[From Manx Soc vol 11 - Waldron's History] 


THE Editor of the present reprint of that portion of Mr. George Waldron's works which relates to the Isle of Man, has been unable after some considerable inquiry to obtain further particulars respecting him than what are recorded in the Preface to his works by his widow, where it is stated " that he was a gentleman of an ancient family in Essex, and had the honour to receive his education at Queen's College in Oxford." He appears, from some pieces in his miscellaneous works, which are given in the folio edition, to have had his early education at Falstead School, in Essex. He spent a considerable time in the Isle of Man, where he wrote his "Description," but states that "the chief curiosities consist in tradition and a superstitious observance of old customs."

The particular post which he held in the Island does not exactly appear (he held no official situation under the Manx Government), but from certain transactions which took place during his residence, there is little doubt he was acting as Commissioner from the British Government, to watch and report on the import and export trade of the country, and to collect evidence and give information respecting the various Dutch, Irish, and East India vessels which were then in the habit of frequenting the Manx ports for the purpose of landing their cargoes, and afterwards having them clandestinely conveyed to various ports in Great Britain, to the great injury of the British revenue. Of this he gives an instance. Upon being unable to obtain assistance to prevent a vessel coming within the requisite jurisdiction, he afterwards gave information to the Commissioners of Customs, by which the vessel was subsequently captured. He died in England prior to the publication of his entire works, in 1731, just after he had obtained a new deputation from the British Government. [according to court administration this was in London in either May or June 1729]

 At the time Waldron wrote his " History," 1726, the British Government were negotiating for the purchase of the Customs' revenues of the Island from James, tenth Earl of Derby; an Act was passed in that year to enable the Lords of the Treasury to purchase the same, and in the following year, 1727, " an Act passed and power given to those entitled to the Island, and to the Trustees of Henrietta Bridgett Ashburnham, an infant, to sell, and for the Treasury to purchase, their rights and interests in and over the Isle of Man." This arrangement, after much negotiation, was carried out in 1765, and ultimately brought to a final conclusion in 1828, including all the rights and interests of every description of the Atholl family, a century after the first overture.

 George Waldron's " Description of the Isle of Man" has passed through several editions, all of which are now difficult to be procured. Sir Walter Scott, while writing his Peveril of the Peak, made large use of Waldron's folio edition of 1731, from which he makes very long extracts in his notes to that romance This work he characterises as " a huge mine, in which I have attempted to discover some specimens of spar if I cannot find treasure." Most of the writers on the Isle of Man, as well as the various guides of the Island, have given his Legends a prominent place in their works, and many people only know the author by the extracts thus made. For this reason it was considered advisable by the Council of the Manx Society to allow the work to form one of their series.

 The first edition appeared during the author's lifetime, in 1726, in 12mo. At this period there were constant disputes between Bishop Wilson, the Lieutenant-Governor, and various parties respecting Church Discipline, which are commented on in the text, and some few instances are given in the notes to the present reprint. This edition is not mentioned in Bohn's Lownde's Bibliographer's Manual.

 The second edition appeared in 1731, after the author's death, from which the present reprint is taken, under the title of " The Complete Works, in Verse and Prose, of George Waldron, Gent., late of Queen's College, Oxon." This was published by subscription, in folio, 1731, for the widow and orphans, at the price of two guineas, and dedicated " To the Right Honourable William O'Brian, Earl of Inchiquin, Baron of Burren, in the Kingdom of Ireland, and Knight of the Bath," and signed "Theodosia Waldron." Only 110 copies of this edition were printed. As a proof of the scarceness of this edition, it may not be out of place to record the fact that at an auction of the effects of the late James Holmes, Esq., banker, held in Douglas on the 22nd December, 1853, a copy fetched the identical price at which it had been originally published, namely, two guineas. It was purchased for the Honourable Charles Hope, then LieutenantGovernor of the Island. This edition consists of "Miscellany Poems," "Tracts Political and Historical," and "A Description of the Isle of Man." In the poetical portion, all that in any way alludes to the Isle of Man is " An Epithalamium, inscribed to William Macguire, Esq., occasioned by his happy marriage with Mrs. Elizabeth Annesley, eldest daughter of Francis Annesley, Esq." This may be the gentleman of whom it is recorded as being the founder of Macguires or New Town. There is also an address to " Honorando Johanni Lloyd, Insul e Manniae Gubernatori in Anglia commoranti, Calend. Feb. 1724." This consists of twenty-nine laudatory stanzas in Latin. Governor Lloyd was appointed to succeed Alexander Horne, and was sworn in October 3rd, 1723. He soon began to evince his opposition to Bishop Wilson, for shortly after his appointment he refused the summer the use of a soldier to execute the Bishop's mandate, and gave orders to the Captain of Peel Castle to the like effect. Also on the return of the Bishop from London, after his successful appeal to the King in Council, he published an order to prohibit all rejoicings, bonfires, &c. He refused his token for a jury of inquiry to find out who had broken the windows of Douglas Chapel; and on Sunday morning, March 12th, 1725, " having hunted on the north side, went with all his train through three or four parishes, and even through the town of Douglas, in time of Divine service, to the great offence of all good Christians," and by the end of the month he had his dismissal. There is also, " Georgii Waldron Mona Aegrotantis oratio." However sick he may have been of his sojourn in the Island, his poetic muse has not embalmed his memory; he has come down to our day only in the record which he made of the traditions, superstitions, and customs of the country.

 The third edition was published in 1744, in 12mo, and contained only "The History of the Isle of Man," and was an exact reprint of that of 1731, with a new title, which is given at the commencement of the present " History," being considered more appropriate to the work then that of 1731. The plate of medals and coins is not given in this third edition. Some copies have the date of 1745.

 Mr. Campbell, in his " Popular Tales of the West Highlands," mentions a curious pamphlet which he picked up in Dublin, " The History of the Isle of Man," &c., with a succinct detail of enchantments that have been exhibited there by sorcerers and other infernal beings, 1780, which, from the specimen of the tales, leaves little doubt that it is Waldron's History. These comprise all the editions I have met with.

 In the present reprint it has been thought desirable to adhere to the spelling of the names of places as they are given in the edition of 1731, in preference to any modern mode. The plate of medals and coins has been made on a reduced scale. It is hoped that the Notes (which are appended at the end of the volume) will be found useful as explanatory and illustrative of the text. It would have been easy to add to these, but the Editor was desirous of avoiding repetition of such matter as had already been given in previous volumes issued by the Manx Society. A copious Index has been added for the facility of reference.

 During the time Waldron resided in this Island and was writing his account of it, he must have had many opportunities of observing the conduct of the clergy and the working of the ordinances of Bishop Wilson, with whom, in the early part of his episcopacy, he was contemporary. The Bishop was enthroned in the Cathedral of St. Germans, in Peel Castle, on the 11th April, 1698, and died at Bishop's Court on the 7th March, 1755, and Waldron's residence in the Island would be from about 1710 to 1730. [1729 but judging from his effects etc it would appear that he intended to return to the Island]

 His strictures on the Manx clergy may be somewhat severe, and in some instances not quite correct. It seems barely possible to reconcile the statement that " these spiritual masters are in a manner idolised by the natives," yet " they take care to maintain their authority by keeping the laity in the most miserable ignorance." At this time Bishop Wilson had just published his work " On the Principles and Duties of Christianity," as well as a work " On the Education of Rich and Poor Children," for the use of the Island, and "all persons were obliged to send their children to school to receive instruction, and to continue them there until the said children can read English distinctly," and upon refusal the parents were fined. This was an early move in the way of education, and has gone on improving until the present day, when the Isle of Man schools can well bear comparison with others in the Government Inspector's reports, which is borne out by their receiving a greater proportion of Government money in proportion to the number of inhabitants than England.

 Sacheverell, in his " Survey of the Isle of Man," observes that " the Church of the Isle of Man is strictly conformable to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, and though it is as far short of its learning as it is of its revenue, yet, without vanity, it may be said that in its uniformity it outdoes any branch of the Reformed Churches." There might be occasional except tions of ignorance or inaptitude for their vocations in the Island, as there were also in England at that day, but the Manx people must have found something to admire in their pastors or they would not (as Waldron says) have " idolised them." It is evident that their ministrations had made some impression on them, as few, if any, natives had left them and gone over to the Church of Rome.

 The discipline of the Church was certainly administered with what we should consider in the present day, very undue severity, as is clearly proved by the records which have come down to us, yet the good which the Bishop effected in his day has immortal ised his name, and blotted out the remembrance of what was evil.

 With respect to the Superstitions which Waldron records were so very prevalent in the Island, he observes, " that to show the world what a Manxman truly was, he verily believed that idolisers as they were of their clergy, they would be even refractory to them were they to preach against the existence of Fairies, whom they called ' the good people."' This belief, at any rate, had come down to them through a long series of generations, and was prevalent in one shape or other in every nook and corner of Europe. What advance have the people of the present generation made, after a century and a half of education ? The press is constantly teeming with accounts of spiritualism, seances, and manifestations of one kind or other, and, to their credit, do their best to hold it up to the ridicule it deserves; yet there appear to be thousands who implicitly believe that people or their spirits, who have been dead hundreds of years can be brought back, some of them forsooth arrayed in their proper garments, which must at any rate be musty by this time, to answer any cockand-bull question that may be put to them ! These manifestations are constantly taking place in the capital of England, and find their votaries; and in that of France it is stated there are actually at the present time no fewer than sixty thousand men who have no other religion or creed than that of spiritisme, and it is really sad to witness the rapid diffusion of a faith built on such senseless tenets.

 George Waldron is the earliest author who has given any detailed account of the superstitions and traditional tales of the Manx people. From his lengthened stay in the Island, (upwards of twenty years,) he had an opportunity of indulging in, what must have been a favourite amusement with him, listening to the tales of the fishermen and country people; and what is more fortunate, he had the inclination to record them. That he has done this in his own language is evident, for they are entirely free from those idiomatic phrases and peculiar modes of expression which the Manx invariably use in relating one of their own wild legends, and which give a peculiar charm to the narrative.

 It would have given an additional interest to the tale, particularly to those who are acquainted with the Island, if the author had named the locality of the legends, as for instance in the tale of " the Duel and its results"; and in that of the spirit who cries " Hoa! hoe! hoe !" In the Isle of Man, names of places are mixed up with legends, just as they are in Scotland and Ireland, and nearly all the Manx customs are common to the Western Isles. Many a tale is told of a place bearing a very appropriate name, such as Fairy Hill or Cronk Mooar, situated in the parish of Rushen.

 Allusions and quotations from these legends have been given by various writers. Sir Walter Scott, as before remarked, has made use of them in his " Minstrelry" and other works. Ritson, in his "Fairy Tales," has printed a number of them, besides many other authors.

 The fey or fairies, of which Waldron has recounted many a freak and tale, have had a long standing amongst all people, as they have passed along from east to west, or from north to south, changing their appellations to suit their varied habitations, always preferring quietness, and residing in woods, hills, fountains, and grottos. Some of these little folk, it is true, are reported as malignant, as witness the whipping of the little girl as related in page 32, while others are as willing to do a good turn without fee or reward, for that is a sure way of giving them offence, and driving them from the place. Their deeds have been recounted by many a writer, " from earliest record unto latest time," but the poets have made them their own, and have recorded their doings in many a lay. Homer sang in their praise, recounting their exploits which tradition had brought down to his day. They have been the theme of many a Persian poet Chaucer has recorded them; Spenser, Drayton, Ben Jonson, and a host of others, have sweetly sung of them; Milton must have been with

 The fairie elves
Whose midnight revels, by a forest side,
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams he sees, while overhead the moon
Sits arbitrese, and nearer to the earth
Wheels her pale course, they on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear;
At once with joy and fear big heart rebounds."

 And Shakspeare has immortalised the whole fraternity of

 Fairies! black, grey, green, and white."

 The discoveries of Sir William Jones and others, in making us acquainted with the Sanscrit writings, have been one great cause in pointing out the common origin of the traditions which have reached us, travelling by various routes, and each tribe through which they have passed impressing them with their own peculiar ideas, yet, after thousands of years, retaining their first common origin, thus showing, as Dr. Dasent has remarked, " that the whole human race sprung from one stock, planted in the East, which has stretched out its boughs and branches, laden with the fruit of language, and bright with the bloom of song and story, by successive offshoots, to the utmost parts of the earth."

 Many of the fables of Aesop and other early writers can now be traced to a very remote :Eastern source. The collecting and recounting these tales and traditions has been thought worthy the attention of very learned men. M. Gliovan Francecco Straparola published a collection of tales at Venice, in 1567, many of which have parallel passages to northern tales, with the freedom of ideas which prevailed amongst the Neapolitans of that day. The Pentamerone of Giambattista Basile, a collection of Fairy Tales in the Neapolitan dialect, first appeared in Naples in 1637. These have been translated into German by M. Liebrecht, and Mr. J. E. Taylor gave an English translation of a portion of them in 1848. They have evidently been taken from existing materials, and adapted to the spirit of the Neapolitan people; many of his similes are exceedingly beautiful. Dr. Grimm says, "This collection of tales is indeed the best and richest that has been made in any country; they are unquestion ably the wonderful and last echoes of very ancient myths which have taken root over the whole of Europe, and opened in an unexpected manner passages of research which were considered to be closed up, and given the clue to the relationship of fable

The tales of Charles Perrault, the Countess D'Auluoy, Count de Caylus, Madame le Prince de Beaumont, and numerous others of the last century, most of which have appeared in English, may be referred to as bearing out the theory of the early origin of these tales: they may have become in these writers' hands what:may be called a kind of nouvellette, yet they are all founded on some much earlier tradition of similar facts, by whatever means they may have come down to them. It has however been reserved for the writers of the present century to throw the greatest light upon the sources of these traditions and tales, and to show their descent from one common origin.

 It has not been thought an unworthy subject for investigation of such men as the brothers Grimm, in their " Household Stories"; Joseph Ritson, the critical writer, in his dissertation on " Pygmies and Fairies"; Crofton Croker, in his " Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland"; Keightley, in his " Fairy Mythology", Planche and Max Muller, in their various Translations; Dr. Dasent, in his "Popular Tales from the Norse," who, for his admirable essay on "The origin and diffusion of Popular Tales," and for his services to Scandinavian literature, was, in 1862, presented with a handsome silver drinking horn, by his countrymen, including the King and Crown Prince of Denmark; and,lastly, the collection of "Popular Tales of the West Highlands," by Mr. Campbell, which have been orally collected, and given with the original Gaelic.

 Many other writers might be enumerated, but sufficient have been given to show there are some men of erudition who think different to what I was lately told by a Government School Inspector, that such tales were " all stupid trash !'' How differently thought the great reformer, Martin Luther, who said, " I would not, for any quantity of gold, part with the wonderful tales which I have retained from my earliest childhood, or have met with in my progress through life." The more we investigate, the more we are lost in wonder, Adding that tale unravels tale, one opening out another, leading back to that time, even to the very dawn of time, giving us a proof that the world is older than we think it.

 The ground plot of these tales is common to all the nations of Europe, and has not taken its rise from the writers of Greece or Rome, which some have asserted, but from a much earlier era, and is to be found long prior to the time of the father of history, Herodotus. The more we search, the more are we convinced of their Eastern origin. Tales common to Europe are found in the Sanscrit, and those again appear in an earlier period of unknown date, making the East " the cradle of a common language and a common belief" Recent investigation has found that tales long thought of European origin, are embodied in the Chinese literature of an early date, and are even found in the centre of Africa, where no written language had ever appeared, but must have been transmitted orally, from race to race, from the most remote period of time. I have heard similar tales related in the kraal of the various tribes of Zoolos and Caffre, as well as in the hut of the Hottentot; they are met with among the slaves of the West Indies, and in the heart of Abyssinia, fully carrying out Solomon's saying "Verily there is nothing new under the sun."

These tales have a tendency to convey the ancient Celtic notion of a future state, and are, after all is said, the poetry of the poetry of the people.

It is hard to have to give up one's old favourites of " Jack the Giant Killer" "Cinderella and her Glass Slipper,"* " Fortnatus and his Cup," and many more pets, to these Eastern potentates, after so long believing them to be one's own; but what grief must the Welshman also feel when he has to abandon his faithful "Dog of Bethgellert," as well as the thousands who have implicitly believed in the history of William Tell and the apple, said to have taken place in 1307, when they find it is all a myth, and that the transactions are common to the whole Aryan race, and the same feats are recorded hundreds and hundreds of years before. It is curious indeed to think how these tales still linger in all their varied forms in kindred spots. They tend to while away many a winter's night, not only here, but wherever the all-devouring flood of modern civilisation has not swept them away. In Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, may yet be heard many a wild legend, illustrative of their simple yet intensely natural poetry.

 Numerous are the allusions that are made respecting the notion of a land under the waves. In the Scotch and Irish traditions r,they are constantly occurring; the "Arabian Nights' Entertainments" are full of stories about people who lived under the sea. In the " Mabinogion" it is related that Cardigan Bay was once dry land, and that the land sank, and the people survive with their dwellings and possessions. The tale of the " machine made of glass," and cased with thick tough leather, embellished as it may have been by Mr. Waldron, conveys the idea that the Manx believe there is a world under the waves, and the Manx sailors then declared that they commonly heard at sea the bleating of sheep, the barking of dogs, and the howling of wolves, as they now believe in the water horse and the water bull, as well as the tinkling of the church bell under the sea on a Sunday morning. The same idea is related in one of the Italian tales of Straparola, as well as in other writers. Thus the popular superstitions and legendary history prevailing in the Isle of Man show the similarity of Manx Celtic traditions with those of the other branches of the same family throughout Europe and the East.

 Mr. Campbell, the collector of the "Popular Tales of the West Highland' published in 1860-62, which he gives in the original Gaelic as they were narrated, as well as in English, made an attempt in 1860 to collect some of the Manx tales, but only partially understanding the Manx Gaelic, and being a stranger, he experienced the usual difficulty in inducing the peasants to relate a story or a queer old custom, but any attempt to extract such seemed to act as a pinch of snuff does on a snail. He amusingly relates how he was generally met in his endeavours, which is best given in his own words:—"The Manxman would not trust the foreigner with his secrets; his eye twinkled suspiciously, and his hand seemed unconsciously to grasp his mouth, as if to keep all fast. After getting quite at case with one old fellow over a pipe, and having learned that a neighbour's cow had borne a calf to the ' Taroo ustey,'—water bull, I thought I might fish for a story, and told one as a bait. 'That man, if he had two pints, would tell you stories by the hour,' said a boy. 'Oh, yes, they used to tell plenty of stories,' said the old man, 'skyll as we call them.' Here,was the very word mispronounced 'sgeul,' so my hopes rose. 'Will you tell me a story now?' 'Have you any churches in your country?' 'Yes, and chapels; but will you tell me astory?' 'What have you got to sell in your bag?' 'What a shame now, for you, an old mananach, not to tell me a story when I have told you one, and filled your pipe and all.' 'What do you pay for the tobacco ?' 'Oh, will you not tell the man a story?' said the boy. 'I must go and saw now,' said the old man; and so we parted."

 This is very characteristic, and it requires a person conversant with their usages, as well as able to speak the Gaelic of the country, for that is indispensable to induce the Manxman to unbosom himself of his native legends, of which there are yet ample stores to be found in every nook of the Island.

 When, on an evening, the labours of the day are over, and the cattle " all seen to," the big man in his chair in the corner, the children seated around the fire on the floor, the dark-haired mother on a low stool in front with her knitting on her lap, perchance a neighbour or two may drop in, with a stranger friend, and when the shyness, it may be called " suspicion," has worn away, induced by the presence of the latter personage, then, when the big man feels secure, may be heard, little by little, for you can never get a legend told out at once, a sgeul that will make the youngsters cling the closer to each other, and the elders give many an approving assent.

 Mr. Joseph Train, the correspondent of Sir Walter Scott, in his remarks on the popular superstitions of the Island, says:— " The curious observer may yet find amid the Manx mountains the elements of another Thousand and one nights' Entertainments."

 It is greatly to be desired that some`Manxman may be induced to imitate the labours of Mr. Campbell, and gather in the popular lore of his own country, of which there still may be found alarge harvest, before it entirely passes away from the memory of those who are its last perishing depositaries. In another generation or two, it will be too late; no one will survive who can relate " a tale of times that are past."


 Rose Mount,

31st Oct., 1865.



* The "Glass Slipper." hue given rise to a good deal of controversy in the literary world. This tale was first published in French, the latter end of the seventeenth century, by Charles Perrault, (founded on an old tradition,) under the title of; "Cinderella; ou la petite Pantofle de Verre." This has been said to have been an error of the press, now become inveterate, clanging " de vair" into "de Veere.' and the slipper of sable was suddenly converted into a slipper of glass Mr, Planche inclines to the latter reading, and says:—" It has been said to represent allegorically the extreme fragility of woman's reputation, and the prudence of flight before it is too late." The Germans have a version in which the slipper is of " pure gold." a writer in the Dublin University Magazine remarks, that " Two centuries ago furs were so rare, and therefore so highly valued, that the wearing of them was restricted, by several sumptuary laws, to kings and princes. Sable, in those laws called vain, was the subject of countless regulations. The exact quantity permitted to be worn by persons of different grades, and the articles of dress to which it might be applied, were defined most strictly. The dignity conferred on Cinderella by the fairy, by her wearing a slipper of vair, a privilege then confined to the highest rank of princesses, is thus particularly marked:'

 To change the slipper of glass into one of fur, would now be a labour in vain although a recent critic remarks, "Imagine a lady dancing in a pair of glass slippers ~ Why, a cat in cockleshells, or a puss in boots, would be nothing to the row she would make on the floor. Besides, unless the glass were malleable, it would soon be cracked in the tripping of the 'light fantastic toe! "'


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999