[From Manx Note Book vol 3]
(WRITTEN IN 1777)
FOR ANY PERSON TO TAKE UPON HIM TO describe the nature and disposition of the Inhabitants of any place or Kingdom is a task not easily overcome, for it is not the situation, climate, or place of any Kingdom or Island that maketh the Inhabitants thereof good or bad; but it is from an innate disposition of themselves too often assisted by unwholsome and unmeaning laws, ingrafted in their nature as a legacy from the generations they sprang from; this has been proved by many authors both ancient and modern in their descriptions of the Inhabitants of various Kingdoms and states of the universe, but as I have resided for many years in this Island, I am persuaded I can give as near a guess at the temperature (sic) and dispositions of the inhabitants thereof as anyone else who has attempted such a description, which, as far as I know, I shall (as without favour, fear, or affection), do impartially.
The inhabitants are an orderly, religious, civilized sort of people, courteous enough to strangers, and if they have been otherwise represented, it has been by those that had a very imperfect knowledge of them, or because they have sense enough to see when strangers (who are too apt to have a mean opinion of them) would go about to improve on them, which it is most reasonable to suppose they will not suffer, if they can help it. They have ever had a profound respect for their Lords, especially the House of Derby, who have always treated them with great regard and tenderness ; at the same time they are very jealous of their ancient Laws, Tenures, Customs, and Liberties ~ they have many valuable Qualities, and are very charitable to the poor (tho' it is a rare thing to see a Travelling Beggar among them) and hospitable to strangers. The Country People especially, if a stranger came to any of their houses, would think it an unpardonable crime, not to give him a share of the best they have themselves to eat or drink. A significant proverb or common saying often shews the genious (sic) of a People; here they have one worthy of notice, which in their language is this -Tra ta yn derry bought, cooney Jesh Boiightelly, ta Jee hene garaghtee, i.e., when a poor man relieves another, God himself rejoices at it, (or as is more near in their tongue) laughs outright." Sacrilege is held in such abomination by them, that they do not think a man can wish a greater curse to a family than in these words-Clough ny Killagh ayns corneil dthy hie Moar, i.e., May a stone of the church be found in the corner of thy dwelling house."
That they are industrious and labourous (sic) is evident to all who know them; the many acres of marshey and mountainous grounds by them reclaimed and now made fit either for Tillage or Pasture is a plain proof of this assertion. The century preceeding the year 1765 was employed mostly in trade especially in the Maratime way but since that time in agriculture; the good effects of which is most senseably felt by all degrees of people; the landed gentlemen and farmer grow rich by the increase of their ground, and the poor have a cheap market to go to for all kinds of provisions.
The chief cause that agriculture and improvements made so slow a progress among them formerly was owing to the dificulties that the inhabitants laboured under from the uncertain tenures they held their lands upon. The late Earl of Derby (and last of that house who enjoyed this Isle) removed this bar to industry and future improvements. His Lordship at his accession found his people complaining, as their ancestors had been for more than one hundred years, of the uncertainty of their holding; they claiming an ancient tenure which they called the tenure of the straw, by which they might leave their estate to posterity, under certain rents, fines and services wch. his officers could not allow of, because of the many breaks that had been made by leaces &c. in that manner of holding. He therefore appointed commissioners to treat with his people in his presence, and at last came to a resolution to restore them by public ad of Tynwald to a tenure of inheritance, under certain fines, boons, restrictions, &c. and the great progress they have made since, plainly show that nothing was wanting but such a settlement to encourage industry. This Act of Settlement, made, concluded, passed, & confirmed between the aforesd. James Earl of Derby Lord of this Isle, and the inhabitants thereof was settled at a Tynwald Court holden at St. John's Chappel on the fourth day of February in the year one thousand seven hundred and three.
LANGUAGE. The native language is a mixture or compound of the Earst and Irish, but comes nearest the latter, with some words of Greek, Latin, & Welsh, and many of English original to express the name of those things, which were not formerly known to the inhabitants of this Island, which is a strong proof of their antient simplicity and manner of living; for instance, take this one example: they do not generally reckon the time in the Manks tongue by the hours' of the day, but by the Tra Shirvaish, i.e., the service time (viz.) nine in the morning or three in the evening, an hour, two hours before service time, &c. In this language the substantive is generally put before the adjedive, and many things which in the English language are derived from the Lattin or Greek and little understood by those that know nothing of these languages in Manks are expressed by a periphraises easily understood by the common people.
That learned and pious prelate, Thos. Wilson, late Bishop of ye Isle, laboured assidiously (sic) to make himself master of the Manx tongue, which he soon attained unto, upon which finding one third of the best of the natives had not English, he with the assistance of the most learned of their Clergy in the Manks tongue, had the Book of Common Prayer translated into Manks, as also a treatise which he wrote, on receiving the Lord's Supper, as also by the same prelate assisted by the Manks Clergy a translation of the new and old Testaments were begun, the former finished in his time and the latter in Bishop Hildesly's time, his successor, which has been of infinite service to many of the natives.
In height they are like the inhabitants of the neighbouring countries, strong built and complixions shewing them to be of a healthy and robust constitution, round visaged regular features, gray eyed, and the major part strong black beards.
In adversity, hunger or cold, patient and perservering, assidious in busyness, anxiously careful in gathering riches which they well know how to take care of when got, not prone to quarrelling, nor revengeful but by the Law, to which they are more addicted than any other people I ever knew, not given to theft (which to the value of thirteen pence half-penny by their Law hangs, but their jurys which consists of six persons on such occasions are very tender of the life of their Fellow Creature) very cheerful over a glass of which they are fond, great lovers of music and dancing to which they have a surprising genius. Take them in general they are a friendly honest kind of people and where you can find one person of another country better than they are, you will find two worse.
In their habit and manner of living they imitate the English. only the poorer sort of the men wore a kind of sandals which they call Karrance, made of untanned leather, which being cross-laced from the toe to the upper part of the instep and gathered about the ankle, makes a cheap, convenient and not unhandsome shoe.
This Island is not at present so full of inhabitants as when it had its Foreign Trade, but in Natives more; from the best accounts that I receive there are about Thirty Thousand Souls on the Island besides strangers which are few, which has obliged them every where to enlarge their Churches.
This Island is a fine nursery for seamen, the one third of the inhabitants (that are men) are accustomed to the Sea in their Fishing Boats, Smacks, &c. the Manks fleet of fishing boats that paid custom in the year 1776 was 415, each from three to ten tons burthen, and on an average each boat had seven men on board, which amounts to two thousand nine hundred and five men. At the same time a great many are on shore all bred to the sea in like manner, numbers of whom go yearly abroad to England, Ireland &c., when they enter on board vessels trading to all parts, where they in general soon become able seamen and commanders and much valued for their Honesty, Industry, and Sobriety.