[From Manx Soc vol 16, 1869]
THE first person who enters the house on New Year's morning is called " The Quaaltagh," and it is a matter of considerable anxiety, particularly amongst the female portion of the household, that it should be a person of dark complexion, as a lighthaired male or a female is deemed unlucky (and a "agagh, a splay footed person, is considered as particularly so), to be the first-foot on that day, and many a plan is resorted to, in order to keep the unwelcome one outside, and many a sly peep is taken at the visitor, to ascertain if it is the desired one. It is usual on these occasions to place before the quaaltagh the best fare the family can afford
"To mask and to mumm kind neighbours will come,
With wassels of nut-brown ale,
To drink and carouse, to all in the house,
As merry as bucks in the dale;
Where cake, bread, and cheese, is brought for your fees,
To make you the longer stay;
At the fire to warm, 'twill do you no harm,
To drive the cold winter away."
In old times it was the custom for a company of young men, on this day, to go from house to house singing the following rhyme.
Ollick ghennal erriu as blein feer vie;
Seihll as slaynt da'n slane lught thie
Bea as gennallys eu bio ry cheilley,
Shee as graih eddyr mraane as deiney
Cooid as cowryn, stock as stoyr.
Palchey phuddase, as skaddan dy-liooar;
Arran as caashey, eeym as roayrt ;
Baase, myr lugh, ayns uhllin ny soalt;
Cadley sauchey tra vees shiu ny lhie,
As feeackle y jargan, nagh bee dy mie."
Again we assemble, a merry New Year,
To wish to each one of the family here,
Whether man, woman, or girl or boy,
That long life and happiness all may enjoy.
May they of potatoes and herrings have plenty,
With butter and cheese, and each other dainty,
And may their sleep never, by night or by day,
Disturbed be by even the tooth of a flea,
Until at the Quaaltagh again we appear
To wish you, as now, all a happy New Year!
Great care is necessary in sweeping the floor of the house on New Year's morning, to begin at the door and sweep the dust to the hearth, for if otherwise done, the good fortune of the family would thereby be considered to be swept from the house for that year.
" On New Year's eve, in many of the upland cottages, it is yet customary for the housewife, after raking the fire for the night, and just before stepping into bed, to spread the ashes smooth over the floor with the tongs, in the hope of finding in it, next morning, the track of a foot ; should the toes of this ominous print point towards the door, then, it is believed, a member of the family will die in the course of that year ; but, should the heel of the fairy foot point in that direction, then, it is firmly believed, that the family will be augmented within the same period."-Train's Isle of Man, vol. ii. p. 115, 1845.
The quaaltagh, or first person one meets going from home is of great consequence, particularly to women the first time they go out after lying-in. If it should happen to be some poor miserable old woman, nothing but bad luck in every undertaking is expected through the whole day.