[From Vannin Lior (Yn Lioar Manninagh) Vol 1 No 1 pp1/3]
P. M. C. KERMODE.
(Read 22nd March, 188o.)
WHAT is meant by Natural History? For the purposes of our Society we may include in the term the investigation of all natural objects, organic and inorganic, and divide the subje6t into several branches: the organic, relating to Botany and Zoology, the inorganic, to Geology and Mineralogy. Each of these main branches is subdivided into numerous others, of which each one in itself offers a wide and interesting field for research.
We cannot if we would, avoid becoming more or less acquainted with the habits and economy of animals and vegetables. Were agriculturists and horticulturists more closely to study the habits of insects, birds, and animals, they would not fall into the error of destroying those that render the greatest service by keeping in check others that are mischievous and hurtful. There are very few birds whose consumption of innumerable injurious grubs and insects, does not amply compensate for any mischief they may do to growing crops, fruit, or flowers. Were the naturalist to do nothing but catalogue the insects, birds, and animals injurious to cultivation, and point out the methods by which those that are serviceable to man might be readily distinguished from those that are the reverse, he would deserve well of his country. Besides the interest and value of the naturalists' researches into all depart ments of animal life, his study of plant life has been and ever will be attended with great practical benefit to the human race. But this is not all. The knowledge of Mineralogy is importance to the growth and wealth of nations of Mann where the comparative poverty of our s for by the peculiar richness of our mineral reso
surely deserving of encouragement. As to Geolo~ compass we are enabled to work out problems co
oldest rocks and with the most recent formations..
nection between Biology and Geology is intimate and~r the geological structure of a district must have a direct influence upon the distribution of plants and of animals; our illustrious countryman, the great naturalist, Edward Forbes, has drawn attention to "the influence of the structure, fauna, and flora of a country on the opinions and habits of men, and on the formation of character, national and individual."
There can scarcely be a more healthy, useful, or noble study than that of Nature. Rightly followed it is invigorating to mind and body, bracing the nerves, and strengthing the faculties. Its votaries need to cultivate habits of attentive and intelligent obser vation; there can hardly be found a better exercise for the logical and reasoning faculties; largely conducted in the open air, it cannot but be a healthy pursuit, and has this advantage over every other, that it is within reach of all. It requires no costly apparatus, no college education, not even books are necessary as is evidenced by the lives of such men as Thomas Dick, the baker, of Thurso, and Edwards, the shoemaker, of Banif. Want of time is a poor excuse for not taking up this enjoyable pursuit, as may well be seen in the lives of the two whose names have just been mentioned. We Manks have a proverb which aptly applies CAGHLAA OBBYR AASH, "Change of work is rest." A proverb to be appreciated only by the intellectual, and one that does honour to the people among whom it originated!
The study of Natural History must have a refining influence on the minds and character of its followers. Further, if we believe that to man has been given "dominion over all the earth," and "over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,'~ we must surely acknowledge it to be his duty to acquaint himself with the origin and history of that earth and its inhabitants, as also his privilege to study and promote their welfare,
* * * "and taste
The joy of GOD to see a happy world!"
It has been said that Science is advanced by the promulgation of the sentiments of individuals. It is for the purpose of concentrating and combining the efforts of individual observers, of facilitating the interchange of ideas and the communication of discovery with a view to the elucidation of Truth, and, in the hope of promoting somewhat the closer observation and greater love of Nature in our midst, that this Society has originated. It need be no drawback that our district is insular and limited in extent, rather the reverse. To quote again from the words of Professor Forbes : " The real
progres of Natural History must ever depend on the detailed
geogr ~ ~ beings gathered around us by the laws of
tion, living and multiplying in their destined
And he cites the great name of Linneus as having ample of investigating in all its details the
Nature of his own country.
A ~o our Island the admirable plan sketched out by Forbe instigating the Natural History of a district, we must first consider its situation, lying as it does in the midst of the Irish Sea; inquire into the climatical and geological changes it has undergone, and the effects of these upon the distribution of its fauna and flora; and consider its present climate and natural features, noting also the effects of increasing population and extending cultivation. We do not expect to discover many rarities or new species, but we can ascertain what we have and what we have not; some forms at one time common amongst us, are now almost, if not entirely, become extinct; others have at various times been introduced or become established. Our Island is virtually a new field. Cumming did something for its Geology, Stowell and Forbes for its Botany and Zoology, scattered memoirs, here. and there, contain information on various points; but, a complete and methodical investigation of its Natural History is yet, to be made, and, by collecting specimens and making lists in the various departments of Zoology, Botany, and Mineralogy,a work in which all of us can take some part we shall be able to contribute towards this desirable end, and thus, at the same time, throw more light on the wider and more important subject of the Distribution of Species. Who is willing to help?