[From Manx Soc vol 16]
"Do as they do in the Isle of Man.
How's that? They do as they can."
A saying when we hear any of our neighbours complaining of their larder or aumbry being nearly empty-very poor consolation this for an empty stomach!
"The crab that lies always in its hole is never fit."
"ta losh da'n furriman
" Strike the foreman."
When the man on the qagt (the highest part of the butt) has cut down his rig before the head reaper, the rest cry out, "Strike the foreman."
" Share farkiaght er baare faarkey, ny er keim rellickey."
" It is better to be placed on the top of a billow than on the church-stile."
That is a live dog is better than a dead lion.
"Sheyin dou greme y ee dy vuinn yn accrys jeh my chailley."
"I must eat a bit to take the edge off my stomach."
" Nyn geead mea."
"A hundred welcomes."
The Irish say a hundred thousand ; it is expressive of hospitality. Dr. Johnson remarked that the most barbarous people were the most hospitable.
" Tar neose veih shen, ta'n kiark spongit,"
"Come down from above there, the hen will be parched."
Said by an old servant of one of the clergy, who walked into the church and thus reminded his master that his sermon was more tedious than usual that day.
" Tra ta ny hoirryn cha chice cha n'yrrys d'an mean ve cha thanney."
" When the edges are so thick no wonder for the middle to be so thin."
" Cha marroo as clagh."
" As dead as a stone."
A Manxman's walking-stick is so called, from one John --, who flayed his horse, and afterwards was obliged to travel on foot.
"Keeyl chionnit yn cheeayl share
Mannagh vel ce kionnit roo gheyr"
"Wit bought is the wit best,
If it be not bought too dear."
"Easht lesh dagh cleaysh, eisht jean briwnys"
Listen with each ear, then to judgment."
"When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's, is out of fashion."
Whatever may be the fate of other places in this respect, the Isle of Man will retain its kisses, if we may judge from the luxuriance of the gorse in every quarter. At some seasons it is truly splendid ; it is met with in bloom all the year round.
"Blue, the Manxman's livery."
This saying has, I suppose, originated in the fact that the prevailing colour of the dress of the Manx people is " blue." A cloth of two colours of wool, keearlheeah, greymoaldy, was formerly the garb generally worn by the Manx peasantry.
"Ta broilt chaa boggagh arryn croie."
" Hot broth softens hard bread."
It is related, as some farmers were cutting their yearly stock of turf on the mountain-side near Sneafell, they came upon a large block of stone, on the top of which was engraved in Manx-
" Chyndaa us mish, as oo m choyr1e."
"Turn thou me, and counsel thou shalt find."
They immediately conceived that some immense treasure was hidden under the stone. Obtaining some further assistance, and after great exertions, they succeeded in turning the block. Imagine their astonishment and chagrin when, instead of the anticipated treasure, they found the following engraved on the under side-
"Ta broilt chaa boggagh arryn croie,
Chyndaa us mish myr va meeroie.
" Hot broth softens hard bread.
Now turn me back into my former bed."
"Ny poose eirey-innen ny slooid ny tan ayr eck er ne croghit. "
"Never marry an heiress, unless her father has been hanged.
She is sure to be proud."
"Ny share loshtys daa vrasnaq na unnane."
"Two faggots will burn better than one."
"Hit him again for he is Irish!"
There appears to have been amongst the Manx people an old and deep-rooted antipathy to the people of that nation, originating, most probably, in some sudden descent upon them 'by the Irish in days of old. In the " Book of Orders," made by the Earl of Derby in 1561, it is ordered, "that Irish women loytering and not working, be commanded forth of the said Isle, with as much convenient speed as may be ; and no boate hereafter to be suffered to bring any of the said loytering persons into the said Isle ; but that he, upon paine and forfeiture of his boate and goods, after warning him given, take the said persons to him againe." There are many, even at the present day, who look upon them with much the same feeling.
On the English and Scottish Borders we meet with the same parallel proverbs, applied to the natives of those respective nations.
"Mannagh vow cliaghtey, cliaghtey, nee cliaghtey coe."
"If custom is not indulged with custom, custom will weep."
Manxmen are very tenacious of any deviation from an ancient custom, and commonly make use of this exclamation :
You must summer. and winter a stranger before you can form an opinion of him."
This is one of the Manx cautious sayings, which, no doubt, they have had often to put in practice.
"Tra heidys Avril big e chayrn,
Sy thehll vees palchey traagh as oayrn"
"When April. sounds aloud his horn,
Great crops will be of hay and corn."
It is the practice when the juniors meet the elders of their family to bend the knee and crave a blessing in these words-
"Dy der Jee dott e vannaght"
"God give me his blessing."
The answer is, with the hand stretched out--
"Dy bannee Jee oo.
" God bless you."
"Dy bishee jeeah shin "-" God prosper or bless you," is said in passing ploughmen, reapers, etc.
"If the puffin's nest was not robbed in the Calf of Man, they would breed there no longer."
The coulterneb puffin, or sea-parrot, down to the beginning of the present century, used to frequent the Calf of Man in large numbers, to build their nests in the burrows made by the rabbits, in which it deposits one egg about the size of a hen's, but if the egg be taken away, it will lay another, and even a third, in the same place, hatching only one bird at a time. This may have led to the saying. They had for a long time deserted the spot, said to have been caused by a swarm of Norway rats, cast on shore from a Russian vessel which was wrecked on the coast. Some few now frequent the coast from April to August, and are not difficult to approach, and when taken alive, bite most severely. The puffin is met with in various localities, and is a visitant of the Faroe Islands, and lays its egg in the same singular situation.
A Manxman is in banter called "a puffin," probably from the Calf in former times having large quantities frequenting it. The flesh is very unpleasant to strangers, but accounted savoury and good eating amongst the natives, and being pickled, may vie with anchovies. Professor Wilson, in his "Voyage round the Coasts of Scotland and the Isles," Edinburgh 1842, in speaking of St. Kilda, says, " The chief sustenance of the people at this time (August) consisted of the small seafowl before mentioned under the name of puffin. The widow in whose house we were resting had snared about a score, and having already eaten a few for breakfast, was now employed in boiling a corresponding number for dinner. These birds are caught by stretching a piece of cord along the stony places where they chiefly congregate. To this cord are fastened, at intervals of a few inches, numerous hair-nooses, and from time to time, when the countless puffins are paddling upon the surface, in go their little web-feet, they get noosed round the ankle, and no sooner begin to flap and flutter, than down rushes the ruthless widow woman, and twists their necks."
It is often remarked of any one unusually corpulent, " He is as fat as a puffin."
"Clogh na killagh ayns corneil dthy hie."
"May a stone of the church be found in thy dwelling."
This would be considered as one of the greatest misfortunes that could befall a family. The Manx have a particular veneration for anything that has been dedicated to the service of the church, and have a superstitious feeling in removing or applying them to their own use. Hence the numerous remains of Treen Chapels in every part of the island.
"There will neither be clag nor kielain."
That is, there will neither be large nor little bell, intimating thereby that there will be no service at church, or rather, as the saying is evidently of Roman Catholic origin, there will neither be prayers nor mass. Few churches in the island possess more than one bell, and there is only one peal of bells, that at St. Thomas' at Douglas.
" Tra ta yn derry bought cooney lesh bought elley,
Ta Jee hene garaghtee."
" When one poor man assists another poor main, God himself laughs."
This charitable proverb has been noticed in the lecture delivered by the Rev. T. E. Brown, printed in this collection. Considering the limited means of the Manx people, there are none more benevolent to the poor. The pauper portion of the population are supported by voluntary contributions, there being no poors'-rates in the island, the applicant generally receiving a plate of meal. It is customary for these " Walkers," as they are called, to enter the house without knocking, and take a seat by the fire. Many old respectable inhabitants consider it inhospitable to have a knocker on their doors, and some still retain the old custom of keeping up a bed for the walker, should night overtake him on their street, as the road leading up to the house is called.
There is a Scotch proverb somewhat allied to this, and yet entirely different in its signification
"When one thief robs another thief, the diel chuckles for joy."
Another rendering is-
"The foul fiend laughs when one thief robs another."
" He is like a Manx cat, he leaves nought behind him but his tail." .
" Like a Manx cat, hasn't a tail to wag."
Spoken of a person who is totally unable to clear himself from the imputation with which he is charged. The only animal peculiar to the island is the tailless cat, called in Manx stubbin, in English rumpy. The late Professor Forbes states it to be " an accidental variety of the common species, Felis catus, frequently showing no traces of the caudal vertebrae, and in others a merely rudimental substitute." The witty author of A Six -Days' Tour in the Isle of Man says, " But as they intermarry with the more favoured English breeds, they have a quarter-tail, half-tail, three quarters of a tail, and full tail, according to some scale of deserts with which I am unacquainted." Some affirm that this is the genuine aboriginal cat of the island; and there is a tradition that the first stubbin or rumpy cat seen in the island was cast ashore from a foreign vessel, wrecked on Spanish Head, ages ago.
This breed of cats are considered good mousers, and many are annually carried out of the island as curiosities by visitors who frequent it.
"Manxman-like, a day behind the fair."
This is commonly used by the English residents on the island. A native rarely attends punctually to his appointments; eleven o'clock is generally taken as twelve by him, and often, if he gets there in the course of the day, he will say, " Ough! it's not so bad." The Manx people are not singular in this besetting sin. The following is also of the" take your time" principle:-
"Traa dy-liooa?, Traa dy-liooar
"Time enough Time enough !
This Manx procrastinator is sure to come out whenever anything is wanted to be done.
Dr. Short, the present Bishop of St. Asaph, while resident at Bishop's Court, had in his garden several large beds of thyme, and in passing them with his friends, he used jocularly to say, in allusion to this Mankish sin, " You see I have time enough."
"Our enemies the Redshanks; or Goblan Marrey."
This, at no distant period, was a common nickname for a Scotch Highlander, of whom Manxmen used formerly to be very suspicious.*3
"To go about like a brewing pan."
One kettle for brewing generally served a whole neighbourhood, and in some instances the pan was the property of the parish ; this is alluded to in the song of "Hunt the Wren."
It passed from one landed proprietor to another, as often as they required a fresh supply of " home-brewed ; " hence the proverb. It is believed this is the origin of what were formerly called "brass rents" (from brasseur, a brewer), a charge due to the lord of the island for liberty to brew, and collected along with the lord's rents, now merged into the brewer's license, as few, if any, at the present day, brew their own beer.
"The Manx and the Scotch will come so near as to throw their beetles at one another."
A traditional prophetic saying used in the north of the island. It is stated in Hollinshed's Chronicles of Scotland, that Agricola, the Roman general, wanting vessels to carry his army over from Scotland to the Isle of Man, such as could swim and knew the shallow places of the coast made shift to pass the gulf, and so got to land, to the great wonder of the inhabitants.
The land is assuredly gaining yearly on the sea, at the Point of Ayre; and the northerns look forward to their saying being ultimately fulfilled, notwithstanding there are yet some twenty miles to fill up.
"Ten L's, thrice X, with V and II, did fall;
Ye Manx take care, or suffer more ye shall."
According to Camden, this rhyme originated on the Scottish conquest of the Isle of Man. The Scots troops disembarked at Derby Haven on the 7th of October 1270, and next morning before sunrise a battle was fought, in which the above number of the islanders fell, bravely fighting for the liberty of their country.
"God keep the house and all within,
From Cut Mac Cullock and all his kin."
God keep the good corn,
The sheep and the bullock,
From Satan, from sin,
And from Cutlar Mac Cullock."
Cutlar Mac Cullock was a powerful Gallovidian rover, who made repeated incursions into the northern parts of the island about 1507, carrying off all that he could lay his hands on, so that the inhabitants used to eat the sodden meat before they supped the broth, lest they should be deprived of the more substantial part.
These incursions were in retaliation of a raid made by Thomas, the second Earl of Derby, on the town of Kirkcudbright, which he. pillaged. On one of these occasions, as the master of the house had just repeated one of these rhymes, Cutlar in person made his appearance, with this reply-
"Gudeman, gudernan, ye pray o'er late,
Mac Cullock's ship is at the Yate."
The Yaite is a well-known landing-place on the north side of the island. These incursions caused watch and ward to be maintained with the greatest strictness for a long time afterwards. A ballad on Cutlar Mac Cullock will be found in Legends of Manxland, by Miss Cookson, Douglas, 1859.
In archery, to play fodjeeaght is to shoot an arrow to a great distance, or to the greatest possible distance-beyond all marks or bounds. Cregeen gives the meaning of the word thus, " The distance of the furthest arrow shot in archery, farness."
The expression, " He is playing," or " Thou art playing fodjeeaght," is often used of or to a person who has told some. exaggerated or incredible story-similar to the saying, " He has been drawing a long bow."
Another still more common phrase, frequently used towards a person telling an improbable tale is, " Cum nynekenghey bwoie," that is, " Hold " (or " restrain," or put " a curb on thy tongue, boy." It is a good-humoured but expressive mode of endeavouring to check the relater of the story, and to intimate that he is telling what is not strictly true.
In a work on the Slogans of the North of England, under the joint names of Michael Aislabie Denham, John Fenwick, and William Hylton Longstaffe, published at Newcastle-uponTyne, 1851, of which only a few copies appeared, the former gentleman remarks, "Slogans, or gathering-cries, were common throughout the whole of the European continent in the middle ages ; and their primary object, no doubt, was to animate the rival warriors at the moment of attack ; they were also used as the watchword by which individuals of the same party recognised each other, either amidst the darkness of night, or in the confusion of battle, and are in general found to be composed of the name of the various leaders of the local bands of foemen under whose banner, or pennon, they so courageously fought even unto death. Occasionally, as in Scotland, the name of the rendezvous was used as the slughorn. The war-cry of kings was, however, generally that of the patron saint of their country, to wit, that of the king of England, " St. George; " the king of Scotland, " St. Andrew; while that of the king of France was " Montjoye St. Denis."
"St. George he was for England ; St. Denis was for France.
Sing, Honi soit qui mal y pense."
Mr. Fenwick says tliat, " Slogans or war-cries, equally with standards or banners, appear to me to be of divine origin. The earliest slogan or war-cry with which I am acquainted is that of Gideon in his conflict with the Midianites. He addresses his three companies, and says, "When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also.on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon !" (Judges vii. 18).
That the various northern hordes who periodically made inroads on the Isle of Man, either for conquest or plunder, sent forth their war-cries in making their assaults upon the enemy there is little doubt, and were, as the Sagas inform us, also accompanied by the " clashing of swords and beating of shields." It would be interesting to record what was the particular war-cry in that memorable battle of 1098, when the two rival factions met to decide the contest at Sandwath or St. Patrick's Isle, in the parish of Jurby, the people of the south being led on by Macmarus, and those of the north by Ottar, when both leaders were slain. The party of Maemarus had nearly gained the victory, when the women of the north rushed forth simultaneously to the scene of action, and, by the timely assistance which theyrendered to their husbands and lovers, changed the issue of the battle, and the inhabitants of the southern portion of the island were defeated. As a reward for the bravery of the northern Amazons, it was afterwards enacted by the insular government that, " of all goods immovable, not having any life, the wives shall have the halfe on the north side, whereas those on the south side shall receive only one-third." An old scald says, " Future ages shall review the spot on Mona's shore, where in array we stalked to beard the adversary."
In 1316, Richard de Mandeville, with others, at the head of a body of Irish freebooters, landed at Ronaldsway, and, advancing to Barrule, struck up their war-cry of " Crom a boo! " defeating the Manx with great slaughter, and carried off to their ships large quantities of booty.
The slogan of the Stanleys, who were so long lords and kings of Man, was, "Stanley! Stanley!" which so often carried fear and victory over their enemies.
It is to be regretted that the war-cry of the Manxman has not been traditionally preserved. Some few characteristics of the people may be recorded, and probably others may be met with in addition to what has previously been remarked with respect to the " Manx Puffin." The natives of Castletown are called The Dullish Boys "-those of Dalby are named "Gobbogs " The Peel men are designated " The Skaddan Boys," as well as "Haddock Boys;" while those from the north of the island are called " Stunners or Boasters."
*3 This is a name for the Scotch Highlanders, one of whom is thus described by Colvill in The Wig's Supplication, Edinburgh 1711
One man, quoth he, oft times hath stood,
And put to flight a multitude,
Like Sampson, Wallace, and Sir Bewis,
And Finmacoul beside the Lewis
Who in a certain time of year,
Did rout and chase an hundred deer,
Till he behind, and they before,
Did run an hundred miles and more;
Which, questionless, prejudged his toes,
For Redshanks then did wear no shoes.