[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]
PLUTARCH' would make no description of Agesilaus, because himself both living, and in his will had expressly forbidden any image to be made of him, the reason was because he had a deformity in his body which he desired might be concealed from posterity, being low of stature, and one of his legs was shorter than the other. Myself having undertaken in this first book to give you a true description of this Island, I cou'd wish I were not necessitated to represent unto you any deformity, desiring your eye shou'd rather see it than myself relate it, but the same being so obvious to the view of every passenger arriving there, it is impossible for me either to conceal it or pass it by ; or to palliate or to put any flattering varnish over it; to represent it less unsightly than truly, tho' there are not many particulars in this Island which can be shewed you meriting your encomium, for in my opinion there is not any one thing in all the Island without an under valuing thereof yt you can dislike, unless it be the building in their towns which I observe makes yt whole Island to seem to many to be of less esteem, and less respected, for did not this Island fail in its fabrics, it would by all be acknowledged for a complete Man.
From Beaumaris in Anglisey I arrived in Douglas, and had ye full prospect of the town. I cou'd not sodainly satisfy myself otherwise than that the winds and waves of the sea had transported me as it were out of one part of Wales into another; the high heathy hills on each side of the haven, and ye object before me of little low-built thatched houses, rudely and confusedly compacted together, did so really and naturally resemble the mountaneous part of Wales.
Then occurred to my memory the towns which King Hiram' disdained to receive of King Solomon, which he called Cabul (displeasing, dirty), but let me retire in time, for to write more here were to digress, for I am not here to describe any town in particular. In the subsequent chapter I shall perform yt in this I am only to discourse of them in general; here again I must disabuse my reader, who in this particular hath been misinformed, first by Wm Harrison. I say who saith that in this Island there are 17 towns,2 which are as many as are parishes there, and calleth them also near by the same names, but more modest and nearer truth is John Speed, who, in his abridgment of his Chronocle, saith they are but 5, yet named none of them; but in his Theatre of Great Britain he hath set down 7, which are three more than the Manksmen will acknowledge, for Bala Cury, tho' it be the bishop's seat, yet it is no town, but a village, so also is Bala Saly and Laxy. There are at present but 4 towns acknow ledged by the natives; first and principle is Castle Town, the 2d in repute is Douglas, ye 3d is Ramsay, the 4th is Peel
These are all yt are left by the ruins of time, but in old time they have no doubt been many more towns, far greater and more peopled, but cities also, for John Capgrave3 and John Bayles writ there was a city in the Isle of Man, wherein King Mordrajus resided, and it was called Sanackt, which some say by corruption was after called Sodor, whereof more in ye 3d book of this history. There was also another' city, and yt not a little one (saith my author4) in the east, inclining to the north part of the Island, in the parish of Kirk-Maghauld, and which bear his name, the mines whereof (for it is now but a village) are yet there to be seen; yet 2 great markets or faires are there kept every year, on yt St feast, as I shall show you hereafter. All the 4 towns are situated on the maritime parts of this Island, there is not one town within the continent of this Island, and every one of these towns hath a haven, and at every haven there is a castle, sconce, or blockhouse, of which in the subsequent chapter I shall discover more. There you may observe yt 3 of these towns, viz., Ramsay, Douglas, and Castle Town are seated in the east side of the island. Peel Town is only seated on the west part. These 3 towns, namely, Douglas, Castle Town, and Peel, stand almost in a perfect triangle about 8 miles equal distant the one from the other; Ramsay is 12 miles from Douglas, and about 19 miles from Castle Town, and almost as much to Peeltown, so as in case of necessity the distance is not great or long to give intelligence or send succours to relieve from one town to another. In every one of those 4 towns there is a free school to teach you; this is maintained out of the revenues, which belonged to the religious houses at their suppression. It were to be wished yt all our abbey lands had been employed to pious uses as these were here. These towns, for so I must call them, because they are commonly so called, are all of them very little; an ox hide cut in little thongs measured out the ground, whereon Byrsa, the famous citadel of the Carthaginians was seated, and Castor, in Lincolnshire, and therefore in Policron' it is called Thongcaster. I suppose a cat's skin so extended wou'd treble encompass the greatest of these 4 towns, there being divers villages in Eugland equalling and some surpassing the best of these in bulk, but far exceeding them in handsomeness of buildings and number of inhabitants. At a muster in Douglas which emulates Castle Town, I observ'd at my being there that the number of those that were trained were not full one hundred. The houses in all these towns are of one fashion, low built, being not contiguous, much less continuous, in placing of 'em, observing no order either of uniformity or proportion, only Castle Town hath some little formality more than the rest. The materials of these structures are of small stones and lime, as those in the country which I described before, and thatch'd as those also, with this only difference, yt these are 2 stories high, yt is, they have an upper room above ye lower, which the country houses for the most part have not, the lower rooms they call cellars, for they have none underground; their upper rooms they call lofts, and they are long and narrow, which they thus order; in the middle is ye door, over against that on the other side there are commonly placed 2 beds at each end of the room, one on the other side, at ye upper end of all is the chimney, some (and but some of these lofts are seiled over head and plastered), of these are let out unto passengers for lodging chambers, the doors and windows of their lofts are made very low, and ye walls very thick, so as these rooms commonly are not so lightsome as you may desire, but of purpose are they thus contrived and for warmth, and to keep out the bitter cold and bleake winds which in the winter season are there very frequent and boisterous. Every town's man there, tho' never so poor, hath commonly 2, but some which are ye shop keepers have 3 of these houses, whereof one is for himself and his family, both for his kitchen, dining, and lodging room for himself, wife, children, and servants; the 2d house in its upper part serveth for a warehouse, underneath is a shop; in the 3d house, below he placeth his barrels of beer, the banrl'd herrings, and powder'd beef, and for all other coffiodities wherewith he trafficketh, besides all his other lumber, the loft above is furnished to let out to passengers yt arrive there, or otherwise to feast his friends in and for entertainment. But of this relation you may make this observation, yt tho' the houses in these towns were many, yet the inhabitants are few because of these 3 houses which ye shopkeepers have, two of 'em are not inhabited, but are otherwise employed, and ye owner and his family live only in ye 3d, there are many shopkeepers in every town.
There are not nor is there any need of signes to be hanged out, to show or demonstrate these houses to be inns or ale. houses, for for the most part every house there entertaineth lodgers, and is a kind of tavern, so ye Welch stile all alehouses to sell drink, the best in these towns are but tradesmen, for not one gentleman hath an alehouse there as I noted before. -
Having now in part showed you their towns, I am loth to leave them with such an impression of their unsightliness and deformity in their fabricks, therefore to encourage your hopes of a future bettering and amendment, the reformation is commenc'd, and example inviteth imitation, for in Castle Town and Douglas they lave to thatch and do tile their houses, and do add a garret unto their lofts, so as now they begin to see the commodity of building three stories high, whereby this deformity in short time will soon be reformed, but I dare presume prophetically to predict yt when their mines shall be discovered, foreigners invited to set up mann factories, traffick shall be increased, shiping shall be multiplyed, then their villages shall become towns, and their towns cities, etc. It remaineth only now to show a civility or rather a courtesy to you practised in this Island, which I have not observed nor seen to be used in yt manner in any part of my travail, which is ye formality here used at the reception of all passengers of what quality soever unto ye towns of this Island, and in my opinion is necessary to be showed for the instruction of all such as either necessity compelleth or curiosity inviteth thither.
The continual watch kept on the Sceaful,' yea, also from the opposite sea shore, and ye lords prospective glass on the battlements of his castle of Rushin, takes notice of your ship's approach long before your arrival, they thence curiously observe to what part you steer, thereby conjecturing into which of ye lower parts or havens you purpose to put in; the Governor of the Island is presently informed, thither doth he most commonly send the controuler of the Island or some other of the lord's officers in post, who faileth not to be there at ye same time of your ship's arrival, you no sooner set your foot on shore within the haven, but yt ye Constable of yt fort accosteth you, and if he observe you to be a gentleman or one of greater quality, will civilly salute you and give you the parabun of your safe arrival, and altho' it be in effect a summons to appear, yet he inviteth and intreats you to be pleased to speak with the lord's officers, who do expect you at such a place hard by.
So you are by him conducted to a house in the town, which ye lord of ye Island hath for such and ye like occassions, which are for his service, there you shall not fail to find sitting at a table not only ye controuler of ye Island or other officers of ye Lds. (at my reception there was one of the Deemsters also, but I suppose he came casually), but 6 or 8 more of the best sort of the inhabitants of ye town where you land, all bid you land, all bid you welcome thither, but you are more or less respected according to your quality. The townsmen you will find to be meer Athenians, their coming and communication being only to hear what news you will relate, it being then ye time of troubles in England, and they will endeavour to pump you of all you know, but your discretion shou'd advise you so to order your discourse as to reserve the chiefest and choicest until such time as you shall and must appear before the Lord of the Island (if he then be there) and ye Governor, but the Controuler is there amongst the rest, for other purposes he will say little, but will observe who you are, whence you came, and wherefore, etc. Thus are you entertained by these with very familiar conference, wine, beer, and tobacco, and in the close of all they will not appoint but recomend you, if you be not known otherwise directed from whence you came, to some convenient lodging.
This being to entertain and welcome you into the Island, and therefore they will not permit you to pay any part of the shot. If your arrival be at any time of ye day (except it be too late), it will be expected yt you presently make a journey to visit ye Lord of ye Island himself if he then be in ye Island, as he was when I came thither,' or ye Governor in' Castle Town. But if you land in Castletown itself you have no journey to make but only up to the Castle and the Governor's house hard by. If you land at Douglas or Peel you have 8 miles to ride to Castle Town, but from Ramsay you have 19 miles at least to ride thither. And this they exact and expect of every one, of what quality soever, yt cometh into this Island as a customary duty.
James, Earl of Darby, late Lord of ye Island, was thus respectful of any gentleman, and therefore munch more of any greater quality yt arrived there in his time, I suppose the Governor, in the absence of the Lord of the Island, doth the same.
If you be unprovided of a horse of your own, ye Controuler, as himself told me, by his place hath power, and will and did for me command the constable of the Fort of Douglas, or of any fort where you land except it be in the haven of Castle Town, where the Lord of ye Island and his Governor had his constant residence, for then it needeth not to provide and further you with a horse to transport you to them at ye Lord's and without your charge. From the tower or turret of ye castle of Rushin ye time is observed, and into what part you make your entrance into Castle Town by a prospective glass and no sooner shall you be descended from your horse but you are presently saluted and welcomed again into the Island by a gentleman of quality, who is sent unto you from the Lord himself, he inviteth and proffereth to conduct you into th castle, where you are admitted into the Lord's presence; he will only enquire of all occurrences, and what you have observed from any material passages in parts from whence you came, or have heard anything which concerneth any of the 3 neighbouring kingdoms, England, Scotland, or Ireland, or other where, if you have none or no more than you discovered before at your landing, which now is no news to him, the Controuler having certified him of all that you had discovered there, your audience then will be very short yet complimental, for he will tell yt he shall be desirous to speak with you another time, so you are dismist.
Now the Governor expecteth you at his house, which is hard by over against the castle. The same gentleman yt conducted you to the Lord doth now accompany you to ye Governor. He neceiveth you courteously and affably, according to your quality, but he knowing as much as you have to relate, he will frame his discourse as if he had no notice of you before, and as he examined you upon interogatonies
What you are? whence you came? and what your business is? how long you purpose to stay? etc., if you be a merchant what commodities you bring? what you intend to carry thence? and if he find yt you vary in one point from what you related before at your landing, he will send for and examine every one of ye company yt came with you, and all those of your ship, etc., if not you are dismissed and free to return to the town from whence you came. I will say nothing of your entertainment in your lodging, for yt is according to ye disposition of those into whose houses you are received, whether courteous, affable, and free, or otherwise, harsh, griping, and exactors. Myself and ye entertainment, being recommended to a Scotchman by birth in Douglas which gave me very good satisfaction, affording me and my company a plentiful diet at an easy rate; but I neither will nor can assure you yt you shall find the same in all the houses there, altho' others have recommended to me their entertainment they had received as I had done of mine to them.
1 In the Life of Agesilaus.
1 1 Kings, c. xix. v. 13. 2 Descr. of Brit. pt. 1, c. 5.
~ In the Life of Joseph of Arithnathea, copt. 2d in Ainphibalo. '~ Joselinus, vita Patrick.
1 See Camb. Lincoln. p. 542.
1 See lib. 1, ch. 12.