[From Mannin #7, 1916]

Folk-Lore Notes



MY father was often telling us children of one time when he was a little boy. He was up Snaefell cutting turf with the Creggan ones, and he got away from the others some way and was digging by himself when, all at once, he saw a little woman in a red cloak with a can at her standing in front of him. Sprung up out of the ground she must have done, for my father was quick to notice a stranger and he never heard nor saw her coming. Anyway he thought she was a fairy, so before she had time to speak he made the sign of the cross and said the charm Nelly Comaish had given him to keep them away, and then she gave a sort of a howl and vanished clean away before his eyes. My father didn’t wait to see what had become of her at all, but threw down his spade and ran for all he was worth all the way back to Creggan.

That fairy didn’t do him no harm, but it was a long time before they could get him to go out the mountain again.’

‘ When we first started the choir practices at Lezayre we had them in the church, until one night we got a fright there. This time we were up in the gallery singing away, when all of a sudden we heard a terrible scream. Of course the singing stopped, and we all looked to see what it was that did it ; and there was one of the girls looking as white as a ghost, and when we asked her what was the matter all she would say was that she had seen something white up at the communion rail. There was a great talk with the people for a long time about this thing that had been seen in the church, and we never had the practices there again but went in the school-house.’

‘There was talk of a sort of a Buggane that was walking up by Ballakillinghan front gate. They said it was like a big, grey bulldog, and an awful howl at it. I have heard it howling myself. One night after choir practice I had been up the Skyhill Road with one of the girls, and coming back, just when I got to the gate, I saw something moving in the shadows. Knowing about this Buggane, I was middling frightened and I went over the hedge and through the fields, so I never knew whether it was the Buggane or not I saw, but I believe it was something.’

‘ When I was a girl there would be great work with us getting up on Easter Sunday to see the sun rise. They say that as it rises on that day it reflects the figure of Christ in the sky. I believe I saw it once—a big, white shining thing, like an angel. I don’t know what it was, but it was something.’

‘ We had a pig overlooked once, and an old beggar-woman gave my mother a charm to put on it. She was to go at daybreak to Ballakillinghan front gate, where the Buggane walked, gather three handfuls of dust, put them on the pig’s back and say some words in Manx. I forget what the words were, but mother worked the charm and the pig got all right again.’

‘ I had been up to Glentrammon for milk one night, and was coming down by the water-trough, when I saw a little woman with a grey shawl over her head, stepping along in front of me. I didn’t think anything of it until she went aside, like into the hedge, and when I passed the place there was no person there. Then I remembered that there had been some talk of something being seen about the water-trough, and I suppose that was what I saw.

‘ One night in the back-end of the year, when the dim was coming on middling early, my father was going to shut the door, when he noticed a thing like a big white cat sitting out in the street. He went to "sthoo" it away and gave it a hoist with his foot, when, all at once, the thing stood up and began to grow and grow until it seemed to reach up nearly to the sky, and then it went away. When my father came in he was all white and shaking and he was bad all night, but he would never say whether it spoke to him or not.’

These stories have been told to me by an old native of Lezayre.



A Hessian is, in common Anglo-Manx parlance, a big rough person or some one with coarse manners, a bully. The use of the term Hessian is most curious and inter-esting. One hears—’A big Heshin, that’s what she is.’ Possibly the expression dates back to the Napoleonic Wars, for Hesse Cassel was on the side of the Allies from 1813 onwards and no doubt Manxmen and Hessians fought side by side ; or it may even go back still further, for in the Seven Years’ War (1751-1760) William of Hesse was an ally of England, and during the War of American Independence (1760-1785) hired Hessian troops fought for England. Cossacks is a nickname for Sulby people, who are considered formidable opponents and it is probably a reminiscence of the Crimean War. At the time of the riots which took place on the enclosure of the commons in 1855, the Sulby people went to the mountains and pulled the hedge down. It was put up again and again pulled down several times and finally when the man in charge of the work of enclosure went up he found the stang ready to hang him and a grave dug at its foot to receive him. He took the hint, but the final result of the disturbance was that the commons became Crown lands. Frangagh or French means anything foreign, outlandish, or novel, and dates probably from the time of the Hundred Years’ War. It is also used of something larger than the native species of the same thing—e.g. Cuinney Frangagh is the great gorse. A French mackerel, i.e. horse mackerel, is one of inferior flavour, which the French will eat but the Manx will not. The French rendezvous appears as randybooze, meaning a noise, an uproar. The men of Cregneish neighbourhood are known as Spaniards, and tradition says that three of the Armada galleons were wrecked there. Cregneish is also known as China, and Cregneish men as Chinamen. It was said by Mr. William Cashen, of Peel, that about 1850 there came to the Island a number of Cornish fishermen, whose boats were rigged with two masts and two lug sails, and as Nicholas or Nicky was a common name among them, it was applied to the rig of their boats. The name, which still survives, recalls the good old days when Peel was a prosperous fishing port.

[see vol 8 p489]


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