[From Manx Quarterly #8 April 1910]
A LAXEY CHARACTER
Old Phil is a sort of landmark in the stage of time. Born somewhere in the 'thirties or early 'forties the precise time is a matter of conjecture even to himself he constitutes a kind of link between the dim and distant past and the glamour of the dazzling present. His comparisons between those vague and placid times in the village life, and the kaleidoscopic days in which we now live, are sometimes instructive as well as entertaining to those who care to stop and listen to the chatter of the old man. Although getting on in years, possessing a frame battered and bent with the stress of rough and vigorous toil, his memory is nimble enough, and his reminiscences of those whose recollections have faded into the mists of years are as interesting as they are reliable.
" Some of the young wans goin' to the shootin'," said he, as several passed out the road on their way to the rifle range, to put up their scores in some competition. " Deed! they're clavar at it with their new-fangled rifles an' all that. They tell me they could shoot a man nearly a mile away as easy as Johnny Bill could pop that rook off that there tree only thirty yards away. Gough, man! but they're terbil wagons they'got these days for killin' folks. An' them there warships, too, they're makin' all the bother about, that wor at Douglass yandhar las' summer; they say the guns on them could hev bashed Ramsaa to smithereens, man, without avar their hevin' to hev lifted anchor. Folks in these days be gettin' that mortal clavar, man. They hev such invinshuns on the guns nowadays as can tell ye how the win' is, and how to heighten her for the distance, that there's no missin'.
"Some of the buoys are rale crack shots, reglar dab han's, for they hev lots of prac'isisn'. What with the shootin' for silvar cups an' shiel's, they're comin' on gran', man The Guv'nor hisself wor down to prassent the cup that Masther Williamson gave them, an' there wor a big fuss an' gran' spachin' at them. An' the silvar spoons at them, too! Some of the young wans are collectin' them for the wife when they get marrit. Gough ! but they'll be gran' when there's a tay-fight on an' the gel gives the tray. They're rale cute wans the buoys nowadays. Eh! An' that boul', too; every wan of them would be fine soldgers, an' they say as how the Guv'nor-a big army man-would hev them all 'listed if he hed his ways: an' lots on them thinkin' it would be fine, I'll warrant. Aye! Times are changin', man ! They lvor none so keen on it when 1 wor young."
"Don't you think the soldiering a fine job, then, Phil?"
No, deed! I'm none so sure on it. My oul` father, he could remimber the days when the press-gangs use' to come roun', an' the young fallars thought diffarant. The smugglin' an' fishin' paid better then, an' when the press-gangs showed near, the young wans used to clear up on to the hills an' go a hidin'. It warn't a shillin' a day then, nither, tho' there wor plenty of 'bacca and grog; but the buoys could get then sort of luxaries on the chape, without jinin' the army or navy. Sometimes wan or two war caught, an' off they hed to go an' fight the Frenchies ; my oul' man said there warn't many on them as avar came back. Ah, man! things war diffarant then, the guns an' ships as well as the pay."
" Were there any old soldiers or sailors living in Laxey, Phil?"
"Oh, aye! I knew a few. Fine fallars, too, in their time; been through the Crimea an' Mutiny, an' some of the younger wans in Africa, too; but my out' father used to say `Out' Minorca was the buoy.' "
"Who was he, Phil?"
"Why! he wor the out' fallar they call Minorca after, for sartin. Hev ye navar hard on him afore? Well, well, my out' dad used to tell me when a buoy that out' Minorca was a reglar hero. He lied a leg shot off, an' used to limp aroun' on a stump of a wooden leg an' a crutch. He war a cobbler; it wor a thrade that didn' require a dale of travellin', you see, an' he lived in a lit house somewhere over Minorca side, an' ev'ry night the buoys, out' wans as well as young vans, used to gather in the out' man's room where he did the cobblin', an' he toul' them of the wars he'd been in an' the battles he'd seen. He wor a reglar entertanin' out' fallar my out' father used to say, an' hevin; been abroad a dale, could spin wunnerful yarns that plased the young warts. The buoys didn' travel in those days lek now, man, an' few war avar out-side the parish ; not lek these days, when they go off to the goldfields in Africa and America, as if it wor jigs' for a few months' holly. There wor no readin' rooms in Laxa, nither ; an' his place was the only wan where the buoys got the news, far all the tales wor carried to Minorca's an' talked about there.
" The out' man was a reglar oracle, my out' man used to say, an' nothin' was worth knowin' that out' Minorca didn' know. He knew all about the Roosians an' the Frenchies, too. You see, it wor the Frenchies that shot his leg off. Gough, yis ! shot off at the knee by a cannon ball it wor, at the battle of Minorca-that bein' the name of an ilan' somewhere in the Medit'ranean, my out' man said, where we got badly licked. Gough, man! it mus' hev' been a big fight, for the English ships retired, an' we lost so many men an' the ilan, too, that they say the Armiral wor shot after for makin' such a mess of it. So out' Minorca said, an' when he wor fairly woun' up, he'd jump off his stool, swing his crutch over his shouldher, an' stump up an' down his flagged floor, makin' as much noise as a whole regiment with his wooden stump, an' show them how the battle ought to hev been won. He alwiss woun' up with rhyme, the las' line of which wor that it was " For gool' Minorca was sowl'.'
"No! I can't tell ye whether he wor buried in Kirk Lonan or no; but, guy-a-day, man, hee needs no toom'-stone to his name. It'll live in Laxa for avar, for it's from his that 'Minorca' takes its name."