[From Feltham's Tour, 1798]
As I have now mentioned those parishes that collectively form the coast from Maughold-head to Jurby-point, it may be requisite to state the shoals and dangers upon this coast, which I shall do from the observations of the accurate Peter Fannin.
" Courses taken from the true meridian and distance, nautical miles. Bahama banks. The north end lies S. 12. one mile from the point of Ayre, a narrow sand; and it lies S. E. six miles long; the south end of it is N. E. six miles from Maughold head, it has only six feet at low-water spring. King William's sand; the southmost end is N. E and ¼ E. fourteen miles from Maughold-head, a narrow sand that runs W. N. W. ¼ N.; the northmost end S. E and ½ E. seven miles from the point of Ayre, it has ten feet at low-water spring: about two miles right off Jurby is a small shoal ten feet low water; close to the point of Ayre the tide runs seven miles an hour on the spring; except the above there is gradual sounding close to the shore all the way from Peele to Maughold-head."
Jurby is about eight miles from Ramsey, and two from Ballaugh. It is bounded by the sea, Lezayre, and Ballaugh. Its extreme part is termed Jurby-point, which, with the point of Ayre and Kirk Michael, have no revenue establishments. The point is a quarter of a mile from the church.
The Curragh drain intersects this parish, and passes through Ballaugh; the peat or turf is fine, the immense trunks of oak and fir dug up with it (some lying deep) afford matter of surprise and astonishment, as the island is so bare of trees now, and those so small in size; hazel nuts also have been found; they are supposed to be by some antediluvian, but are observed to lie in one particular direction. These turf bogs, from their depth, goodness, and facility of working, are very valuable, and in a course of years regenerate themselves again; the continual wetness inducing a continual vegetation of moss, and as the top is growing, the roots are putrefying and rotting; it then runs into a mixed mass, in the round of time one layer presses another, and forms a sort of cake, which, when cut and well dried, is fit for use. Deep bogs also appear on the summits of some of the mountains, and the inhabitants around partly subsist by bringing it down on Manks ponies, from three to five miles, in straw open-worked panniers called creels; they sell it about 3d. per horse-load, making several journeys in a day. See Letter XI.
Jurby forms part of that flat track mentioned in page 40. The low lands I noticed were often free from rain, while the mountains were enveloped in storms, or hid in mizzling fogs. The weather, as in similar insular situations, is variable and windy. The late Colonel Townley scolds the island, as one of the most humid spots on the globe. Short rains are frequent.: By an analysis of Colonel Townley's Journal,* I find that of 332 days, 174 were fine, though often windy, and with frequent wet nights; 64 days were completely wet; and 94 days between both, beginning fine, and ending rainy, or the reverse.[* Two vols. 8vo. 1791. Ware, Whitehaven.]
" From the nature of the soil barley is the grain best suited for profit to the farmer. The generality of the lands are light loams, sandy, or sharp and gravelly. To the south there are some tracts consisting of stiff clays, and cold spouty fiats; but it may be generally allowed, that there are few quarterlands in the island that have not ten, twenty, or more acres of soil capable of the culture of barley. As a preparation for this, the turnip tillage is a crop so wonderfully profitable as to exceed by far in profit any other crop whatever, wheat not excepted." [ +From the Manks Newspapers]
The present vicar, the Rev. William Crebbin, was ordained for this parish in 1743; and now, though eighty years of age, does the duty regularly. Of former vicars I could only learn the names of John and Robert Christian; the latter copied the old register, which began in 1606. The church and vicarage house are both in a style of primitive simplicity. The former is sixty feet long and fourteen broad. The silver chalice is peculiarly antique, and might have been used for the purpose prior to the Reformation. It has a figure of Jesus engraved on it and several small heads project from its ornamental stem, which is silver and gilt alternately. The church is dedicated to the guardian genius of Ireland, St. Patrick; and the people point out the spot where he landed
Two fairs are held annually at Jurby; that at Lady-day is for the hiring of female servants.
From the church is a peculiarly fine view of the three kingdoms, and of the north side of the island, terminated by a bold range of mountains.
The poor fund is 28l. principal. Old Mrs. Christian left a spot of meadow land which brings in about 20s. per annum. When the present vicar succeeded to the church (upwards of fifty years ago !) there were no donations, and the first was 5s. from a poor man.
A methodist meeting, and the parochial school, are opposite each other, below the church.
This parish had only one common pauper in 1707, and he it seems had only one leg.
In 1744 Bishop Wilson purchased some land and added it to the living of Jurby. for the number of inhabitants of this parish, see the list, p. 69.
From Jurby you proceed along a dry lofty beach to the opposite point of the island, having the northern or Whitehaven channel on the left, and a cultivated arable country to the right. Barrows are observable, in a perfect state, as you pass the lofty beach to Lanemoor.
History informs us that the inhabitants of the :North-side conspired against the government of Macmanis, and were headed by Earl Outhor; a battle ensued, which was fought at a place called Stantway, in St. Patrick's Isle (Jurby), the generals were slain, but the North-side people gained the victory, until the females of the South-side came with great ardour to the assistance of their husbands, and turned the fate of the battle; for which , to this day, they enjoy half their husbands' estates during their widowhood, while the North-side ladies have only a third.
In Jurby churchyard are buried seven persons between seventy-three and seventy-eight years of age, and one of eighty four; and one of eighty-eight.
On a flat Tomb is this Inscriptions.
" Exuviae Dom. Gulmi. Tear, Ludimagist, de Peel, sepultae Julii vto, MDCCLVI. Anno aetatis lxxiv. Epitaphti loco Gulielmi Tear, authore scripso. "
Mors heu! paene quidem tamen est certissima vita.
Janua felicis denique laeta piis
Me licet hic retinent pro tempera vincula mortis.
Spes tamem in Christo non moritura manet
In Christi meritis patrisque clementis amore
Est humilis mea spes hac moriorque fide.
Tu Deus ipse mount cor seis secretaque cordis
Obscure cut non abdita quaque patent
Hic nihil optari dignum est heu! omnia vana
Ergo beata veni, vanaque, vita vade."
This churchyard, from its elevated situation, affords a most delightful prospect of land and sea; but this pleasure is considerably damped by the contemplation of the mouldering heaps around. In spite of our best hopes, we are often weak enough to be mortified at this temporary suspension of consciousness. this requisite annihilation of mortality,
" Oh ! what is death ! 'tis life's last shore,
Where vanities are vain no more,
Where all pursuits their goal obtain
And life is all retouch'd again:
Where in their bright result shall rise
Thoughts, virtues, friendships, griefs, and joys.
Notwithstanding this island is so populous, you would not think so from viewing the country from an elevation. Thick as the cottages are, they do not strike the eye; the walls of the huts are seldom above seven feet high, composed generally of sods of earth', and the roofs thatched with straw, which soon becomes of a murky hue. This straw is bound down with straw-ropes drawn over net-like, and fastened to pegs in the walls; this mode of thatching requires often to be renewed.
"The lower class of inhabitants live on meal of oats and barley, and fish and potatoes, with a small portion of flesh meat. Their breakfast is of meal pottage and milk; their dinner is of potatoes and fish; their supper pottage, or potatoes and milk."*Their bread is made of barley and oatmeal, and is formed into very thin round cakes like pancakes.
Among the most necessary improvements wanting with us,and particularly in the island, is the improvement of cottage building, and the building of proper and convenient houses and offices for small farmers; these objects are eloquently enforced in the eighth volume of the Bath Society's Papers, by the worthy and sensible secretary. What can be expected to issue from the present miserable huts, but "indolence, dejection, disease, and indelicacy, which are their inseparable attendants." I cannot prevail on myself to mention circumstances, which here and in England have fallen under my notice, on the latter head particularly.
Having mentioned the quantity of peat in this parish, the following sentiments on peat bogs, and on the causes which produce trees &c. under them, may be acceptable.
Mr. Williams+ says, " all the bogs are post-diluvian; many of them are of recent formation, and countless numbers are now growing and forming more expeditiously than is generally imagined. Decayed and putrified vegetables are the origin and matter of which peat bogs are produced; and these may and do increase and accumulate in several situations, and from sundry causes."
Dr. Anderson puts a query, whether peat-moss is not a living plant, and not a congeries of decayed plants in a particular state of preservation.
Mr. Whitehurst supposes trees found in peat bogs, to have been thrown down from the higher grounds by some violent deluge, and the remains of animals, &c. to have been victims to the same cause; since no other cause known could have separated trees from the earth with all their fibrous roots, and have assembled them thus together.
Mr. Maton thinks " that they owe their interment to a common cause, which cause must have been a sudden subsidence of ground. He thinks it can scarcely admit a doubt, that the fat clayey soil is the effect of a continued decomposition of vegetable matter (this decomposition being occasioned mostly by the frequent floods which submerge vegetation in low grounds, often for a considerable time), and that it is increased besides by the muddy deposit left by streams that issue from the sides of the neighbouring hills."
In conversation with Mr. Smith, of Monckton-Combe near Bath, in 1798, on this subject, he observed, that though those fossil trees might not grow on the spot which they now occupy, yet recourse need not be had to any extraordinary deluge or revolution of nature, to have placed them thus; for from a recent account of a bog in Ireland, we may justly conclude that they were brought thither by the bog itself, which, by the causes specified by Mr. Whitehurst, originally accumulated on higher ground to an insupportable mass, and by its own gravity broke down and swept away such trees, buildings, and other things as stood in the way, covering the ploughed lands, which Mr. W. describes; the watery part having run off, the bog subsided, and formed the peat ground which now surrounds them.
After all, there is still something mysterious about these bogs and their contents, considering all circumstances and every combination under which they appear, and there seems room for still farther conjectures, and perhaps more satisfactory conclusions on the subject.
* Agricultural Report by Mr. B. Quayle, 4to. See Sir F. Morton Eden's work on the " State of the Poor," for a curious account of the various kinds of bread used by the labouring classes, vol. i. 4to. p. 510, &c. 1797.
+ See Williams on Minerals 2 vols 8vo. Dr. Anderson's Treatise on Peat Moss,and his letter to Mr. Matthews, in the Bath Society's papers vol. viii. 1796. Whitehurst on the " Formation of Earth," 4to 1792. And Seaton's Western Tour, 2 vols. 8vo. 1797, vol. ii. p. 115