mr. Brown, from the following words: `His enemies will I clothe with shame; but upon himself shall his crown flourish,' Ps. cxxxii. verse 18. A subscription was opened and they distributed to the poor six quarters of beef, and six barrels of ale, to enable them to partake of the festivity of the day. The company then returned to the George Inn where a dinner was prepared. In compliance with the unanimous request Deemster Lace took the chair. Universal harmony and good humour prevailed throughout the evening; several appropriate songs were sung and the following toasts drank with fervent loyalty and affection toasts honoured concluded with, `The Constitution and may we never want spirit to support or power to defend it. Many other loyal toasts were given, which we regret of our limited paper prevent us inserting.' (Manx Advertiser)."
Peel ran a similar event on 26th October and titled "Grand Dinner", at Mr. Sutherland's, The Lord Nelson's Tavern. Tickets were priced at 5s each which sounds a bargain as this included a bottle of port wine! The dinner was served at 3 o'clock precisely.
The Douglas Assembly Committee advertised a Subscription Ball to celebrate the Accession of King George III to the throne the following year on Tuesday 25th October 1814. The Advertiser reports that the occasion was, "a splendid affair at the Assembly Room on the occasion of the King's fifty-five year of his reign; the longest rein of any British Sovereign, except that of Henry III who ascended the throne the 19 October 1216 and died aged 65, having reigned 56 years and 28 days."
In December 1793, "the anniversary of St, Andrew, all the north Britons of the Island met, agreeably to appointment, at Mr. Bean's, where an elegant dinner was prepared. After the cloth was removed, several loyal toasts were given; - amongst which were, The King, - Prince of Wales - Queen and the Royal Family. - Commanders of Toulon, the British Armies, &c, &c. &c. Several gentlemen of the town where invited to partake of the festivity; and the greatest order and harmony prevailed. The company (upwards of fifty in number) broke up about eleven o'clock, after duly electing, Mr. Alexander M'Clure the representative of St. Andrew for the ensuing year."
The newspaper refers to those residing in Douglas and its neighbourhood, of Scottish forebears, as the "Sons of Caledonia" and they celebrated their tutelary Saint's Day again on Saturday 30th November 1811 at the house of Mr. Glendenning in Chapel Lane, Douglas. The advertisement stated that a most respectable person would be in the Chair and dinner would be on the table at half-past three o'clock.
Great excitement followed the news that the French Fleet had been defeated in June 1794,
"The news of the defeat of the French fleet was, in this Island, first at Ramsey. So anxious were the public to be informed of the (issue?) of an event so highly interesting, that on seeing some vessels passing the bay, two gentlemen of that place took a boat in which they boarded the Felicity of Workington from the captain of which they got the intelligence. An express was immediately sent to the Governor, at Castletown to inform him of the circumstance. We hear that there were great rejoicings in Castletown on Wednesday on account of the late victory."
The Mercury dated the 21st June 1794 reported the rejoicing,
"Ramsey June 17th On Saturday last an authentic account of the glorious defeat of the French fleet having been received from a vessel passing the bay, the park of cannon were fired, and the inhabitants, by loud huzzas, testified their sentiments of loyalty. On Tuesday evening there was a Ball and on Wednesday the Gazette account was received here from Whitehaven when the Fencibles fired three vollies (volleys) (like their hearts) in perfect union. In the evening bonfires blazed on the adjacent hills, and in the town a general and brilliant illumination took place glowing forth as it were the lustre that has shone on His Majesty's arms.
"Peeltown June 19th on account of the splendid victory obtained over the French by Earl Howe, yesterday was observed here with most distinguished marks of loyalty. About I I o'clock the Fencibles were drawn up in the market-place where they fired a feu de joys with the precision and exactness which marked them on a former occasion. Immediately after, a discharge of 21 guns was given from the 24 pounders in the battery: - they were fired by a gentleman of the town, under the direction of a distinguished naval officer. In the evening a general illumination took place; and, to pay a suitable tribute to an event so highly honourable to the British Flag, the gentlemen of the town had an elegant supper prepared at the inn, at which the greatest harmony prevailed. A number of loyal toasts went round, and indeed, the evening was spent in a manner highly becoming so glorious an occasion. General Douglas's regiment fired a feau de joye at the Hills, on Wednesday, with great precision and exactness.
In 1794 Earl Howe obtained victory over the French Fleet and this gave cause for celebration in the month of June and the town of Douglas was set alight with displays of colours throughout the street and on the vessels in the harbour, canon salutes and fireworks were let off and an illumination succeeded. "In the morning colours were displayed..........., and the whole place seemed to be entirely absorbed in the heart- exhilarating ideas arising to every honest heart from so glorious an event: - and in the evening the Fencibles fired a feau (feu) de joys in the market place. A general illumination immediately succeeded which, in point of brilliancy, far surpassed any seen here before. Several pieces of firework were also exhibited at the Rendezvous and in the Market-place; - and, to crown all, several respectable parties were formed, in which the grateful effusions of a loyal and happy people sufficiently evinced the general joy."
"It is worthy of remark, that at our theatre on Thursday evening, though the gentleman whose benefit it was, absolutely had a pantomime of the Surrender of Valenciennes got up purposely to be in uniform with the times, and gave a recent instance of British valour; - though he really prepared a variety of excellent firework, and displayed them gratis at the cross the preceding evening, in honour of the late naval victory, - and what is still more in his favour, though he is as an individual, a worthy member of society, and for his services here might possibly merit a more liberal share of public favour, - yet, the receipt of the house was upwards of a guinea less than expences. (expenses) Will a liberal public find no method of making up the deficiency?"
The Cumberland Pacquet dated the 22nd of February 1799 reports the celebration of "Queen's Birth Day. - Friday last, being the day observed as the anniversary of Her Majesty's birth, the Douglas Independent Volunteer (Isle of Mann) assembled at two o'clock, upon the parade, and march from hence in a procession, with colours flying, drums beating &c. to the Nunnery, near that town, from thence they escorted their commanding officer, Major Taubman, to the assembly-room, where an elegant dinner was provided for him and the other officers, as an acknowledgement of that kind attention which the Major has shown (shown) to that very respectable corps: - which he had the merit of raising entirely from his own interest. The entertainment was conducted with equal unanimity and propriety: and its conviviality such as might as be expected to spring from sentiments of mutual esteem and generosity. - Amongst a variety of loyal and popular toasts were the following: - "The King, the Queen and the Royal Family: 2 - "The British Army and Navy:" - "The General and Admirals, who deserve every honour of their Country; &c, &c." - The evening concluded with an elegant ball."
The Queen's birthday was again in the papers in 1804 and 1805. In 1804, "Wednesday last, being the Queen's birth-day, the battalion of Manx Fencibles, commanded by Lord Henry Murray, fired a fire de joie, in honour of the day. - The 1804 Ball was held at the Assembly Room, attended by very numerous and genteel company; who partook of an elegant supper, provided for the occasion, and the utmost conviviality prevailed." And in 1805, "Yesterday being the anniversary of the Queen's birth, was observed here with every demonstration of respect - The Loyal Douglas Volunteers were called out in the afternoon, and marched to the south side of the harbour, on the road leading to Fort Ann, where they fired three rounds of feu de joie, and three excellent volleys, -- There was a splendid ball given in the evening, at which his Grace the Duke of Atholl, and Miss Murray (his daughter), were present." The following week the Advertiser had to print an apology for an error in their recording of the event as it wasn't the Hon. Miss Murray who attended but her mother the Lady Emily.
The 18th of August 1804 was a night to remember when a sumptuous Ball and supper was organised by the gentlemen of Douglas and its vicinity to compliment Lord Murray on his appointment as Governor of the Island. One hundred and fifty gentlemen with their ladies attended - the Manx Advertiser goes as far to record that, "indeed we never witnessed such an assemblage of female beauty in this Island - all vying with each other in taste, fashion, and of elegant dress."
At 8 o'clock the guest of honour entered the ballroom led by Lord and Lady Henry Murray and the Honourable Miss Murray. The company immediately rose to their feet and the band stuck up that favourite air, "God Save the King"
"Soon afterwards the dancing commenced, and continued with great spirit till twelve o' clock when an excellent supper, consisting of every delicacy of the season, was served up in great stile (style), followed by desert of the choicest fruits.
"After several loyal toasts, the health of the Lord and Lady Murray was given by one of the Stewards, which was drunk with great enthusiasm and applause."
There was some opposition to Lord Henry's appointment as Governor to which he referred in his after dinner speech, "His Lordship rose and expressed the high sense he felt of the honour conferred upon him, which was doubly gratifying to his feelings, as a false malicious report had been propagated, that his recent appointment to the Government of this Island, was contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants (No-one asked the 30,000 peasants I suppose.)- a report, which such an assemblage of beauty and worth of the Island most completely refuted. He at the same conduct might merit continuance of their approbation and favour, than which nothing could give him greater satisfaction". The speech went down well with the gathered company for the newspaper reports that it was received with the most abounded bursts of applause by all present.
During the evening there were several excellent songs rendered by several gentlemen and the company did not break up until nearly 4 o'clock the next morning.
August 1807 saw a celebration and dinner to honour of the Prince of Wales' birth-day when the officers of the Royal Manx Fencibles dined together.
Because of the insanity of his father, George III, the Prince George was inducted as Prince Regent in 1811. The annual celebration of the Prince's birthday was now advertised under his new title. The Prince Regent's Birthday was honoured in 1813, 1816, 1817, and 1818.
Castletown honoured the Prince Regent's birthday in August 1813 with "a supper which was in every respect suitable to the occasion." The Advertiser reports, "beauty and loyalty stood rivals, and mirth and good humour crowded the feast." August 1816
the Prince Regent's birthday was again observed with the usual pomp with the colours being flown on flag-masts and the vessels in the harbour, one of which was His Majesty's Schooner, the Alban, captained by Capt. Parren. At 12 o'clock the Alban fired the guns. A Ball was again held in the evening. On his birthday in August 1818 the colour, as usual on such occasions, was displayed at the tower of Castle Mona. The royal ensign also waved on the Pier-head, and several vessels in the harbour hoisted their respective flags.
There must have been sufficient Irishmen resident in the Island, possibly in the local military, to honour St. Patrick's Day for three references, 1807, 1812 and 1813, were noted marking the occasion. In 1807 the celebration was held at the Globe Tavern on the 17th March at the cost of l 0s.6d, Sir J. R. Piers being in the Chair.
It was reported in the Advertiser of the 7th March that, "Tuesday, being the anniversary of St. Patrick, was observed by the Irish gentlemen resident of this town, and several dinner parties were formed to commemorate the memory of their tutelary Saint. The dawn was ushered in by the regimental fifes and drums, who beat `St. Patrick's Day in the Morning' through the town; and the evening closed with repetition of it by the Band of the Manx Fencibles."
The Irish Officers remembered the ordinary ranks on this occasion by opening a subscription so that the soldiers in barracks were enabled to partake of the hilarity of the evening.
A short note in the same newspaper the following year, 1813, reported that the Irish gentlemen commemorated their tutelary Saint.
July 1809 "the anniversary of His Grace the Duke of Athol's birth a large party dined with His Grace at Castle Mona and a Ball was given in the evening, to which a number of inhabitants were invited. - The dancing continued until 3 o'clock this morning."
In the early months of 1814 the allied armies had gained ground in Europe and Napoleon had been defeated and captured. The local nobility and gentry felt they should express their feeling of national pride and dinner parties were arranged in Castletown, Ramsey and Douglas. The Manx Advertiser for the 16th April 1814 reported that on Monday night at 12 o'clock an attendance of about fifty ladies and gentlemen sat down to an elegant supper at a Ball held in the George Inn, Castletown at which Colonel Cunningham presided as Chairman. (A Midnight Supper and Ball) After supper a number of appropriate toasts were proposed starting with the King, (the national air "God Save the King" being sung), the Prince Regent, and the Royal Family; then came the Royal Families of Russian, Austrian, Prussian and France, followed by Field Marshall and Marquis of Wellington, then the Army and Navy, concluding with the Governor. The newspaper reports that, "The utmost hilarity prevailed on the occasion, and the company did not break up until a late hour."
A similar event took place at Ramsey on the Wednesday evening organized by the military gentlemen of Ramsey and it vicinity. They met at the Court House for an excellent dinner provided by Mr. Richardson, "in celebration of late glorious and decisive success obtained by allied arms over the tyrant of France and the prospect of a speedy, honourable, and permanent peace". Capt. Snowe took the chair and the evening was spent in the utmost conviviality and many loyal songs sung. The same official toast list as given at the Castletown event was honoured by the guests on this occasion with the addition of "The immortal memory of Pitt, Nelson and Moreau, and all the brave men who have fallen in glorious contest for the emancipation of Europe - The Allied Nations, who so bravely persevered in conquering despotism and many succeeding generations imitate their patriotic example".
Douglas had its celebration dinner the following night at which 80 gentlemen dined at the spacious and elegant room belong to Messrs Edward and James Moore in Duke Street. They sat down to an excellent supper provided by Mr. Dixon of the British Hotel; "The tables were profusely supplied with the choicest viands, and every delicacy of the season; the wines were excellent and abundant." The party composed of the principal inhabitants of the town together with a number of gentlemen from Castletown who favoured the meeting. The president was the Hon. Deemster Crellin and the vice-president was Thomas Gawne Esq. When the meal was finished the Chairman rose and gave an appropriate speech followed by the usual loyal toasts as honoured at the other events in Castletown and Ramsey. The proceedings continued with, "The whole of the company seemed to entertain a lively sense of the proud triumphs they were met to celebrate and the evening passed off with the greatest harmony and conviviality,"
Reports of peace in Europe stirred up the local Gentry to form a Committee to arrange a celebration in the form of a Grand Insular Fete in Douglas and a dinner was planned to take place at the British Hotel, Douglas on the 21 st June 1814 but had to be cancelled because the ratification or proclamation of peace had not been officially announced in the Island.
The Committee held a meeting on 14th June to discuss the matter; William Scott Esq. was unanimously voted into the Chair, the Secretary was John Caesar Gelling who was charged with ascertaining from the Lieutenant Governor when the announcement would be made and where His Excellency thought the Insular Fete should be held. The meeting was adjourned until 22nd June.
It is not clear from the newspaper report in the Manx Advertiser dated 25th June but it would appear that the idea of a Grand Insular Fete was abandoned. However the Committee, at its meeting on the 22nd June, decided that the moment should not pass without some sort of celebration to commemorate the return of peace. An advertisement appeared in the newspaper under the heading "Snaefell Boven", stating that on the 1st July an Assembly would be held on the summit of Snaefell and a cold collation arranged for 2 p.m. to be provided by Mr. Dixon of the British Hotel,
Douglas at the cost of 10s.6d each for gentlemen and 5s for ladies. There would also be a band to play music and a special event of an air balloon ascent. I can find no reference to the word Boven. It may refer to some "out of the way and difficult place to get to" and therefore a tongue in cheek remark regarding access to Snaefell.
Mr. Dixon and the Committee must have been accomplished gentlemen to have organized the celebration meal on the top of Snaefell. The newspaper reported the following day that a tent was erected in which the meal was served. It must have been a large tent to accommodated one hundred and seventeen persons sitting down to the meal. Everything would have to have been transported to the top of the Mountain; the tent, the tables and chairs, food and beverages, catering staff, the band of musicians, the guides, and grooms to look after the carriages and horses. I would imagine that the furniture and other equipment would have been carted to the summit the day, or days before the event and the perishables transported on the day. This was the age of horses and carts and long before there were any decent infrastructure only the unmade mountain roads connecting the four major towns.
There was obvious concern among the ladies and gentlemen about the journey to the top of Snaefell. The Gentlemen's Committee had covered this point having dispatched four gentlemen from Douglas on the 24th June to report on the tracks leading to the summit. The newspaper advertisement stated that these gentlemen considered that the base of the mountain was accessible by carriage and the last quarter mile manageable on horseback. The gentry with farming or mining interests may have ventured on to the mountain range but to the town dwellers it must have seemed quite an adventure; maybe the romantics looked forward to the beauty of the hills and glens, the mountain streams and the wildness of nature, a journey to be experienced. However I deduce from the advertisement that many of the party did not know how to get there. The Committee therefore provided guides, placing them at strategic points on the various roads leading to the Snaefell Mountain and at the final ascent. Nevertheless it must have taken the carriages more than a few hours from the towns to reach the foot of the mountain; perhaps they had to stop at the steepest roads, the gentlemen alighting to make the carriages lighter for the horses. Progress would have been slow at the steepest parts and the horses would have been driven in a zig zag pattern across tracks to make the assent less arduous. As the carriages and horses made there way along the potholed roads the towns would soon be left behind, the houses become fewer and the roads rougher. The adventurers would notice the sod hedges filled with summer flowers and see in the smoking chimneys of distance farm houses snuggling into the folds in the hills. They would see the sod houses in the corners of fields betraying the peasant homes. Perhaps barefooted children ran from their homes to see the fine carriages and ladies and gentlemen on horseback. "Cred t'ad golf?", "Where are they going?" the children may have called to each other. "It's in the Gaelic language", one of the knowledgeable gentlemen may have explained to the ladies. The children would have watched in awe as the grand procession passed like a carnival; such marvellous carriages, fine horses and smartly dressed people. "They must be important, but where are they going?" the children may have discussed among themselves. If they had been told about the pique-nique I daresay they would have wondered why anyone would wish to have a meal on the top of Snaefell. Soon the children would have got fed up following the procession and run back home to tell their families the wonders they had seen. When the mountain range came into view the company would have noticed the sheep that filled every part of the heath. As they looked down into the valleys they would see the crops of barley and oats forming the patchwork of fields. On the steep upper slopes the smaller fields of crofters clinging to the hillsides. Then someone may have pointed to the goal of the journey, Snaefell, standing higher than all other hills. As they came closer the summit seemed much steeper than imaged by some. On arriving at the base of the mountain, those who had travelled by carriage would have to switch to horseback to gain the summit. Did they bring their ponies with them or did Mr. Dixon have mounts waiting? We can picture the ladies and gentlemen, leaving their carriages with the grooms and mounting their ponies to start their trek up the winding track to the summit. The sheep with their lambs scattered before them and the scuds of a rabbits disappeared into holes in the turf. They may have noticed the stacks of peat piled like small brick walls and enquired what they were for and the guide would tell them that the country folk used the peat turfs for heating and cooking. After they had circled the mountain following the steep track they arrived at the summit where the refreshment tent had been pitched. Dismounting from the ponies they climbed to the highest point and stared out to sea, if the vagaries of the weather had permitted them. The intrepid modern trekker will know from experience that there are few fine, calm days to be enjoyed at the summit of Snaefell and I can't believe that in that summer of 1814 the weather would have been any kinder than a day in July today. However the report in the newspaper on 2°d July says that the weather was favourable. If the weather was clear at the summit they would have see the four Kingdoms that made up Great Britain, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. No doubt many had brought their telescopes and trained them on the distant coastlands searching for landmarks to point out to friends and family; sailing ships, sloops and schooners plying the Irish Sea even one of those new steam powered ships might have been spotted.
At two o'clock the assembly was summonsed to the tent and, when seated, a cold collation supplied by Mr. Dixon and his staff. When the meal was over the usual custom of proposing a number of toasts would have been honoured, similar to those made at the "victory" dinners held in April of the same year. Following the toasts the band played suitable airs of the day and most probably ending with "God save the King".
The special entertainment of the day was to have been the ascent of an air balloon from the summit of the Mountain but the newspaper report said that there was an accident and the event did not take place.
When the assembly was over the gentry made their way back down the mountain track and then a weary journey home. A brilliant time was had by all according to the Manx Advertiser which used the word "ëclat" in its description.
The logistics of trying to recreate that day out today would be enormous and the cost prohibitive if you think what l 0s. 6d would be the equivalent sum of money two hundred years later. The only guideline I can find is that a labourer could be employed for I s for a days work.
What appears to be a "match maker's ball" in October 1806, was the elegant ball and dinner given at the Assembly Room, Douglas by the Gentlemen Singers of St. George's Choir for the purpose of sounding certain fair nymphs and turning their hearts to the deities of love.
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The
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