[from Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 4 pp183/190]
Address of retiring President, P. M. C. Kermode, F.S.A.Scot., &c.,
Ramsey, 23rd May, 1904.
Upon resigning the office of President, to which, for the second time, I have had the honour of being elected by you, it may be expected of me to say something of the work attempted and done by our Society, of its present condition,and future prospects.
Our object, as set forth in our first rule, is " the practical study of Natural History and Antiquities, especially of the Isle of Man" and, our aim is, by observation and record, by notes and communications to our regular meetings, to prepare the way for an accurate and exhaustive account of the Natural History and Archæology of the Isle of Man.
We have been handicapped by the fact that we are all amateurs, without the benefit of any scientific or methodical training, and cut off from opportunities of instruction, but we have hoped to see our usefulness increased, and our influence strengthened by the addition of members letter equipped for the purpose, and I confess I feel disappointed that so few of the rising generation appear to take any interest in our pursuits. We are, on the other hand, fortunate in the fact of our Island becoming better appreciated as an accessible field for original research. In this connection I may mention particularly the excellent work of our honorary member, Mr. G. W. Lamplugh, copies of whose Memoir and maps (one inch scale) of our solid and superficial geology, published by the Geological Survey in 1903, have been kindly presented by them to our library. I fear it is beyond the means of our Society, but I do think our museum trustees, or some authority on behalf of the Island, should have a copy made of Mr. Lamplughs original large scale map, with all its valuable notes, many of great importance to our agricultural, mining, and other interests, having of necessity to be omitted from the smaller scale on which it has been published.
In another branch of our natural history, we are all aware of the important work in marine biology now being done at Port Erin under the direction of our honorary member, Dr. Herdman, the practical value of which, greatly to the credit of our Insular Government, has been recognised by a substantial grant of £2,000 towards the building and equipment of an aquarium and fish hatchery, and an annual contribution to its upkeep. Their scientific work will be found recorded in the annual reports of the institution and several volumes of transactions, copies of which are on our bookshelves. Dr. Herdman has also prepared a small Guide to the aquarium, illustrated mainly from specimens in it and in the museum attached, which serves too as an introduction to the marine biology of our Island. (16th Annual Report, L.M.B.C., ed. Prof. W. A. Herdman, F.R.S.) Our Society, in return for a small subscription, has the advantage of a table in the laboratory of the Biological Station, where any of our members may study or work, with use of all necessary appliances, boats, dredges, books, and microscopes ; and 1 greatly regret that, excepting Mr. W. R. Teare, of Arbory, who is now leaving the Island, and Mr. Lace, of Santon, no one has availed himself of these exceptional advantages, and that, apart from our annual subscription, we have done nothing in support of the resolution which we unanimously passed in 1892 (Feb. 25)(" Yn Lioar Manninagh" I., II., 368)that, in inviting Professor Herdman to establish a marine biological laboratory in the Island, this Society should afford all the assistance in its power to an undertaking which would be of so great an advantage to our Society and to the whole Island." I suggested at the time that it behoved us to aid to our uttermost in fostering and developing this institution as a most lit and suitable national memorial to our celebrated Manx naturalist, Professor Edward Forbes, " the father of dredging as a science." I still hope that some member will come forth to uphold the credit of our Society, and that we may give better evidence than we have done of our appreciation of this great opportunity of study ; whether this be done sooner or later, we may congratulate ourselves that, as regards one branch of the natural history of our district, our marine fauna and flora is being thoroughly and scientifically worked out at Port Erin.
Here permit me to express my sense of the great loss sustained by us, and by biological science, in the death of our hon. member, Isaac Thompson, F.L.S., who was treasurer and one of the founders of the Liverpool Marine Biological Committee. All of us who had the privilege of hearing it will remember the interesting lecture he gave to our Society at Port Erin in 1900 (" Yn Lioar Manninagh," Vol. III., p. 621), on " The Place of Copepoda in Nature," a subject on which he was a recognised authority ; his reports describe and figure many new species discovered by him in and around Port Erin. It was in connection with the Station there that I first met, and afterwards constantly saw him, and I feel that it will not seem the same without him, and it will be impossible for any one else exactly to fill his place. It appears that he was early led from the study of botany to the microscopic study of the lower plants, and so to the lower freshwater animals and pond life in general. Dr. Herdman, in a brief memoir of his friend (17th Annual Report, L.M.B.C., Dec., 1903), speaks of him as one of the " serious amateurs who did good work of lasting value. Like Dr. George Johnston, Alder and Hancock, Hincks, H. B. Brady, and Gwynn-Jeffreysto mention only a few of those who preceded him Isaac Thompson made contributions to our knowledge of the marine fauna, which. taken with the scientific memoirs of these other amateurs, constitute one of the glories of British zoology."
But, to return to my subject, the method by which our Society proposed to carry out its aim and objects, was suggested by that of our great naturalist, Edward Forbes, whose bust (a replica of that which I had the honour to present to the Biological Station at Port Erin, cast from the marble one in Government Office) now adorns our bookcase. We proposed in the first place to prepare lists of our local forms in the different branches of natural history ; then, to expand these with notes of careful observation, until we had obtained sufficient material for a full account it possible of every branch of natural history, which is so much more interesting on account of our insular position. For example, our first list was a provisional one of birds, which I submitted in 1881. Since then I have been able to add to it considerably, besides making notes on their local names and folklore, their nesting and migratory habits, and the frequency or otherwise of their appearance. In this I was greatly assisted by Mr. Crellin and Mr. Ralfe, so that in 1901 I was able to submit a fairly good and full list of our birds. I have urged Mr. P. G. Ralfe, who is not only a keen observer, but is well up in the literature of British and European birds, to take up the subject and treat it in a manner somewhat similar to well-known county histories of birds recently published particularly taking as his model the scientific, popular, and beautiful series On Scottish Natural History of that well-known naturalist, Mr. Harvie-Brown. This Mr. Ralfe has happily consented to do, and I hope members will communicate to him any notes they may make, or information they may have, particularly with respect to certain species about which he has by letters in our newspapers been asking for further particulars, so that, very shortly, Manks Ornithology will have been adequately dealt with.
Again, our first president, E. Birchall, left us a small list of butterflies taken by him in the island. A few years ago Mr. H. S. Clarke communicated a very full list of all our macro-lepidoptera with notes, and now, with such workers to aid him as Drs Cassal, Shaw, and Bradie, I feel sure it will not be long till we have a fairly complete account of our Entomology. So with other branches of our natural history. So also with respect to our antiquities. I long ago published a list dealing with one interesting branch of antiquities well represented in our Island, namely, the early Christian monuments or cross-slabs. A second edition, enlarged by a number of newly-found examples and more ample descriptions, with a few illustrations, was published in 1902, and now I am prepared to bring out a larger illustrated work giving a complete account of this class of our ancient monuments, of which I have completed the series of excellent casts taken for me by Mr. T. H. Royston, which you see on the walls around.
In 1894 I submitted a list of our antiquities generally (Vol. II, pp. 53-193), both movable and immovable ; and in 1897, I added (Vol. III., p. 276), a catalogue of the collections in Government Office, Peel and Rushen Castles. Our own collections are catalogued in the annual lists of additions to our museum and library published in our Proceedings. There are many loose antiquities of, perhaps, small intrinsic value, but yet of consequence to us, from their associations, which. at the least, might be described and recorded, but it is impossible for me to know of these unless I am informed, and I feel disappointed that members, with very few exceptions, have not assisted in this respect, by letting me hear, when it comes to their knowledge, where such things are to be seen. Dr. Herdman, who finds that many visitors to the Port Erin Station ask where information on such matters may be had, has now invited me to join with him in bringing out a sort of little illustrated Guide to our antiquities, and this I hope we may be able to do very shortly. You will notice, from the collection spread out on our tables, that our Society has a considerable number of drawings, plans and sections, photographs and sketches, which it would be a great advantage for us to have published, but this we cannot afford with our small subscription and limited income. I suggest, therefore, that you allow us to reproduce a selection of these, and, in return, we may lend the blocks for use in this Society's magazine. When I get this done, and my larger work on the Manks Crosses published, I hope to bring out a well-illustrated work treating fully of our antiquities in general. Something, therefore, has already been accomplished by our Society, notwithstanding all our limitations. but we have very few active workers. We are gradually accumulating a good reference library and a museum illustrating the whole range of natural history and archæology, but are unfortunately unable to set out our specimens for exhibition, or to make full use of them or of our books, owing to the want of room, and of cases, and so on.
An important means to obtain our aims and objects is the publication of our proceedings and transactions. I am very sorry that it has been left to me to edit these, and that I have been unable to attend to them properly, so that now we have fallen far behind. I regret it the more because I feel that it would be a valuable means of keeping up the interest of members in the work of our Society, and especially of thosefar too manywho do not attend our meetings, and I wish very much that we could find some younger, more active, and enthusiastic member to undertake it. When I look around for such a one, I feel that it is indeed our weakest point that so few of our members take an active part in our transactions,. and that we are gaining no recruits from the rising generation. It is discouraging when one looks, and looks in vain, for our rising generation-say from 18 to 28 years of age, to show any appearance of intellectual tastes or pursuits, any appreciation of, or capacity for, literature, arts, or science ! We were quite prepared, in starting our Society, to wait for five or six years before we should find any general interest taken in our work, but, now that we are in our twenty-fifth year, and can see no sign of younger and better-equipped members to carry on the torch, and put new life into our work, we may begin to consider whether our labours have not been in vain and our energies expended for nought. For, whether it be due to the modern craze for "sport " and games, which, particularly in the shape of football, has reached and taken hold in the Island ; or, to the dissipating effect of the flood of cheap printed matter (I cannot call it literature) issued daily from the Press : or, merely from want of means and opportunities of turning to higher things, I do not know-perhaps partly from all these causesbut, the result, I consider, is most serious, and everyone interested in the intellectual welfare of the people should be concerned to find a remedy.
Now, putting literature and art aside as beyond the scope of this address, it must be evident to all who think of it that the first and best means to cultivate a taste for the natural sciences and an intelligent interest in our surroundings and past history is the foundation of that Insular Museum for which we have been asking so long.
We are especially favoured in respect of our district, which is neither too small to be interesting, nor too large to be worked exhaustively, while it has the rare advantage of well-defined natural boundaries, and sufficient isolation to cause a difference in its limited fauna and. flora from those of the surrounding lands. Our Society must of necessity be interested in such a question, and our members may be expected to support, by every means in their power, and to persuade others to support, the just claim of the Manx people for a national museum.
Some years ago I expressed my views as to the nature of such an institution (S. Pauls Church Institute, Ramsey, March, 1897), and, subject to slight modifications in detail, still hold to those views.
What we require is a local collection preserving and fully illustrating every branch of our natural history, antiquities, and culture history.
A committee of the British Association in 18S7 gave, as the opinion of the majority of competent authorities, that such a collection as here suggested should be the aim of all such local museums :"To do it in a satisfactory manner would task to the uttermost the resources of any average first-class museum ; but the interest, the novelty, and the immense scientific and social value of such a work would much better repay the cost and labour than the fragmentary and often aimless collections which are new gathered from all quarters of the globe." It would be of further educational advantage, especially considering our limited area and isolated position, to supplement our local collections by certain well-selected types of foreign genera and species for comparison, and for carrying the observers mind beyond the narrow limits of his own country.
The site is not a matter of the first importance in a district so small as ours ; but, certainly, we should expect Douglas to be selected, as it is not only the centre of our population, but the most convenient and accessible from all parts of the island, as well as the only town with a Library; School of Art, and allied institutions.
With respect to the building, its dimensions and arrangements, we are now able to judge the nature and requisite proportions of a gallery to illustrate our geology, by reference to Mr. Lamplughs excellent memoir published by the Geological Survey. Fully to illustrate our minerals would require a cabinet about five feet by five, and eighteen inches deep. Our various rock formations would next be illustrated in order, many examples being required of each one from the heart of the rock, the face where in contact with others, and the weathered surface. Our " dyke-rocks," Mr. Lamplugh tells us, are especially numerous and varied, and he gives petrographic descriptions of no fewer than 140, besides localities for about 50 post carboniferous (Olivine-dolerite Dykes). The sedimentary rocks would also require many examples of each to illustrate their structure and altered forms, for example, in our slate series, the " crush-conglomerate " in respect of which Mr. Lamplughs studies have made the Island classic ground for all geologists ; also, the " strain-slip" and other " shear " cleavages, which he believes will certainly be some day regarded as among the most noteworthy geological phenomena of the area. The altered conditions due to earth-movements, pressure, heat, and contact with igneous and other rocks, must all be illustrated by good examples, and for some of these large slabs will be necessary. Then we have the carboniferous system at the south, west, and north of the island, and the permian and triassic formations revealed by the borings at the Point of Ayre. Of these, Mr. Todd, engineer-in-charge, has kindly allowed me to select some typical examples from the cores brought up in the trial borings, and my only trouble has been where to store them till we have our museum ready. Lastly, our glacial geology, so fully described and well explained by our hon. member, Mr. P. F. Kendall (Yn Lioar Manninagh," Vol. I., No. 12, p 397), consisting of the " Insular and the peculiarly interesting Extra-Insular Drift," is deserving of special attention and space to illustrate its development. The erratic boulders, to quote Mr. Lamplugh (Memoir, p. 337), "include, in the order of frequency, Galloway granite, silurian " rocks from the southern uplands, especially Queensberry grit, " carboniferous limestone ; carboniferous sandstone ; permian and " triassic sandstones ; with occasional examples of Lake District " rocks, Arran granite, pitchstones, and a few others." Mr. Kendall is inclined to refer a few of the west-coast boulders to the granite of the Mourne mountains, and the flint pebbles to the gravels which have lain in the path of the ice by which the Isle of Man was glaciated. Examples of the original rocks from which these boulders have been torn would be exhibited for comparison. Our post-glacial deposits are represented by raised beaches, alluvium, and peat. We should further require a complete collection of the fossil remains of plants and animals found in the various formations. A separate arrangement of these would I think be useful and convenient ; they would form a natural link between the geological and biological sections. About 400 species and varieties of Manx fossils have been already recorded, besides about 100 glacial, and 20 to 30 post-glacial. These would be arranged on shelves and in table-cases. In a small separate cabinet we should have sections of our rocks and minerals, and mounted specimens of microscopic fossils But, not only do we want to preserve specimens as records, we want also to arrange and display them so as to afford the greatest amount of popular interest and instruction. To do justice, therefore, to our local geology, we should require a gallery I think at least thirty feet by twenty, fitted with upright wall cases, or free-standing, and table cases, with drawers and cupboards, and with maps, drawings, plans, and sections. In similar manner I have endeavoured to estimate the space required for a complete biological collection, based on what is known of the plants and animals indigenous to the Isle of Man ; but I need not weary you by going into details ; it would, I think, be not less than that for our geological collection.
From the study of animals we turn to that of Man, and our endeavour should be to represent his history, so far as our Island is concerned, " from the earliest pre-historic relics to the latest phase, every local speciality of food, art, dress, customs, and language being recorded." (British Association Reports, 1887, 1888.)
This collection would, of course, be arranged chronologically.
To explain its aims,. I cannot do better than quote again from the Reports of the British Association Committee referred to above (British Association Reports, 1887-1888) :" Starting with the earliest relics of man discovered in the district, the series of examples of his work and habits should be continued even to the current date, particular attention being devoted to any local peculiarities. The changes which have taken place from age to age in his tools, his clothing, his architecture, pottery, ornaments, coinage, weapons, etc., as illustrated by purely local specimens, will be of the utmost interest and importance ; and the whole local series should be supplemented by a few examples of corresponding dates from various other parts of the world placed in a parallel arrangement for easy comparison."
Our list of antiquities already referred to will give an idea of what we shall have to place in this collection. Altogether, this division of our museum would be as large as the whole natural history departmentsay, 60 feet by 20 feet, at the least. In addition, we should require a good entrance hail, and curators rooms, work-shops, and store rooms ; so that I think a total of about 5,000 square feet would be the very least which we should find necessary. It would be desirable also to have a lecture-hall attached, with all modern conveniences for illustrations by diagrams or lantern slide.
It is in respect of the archæological department of our museum that we find the most pressing need for its immediate establishment. It is pitiable to see the waste, destruction, and loss due to ignorance and carelessness that goes on from year to year. Implements over 2,000 years old, throwing almost the only possible light on the civilisation of that early period, are lost or broken, and of those not lost, the history and associations, which constitute half their value, are forgotten. In the hands of private individuals loss and damage are inevitable. The owner (or holder) moves from house, or leaves the Island, or dies, and the things are broken or scattered beyond all hope of recovery ; and these objects, of which only a limited number exist, can never be replaced
I have sometimes been asked what I should propose doing with the collections at Peel and Castle Rushen if we have a central museum. I should certainly keep collections in both these places, treating them as branches of the Insular Museum, and I should endeavour in particular to gather in each of these venerable castles, objects connected with or illustrating the history of their building and occupation. In the latter there is plenty of room for such a local collection, though it is unsuited for the larger scheme ; in the former I should make use of the Armoury, instead of the present small and unsightly building where they are now stored.
I have one more suggestion to make. Peel and Rushen Castles are museums in themselves ; every stone in the building has a story to tell, and their preservation must be of the utmost interest to every patriotic Manxman While I would not advocate their " restoration " in the old sense, I think we must all agree that to remove modern excrescences and restore the appearance of the existing remains, as his Excellency is now restoring Castle Rushen, is a work for which we all must be grateful. The buildings, of course, are vested in the Crown since the purchase of the Atholl rights, and the Crown does not, I think, seek to make profit out of them, but merely to keep them in a state of repair. But now, I submit, the time has come when our Island should endeavour to come to terms with the authorities, and, by purchase or otherwise, to secure these two fine monuments to be our own property. So long as we have the good fortune to have Lord Raglan as Governor, we know that they will be kept in repair, and their surroundings and conditions improved ; but it would be more satisfactory to feel that they were our own property, and it would be entirely to our interest to keep them in good repair. to throw them open so far as possible for inspection, and to hand them down to posterity as our most cherished possessions.
The report of our General Committee shows that our membership is not falling off, and is, so far, evidence that interest is still taken in our work and objects ; but, unless we are able to make this interest increase as time goes on, I fear it will decrease. It has been suggested to enlarge the scope of our Society, and I should not object to do so if we were to keep on the lines of the British Association, with which we are affiliated, including for example physics and mathematics. I doubt, however, if this would really add to our popularity or usefulness. Again, it has been said that our meetings should be held in the evenings, but, as we are placed in the Isle of Man, that would at once reduce it to a mere town society, and not, as we have always endeavoured to make it, an Insular one. The one thing really needed is a greater number of active workers, and, if members are in earnest in wishing the Society to flourish, they must induce such workers to join, and themselves set the example by attending meetings and taking a more active part in our proceedings.