[From Mannin, #2]
I AM not a Manxman, but I think I may, as an Irishman, be pardoned for saying I went near being one, for my father and mother were married in Kirk Malew in the summer of 1840 by the Rev. William Gill, father of the late Archdeacon of Mann.
My mother had been educated at Castletown where, on the death of my grandfather Dr. Cheyne, my grandmother had gone to reside with her very large family. Education was excellent and living was reasonable, as it had need to be, in the case of a flock of fourteen children. My uncles went to King William's College, my aunts and mother to an admirable girls' school at Castletown.
Years later my favourite sister married a son of witty Bishop Horace Powys of whom here is one anecdote. Breakfasting with Lord Derby, then Premier, he was asked by another guest within their host's hearing. "Of course you've read Lord Derby's Translation of Homer." "Of course," said the Bishop, "and I admire it greatly, but I think he'd do even better if he'd translate Horace." All these circumstances have naturally given me an interest in Ellan Vannin.
When I became an Inspector of Schools in the year 1875, I was attached to the Manchester District and for some reason or other the Isle of Man was at the time added to that English Educational Division[see HMI]. Except that Manchester begins with "Man," I still see no reason, if that may not be called one, for the connection. And I think that considering that Liverpool contains a much greater proportion of Manxmen, the Liverpool Government Inspectors had, if they do not still have, a grievance against the British Government for not giving them the delightful summer trip that the Isle of Man afforded me for my inspections. Governor Loch was then in charge of the Island. Mr. Jebb was Vicar General, and not a few of my father's and mother's old friends, Archdeacon Moore, the Gells and the Gills and others were still living in Castletown and elsewhere in the island. I met with great hospitality, the weather was beautiful to a degree and the island looking its very best. An Ireland in miniature I thought it. I climbed its mountains; I fished its streams, I boated off its shores, and fell in love with Ellan Vannin. I made many friends amongst the teachers, and I was impressed by the steady ability of the children, who, however, I did not find such ready answerers as Irish children to whom I had been accustomed in Manchester. They were more shy; answers had to be coaxed out of them by friendly questioning, but when they came they were to the point. At Cronk y Voddy I first heard Manx songs sung in Manx by the school children, and that set me upon an inquiry into Manx Folk Music. I was informed that Dr. Clague of Castletown had made a collection of it and to him I went, but without much satisfaction. Another musical enquirer, no less a one than ap Thomas, the famous Welsh harper, had induced the Doctor to lend him some of his precious airs with a view to producing them at his concerts. He lost them instead, much to Dr. Clague's disgust, and the Doctor politely declined to venture another consignment of his country's airs into the hands of a foreigner.
But patience is a virtue, and all things come to those who know how to wait. Just twenty years afterwards, when my name had become associated with Irish Folk Songs, Mr. William H. Gill, co-collector with Dr. Clague of Manx Airs, came to consult me as to the supposed Irish origin of some of them. Friendship between us followed, a friendship which has flourished uninterrupted since then. I was asked to take part in some lyrics for these Manx melodies and I was the means of their being introduced to Messrs. Boosey and their well known London Ballad Concerts, where Mr. Plunket Greene was the first great singer who brought one of them, "Two Lovers," before a St. James's Hall audience.
I have said this much to show that I have had a long-standing interest in the Manx Music. That the Isle of Man possessed a distinctive National Folk Poetry was not known even by those who were well versed in its history and customs, until the contemporaneous appearance of two books in 1897,"Manx Ballads and Music" edited by Arthur W. Moore, M.A., the lately deceased and deeply deplored Speaker of the House of Keys, with a preface by the famous Manx Poet the Rev. T. E. Brown, and "Manx National Songs with English Words" selected from the manuscript collection of Deemster Gill, Dr. J. Clague and W. H. Gill and arranged by the latter; this volume being the one with which I was, as already stated, closely connected.
I will deal with the second volume first as it most concerns myself. With the exception of thirteen tunes,very imperfectly written down and arranged, published in 1820 under the title of the Mona Melodies, and two or three others which existed in MSS, there had been, up to the year 1895, no established body of Manx music. It was known, however, that there were a few old people in the remote parts of the Island with the knowledge of their country's ancient music, but who were reluctant to sing them, as Mr. Gill puts it, "Lest the rising generation should receive them with a lack of that reverence which they felt for them themselves." The Deemster Gill and his friend Dr. Clague, who many years ago had formed a project for collecting and preserving Manx National Music, now associated the Deemster's brother, my friend W. H. Gill, with them in a systematic search for these melodies. "Everybody said it was too late," Mr. Gill afterwards wrote. The old generation of untaught singing milkmaids and whistling ploughboys, and the race of itinerant fiddlers who used to delight the frequenters of the village inns, and the old people sitting in the cosy chimney corners of the farmhouses, and the lasses and lads that danced in the barns at the Mheilleas or Harvest Homes-these rustic musicians had passed away, so they told me, and the old Airs were being replaced by the tunes of the London Music Halls. However my gleanings from other sources were not inconsiderable, and in spite of the seeming odds against me, I still cherished a hope that by a carefully arranged plan of campaign we might yet discover in out-of-the-way spots among the mountains and in the solitary glens a remnant of the old folk who might still have retained some of the earlier tunes hitherto unrecorded; nor were my hopes in vain."
A subsequent visit to Mann in the month of April 1895, resulted in a striking success. With the assistance of the Deemster and other friends, Mr. Gill had the good fortune to interview in different parts of the Island quite a goodly number of Manxmen of ages ranging from 65 to 84, all more or less musically gifted, and some of whom had in their younger days enjoyed a local reputation as singers in church, chapel, farmhouse or inn. The Manx people are proverbially shy, but by dint of coaxing, the intervention of boon companions, and in some cases the judicious application of suitable stimuli in the shape of presents of tea for the wives, and tobacco for the husbands, Mr. Gill got over their shyness and the ancient minstrels were warbling as in the old times and ready and eager to give him all the tunes " that was at them ."
On looking at Manx Music from an historical point of view it will be found to contain traces of the Irish, Scotch, and English influences to be expected, yet there is something besides these influences, possibly a combination of them or an evolution from them, or perhaps both of these with a superadded subtle admixture of Norse elements. But whatever that something is, it does undoubtedly constitute a musical individuality to be found pervading a certain percentage of them. They are voices of nationality slowly wrought out after successive conquests* by the Irish, the North Welsh, the Norse, the Scots, and the English. There is much of suffering endured" in these strains. There is also a resolute hardihood; there is patriotic impulse, and in dance music, a hearty cheerfulness, all in perfect consonance with the countless struggles in their storm-buffetted isle, of the brave and yet peace-loving, practical-minded yet religious Manxman. Like the Welshman, he is in temperament something between the Irish and the Scot, but circumstances have made him more cautious than Taffy, and perhaps more tolerant. The Manx National Songs which were introduced into the island fifteen years ago and enthusiastically received by a great concert gathering in Douglas, quickly passed through two editions of 1,000 each. A further call was then made upon the Clague-Gill collection and a volume of Manx National Music arranged for the pianoforte by Mr. W. H. Gill, asked for. In an introductory sketch upon Manx Music prefacing this volume, the editor calls attention to one of the tunes in the song book, No. 5, Part l in the pianoforte arrangements, which besides furnishing an interesting and beautiful example of the Dorian mode common to the Manx tunes is also a good typical specimen of a structural form of melody common in Ireland. In the ordinary four-line melody there is generally first a musical thought or statement, then a strain in reply, then another' or the same statement, and lastly another with the same reply. In this and other tunes of the same type amongst the Irish and Manx the order of statement and reply is different and peculiar. Here we have first a statement; 2, then a reply; 3, then a repetition, or modification of the same reply; 4, finally a repetition or modification of the original statement. This scheme, Mr. Gill, points out is analogous to that of the rhyme in "In Memoriam," where the first line rhymes with the fourth and the second with the third. No fewer than twenty-one other examples of this peculiar structure of melody are to be found in the 123 Songs and Ballads, Carols and Hymns in Mr. Gill's second volume. The third part of that book consists of dance tunes of which he opines that the pedigree cannot at present be fixed with any certainty. It appears to me upon examination that the sacred music of the Isle of Mann has not suggested, as one of our clerical authorities supposes, its secular folk song, but is derived from it, and this view is borne out by Mr. Moore, who found that the carvals or carols which sprung up after the translation of the Bible into Manx were much more on the lips of the Manx peasantry than the secular folk song, though sung to similar or the same tunes and in more modern forms. Indeed you would find six carvals sung to every single folk song, a strong proof of the extent to which the religious spirit had dominated Mansland during the last couple of centuries. I am so familiar personally with Irish dance music, of which I have collections containing con siderably more than 1,000 specimens, that I am not so much in doubt as Mr. Gill as to the origin of the Manx dance music. It is to me distinctly Irish, though in some instances it is modified by a native influence. The Manx never played the harp, except, perhaps, in very early times; the fiddle was their instrument, and this lends itself specially well to lively airs to six eight time, to which the jig is danced, and to airs in two-four time, which is the reel measure; but I am surprised to miss from the collection of dance tunes airs in common time suitable to the hornpipe, which I venture to say must have been largely danced in olden times by Manx sailors.
A. P. GRAVES. To be continued.
* We cannot agree with the author here. Our reading of history does not lead us to the conclusion that Mann had ever been conquered as he suggests Certainly Mann had never been subjugated as, in more recent times, other nations comprised in the British Islands have been. - Ed
[the following is taken from vol 3 pp170/175 and place here for convenience]
So far I have treated of my subject merely on the side of the Folk music, of which I have expressed a natural admiration. But what of the words to which they are sung ? As far as the songs and ballads are concerned we are met with discouragement. Mr. T. E. Brown, the island's most remarkable poet, is much disappointed at the general quality of these literary efforts. In his fine preface to Mr Moore's Manx ballads and music, he accounts for the great discrepancy between the Manx words and music. Mr. Moore divides his ballad collection into mythical, semi-historical and historical ballads which contain only one Ossianic legend, though an interesting one, a detailed account of the naval engagement between Thurot and Elliott off Bishopscourt' and a quaint ditty on the dearth of tobacco describing the unhappy results of this domestic calamnity caused by the American war and first sung in Douglas in 1812. Next come a group of children's songs, all, however, of English or Scotch origin with the exception of one still to be heard in the parish of Maughold and which goes thus
"Hainey, fainey, fig na fag,
Ooilley, dooilley, Adam a nag,
Stony rock calico vack,
Ham vam vash TIG and away."
Still some of these children's songs are no doubt of considerable antiquity. The prettiest of these "Ushag Veg; Ruy," was both a ring dance song and a favourite lullaby. Two of them were probably sung while swinging or playing see saw, and in the rhyme, "Per dy Clien Click," the sounds click, clock, cluck, are made against the roof of ,, the mouth by the tongue, while in "Lhigey, LhigAcy" (galloping, galloping), supplied by Miss Graves of Peel, the girls when playing it kneel on the ground on one knee and strike the other with the right hand as they say each word.
Amongst the ballads connected with customs and superstitions the foremost is Mylecharaine"so called from an old miser of that name in the parish of Jurby whose daughter was more particular about her attire than he was, and who in consequence of being the first Manxman who broke through the custom of not giving a dowry to daughters on their marriage was the object of a terrible curse. Mr. Moore asks why ? Perhaps there was good reason for it, it being felt that if no girl had a dowry each would have a fairer chance of matrimony. Certainly the prevalence of dowry giving in Ireland and in France has led to a number of very mechanical marriages. It should be remembered also that not only has a woman the parliamentary suffrage in Mann, but by an old law of the island the wife, in its northern part, is entitled to half her husband's landed property on his death, the ladies of the southern part getting only one-third. Thereby hangs a tale. In the year 1098 there was a battle between the Manxmen at Santwatt, and those of the North gained a victory over those of the South. Tradition says that the Northern women, coming to the aid of their men, turned the issue of the battle in their favour and that in consequence they became by law entitled to the larger widow right to which I have referred. This being so, land cannot pass in the Isle of Mann without the wife's signature as well as that of the husband. The ballad "Red Topnots" probably dates from the middle of the eighteenth century when topnots were in vogue as a head-dress, and "Big Flax Caps" refers to the fashion of wearing tall linen caps which prevailed in the island about eighty years ago.
"Arrane Oie Vie" the good-night song, was sung on the way home from service on Mary's Feast Eve or Christmas Eve, and after visiting the nearest inn where recourse was probably had to hot ale, flavoured with spice, ginger and pepper. Ollick gennal-a Merry Christmas" was sung by the waits at Christmas time. The boys also came round singing it at Christmas tied up in sacks and dancing a sort of jig to the chorus which they sang very rapidly; if they danced as rapidly we may imagine the results. The famous Hunt the Wren," which is common to Ireland was generally performed on St. Stephen's Day; and a very curious chorus- Hop-tunaa" was sung by boys on Hollantide Eve, the 11th November. Its first line was
To-night is New Year's night," proving that once the 11th November was the last night of the year. The quaint couplet, 'Katherine's hen is dead," used to be sung at a fair on the 6th December, Katherine's Feast Day. Those who sang it killed a hen, plucked it, and after carrying it about, buried it. If anyone got drunk at the fair which was held at the time he was said to have plucked a feather from the hen. There are not a few fairy songs in this section, amongst them the ' Nimble Mower" referring to the doings of the Fenodderee, a fairy monster, half man, half goat, with black shaggy hair and fiery eyes. Many stories are told of his great strength, with which he did good offices for those who were kind to him. He corresponds to the Irish Puca, Shakespeare's Puck; other fairy creatures are the Tarroo-Ushtey or Water Bull, well known in Manx folk-lore; the fairy of the Glen or Glashtin; the Cabbyl-Ushtey or Water Horse, and the Buggane, an evil spirit. The ballad 'Brown Berry" records the wild pranks of a notorious witch, "Margaret the Stomacher," of the end of the eighteenth century, said to have been as strong as two men. Finally, Yn Bollan Bane, "The White Wort," is the name given to a fairy melody said to have been overheard by a drunken fiddler one New Year's morning. He plays the melody as he heard it and gives an account of his proceedings to his wife.
The Manx patriotic ballads, if somewhat rough, are spirited, and they have the advantage of Archdeacon Rutter's translations and adaptations into good English verse. His A quiet little nation," a rendering from the Manx ballad of peace and happiness, has the chorus;-
"Let the world run round,
Let the world run round,
And knowe neither end nor station,
Our glory is the test of a merry, merry breast,
In this little quiet nation."
The theme of the ballad is of course the advantage of peace, as will be seen from a few verses of the ballad:
"What tho' our peace much envy'd be
Our fears they need not to increase,
For ev'ry where abroad we see
That men do ever fight for peace.
"Thus from all enemies secure
Our heads and hearts as light as air,
Not made the heavy yoke to endure,
Of too much wealth, or too much care.
"Gold, and the troubled strife for gold,
Are evils unto us unknown,
Our clothing's neither gay nor cold,
It covers us, and it's our own."
After a tribute to music and to the faithfulness of Manx lovers, he thus concludes in reference to the fact that in his day there were no duties upon wine and spirits:
"If any fool on change be bent,
And think to thrive the Lord knows when,
Let him first go and learn what's meant
By excise and committee men.
So now, good Master, health to thee,
And, if there's one who will not pass
The cup, let him hence banished be,
To quench his thirst in the Dhoo-Glass."
After this it is not surprising to know that Rutter could write a good drinking song. Drinking songs are now out of fashion, but his verses of true literary quality should not be passed over with a sour face (see p.201 of Manx Ballads) "Eubonia bright" and Melancholy drowned in a glass of Eubonia"
Rutter, who was the son of a miller on the Stanley estate was sent to Westminister school by Lord Derby, whence he proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, and afterwards became the tutor of Charles, a younger son of the Seventh, or Great Earl of Derby. He was Archdeacon at the time of the great Civil War, was besieged in Latham House with the Countess of Derby by General Ireton and after her liberation from imprisonmeet, due to the surrender of Castle Rushen by William Christian, remained with her in London and Knowsley till 1660 when he was appointed Prebendary of Lichfield. He was made Bishop of Sodor and Man in the following year, but only survived his installation six months. He lies buried in the centre of St. Germain's Cathedral with the following strange inscription upon his tomb:-
"In this house, brethren, in hope of the Resurrection to Life, I lie, Sam, by permission, Bishop of the Island. Stop, Reader! Look and Laugh at the Palace of a Bishop. "
William Christian vilified by Scott end by no means whitewashed by Mr. Callow, has nevertheless not only continued to be regarded as their natural hero and martyr by all patriotic Manxmen, but it would appear now that his rebellion against the Derbys was due to their treatment of his fellow countrymen like veritable serfs. Undoubtedly he behaved with great fortitude when Lady Derby again came into power and he was tried by the Island laws and condemned to death. As the Chronicle goes: "Mr. William Christian, of Ronaldsway, ReceiverGeneral, was shot to death at Hango Hill, on January 2nd 1663 A.D., for surrendering the keys of the garrison to Oliver Cromwell's army. He died most penitently and most courageously; prayed earnestly; made an excellent speech, and was next day buried in the chancel of Kirk Malew."
Christian had appealed to the Crown but his petition to the King and Council against his death sentence did not come before them till a week after he had been shot. Charles II. took umbrage at this, and although Lord Derby succeeded in defending his conduct on the ground that the Act of Indemnity of the British Parliament had no force in the Isle of Mann, the King and Council overruled the confiscation of Christian's property and fined the two Deemsters who had ordered his execution. Further litigation followed which kept the trouble alive, sides were taken for and against Christian, and thus arose a feeling for him and his family which passed into popular folk song. Two very fine tunes are associated with his name, and one of these sung to words of my own, is one of the most beautiful of Manx airs in my opinion.
Lastly, there are not a few Manx nautical ballads of whom perhaps the most typical are the martial "Elliot and Thurot," the intensely tragic "Loss of the Herring Fleet," and the drolly humorous "Cruise of the Tiger."
ALFRED PERCEVAL GRAVES.