[From Manx Soc vol 16]
IN presenting this volume to the members of the Manx Society, it will be found the contents are of an entirely different nature from those which have preceded it, yet still carries out the object which the council had in view on the formation of the Society-viz. the bringing together everything that would in any way illustrate the history of this little Island, or, as it has not unaptly been called, "A Kingdom within a Kingdom." An eminent historian has largely made use of similar materials, thereby giving his history that peculiar interest to the general reader which no other possesses. These waifs and strays of Mona's wilds, thus collected and illustrated, may probably serve a similar purpose to the future " Macaulay of Mona."
From a notice of works suggested for publication, as issued by the Society, it appears that the Rev. T. E. Brown was collecting similar materials to the present volume, and it is to be regretted he did not carry it out; probably his absence from the Island has been the chief cause of this not being done. I am not aware what progress he had made with his work, or if he had proceeded -beyond the elucidation of the Manx Proverbs. 1 fortunately possessed an account of the lecture he delivered on this subject, the substance of which will be found in this volume, wherein he most graphically portrays the characteristics of his countrymen.
Some of the Proverbs and Sayings I had a few years ago written out for an esteemed correspondent in the county of Durham., the late Mr. M. Aislabie Denham, who published them along with other North Country Sayings in a volume entitled -Denham Tracts, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1851, but as so few were published, and those chiefly for presents, it is doubtful if any found their way to the Isle of Man. That portion relating to the island was thus dedicated
To Oberon and Titania,, King and Queen of Fairies, and the whole Fairy-Court, dwelling in the greater Mona, I dedicate this little tract, on the popular Rhymes, Proverbs, Sayings, etc. etc., of their native ysle. "
Proverbs are said to be " a nation's wisdom;" they have been studied and recorded by the most learned among the ancients as the best instructors both in point of regular conduct or common prudeum The wisdom of the Manx. nation is abundantly exemplified in the caution inculcated in many of theirs.
Of the Ballads and Songs here introduced, some are no doubt familiar to the general reader, while others are not so well known. Many of the old ballads never having been printed, or, if so, only in the form of an occasional broadside, and even then very incorrectly, are only to be met with floating about in the memories of old people, who here and there remember a verse or two, hence the unconnected nature of some, and the difficulty in procuring a perfect one. Some are reported to be in the hands of the curious collector, which, as yet, I have had no opportunity of seeing, while others are said to be irrecoverably lost.
The version of Illiam Dhone, with the translation, is from an old MS. written by the Rev. John Crellin, who was vicar of Kirk Michael in 1774, afterwards rector of Bride, a gentleman gifted with the poetic muse, and I have been assured this specimen of his native Manx is very correct, and is the source from whence the broadside of 1781 was printed.
From the statement introducing the loss of the Herring Fleet in 1787, it is to be hoped it will be the means of setting in a true light a long-standing misconception as to its extent. The French print alluded to is now in the possession of Richard Quirk, Esq. of Parville, Receiver-General.
I am indebted to the kindness of a friend for the copy of " Hunt the Keys," which created considerable interest at the time of its appearance, m also for the notes to the same. In the desire to present the Manx in as correct a form as possible, the editor has had the able assistance of the Rev. John Thomas Clarke, the joint editor of the English and Manx -Dictionary, published by the Manx Society in their 13th volume, 1866, which will be a guarantee for the correctness of the Manx. renderings in this volume. Since this portion has been printed off, several songs, supposed to have been lost, have been placed in the editor's hands, which he hopes at some future time to be able to present to the members of the Society.
Some Manx MS. songs are also in his possession, which might be printed should the council of the Society think proper to allow them to appear in that language without an English rendering. Also various Carols in Manx, which were formerly chanted at Christmas time, no doubt to the great edification of the people of that day, a custom now rapidly declining. One of these carols, written in 1740, extends to fifty-six verses; another, "A Hymn of Man's shameful fall," by the Rev. Thomas Allen of Kirk Maughold in 1758, contains sixty-five verses in Manx. A specimen of these carvals, being a short one, is given in the present collection, composed by the Rev. Vicar-General Cosnahan, rector of Bride in 1733, and who died in 1749.
The Manx language not having been a printed one before the Scriptures were published in 1772, with the exception of a few short pieces by Bishop Wilson in 1707, was necessarily in a very unsettled state, arising in a great measure from the many mutations in writing this dialect of the Celtic tongue.
With regard to the Customs and Superstitions of the Island, I have endeavoured to give an account of what has chiefly come under my own observation. It is a subject that might be greatly enlarged upon, not that superstition is to be found lingering in the Isle of Man alone; it springs up everywhere and in all climes, and, as is truly remarked by Hugh Miller, " it is a weed indigenous to the human mind, and will, like other weeds, spring up in every coming generation, altho' not exactly in the same form." In the works suggested for publication by the Manx Society is "A manuscript of the Manners, Customs, and Superstitions of the Islanders;" this I have not been able to see or learn in whose hands the MS. at present is.
In the Legends and Miscellanies will be found some that are not generally known, several appearing for the first time in print. Should the present attempt to bring for the first time the fugitive lore of the Island in a collected form before the members of the Manx Society meet with their approbation, the editor will be happy to continue his labours, having in his portfolio sundry others of a like nature, which might form a second series, and these no doubt could be greatly increased by contributions from various private sources.
In addition to what has been said respecting the song of " Hunt the Keys," the editor has to express his thanks to the same gentleman for various valuable suggestions and additions to the present volume.
ROCK MOUNT, March 1869.