[From Mannin, #3, 1914]
AFTER Raclay for some distance the cliffs fall sheer into deep water at all states of the tides, and in their recesses are water-filled caverns, not indeed of any great height or length, but always interesting to explore. The breeding places of herring gulls commence, and the nests of shags begin to be seen. Sometimes these latter are high up on some shelf amid the luxuriant grass; sometimes above the never-ebbing water in a sea-cave where the bird when alarmed can spring straight from its nest into the depths, diving to re-appear outside at a safe distance. As seen in its most perfect plumage of lustrous blue-green in the early spring, the adult shag, with its curious crest, is a strikingly handsome bird, but it takes several years to reach this stage, and specimens in plumage of dingy brown are probably more abundant on the tide rocks.
In the nests, often bulkily constructed of ling stems and cliff herbage, three eggs are usually laid, eggs with a blue shell, but incrusted with a white chalky surface matter. The black naked young are among the ugliest of natural objects.
Here also you may observe the Black Guillemot, the prettiest of its class of sea-birds, locally called the "Sea Pigeond" Almost black in plumage, conspicuously varied by a large white spot on each wing, this little rock bird flits rapidly low over the water, or dives expertly, its course often marked out below the surface by the white wing patches and the red feet. The two mottled eggs are well concealed in crannies of the cliff. The Isle of Mann is a somewhat isolated nesting place of this characteristic species of the wild Hebridean, Irish, and Shetlandic coasts.
Round the jutting point of 1Tring (Stroin) Ruy, we reach 2Ernery,whose northward facing precipice is one of the steepest on this coast. Within the last century this broad grassy ledge on the face of this cliff was the nesting place of eagles, and from this fact it no doubt obtained its name, which points to the occupation of the birds in Scandinavian timesa long record, as the Norse language has probably been five hundred years extinct.
There is a kind of foreshore at Emery, great blocks of fallen rock lying above and below high water mark, and in the latter position being somewhat dangerous to small boats when there is any swell. The coast beyond this is more easily investigated and looks better when the tide is high, as at low water the encumbrances of the rough beach make it often uncomfortable and sometimes impossible to land, and even if this be effected a boat left amid the stones is apt to be damaged by the swell of the waves even on a calm day.
Emery cave, at the other side of the Emery recess from the eagle's cliff, is one of the show places of the Fleshwick coast. Though not nearly so large as the well-known caverns about the Sugar Loaf, it is worth seeing, especially when it is completely filled at highwater. The main cave has a well formed arch, and on either side a branch cave runs into the rock for a considerable distance. The narrow deep-water passage on the south side is specially curious; a small boat may be pushed up it for many yards to the very head, but a torch is necessary, the day must be calm, and care must be exercised to prevent the boat being crushed or grounded as it is alternately lifted and lowered in the extreme narrowness of the waterway
A small colony of cormorants is yearly established in this neighbourhood, changing the exact spot from time to time. This is the large or true cormorant, not the shag, which latter as a breeding species is immensely more abundant in Mann. The huge nests of the cormorant are placed close together in open, not cavernous situations and the parent birds are conspicuous on the ledges. In their nuptial plumage, which is assumed early, and early lost, patches of white bristly feathers appear on the face and thighs, the latter being very readily seen in flight, easily identifying the species.
Just before reaching Slock Strand a long descent of tumbled boulders among which bracken grows luxuriantly, comes from the hill-side above to the sea. This is Garroo Clogh (rough stone), where according to "William Cashen's Folklore" the surf raised by the sliding of the cliffs once destroyed a number of fishing boats, a judgment for their prosecuting their calling on Sunday. Herring gulls nest numerously here, as they do at Emery and other points already passed. The clumsy nests of grass are strown among the boulders, often in a more or less overhung situation, and in the season each contains its three great mottled eggs. Later, the pretty young, who know so well how to conceal themselves, may yet by careful search be found pressed close against the earth in corners, and even when they are great clumsy speckled creatures, nearly as large as their spotless plumaged parents, the latter still keep clamorous guard over them, sweeping by the intruder's head with a startling swish of the wings.
Here and there among the grey and white Herring gulls is a dark mantled "Parson," usually the lesser black-back, almost equal in size to the former, and whose nest and eggs are scarcely distinguishable without identifying the parent. The stately great blackback however, the eagle of British sea birds, is quite a possibility on this coast.
Slock Strand really is a beach, though rather a rough one, and at one time housed a fisherman's boat. At its back rises a sheer cliff, on either side of the entrance jut dark rocks merging landward in green slopes where the vegetation is luxuriant. ~ feature of the place is the fine growth of osmunda from wet crevices of the cliff. A great gash half way up the steep, marks the site of old mine workings; a few timbers still remaining in place gives an evidence, so rare on this coast, of human activity.
About Slock the bird lover will never be long at any season of the year without the graceful flight and wild cry of the chough, the caaig of Manx speaking people, for in these remote haunts these most beautiful of British crows still linger. Often he may mark a single bird or a pair floating downwards, dark figures in the bright sky, from the summit to the strand, or perhaps if he abstains from disturbing the birds, they may perch on a near pinnacle, or move along the sward absorbed in searching for food, near enough for him to observe the rich sheen of the plumage, and the coral red beak and feet, a sight of rare enjoyment to the ornithologist.
Nor is a gentler bird music than that of the chough and the gull quite wanting in such recesses of the coast. The sweet fluting of the blackbird comes from the tangle of bramble, the wren's outbursts of melody from some hidden place of the Craig; even the robin may sing his intense and pathetic carol from a bush high against the sky line. But the small bird of these fastnesses is the rock pipit, a close relative of our familiar 'tweet' but a little larger, darker plumaged, and more strongly built. A land-bird which has adapted itself to a shore life, it feeds amid the wreckage and cast up sea-weed, flits through the gloom of the great caves, and hides its nest on some shadowed rock ledge even within reach of the spray.
The brows of; Pheastal stretch on from Slock to Stroin Vuigh, the nesting place of many "herring gulls and shags. Stroin Vuigh itself is a jutting point, steep, dark end cavernous, it owes its name (Yellow Ness) to the yellow lichen on its dryer parts. The recesses and crevices on its northward side harbour shags in unusual profusion; but the headland is also quite the headquarters of the razorbill. From Emery onward one may here and there meet with a few of these quaint, stout, black and white rock birds, but on Stroin Vuigh they form a little colony. In places a razorbill will lay its one huge blotched egg on an open ledge amid the rich white blossoms of sea campion and scurvy grass, and aromatic sea feverfew profuse around, but more frequently it is thrust back into a crevice out of sight, where the bird lies closely pressed upon it in the obscurity; its mate, upright and vigilant without.
Round Stroin Vuigh, after more dark cliffs and caves, is Lag-ny-Keilley (Hollow of the Church), a gully reaching far up toward the summit of Cronk-ny- Irree, Lhaa, 1,400 feet high, and the culminating point of the region. Of all the many sacred sites of Mann there is none which strikes the imagination like Lag-ny-Keilley, the deep solitude of the ravine, green in summer with the breast-high bracken. ruddy in winter with its withered herbage, overlooked by the summit crags of the range, and shut off from the world by its walls of hillside,which inmost places form inaccessible precipices; the wide expanse of the sea, where ship or boat is seldom seen except at long distance, the raven croaking from his near nesting place, the clamour of sea gulls from the brows. The strength and wildness of the natural features are set off by the utter insignificance of the remains. The labours of the Archaeological survey have made very clear the plan of the place, an enclosure, carefully levelled, of about 27 by 33 yards, in which stands the keeill 13 feet by 8 feet, its walls some 3 feet high; an adjoining enclosure now less well marked, where was the minute cell of the ministrant Priest; a path over the mountain shoulder communicating with the outer world. Although ten centuries may have passed since the keeill itself fell into decay burials came along the horse track at least occasionally until a comparatively recent time.
Cronk-ny-Irree-Lhaa, the highest point along the coast, is easily ascended from the mountain roads to the east, but it is a steep and fatiguing climb from the shore line to its cairn-crowned top. It received its name (hill of the rise of day) from the watch kept by fishers on the seas to the west for the first sign of dawn on its summit.
Cormorants Cliff and Roost on the west coast
A little north of Lag-ny-Keilley is Ooig ny Seyir, the Carpenter's or Cooper's Cave. One of the many caverns into which the sea flows at high tide, this cave is rather low-roofed, full of the drip of fresh water, and has a "window" or two opening into the outer world besides its main entrance. It is not in any way specially remarkable in its structure, nor can one readily account for the legendary lore connected with it, and so pleasantly versified in Miss Kermode's poem.
"Hammering their barrels in the cooper's cave,
Sending out the chips to meet the brimming wave,
Oh, lucky is the morning in the month of May
When you hear the Guillyn Veggey at the break of day.
Hammering and clamouring and making such a din,
For they know the herrin's coming, and there's plenty in."
I can only conjecture that the large quantity of drift-wood sometimes washed up in the caverns and on the shores here may have originated the name. When last time I was there, in March, the narrow floor of a neighbouring cavern was almost covered with pieces of planking, cork-floats, and bottle-corks.
The boy reader of "Gorry, son of Orry," will look in vain for the secret treasure chambers and the wonderful passages to the Calf and Rushen Abbey, though local traditions about such things die hard, and perhaps are not yet quite extinct.
There is indeed, a secret chamber" on this coast, a singular place enough, of considerable extent, only to be found by local information, and to be reached only by a painful crawl through a narrow passage in total darkness. It is probably a relic of old mining.
The neighbouring cavern mentioned above has a beautiful growth of pendant ferns, heart's-tongue, lady ferns, and sea-spleenwort. These, with the osmunda,x are the species which-principally give character to the vegetation of this coast; in one or two spots, fortunately not well known, there is a little of the rarer maidenhair, (Adiantun Capillus Veneris). A flowering plant very frequent in caves and damp recesses is the tutsan (Hypericum Androscemum), whose large, bright-yellow blossoms are extremely ornamental
Almost below the Lag lies also a charming strand, whose white - pebbles are overlooked by the usual luxuriantly foliaged cliff, Ivy, briars, and honeysuckle, mantling and draping the rough grey crags. There is another natural fernery here, in the mouth of an old mine working, leading downward and full of moisture, and the herring-gull's nests are again numerous, almost on the beach.
A little further, under a face of rock dripping with moisture and rich in osmunda, is a beautiful little fern clad recess of natural formation and never reached by the tide, which, Mr. Lamplugh says, "appears to belong to the Raised Beach period, and affords evidence of the slow rate of recession of this coast. The cave is well adapted for a hiding-place, and might repay archaeological investigation.',
In the bushes on the verge of the cliff close by formerly nested a colony of herons; the place is called Con (? Coan or Kione) Shellaght, presumably from the willows growing there. Common as the heron still is, nearly all the year round on the Manx coast, there seem to be no heronries here now. Between Con Shellagh and the Ushtey lie the shores of Daa Leura+, little coves of pebbly beach amid the dark rock. As the name is applied to these two shores, it is pretty clear that the "Da" of the ordnance sheet should be the numeral Dan, "two," whatever the latter half of the name means. The rough land above here is Eary Cushlin, a name recalling the pathetic legend of the unbaptised infant related in Roeder's "Notes and Queries," and versified by Miss Kermode. The longer strand to the northward is (G)len Oayrey (Len Ourey)lt Strand, and above rests the Gob yn Ushtey (Point of the [fresh] water), for here a stream falls over the crag in a conspicuous waterfall, on whose blown spray a rainbow shows in the sunlight.
This is another raven's nesting site. Years ago I have seen no fewer than three of the huge accumulations of sticks, representing I know not how many years' habitation, conspicuous on the same wall of rock, for a raven's nest is substantially built, and successive broods are reared sometimes in the same, sometimes in nearly adjoining structures. On the Fleshwick side of the Ushtey the sea for some distance has a sandy bottom, unusual here, which makes it a well-known fluking ground
To describe minutely the cliffs beyond Ushtey would entail much repetition of phrases already used, though in reality no two crags, no two caves, no two beaches on the charming coast are quite the same. Nowhere, perhaps, are the gulls more plentiful than on the green slopes here. A very pretty spot is Creg y Yeean, the ' Bird Rock," an isolated perch surrounded by deep water over a beautiful floor of white gravel. The name Gob Breck* refers to the varied colouring of the cliff, and Towl (ordnance sheet Dul) Ushtey (Water Hole), designates a narrow deep-water cave. At the end of this piece of coast-line is a conspicuous Stack, sometimes called the "Hooker," beyond which lies Hashtalt Strand, backed by high and broken precipices, where many jackdaws nest, and the shy stock dove, a recent colonist to Mann, but now established in many such localities, has taken up its dwelling place. It is curious that on the other hand the true rock dove, which a hundred years ago was very abundant beyond Port Erin and Peel, has gradually died out, and is now nearly or entirely extinct on the Island. There can hardly be any connection between the facts, for the haunt of the rock dove was the interior of the dark sea-caves and gullies beaten by the surge, while the stock dove frequents the crevices of the broken cliffs and rushes of stone and earth far beyond the reach of the sea. Also the rock dove appears to have been almost extinct before the stock dove began to breed. The true "blue rock" may easily be known from the stock dove by its white upper tail coverts, in the stock dove the entire plumage is grey.
At Hashtal the frequent cry of curlew and oyster catcher reminds us of the widening space left bare by ebb-tide, and once more lines from the already quoted volume recur to our thoughts, bringing home the beautiful legend of the dawn of Christianity in our Isle:
The saints came over from Ireland,
And they heard the curlews cry,
And they knew that in mist and darkness
The land was surely nigh.
They heard the noise of the waters,
And the storm winds took no rest;
But the curlews still were crying
And still they held their quest.
One more little headland is passed, a picturesque passage easily made on foot when the tide is out, and before us opens the exquisite Traie Vane or Ane, the "white beach," with its snowy pebbles, its gay summer flora of yellow poppies and pink storks-billits one dart outstanding rock, its waterfall rushing through a narrow rock gorge to the sea. Very noble is the retrospect, the counterpart to the view from Fleshwick, the high mountain range, brow beyond brow, then the great mass of Bradda, and beyond, the western precipices of the Cab and its pinnacled stack. We are now at Dalby, cultivation has re-asserted itself, the inland slopes which descend from the dark Glenrushen hills are dotted with farmsteads, and before us, on Knockaloe Hill, the coast is dominated by the high-perched signal, pointing to where the
Ancient towers and ruined choirs
Stand crowned about Peel's holy Isle.
P. G. RALFE
1"Red Ness " Called Gob ray Traie Roy or the ordnance sheet but there is no Traie or Strand here
2 "Ordnance Sheet, "Eairny~foy "
3 The place-names and folk-lore of the coast evidently offer date from time when Dalby was a great fishing station and every natural feature here familiar to the fishermen
4 Pronounced Fashtal, This name, whatever it may mean, recurs in Fheustal (now called Hashtal) nearer Dalby, and in Pistol (Santon), all of vhich are wild coast localities.
5 Under Pocastal a huge outstanding boulder has the name Creg yn Oillan (Gull's Rock).
6 Irree, not Arrey or Irey, as sometimes written,
7 A spot rear Crook or Con Shellegh, where orenunda, or' the dripping rock-face, is peculiarly profuse, in called Creg VuiEh.
8 "Geology of the Isle of Man D. Iil0. in the neighbourhood I have heard it called "Crone Shellagh" "Gerey Crony Shdlegh"
9 Patio "Treic Loura"
10 .Said to be a corruption of Eary Cosnahan.
11 Ordnance Sheet Glior, n'Gousyr.
12 Ordnance Sheet Cob Breve.
13 Ordnance Sheet Fheustel.