[From Manx Soc vol 1 Sacheverell's Survey c.1692]
IN A LETTER TO
MR. JOSEPH ADDISON, OF MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXON.
SIR,- I hope you will impute the trouble I give you to the necessity, you tell me, I lie under of making some addition to my Survey of the Isle of Man, by way of Natural History, since nothing but your commands could have engaged me in a thing so much out of my own way: for, as neither my education or genius lead me to the study of Simples or Minerals, so I assure you I never had curiosity myself enough to inquire whether they had anything in either kind that differed from the common productions of England; though I am informed, since I left,the Island, they have discovered very good Mines of Lead, Copper, Iron, and great probability of Coal.(42) Nor is it the least indication of these Minerals that there is a pool, in the mountainous parts of Kirk-Christ Rushen, of so vitriolic a quality that no ducks or geese can live near it; which probably proceeds from the frequent spewings of copper, that are discovered on all sides of those mountains. This is the only curiosity of that kind I have heard of, except the tradition of St. Maughold's Well may be thought another, which (if a barren woman be placed in that Saint's chair and a glass of the water given her) they say has a prolific quality, but probably has lost much of its ancient virtue since the Priests, who had the custody of it, have been discontinued(43). But whatever generating faculty these waters may have, I am certain those that make a prodigious bog of six miles long and three over, called the Curragh, in Kirk-Christ Lezayre, have no such prolific quality, as not producing Frogs or Toads. Though this may not seem strange in the neighbourhood of Ireland, both nations ascribing it to the blessing of their common Apostle St. Patrick(44); yet methinks it could not but be worth some curious person's inquiry, whether this may not proceed from some vitriolic tincture of the soil, or from some salt vapours that may come from.the sea, or from unwholesome efiluvia that may arise, either from the stagnation, or (which I would rather prefer) the fermentation that may cause the bog itself; or whether in reality in these Northern climates the sun has force sufficient to dispel those unhealthy vapours, and impregnate the waters with a vital heat. Nor are the Firs, frequently found in the bottom of these bogs, less worthy an inquiry, where, though they lie eighteen or twenty foot deep, the roots are still growing upright in the ground, and all firm and entire, but the bodies broken off, with their heads all lying to the N.E..(45) which at least contradicts the opinion of the subterranean growth of trees; though whether this proceeded from that universal breach of nature which we call the Flood, or from any particular convulsion in these Norhern parts, or from some violent concussion from the S.W. as most have fancied; in me it raises an idea, like the bursting of a mine, where the mass of matter is sometimes thrown into rude and indigested mountains, and has proportionably deep and unfathomable caverns, which are either filled with water, or skinned over with a spongy substance, which we call bog; at the bottom of which the first surface of the earth, with its original productions, is still firm and entire. And as these trees are generally fir, of which species there are none now growing in these parts, it may raise a query whether the very productions of the earth did not vary with its transmutation. Nor is the manner of the discovery of these trees less remarkable, since no dews are ever seen upon those parts of the surface of the bog, though they lie twenty foot interred. This may raise speculations among the learned, whether dews may not rise as well as fall, or whether they are evaporated or absorbed by these subterraneous trees. And as the earth, with its original surface, subsided in these lower parts, so the tops of the mountains seem nothing but the rubbish of nature thrown into barren and unfruitful heaps, as near two-thirds of the Island is of this sort. Some seem particularly worthy our remark, as the two Barrowles, Skeyal, the Watch-hill of Knockalow, but particularly Sneafeild, where it is not unpleasant, when the weather is clear and serene, to see three noble nations, surrounding one of the most obscure in the universe, which is as it were the centre of the British Empire(46). Here it was the famous Cowley, in his Poetic Vision, places himself, to deplore the miseries and calamities of our unhappy civil wars, without reflecting on the quiet and security of the place, which almost always follows poverty; since nothing is safe in this world that will bear the charge of its own ruin. And as nature has produced so many remarkable monuments of her own first dissolution, so art has not been wanting in repairing others, which were, no doubt, designed to preserve the memory of considerable actions, though now lost to us. In these little hillocks (which I think upon Salisbury Plain they call "barrows") frequently urns have been found(47), which shews the manner of burning the dead not to have been peculiar to the Roman nation only, since it is almost certain this Island was never in their possession. The most remarkable of these is one in the centre of. the country, called the Tinwall, on which their laws are promulged on Midsummer-day, as being raised with several ascents for the different orders of people, and is indeed a pretty curiosity(48). But the largest is in the midst of a morass, called Kirk Christ Rushen, where Reginald, King of Man, was slain by the Knight Ivar(49); whether it was raised in commemoration of the misfortune of that prince, or whether it was an ancient fort, or for what other end it was designed, is not at present known; yet it is still much celebrated among the natives by the name of the Fairy Hill, upon which a very odd story depends, that would tire your patience rather than gain your belief; for, as no people are more ignorant, so perhaps there is no place where stories-of that kind are more current, especially of the apparitions of Rmeral solemnities, which I have had positively attested, though none so as could deserve entire belief. But as to the light being generally seen at people's deaths, I have some assurances so probable, that I know not how to disbelieve them; particularly an ancient man, who has been long clerk of a parish, has affirmed to me he almost constantly sees them upon the death of any of his own parish; and one Captain Leathes, who was chief magistrate of Belfast, and reputed a man of great integrity, assured me he was once shipwrecked on the Island, and lost great part of his crew; that when he came on shore the people told him he had lost thirteen of his men, for they saw so many lights going toward the church, which was the just number lost. Whether these fancies proceed from ignorance, superstition, or prejudice of education, or from any traditional or heritable magic, which is the opinion of the Scotch divines concerning their second sight; or whether nature has adapted the organs of some persons for discerning of spirits, is not for me to determine, since I design the whole for an introduction to a story, which happened in the year 1690, upon the late King's going into Ireland, of a little boy, then scarce eight years old, who frequently told the family in which he lived of two fine gentlemen,, who daily conversed with him. and gave him victuals, and something out of a bottle, of a greenish colour and sweet taste, to drink. This making a noise, the present Deemster, a judge of the Island, a man of good sense and probity, went into the mountains to see if he could make any discovery what they were; he found the boy, who told him they were sitting under a hedge about a hundred yards from him. The Deemster bid the boy ask them why he could not see them; accordingly the boy went to the place, put off his cap, and made his reverence; and returning, said it was the will of God they should not be seen, but the gentlemen were sorry for his incredulity. The Deemster pulled a crown-piece out of his -pocket, and asked the boy what it was; the boy answered he could not tell. He bade him ask the gentlemen; the boy went in before, and, returning, told him they said it was silver, but that they showed him a great deal of such silver, and much yellow silver besides. Another day a neighbouring minister went into the mountains; the boy told him they were in a barn hard by, exercising the pike. He went to the door of the barn, and saw a pitchfork moving with all the proper postures of exercise, upon which on rushing into the barn, the fork was struck to the roof, and no person to be seen. Another day the boy came and told Captain Stevenson that one of them came with his hand bloody, and in a battle in Ireland. The captain marked theday, and though they had no news in near a month after, it agreed exactly with the time Colonel Woolsley had given the Irish a considerable defeat. I could give you a hundred other instances during their stay, which was above a month; but at the King came with his fleet into Ramsey Bay, which one of threm telling the other before the boy, he answered it was well the King was there in person, for had he sent never so many .generals, his affairs would not prosper; and speaking to the boy, told him they must now go with the King into Ireland; that he 'might tell the people of the Island there would be a battle fought betwixt Midsummer and St. Columbus Day, upon which the future fortune of Ireland would depend (which exactly agreed with the action of the Boyne) ; that the war would last ten or eleven Years, according to one information, or twelve or thirteen awording to another (which is the only variation I could observe in the whole story, the boy being so very young, and having forgot great part of it himself before I came into the Island) ; but that in the end King William would be victorious over all his enemies. He that considers the youth and ignorance of the boy, which rendered him incapable of carrying on an imposture, must needs allow there is something uncommon in it, except there had been a conspiracy of all the best of the people to deceive me; and every person mentioned is still living, and ready to attest (if need require) upon oath what I have alleged. For myself, I can assure you I have transmitted it with the utmost fidelity, though much short of my original information; and only beg you to accept of the whole as a testimony of the real esteem of,
Sir, your most humble servant,