[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]
VAIN, verily, and fruitless, are their endeavours of such as seek to find out the first aborigines of any country or island,' for, as Bucanan speaks nationally, how shall we be able to discover ye origin and first plantation of any place, by reading of other's writings, when as there were then no books written in those times! he therefore shall best satisfy the best under standings yt can produce ye most probable conjecture. The same Bucanan satisfieth no more than any other yt ye first inhabitants yt came out of Spain, into Ireland being numerous, did go to inhabit the little and adjacent isles, so saith Policron who voucheth Beda. The Island of Man is one of the nearest and greatest of all those islands,2 those Irish in those times were called Scots, and Ireland itself was called Scotia major,3 ye greater Scotland, and it was these Scots yt did inhabit Man; in ye reigns of Arcadius and Honorius, Cambden saith, truly, but presently after these Scots were driven out of all Bnittagh countries and islands by Cuneda, ye grandfather of Maglocunus, whom Guildas, for ye havock he made in those islands, termeth him the Dragon of the Isles; after this came our King Arthur, and after him Edwin,4 king of Northumbers, both which reduc'd all the islands into their subjection, and in them planted British inhabitants, with great reason, therefore, may we receive the testimony of Joselinus: yt at ye conversion of the Island of Man by St. Patrick it was Britania subjecta a British Isle.
The Island of Man is at this day in a mean populous; it neither wanteth nor aboundeth, much less is it overburthened by its natives; all confess it' to have been in antient days and times much more populous, and more fully inhabited, but neither now nor at any time heretofore, was this island famed to abound with numerous natives; their kings were truly called kings of Man but not kings of Men, for if a body of 6 or 7000 here upon urgent or necessitous occasion to be transported out of the island, it wou'd, as I conceive, be so dispeopled as yt their women would be compel'd to practise to become Amazons, and to pray to God for his assistance, for as we might say with David, vain wou'd be the help or hope of Man, for an enemy will not fear what man then could do unto them, for it is true yt both Godred and Olave equipped many ships, and in them they brought great numbers of men from Ireland. But it was not ye Island of Man alone yt assisted them with so many, the islands of the Hebrides, whereof they then were lords, being, as Bucanan, Munro, and others, say, are 300 in number, out of these were brought the greatest bulk. Now concerning the inhabitants, as ye Isle of Man resembleth the mountaneous parts of Wales, in the soil, so is there little difference in the seating of the inhabitants, I say of their habitations in the country, for in travailing from one town to another you discover their country houses, or rather hovels, almost at ye end of every other acre of ground, solely seated and dispersed, yet scarce 2 flightshot distant the one from the other, for as I may say of them, as Piso in Strabo, which resembled the torrid parts of Afnick to a Libbard's skin, the distance of whose spots represented here and there the dispeasdence of their habitations.
Being now to give ye reader the character of ye inhabitants of this Island, and in this chapter of such as live in ye country in particular, I hold it reguisite to observe decorum to distinguish and to give precedency to ye gentry from and before the helotts and peasants, for there is as great a disparity betwixt them in their dispositions as there is in their qualities. For their gentry are truly gentle, courteous, affable, and more willingly will discourse with you in the English than in their own language, whom I observed even of all them, not only to speak true English, but to pronounce so naturally as yt I cou'd not observe any different tone in their pronunciation of our English as is comonly noted, both in the Irish, Scots, and Welsh, and in all strangers, neither any of these to be distinguished from our English, either by the countenance, carriage, apparel, diet, or housekeeping, but in most imitating, as Speed well observed, ye Lancashire gentry, as having had so long converse with the house of Darby themselves and all their officers and retinue being all Lancashire men.
There is not one of these yt beareth ye title of a gentle man in ye Isle of Man, yt doth pride it to live in any of ye townes or villages, but have their mansion houses built up on their own lands in the country,' and these for the major part have high handsome well-built houses, after the English fashion, altho' but few, for you cannot expect the number of ye gentry here to be many in so small and poor a plott of earth, these have good tho' not great estates, the greatest that I cou'd be inform'd of exceeded not £600 or £700 p. annum, the rest some have 5, 4, 3, or under. They told me there were not above six families of note in all the Island, yet some of these are of great antiquity, especially those yt bear ye surnames of Christian and Canell These 2 and worthy are of the greatest repute amongst them at this day; the other seem to be of a lower class, for out of these 2 families their Deemsters, who are their judges to decide law causes and controversies (as I shall show you in the 2d Book of this History), have long been, and at my being there, were chosen out of these, yet I find one Edward Cockil to be one of the Deemsters, in the time of Edward, Earl of Darby; and Robert Colcoats was receiver of ye Castle of Man. The peasants of ye island yt reside in the country are the true Manks breed and home bred natives of Man; these for the generality are tall of stature and of a strenuous bulk, but boorish as ye Beotian, having their wits as gross as their ayre. I cannot paralel these people with any so well and so fitly as the Hollanders, I mean as they were in the reign of our Queen Elizabeth, for since they have much refined their spirits so as now they confide not only to outwit us in negotiations and treaties, but to overmaster us at sea and navigation, but it were fit they would still retain a grateful acknowledgment unto England, yt first infused yt spirit into them which they have since so much improved, therefore I will not nor I do not paralell these Manksmen with ye hogan mogan Hollanders, but with those of theirs which themselves call water sanders, with whom these men seem to sympathise in many particulars.
Wherefore his character here shall be the same as wt Mr Isaac Howel gives to his Hollander
They are heavy and homely, surly, respeetless, yea, griping extortens of strangers, for, upon the arrival of any ship of any part of ye Island, they presently pretend a dearth and scarcity there, by making their dissembled wants the means to procure better rates for what they are disposed to vent or sell unto them. These men's habitations are mere hovels, compacted of stones and clay for the walls, thatch'd with broom, most commonly containing one room only. Very few have 2 rooms, have no upper rooms,such as in their towns they call lofts,nor any ceiling but the thatch itself, with the rafters, yet in this smoking hut, like ye wild Irish, of whom many opine them to be antiently descended, doth the man, his wife, and children, cohabit, and in many places with ye geese and ducks under ye bed, the cocks and hens over his head, the cow and calf at the bed's feet, so as Justus Lipsius, if he had travelled hither, he might have found the same entertainment here which he found in Westphalia.' These are a strange sort breed of men yt do want nothing because they frame themselves to want all things. In their diet they are parsimonious and abstemious, almost to admiration, for they seem to emniate (but not to imitate), herein to rival, if not to outdo, the strictest austerities, ye strictest in religion. Their constant diet is only salt butter, herrings, and oat cakes, here made almost as thin as a paper leaf, yet as broad and large (if not exceeding) those in Wales. Their drink is either simple water, or water mixt with milk (which ye Welch call glare dower) or at best butter milk; as for beer or ale there is none brewed by them except by some prime person among them, for this liquor they forbear to drink till they meet at markets, where they will as familiarly, and with as much facility, drive it down their throats, as any do in Duckland, for in their natures they are much given to compotations, and therein to exceed. This abstemious diet is more strictly observed by their hired servants and day labourers The hired servant's allowance at one meal is 2 boiled herrings, one entire oaten cake to eat, butter, with milk, or milk and water, to drink. The painfullest plowman there neither desireth nor expecteth either other or more food than this proportion at one meal; but they will exact so much whether they eat it or not, having gotten meat otherwise, either to sell or give away.
Their servants they there hire in markets, as we also have e same custom in y many parts of England. In Berkshire it is called a fea-fare, at Henly, in Warwickshire, they call it a mapp, and in divers places it is called by divers other names, but all importing a market where men and maids in some towns are to be hired every year. The same hiring and changing of servants they have in Man, but differently, for we change but once in the year, they, in the Island of Man twice. If I mistake not, the maids are hired in the spring, the men at the fall of the leaf. But it were fit the reader shou'd be rectified concerning these Manksmen's parsimonious diet, lest they and myself shou'd be mistaken, for it is not penury yt compels them, but covetousness yt invites them to be thus contented and satisfied, not caring for gaietyof cloths or superfluities of viands, for they have store of bacon, fresh butter, geese, ducks, hens, capons, eggs, piggs, etc., to feed upon; but these, together with. their yarn and flax, and hemp, and honey, wax, etc., they make spare of both to make money thereof at their faires and markets, as also to exchange with their shopkeepers in the town for iron, starch, sope, candles, pitch, tarr, and with other commodities they want. But before I am disposed to proceed farther, I am disposed to shew you some other particulars concerning these Manks men's dispositions, some yt would seem statesmen' yt do hold yt Islanders yt have ye air and waters so divensly moving about them, neither peace nor war can long be well- come to their huinours, and therefore must be governed by the active yet steddy hand of authority. To this Bucanan2 seems to assent. Yet this general observation cannot be demonstrated in Man, for they are a people (tho' acknowledged to be full of metal) yet not apt or prompt suddenly to be set on fire, not prompt to complain of pressures or desire innovations, for during the reign of former kings they had many provocations, yet only once or twice avenged themselves of strangers and tyrants. Dunold, the son of Tade, a tyrant, sent by Muccard O'Bnian, King of Ireland, to govern during the minority of Olave, they expulsed him in ye 3d year of his reigument. This was a stranger who abused both the young king and them. I find not any one king by them deposed, or once opposed by them in the Island. Godred, the son of Olave, reigning peaceably, enjoyed peace, but returning victo rious out of Ireland, elated with pride, in ye puff and heat of his jollity began to tyrannize, yet the Island of Man did not offer to resist by rebelling, but Thirstin only, the most potent, being the son of Otter, in the Isle of Man, raised up an enemy against him in ye Western Islands, one Dongdal, the scm of Somerled, whereby he lost the kingdom of the Isles, and by him was driven out of the Island into Norway. These are a people sooner to be drawn by the ears than dragg'd by the cloths (easily persuaded, but with difficulty compelled), and therefore for above 240 years have they persevered in their loyalty, and have been constant idolaters of ye Stanleys, who never forced, but rather courted their consent to any new laws and impositions. They never mutinied, never rebelled. Whensoever any levies or seizures are laid upon them, or distresses made, by any of the coroners or moors for the Ld's rents, duties, amercements, forfeitures, etc., or yt his caterers do take upon any poultry or other provision for the Lord's table or houshold, at the Lord's price or rate, not a man in Man will so much as necessitate. Wherefore yt character yt was given (and is related by Plutarch) of Marius, his moyles, may fitly be applied unto these Manksmen, a people painful and willing to do whatsoever their Lords shall command, without grudging or reluctances.
These, in old times, were innocent from avarice, seeking only after necessaries, not superfluities, and might truly be (as the Christians in the primitive times were called Anargirii) men without money, for untill our late king's reign they neither had nor desired the use of money, for they mer chandised as in the Saturnical age, by racking, exchanging, and bartering of commodities, for in those dayes neither their king nor lords expected from them either money or rents, but services only, as I shall shew hereafter; but now they seem to be somewhat a little sublimed in their understandings, since these our late troubles, our n'~any refuged and fugitives flying thither have so plentifully furnished them, as yt many of them are now enabled to take leases of their houses, and to pay their rents and duties in money, which before they paid in sheep, hoggs, or other cattle and poultry.
The coin current in this island is almost all English ; yet the Scottish 13~d., and their twopence, and their 5 shilling pieces minted at Dublin, do freely pass there. They have no proper coin. The Island never had any such, altho' the king of France's geographer,1 abused by Dr. Merrick's relation in Cambden, saith that there had been particular species of money in this Isle, but now not used, for they neither have at present, nor ever had, any mint to coin money within yt Island, whereof I am confident, and not without strong inducements.
The Lord Cook and Cambden say yt in the Island of Man, as they have peculiar lawes, so they have a peculiar language. "Mon." Chesme saith the same ; Humphrey Loyd and Cambden, yt they speak Scottish and Irish; Mr. Heelin, yt they speak half Irish and half Norwegian, all amiss, for with Lord Cook their language may well be called a peculiar speech, for it is not understood by any other though the nearest neighbours, as being a meer mixture of the 4 bordering nations language compounded together. It hath most of the Irish, much of the Welch, but of Scots and English very little or none. The Manksmen do not acknowledge that the Northweigans have added any words to their language, and probably say anight, for tho' the Kings of Norway had ye islands (but in possession of the Kings of Man) and held them in subjection many years, yet after King Magnus, who first conquered this Island, none of his successors, nor any of Norway, ever resided in this Island. As for their understanding and speaking of English, very few but understand our English, especially all the gentry, all in the towns, and such of the country as frequent their town, market, and fairs, but these speak it as a foreign and different language from their own, or as the vulgar Welsh speak English. But it is fit I shou'd remind my promise made in the preface of this work to verify my reader in divers particulars wherein Dr. Merrick, Bishop of Man, being himself, as it seemeth, misinformed, n,isrelated them; so Mr. Cambden, and by yt treatise of his of the British Isles, all since have been misled, to believe many strauge untruths concerning this Island, yt fault lieth only in the first relator, and I cannot impute any fault in Cambden, for who would not give credit to a bishop's relation of things in and concerning his own diocese.
Some untruths I have shewed before;' 3 more I shall handle here ; the rest hereafter in their proper places.
First, yt ye women of the Island of Man going abroad they gird themselves about with their winding sheet yt they purpose to be buried in, to shew themselves to be mindful of their mortality.2 I met many so clothed in the Island I confess, and I questioned many of them to know the reason why they did wear them; all answered me that they had no other intention but to keep themselves from the cold and from the bleake and boisterous weather and winds which indeed do much molest them all the winter months.
But Bishop Merrick's relation needs no other eviction than these 3 demonstrations. First, in the Island they are called neither sheets nor shrouds, but are called blankets.
2dly. These blanketts there worn are as well of woolen as of linen cloth (yea ye better sort of them in the country have one blanket for Sundays, another for working days, but all shrouds are of linnen).
3dly. To take away all scruples and foreign conjectures (least it might be thought that these sheets might be in former times intended to make them their shrowds when they died), I will here satisfy you and demonstratively prove that these women never had nor cou'd have at any time any such in tention, for I find among other their ancient and accustomed laws yt from all antiquity it hath been there agreed upon for a law yt Sunday blankets shall not be taken for Corbes (yt is it shall not be issued amongst the mortuary goods), but yt it shall go to the next child.' By this law it appeareth yt from all antiquity neither the better nor the worser sort of these sheets or blankets (we will not differ upon the name) were at any time used or intended to be used for winding- sheets for the better sort, yt is ye Sunday blankets were to be given to the next child; the wonser sort for the week day were taken for corbs, yt is to be sold with the other goods of the deceased to pay debts and to be distributed where legacies were given.
I confidently believe the Manks women took up this custom of wearing blankets from the Irish, their old ancestors and near neighbours, who ever did and do wear mantles for warmth, and not from any relative conceit to make them their winding-sheet; and such a custom also in Wales have the poorer sort of women there to wear in winter men's short cloaks for the same reason, but observe this withal concerning these blankets, that they are only worn and used by the female peasantry of the country inhabitants of the Island of Man, for in the towns you shall not see any one woman (poor or rich) yt do wear any at any time; yet myself being there all the winter season, I did not see so much as any one yt did wear them, so likewise in Wales they are the minor and meaner sort of women that wear men's clokes, the better sort never.
The other 2 untruths so confidently averred, wherein so many (whose easiness to give credit to so grave a relator) have been abused, are yt those of Man are free from (yea de test both theft and begging), yea, Mercator addeth, from lying also. Concerning theft, there is no robbing in the high ways. You may travail there securely in any part of the Island. Those yt are good are a law to themselves, but if the Manks people were all such none of them wou'd attempt any such sin, for presently upon the attempt, there being no woods to shelter, and ye cottages so contiguous, a little only remoted the one front the other, the thief is not sooner discovered, but may be pursued by ye view; only so as fear of discovery, apprehension, and punishment following, I presume may deter many of them from such open violence. But they of this Island (as we in our Island) are not impeccant, but men, and subject to the same infirmities; for the poorer sort, there were of both sexes, are extremely given to pilfering, which manifestly appeareth by their extreme severe lawes made against stealing of hug, gorse, hay, geese, ducks, hens, robbing of gardens, cutting of beehives or of horse tails, as I shall shew you more at large in the last chapter of the 2d Book of this history, where I shall treat of their customary laws.
Wherein it had been requisite yt Dr Mernick should have better inform'd himself before he had inform'd Mr Cambden, who, relying upon his relation, maketh strange impressions in all his readers.' But of all others I most admire the too credulous the Lord Cook, yt he in this particular shou'd be misled, for questionless he could not be ignorant of a statute, tho' now expired, in Queen Elizabeth's reign,2 himself being then a student in the Temple, yt no person shou'd bring over any rogues out of Ireland or ye Isle of Man. This statute evinceth that there were in this Island of Man vagabond rogues, thieves, and beggars, before Queen Eliz5· reign, and we were annoyed by them being brought hither from thence. Now for beggars at Douglas I found divers both of the natives and of the Irish; ye natives of this Island were somewhat more civil, the Irish more clamorous, but both bold, for the natives will not cry and beg at doors, but without knocking; if the doors be shut, they will draw ye latchet, or if they find it open they will enter in, take a stool, and sit down before the midst of the fire, and then demand an alms. And let not this seem strange to any, seing our Bd. Saviour himself hath told us yt ye poor shall always be with us, and amongst so many poor as be in Man you may well conceive some to be mandients.
As for the old imputations laid upon the Island by Ranulf, Monk of Chester, Geraldus Cambrensis, Win. Hanson, Cax ton, etc., yt the inhabitants of this Island were given to witch craft, and sold wind to passengers and other such stuff, I omit to enlarge this chapter, withal seeing this was, but is not now, for of long time neither any are nor have been known to practice any witchcraft at all since their -conversion to Christianity, nor noted for any such crime at this day as Bishop Merrick assured Mr Cambden, but if any were, their sentence is to be burned.
1 Excepting, as Cambden saith, those yt have their original avouched unto them out of Holy Scrip.Brit. p. 4.
2 Deser. of Scot. 1. 1, p. 41.
2 Mercator's Atlas, p. 98.
1 Speed Theat. p. 91. [Speed's "Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine" was published in 1611, 1614, and 1627. Folio.Editor.]
Anno 407 and 411.
1 In France and Italy their gentry for the most part live in cities and towns; our English in villages build their houses.
'About Anno Cli. 1522. 2 Fain. Ep., vol. 2d, Ep. 12, p. 20.
1 Epis. de Westphalia. Sir Faulk Grevil, in ye Life of Philip Sidney, p. 52.
2 De rebus Scot., 1. 1, p. 209.
~ Andrew D. Chesine, Hist. de Angliser, etc., anno 1634. -
C. 6. p. 42. 2 Camb. Brit. Isles, p. 205. Bp. Merrick's
'See 1. 2, c. 25.
1 See Camb. 1. 2, c. 25, p. 23. Thieves punished in Man with Death.
2 14 Eliz., cli. 4.