[From Manx Quarterly, #11 Oct 1912]


An announcement which appeared in the last agenda of the Douglas Town Council to the effect that Mr. C. B. Nelson, of Ramsey, had presented to the Public Library Committee a portrait of the late Robert Teare, of Ramsey, brings to mind one of the most original personages who ever held membership of the Legislature of this Isle. Mr. Teare, who was familiarly known throughout the land as " Teare ny Airey " put up a candidate for Ayre Sheading in course of a General Election of the House of Keys in the early 'seventies. His candidature was regarded in the light of a joke by his opponents, but to their amazement he was returned, and he continued in the representation of the sheading for several years. In those days the House of Keys was almost entirely composed of gentlemen of considerable social position, as social position goes in the of Man — of landowners .mainly, with a sprinkling of lawyers, while one or two commercial magnates were tolerated. The return of Mr. Teare to the House was looked upon by of these as an insult, and they never got over the blow to their amour propre. Others, however, discovered in Mr Teare a rich mine of humour. Of almost dwarfish physique and about as ungainly as Caliban, he by his quaint mannerisms of speech and gesture was wont to keep such of the members as had any sense of fun in a continuous roar. His humour was frequently unconscious, but some of his best things were said of deliberation, for he had a quick and full appreciation of the farcical. At times he was biting in his allusions, and erelong members were chary of provoking from him retorts which were rendered all the more effective by the blandness of their delivery. His voice was high pitched, and his accent was a curious compound of that which obtains in the remoter parts of the Isle of Man, and that which is ascribed to Titus Oates, the inventor of the Popish Plot fairy tale — he prolonged his soft a's in remarkable fashion. He had been a local preacher in his day, but as time went on he became a sect to himself, though followers in due course were attracted by him. As a preacher he was richly unctuous, yet even his pulpit utterances were conducive to laughter. To that witty prelate, the late Bishop Rowley Hill, he was a source of great joy, and some of the best things said by the Bishop were at the expense of Robbie Teare. " I hope mee La-a-ard we may meet in Heaven" piously professed Teare to the Diocesan on one occasion. "That is impossible, I fear," promptly retorted Bishop Hill. "You know we are told there will be no tears there." The little legislator had a considerable amount of grit. He was a persistent opponent of the Ramsey Mooragh scheme, and his prophecies concerning the burden which materialisation of the scheme would impose on the town marked him, in the light of events, as being the possessor of no mean amount of foresight. Then again he strove might and main over thirty years ago to develop steamship communication between Ramsey and Whitehaven. Ramsey people rather plume themselves upon the twice weekly summer service which they have recently secured, but Mr. Teare in those far off days had such confidence in the possibilities of the route that he boldly advocated inside and outside the Legislature that a twice daily service between the two ports should be established. The day may yet come when it will be demonstrated that in this matter the eccentric gentleman was just a little before the time. Probably the most amusing public speech ever made in Douglas emanated from this same Mr. Teare. A meeting was being held in the old Victoria Hall, in support of a proposal by Governor Loch for the institution of a daily mail to and from England the year round, on condition that the Island assumed the liability of the Imperial Government in connection with the construction of Port Erin breakwater. The proceedings were deadly dull for a time, but while the assemblage was being bored by one of the then Town Commissioners, Mr. Robert Teare made an unexpected appearance upon the platform, and having greeted the chairman, he beamed benignly upon the crowd in the auditorium. His remarkable appearance, combined with the expansive smiles which he so freely bestowed, caused the audience to burst into laughter, with the result that the orator who was on his feet at time had to resume his seat discomfited. When the news spread that the comical looking little stranger — he was not very well known in Douglas — was the redoubtable " Teare ny Airey," there were insistent demands that he should speak, and the Chairman very reluctantly called upon " our esteemed friend from the North" to say a few words. Nothing loth, the member for Ayre divested himself of his voluminous great coat, deposited a pair of dilapidated cotton gloves in his frowsy silk hat, squared his shoulders, coughed, and began to speak. And he was a rich treat. Scorning the narrow limits of the question before the meeting, he expounded upon a variety of topics which then engaged public interest in the Island. Particularly did he address himself to what he declared was the waste of money proceeding in connection with the building of the Battery Pier and breakwater at Douglas. " Mastha Cha-arman and ,mee deea-ar frens, the great say-sarpint is in Douglas bay, an' I'm tellin' ye that if yer not ,mindin' he'll be swallyin' up every bir of this Oilan." The sentence does not read funnily, but the rich and rolling unction he imparted to the words, and his wealth of quaint gesture combined with extraordinary facial play, just convulsed all who heard him, and peal upon peal of laughter greeted the pronouncement. Nobody else had a chance of being heard, for the meeting declined to let Mr. Teare sit down. And as he was "wound up" for the occasion he kept all in roars until after eleven o'clock p.m., when the meeting dissolved without doing anything in particular. Which was precisely what Mr. Teare, who was opposed to Governor Loch's scheme, desired. On leaving the building he was cheered enthusiastically, and by way of acknowledgment delivered himself of another characteristic speech from a point of vantage on Prospect-hill. Anecdotes concerning him and his doings and sayings are legion in number, but many of them are of a character which will not bear reproduction. Eventually his constituents lost confidence in him, and though when the General Election came about he strove manfully for return to the House of Keys, he was badly beaten, and retired into private life. Mr. Nelson's gift of his portrait to the Douglas Library is a timely one, in that it will preserve; the memory of a man who in his day and generation did some good, some harm, and always contributed to the gaiety of the Manx nation.

— "Isle of Man Examiner," August 17, 1912.


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