[From Manx Quarterly #13 1913]
A Montreal correspondent, signing himself " Manninagh dy Ballachastal,;' sends a cutting taken by him from a San Diego (California) newspaper as follows:
In Sunbeams lately much-travelled citizens of San Diego have told of queer names for public houses, and of queer signs they have seen on these taverns while exploring foreign countries. Most of them are amusing, but none more so than one found at Douglas, Isle of Man, by A. Large, of this city. " At the time the sign was erected on the old inn," says Mr Large, "negroes were practically unknown to the people of England. I myself lived in a town of 10,000 souls and never saw a negro until I had travelled to Liverpool. The inn that I speak of in Douglas, Isle of Man, is called 'The Labour in Vain.' The sign bears a picture, showing a shipwreck, in which a negro boy has been cast ashore. A white woman has him in a washtub scrubbing him vigorously in the hope of making him white."
" Manninagh dy Ballachastal" his nom de plume proclaims him a native of Castletown in a covering note asks "Can you say whether this information is correct, as I lived the greater part of my life in the Island but never heard of the inn?"
The establishment now known as the New Strand Inn, situate in Strand-street, Douglas, was up to about forty years ago called " The Labour in Vain." The description of the sign given in the Californian newspaper is quite accurate. Full of humour was this sign. It was admirably painted on wood, the artist being the late Mr W. Johnson, at one time brewer at Okell's Brewery, Douglas, who painted several other well-known tavern signs in Douglas. To abolish the interesting representation and to substitute such a garish nomenclature verged on vandalism. The device on the board and the original name were alike delightfully expressive. Perhaps the present occupier of the inn will consider the advisability of reverting to the old name and of rehabilitating the sign the original sign if yet in existence, but in the event of it having been destroyed or lost, a reproduction. Such a course would doubtless be attended with profit. The proprietor of the " Labour in Vain" forty years ago was a Mr Proctor, whose father was a fish-buyer in Douglas.
[FPC - The New Strand Inn was noted as such from 1857]