[Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 4 pp154/161]
(By Miss S. MORRISON.)
In the smuggling days of old one of the Radcliffes of Gordon, the heir, was engaged in the trade. In one of his journeys to Ireland he married a beautiful Irish Papist, and brought her home to Gordon. His family strongly disapproved of the bride on account of her religion. Soon after the wedding, Radcliffes boat foundered at sea, and he and all his crew were drowned. When the news reached Gordon, his brother built a one-roomed hut down near the cliffs, as far away from the house as possible, and drove the widow out of Gordon to live in it. Tradition says that when she was turned out of her husbands house, she went down upon her knees in a field behind it, and as she looked down on the house below she prayed that never an heir might ever inherit it and that the house might be divided against itself. it is said that she lived for many. years in this hut, supporting herself by field labour till she died. The foundations of the hut may still be traced in the field, which is known to this day as " Magher-yn-thie-Paabish" field of the Papists house.
Her prophecy came literally true in every sense, the latter part being fulfilled in our own day About twenty years ago, after a lawsuit, the house itself was divided equally in two by a wall which runs in a straight line from the centre of the front door to the back wall, and from garret to ground floor.
On Glen Meay beach there is a cave, said to have been used by Radcliffe for storing the smuggled goods. On its walls, the letters H.R., in a circle, with the date 1677 below, may be seen scratched on the rocks. These initials are believed to be Henry Radcliffes, cut there by himself before his last voyage.
Yn Dooinney-Verrey, " the Man of the Sea," Merman, is said to be fond of crabs. An old man in Dalby was one day down on the shore looking for crabs. He got a great number. He saw a merman there before him on the same errand, who had not succeeded in getting any. The. merman sang out to him, " Curpartan dou Juan " (" Give me a crab, John "). The old man shouted back, " Cred tou cur son eh ? " (" What wilt thou give for it ?") " Ill tell you your fortune," said the merman. On this Juan threw him a couple of crabs, and the merman chimed out to him as he sank into the sea, " Choud as vees oo bio er y thalloo, cha be oo dy bragh baiht er y cheayn" (" So long as you live on the land, you will never be drowned in the sea ").
It is said that a Tarroo-ushtey, a fabulous water-bull, lived until recent times in the curragh below Ballalough. Old people there about tell how they often heard it bellow in the dead hours of night. The last authenticated appearance was about thirty years ago. One night two lads, after stealing some apples out of some gardens on the Patrick-road, made a bee-line for Ballalough to shorten their way home. When they came to Cronk Leannag, or, as now pronounced, Lammag, something big and clumsey, roaring so as to shake the ground, with " eyes the size of cups, lit up as if by candles," came out of the Curragh at the foot of the Cronk, and made for them. At once they knew that the thing must be the Tarroo-ushtey of Ballalough ; so they dropped their apples and fled for their lives to the highroad, close at hand. As they reached Ballalough Gate, the thing gave an awful bellow and plunged into the swamp.
Some years ago a man came to ask us what he should do about an old woman who lodged in a room in his house. He said " she was an oul butch, with the evil eye arrer," and that he wanted to get rid of her, but she would not give up possession of her room. He gave us a long list of the ills that had happened to him and his since she had come under his roof. He said, too, " Nobody knows but ourselves what we have had to put up with the oul cuss, and the harrim she has done us. I tell ye, shell get five or six jugs of wather of an evren in the room arrer, and shell fill the bathermos part of seven or eight basins of wather urrov them, and shes going and puttin the basins on the table, and alavin them all night, and in the mornin shell throw the wather all away. Ive been toul that ones that does things erf that sort are agate of buitcheraghey, and afther ho good at all, at allthe dirty divil But Ill fix her though. Me wife wouldn take res till she swept the dust in front of her door and threw it overra ; hut tit ! it didnt do a birra good. Mine will be a bether cure, they are tellin me. Im goin in her room, and ill pass the time of day, and Ill say, God bless your heart, and then om gum to say, God bless your eyes, and then om goin to tell her to do no more harrim to me and mine quhile we live in the same house) or quhile we live apart, and that ll put a stop to her thricks, they tell me. By Jing ! the lek of yandher one, its burnt she ought to be ; its scandlus urrov massy that the lek is livin in a Christian country. Am that frecken of her, I tell ye, that the cool sweat comes out on me, quhen I see her agate o the wather jugs, and, to look arrer, youd think butther wouldn melt in her mouth, the oul creep ! And the terrible nice she can be to the pazen quhen he puts a sight on her. Sure, dont we hear her oIen sayin low to herself quhen shes cruetchin over the fire, quheii anybody crosses her, Bad scran to them ! Theyll be sorry for this yet And didn she say it to me daughter the niornin she let the milk cait go by without gerrin the oul witchs milk, and the gel hesn hed a days health aver since Its time altogether the dirt of a thing was shifted, I tell ye. Weve all taken fear of her, and Ive come to ask you, mistress vogh, quhat ll do aburr it."
There are many stories told of the occult powers of Nan Wade, an old charmer who lived at Poortown, near Peel. For example " I remember a young man walking from the South one Sunday morning to see Nan. He called at our house to take a rest on his way home. You see it would never do for a body to call at a house on the way going to one that gives charms. You must go straight without hindering, or the charm wouldnt be of a bit of good The young man told us that his sister was witched, and his ones had sent him to Nans for a charm. Nan told him, he said, the girl was to get the liver of a pullet, and stick it all over with pins, and put it on the pan on the fire He told us some months after that his sister did this when he went home, and, as the liver was frying on the fire, they heard an awful scream outside, and there was the witch a-burning, with the pins sticking, red hot, in her liver. His sister got as well as ever again after that, he told us."
" I remember being brought to Nans once when I was very young, because I was what they called "donsay," delicate. I was very much frightened. I had heard that Nan was a witch, and could da what she liked with people. Silver was given by the woman who took me to her. and Nan covered it with salt, and threw the salt into a saucer containing something like pinjean (junket). She then rubbed her forefinger on the earthen floor just under where I stood, and, dipping it into the saucer, crossed my fore-head, chin, palms of the iands, and tip of the tongue with her wet forefinger, muttering low in Manx to herself all the time. I think this crossing was repeated three times, more thai once, anyhow. Before she began the charm everybody in the room was turned out, just leaving myselfa trembling miteand her together, and I was stiictly enjoined not to utter a word during its performance. When she had finished she threw the contents of the saucer over the turfs burning on the chiollagh.
" I remember one day we could not get the churning dune at all at all, and we were clean bet working at it ; so we sent to Nans about it. She said, " Someone has cast an evil eye on it, and Ill tell you how to find her out. Take the tongs and shove them half way, head first, into the fire, and, when they are red hot, put them down the churn, and youll soon find out who has done the jeel (damage) . Well, to make a long story short, this was done, and, behold ye, all at once we heard a running on the street, and in came a neighbour woman, panting with the breath just out of her. " H oh, huh, huh," she was going. I thought I would run in and tell you that some of your washing has blown off the hedge into the road " It hadnt at all but she had come, you see, and that was the excuse she made. The butter came with us all right after that. Aw, Nan was a terrible clever woman, and only sixpence she was asking."
" We had a horse once that took sick, all coming out in a sweat, and wouldnt eat nothing. It was like a thing witched. So himself went to Nans to see if he could get a cure. Go your ways to the cross of four roads, she said to him, and get some of the dust there, and throw it over the base, and then cover the craythur well up, she said. Well, he done this, and in the morning the beast was better."
" Nan Wade was brought, years ago. to cure my mother, who suffered from rheumatism. When Nan came she asked for a piece of butter fresh from the churn, and a plate. The butter was given to her on a plate She drew a short cutty-knife out of her pocket, and divided the butter with it into three piece; wiping the knife under her left foot after each division, and muttering a charm in Manx while so doing. This was repeated twice three times altogether. Then she produced a small parcel of finely chopped herbs, and ordered my mother to pour boiling water over them, and wash herself well in it, and then to he sure to throw the water away at midnight in a running stream."
A woman went to Nan Wades once for some herbs for her ailing child. When Nan went to get them, the very first herb lifted had a dead insect upon it , so she at once went back to the woman and said, I have got no herbs for you. Go home and look to he, ; she wont be long with you. The child died very soon after this. A woman of about 45, sister to the child that died, told me this story."
Herb charmers never speak of " picking" herbs, hut always say "lift," and the herb must be lifted with a charm. Each sick person must have the herb " lifted " specially for him, and for him only the one lifting will not serve two persons, for then neither would benefit. The full name of the person, with the disease which the herb is intended to cure, must be said when it is lifted, and three, six, seven, or nine pieces of it picked from different places. Nine different pieces of the herb are thought to be the most potent; then seven ; six is good ; and three will also serve if it is scarce and no more can be obtained ; but the herb will do no good if picked in less or greater quantities than the above, or if all pieces are lifted from the one root. An hen) lifter can foretell from the plants as they are lifted whether the person who is to use them will get better or not, and if the sickness will be long or short.
If any one gets a cut in the harvest field from a scythe or sickle, he at once chews a mouthful of ribwort plantiin, " Slane luss "(heal herb), and plaisters it over the cut, which stops the bleeding. It was said that the virtue of the plant was discovered in the following A carrage and tarroo deyill, two beetles who are, as everyone knows, sworn enemies- myr y tarroo deyill as charrage" is a saying of two who cannot agreehad a battle royal on the Dalby highroad. onlookers observed that when the carrage was sore beset and almost worsted, he would run to nibble off this herb by the roadside, and run back like a giant refreshed eager for the fray. This was repeated time after time, till one of the spectators removed the plaintain root, curious to see what result it would have. When the carrage returned again, and found no slane luss, he turned on his back and died.
A belief prevails that a death is often preceded by the appearance of a shadowy phantom funeral. The following incident happened to a man in 1896. His house is one in a row of which the end one has its gable to the highroad. One evening in December he went to the corner house, as was his custom, to look up and down the road before turning in for the night. While standing there he heard a faint noise in the distance, and waited to see what was coming. The noise became louder and louder, and sounded like the tramping of a multitude coming down the road. It passed him after a while, as he said to himself, " with a noise like a strong win in the sails of a boat." He saw nothing, but felt so jinged in ( wedged) by a packed crowd, steadily moving in the one direction, that he had to clutch and cling desperately to the corner of the house to keep himself from being carried off his feet. When it had all passed by him, he was so " covered with sweat and shaken by fear " that he could barely retrace the few steps to his own house. Some neighbours sitting in the kitchen with his wife, exclaimed at his ghastly look when he entered, and asked him what was amiss. He himself thought it was a sign of the near death of his daughter, who was home from service at the time, dangerously ill. He did not wish to alarm his wife about their daughter, and, as she did not know Manx, and the neighbours did, he told in Manx what had passed by, and what he feared it foretold. Those in the house had heard nothing. A week from that day the largest funeral that was ever known to pass that road went by. The " big man " of the neighbourhood, in whose house the daughter had been at service, had died suddenly, without any illness, and it was the sign of his funeral that was heard. This story is told by the man himself, and corroborated by the neighbours who were in his house at the time, and spoke with him in Manx.
" Three years ago (1900) I was living in half of a house. The woman in the other end had a child who was ailing In going upstairs, when you reached the top of the first flight, you saw on your right hand three more steps which led up to the little ones room. Well as I was going me ways upstairs to bed one night, without thinking nf anything in particular, as I got near to the top of the stairs, a bright light flashed n my eyes as it passed by just like a streak of lightning, and I saw it stick in the shape of a big star to the panel of the little ones door. I was that frightened that I turned tail and cleaned out of the house to Mrs. , next door. I asked her what she thought it might be, or could mean ; she only shook her head, Himself said to me to say nothing about it to them living in the house with me, and that I would know the meaniug of it soon enough, likely within the next four-and-twenty hours. The ones in the house with me thought the child was mending, but she took a turn that night for the worse, and died next day at the going out of the tide. It was the childs sign I had seen, and I pray I may never see another."
If a funeral goes from the house to the churchyard in a straggling manner, it is a sure sign that another from the same house will soon follow it.
Warnings of an approaching death are also given by some such signs as the singing of children in the street, or the crowing of a cock by night, or the appearance of a corpse light.
Said a woman to me the other day, when some children, just out of school, ran past us singing, " I hate to hear children psalming up and down the street, for it is a sign you are sure to hear of a death soon."
If a robin or a wren flies into a room and out again. that is a sign of death.
If you shiver involuntarily it is a sign that some one is walking over your future grave.
The crowing of a hen gives warning of death ; so does the tick of the " Death-watch " (a small beetle, Anobium tesselatum).
It is said that if a knife is dropped, it is a sign that a woman will call at the house that day ; f a fork, a man may be expected. If there is a "stranger on the bar," collie hanging to a fire-bar, you may know when to expect the visitor by clapping your hands before the fire, for, if the " stranger " flies off the bar at the first clap, he will come to see you that day, and so on. If it happens to be a particularly fat-looking black smut, it is the person you are sure to have.
They tell me there is a lil oul grey man on a donkey taken on the road about Ballaleece Bridge. Ive never seen him myself, but Ive been toul ahourrim by them that hev-good-livin people, too, they war.
Did I ever tell you about the woman I seen in the Patrick road ? No Well, one night last winther (1902) I was up at Patrick preachin. It was a clar, moonlight night. As I was going on me ways home it begun to get dark. An all of a slap I seen by my side the shadder of a person, a woman who had died sudden a pazel of years afore, and was buried up there. An the shadder kept by my side, step by step, an the night grew darker and darker as we stept along ; an it was terble darknessI wasnt able to pick me steps. Quhen we came to Knockaloe Gate, to the lil cottage there quhere the woman had lived before she came to an end, I was in a thick cloud of blackness. But as soon as aver the cottage was passed by I was in bright moonshine again, evrything as clear as day, an the road before me an behind me lek a ribbon I met a man a hit further down comm up, an he said he hednt seen a cloud on the moon on the night.
Freckened ? Norra birra me. They dont come to frecken peonle If it was to frecken people theycome, they would come in their shrouds ; but its allas their wearin clothes theer seen in, jus as when alive. I believe meself there sent for a good purpose. Some may have buried a birra fll)fley, and want to show quhere it is ; others hey something on their minds maybe, an they cant res till its tol.
I mind me brothers wife tellin me that quhen she was a lump ot a gel she was livin out with her granfather in Glen Rushen. The memory that the oul man lied lef him forra bit afore he died. The night the day the granfather was gerrin buried, she hard the dour open, an she was in bed with Johnny Mylreas wife ; they was sisters. Then she heard some noise in the scraas (strips of sod laid on the rafter under the thatch) above her, above her head. Then she went to look in the mornin, and she found a purse in, with money inhow much I couldnt tell. She got up cryin in the mornin, and she said, " If granda didn know quhere the money was quhen he was alive, he knew quhen he was dead."
Aw, deed ! Its true enough, for she was a very good-livin woman quhen she toul me,.goin to class[ie Methodist] as strict as strict.
You know - ? He was married to a daughter of this woman. He lived at a house at Foxdale, and the neighbours were makin out they were seem a light in the house. Well, he said there was some of their lil ones see a light in one night too, in the kitchen. Well, his father went to purra bed in the parlour end one day, an there wasnt room in for headway lek, and he sunk a hirra the poses (bedposts) in the moul. An, helm! ye, there vjis a li'l brass box in thernoul full of sovrins. But it came to the right enough people, for the man that hid them was killed underground, an the womans uncle. They naver seen a light aftherwards.
I heard Tommy tellin that he fell on a woman that was killed on the mountains, and she was in her wearin clothes. Tommy said his wife had gone into Castletown, for to gerra few things for the lil shop arrer in the village, an it were gerrin late, and no sign of her comm at all ; so he went his ways in the " lil evren " (twilight) to meet her. On the mountains he seen a woman takin the road afore him, and quhen he gor up to her he spoke to her, as if it was to me or you, he said. He thought he ought to know the woman, he said, but when they came to the place quhere the woman had been killed, Jemmy was lef by himself. Norra sight ofa body could he seen, high or low, an there warnt shelther round to hide a mouse. Jemmy said he was that taken a-back you wouldnt believe it. Then, all of a slap, he knew what he had been walkin and talkin withthe very woman that had been killed on the spot quhere this one had of him. Some years afore this woman war comin across the mountains with the husband. He was a li'l gaffer on the mines, an something came between them, and he struck her dead. If Jemmy had ast her in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost quhat was her business with him, she would hey toul him right enough. But Jemmy said he spoke to her as if it was to me or you, for she was that natural-lek, he said, that he nayer gev it a thought that she was a gh oss.
Ye ste, ye mus use Scriptur to ghoses to make them tell you quhat they are comin afther. Its me that knows it.
A farmer went down to Laxey to buy his stock of herrings. On the beach he saw a group of fishermen busy with their nets. Coming up to them he saw no herrings. " Hough !. poor men, youve caught nothing for all your nights work," he said to them. One replied, No, none of our fleet got anything last night ; but the boats of this world are coming in now with nice fishings." Then, though they were on the open beach in bright sunshine, men and nets vanished, and the farmer knew that he had been speaking to some of the " middle-world men." Fairies are believed to dwell in a world of their own, called the " middle world," for it is said that they are fallen angels, and that they are neither good enough for heaven, nor bad enough for hell.
It is said that babies are the only mortal things that fairies covet. There are many stories similar to the following told of fairies stealing, or trying to steal, babies : A woman lay awake in bed one midnight, with her week-old baby in her arms. By the bedside stood a round table, on which was a jug of water. The woman saw the bedroom door open. and two very old, tiny women came swiftly in towards the bed. They tried to take the baby out of her arms, one saying to the other. "Gowee ! gowee !" (take her ! take her ), and the other little body answering, as she tugged the baby by the heel, " Cha jargym ! cha jargym ! " (I cannot ! I cannot !) In the struggle the water jug upset over the bed, and the frightened mother cried out, "Jee jean myghin orrym " (God have mercy on me) ! Immediately both little old wonen disappeared. The informant said that she had seen the marks on the babys heel made by the fairy fingers. They were quite clearly printed, though at the time the baby had become an old woman.
" Me father foun a fairys lil cap once quhen we were livin out in Glen Rushen. He had been down at the river it was only a step an a jump, as the sayin is, from the house, and he heard the fairies agate o their washin they were goin at it like dus, he said. He wasn seem any of themselves at it, but he hard the go of them, he said. He was hearin the clap of the wet things quhen they were shakin them out to be put on the gorse bushes, and he even seem the bushes shake quhen the clothes were gettin spread on them. Then he seen a lil cap hove on one of the bushes, an picks it up and brings it home with him. Me inawther said it was quite a lil one, just the spit of what the childher was all wearin in them days, an the nice it was made, Ive hard her say, you wouldn believe. She knew it was a fairys one, she said, for there wasn a child in the Glen with a lil enough head to wear it. So she made me father go and purrit back on the place he took it from, for if he didnt, she said, there wouldnt he res in the house on the night, for the fairies would be afther it, an hard to tell what they would do. Aw, bless ye, the story is thrue enough I wasn in then, but my father and mother has toul me it many a time, and how the cap was in the house at them.
An old beggar man who came to Peel every Saturday with a basket to gather scraps of food, used to say that he could always know where the fairies had been in the night by the peculiar smell left behind them. He said it was a sort of sour smell, something like what you was smelling in a deep gill on a summer day.