[From Manx Quarterly, #14 Sep 1914]



Being the substance of an Address delivered to the Douglas Progressive Debating Society by the Rev. C. Copeland Smith.


The rev. gentleman, after explaining that one island was that of Guernsey, the other the Isle of Man, proceeded to say that his comparisons and contrasts were made in no captious spirit, but simply as a small contribution to a growing economic problem. He might be expected to have as much partiality for one Island as for the other, seeing that his native place was about mid-way between the two. He had spent exactly as much time, up to date, upon one Island as upon the other, and regarded them as having far more points in common, so far as their possibilities were concerned, than most people might imagine. As a matter of fact, each was about as far from the mainland as the other, though the Isle of Man had the advantage in being nearer to the great cities of the North, with their vast markets. We give the rest of the address in the speaker's own words: —


I desire, first, to engage your close attention to a consideration of the populations of the two islands, for this will prove a wicket-gate by which we shall obtain entrance to many things. The population of the Isle of Man decreased in the decade between 1901 and 1911 by 2,746, as you all know. From my own short experience — and no set of men on the Island have a more poignant experience of this than Wesleyan ministers — it is evident that these 2,746 represent the very flower and strength of your population. For some reasons, not far to seek, this Island has become a home for the well-to-do of England, and a place to be escaped from by your own most stalwart and enterprising sons. The explanation often made of the latter fact, that the Isle of Man is but a small territory, giving little scope for enterprise within ibs narrow borders, is neither solacing nor true. For, at the same time, my other island, which only has one-seventh of the area, has a population which has increased in those ten years by 1,377.

The population of the Isle of Man in 1911 was 52,006. The population of the Island of Guernsey in the same year was 41,823. Since 1821, the population of Guernsey has been more than doubled. From 1821 to 1891 your population increased by one-third. From 1891 until 1911 it has decreased by 3,602. In that period both your birth rate and death rate have remained practically stationary. The decrease is entirely due to emigration. It is important that you should remember that the decrease of 2,746 in the interval between 1901 and 1911 is a net decrease. It does not mean that only 2,746 persons have emigrated, for many English have settled in the Island in the same period. I regret that I have no figures beyond those which point to the fact that practically a quarter of your population is English (the census of 1911 showed that 10,191 members of your community were born off the Island).


Let us now consider the relation of population to area. The Guernsey population of 41,000 is supported on an acreage of 16,005. The Manx population of 52,006 is supported on an acreage of 145,325.

In Guernsey there are 2½ persons to the acre; in the Isle of Man there is only one-third of a person to the acre. But you have 30,000 acres of mountain and heath. For the sake of the argument, let us suppose that this is incapable of supporting human life. If the area of your mountain land is deducted, you could, on the Guernsey basis, support a permanent population of 288,000 persons.


I find that while the Island of Guernsey ploys 1,445 men in the quarrying industry, only 552 are similarly employed here. I am not a geologist, and certainly not a mining expert, and so I cannot say whether the mining and quarrying industries here are supporting the total possible number of males, though I do notice that since 1901 there has been a decrease of 50 per cent. in the number of persons employed in these occupations. But if in each case you adopt the national average, which is, I believe, that each employed male represents 2½ persons of population, the quarrying industry in the Island of Guernsey only supports a population of 3,600 — one-twelfth of the remainder. You still have to account for the ability of the whole Island to support the remainder.


Your fishing industry used to be one of your staples. To-day it has fallen into a position of neglect. But this will not explain the difference, for while 524 men are employed in this industry here, only 274 are similarly employed in Guernsey.

Nor is there a proportionate difference in the number of persons living upon their means. In each case; about two-fifths of the population is doing this. When you have deducted the number of such persons from the total population of each community you still have the same proportionate preponderance of Guernsey population to account for.


Let me turn. first of all, to the number of persons employed in what is termed "the visiting industry." Detailed figures are not in either case procurable. The heads under which these figures are given are "Food, Tobacco, Drink, and Lodging," and "Domestic Offices and Services." It is particularly unfortunate that while for Guernsey the figures are so divided that the number of males and females is separately shown, in the figures regarding the Isle of Man this is not so. It is the more unfortunate because, while Guernsey only has a surplus of 1,077 females over males, the Isle of Man has a surplus of 4,136 females. It is, of course, an axiom of economies that the smaller the preponderance of either sex, the greater the prosperity of a community. In spite of the absence of such figures for our Island, I think we may take it that our preponderant female population is chiefly employed under the head we are now to consider. In the supply of food, tobacco, board and lodging, and domestic service, then, Guernsey employs 4,665 persons, of whom 3,074 are females. The Isle of Man employs 6,803 persons. It would perhaps be not unfair to calculate, on the Guernsey basis, that at least 5,000 of these are females.

It is for you, rather than for me, gentlemen, to decide whether what we call the visiting industry is, economically, a better staple trade than the next item that I ask you to consider that of the number of persons employed in agriculture. In any case, I am prepared to claim that the explanation of Guernsey's larger population per acre comes under this head.


In Guernsey, 5,170 persons are employed in agricultural pursuits. In the Isle of Man, only 4,236 persons are so employed. I,et us examine those figures from two points of view.

I said that the acreage of Guernsey was 16,005. I made no deductions from this for mountain and heath, though such deduction ought to be made, seeing that an appreciable portion of the area of Guernsey consists of commons and head lands. Our sum is, then: if 16,005 acres support 5,170 agriculturists, how many persons should seven times the acreage support? You will notice that I have deducted your mountain and heath. The answer is, of course, 36,190 persons. The criticism is inevitable that you are not getting all that you might get out of your land.

The other point of view is simply this, that agriculture is admittedly the great basal, fundamental occupation upon which all other occupations primarily depend. 12½; per cent. of the Guernsey population is thus employed; 8.14 per cent. only of the Manx population are thus employed.

There is one particular in which my figures are sadly inadequate. I was anxious that in no part of this paper should you have to trust only to my opinion. But in a most important feature of the comparison I am afraid that you will have to do so — I mean in the matter of separate holdings. For Guernsey, I do not possess these. Allow me to glance at the statistics under this head for the Isle of Man. I see that in 1907, the earliest year for which I have figures, the total number of agricultural holdings was 1,864. In 1912 this number had decreased to 1,776. It needs hardly to be said that, generally speaking, the larger the holding the fewer will be the persons employed upon it. And, of course, it is obvious that the decrease in your number of holdings means either that land has gone out of cultivation (which is the case here to the extent of 900 acres in five years), or that the size of the individual holding has increased; which is also true of the Isle of Man, for in 1907 you had 1,182 holdings of under 50 acres, and in 1912 only 1,084; while in 1907 you had only 682 holdings of more than 50 acres, and in 1912 you had 692 such holdings.

As I have said, I have not the figures for Guernsey, but I am quite sure that in spite of the considerably smaller acreage of the Island, the number of holdings will be nearly, if not quite, as great.


What are the main exports of Guernsey (Your Government, unfortunately, publishes no such statistics.) To begin with, the Island exports 407,000 tons of stone, but, as I have already stated that I have no knowledge of mineralogy, I cannot express an opinion as to whether your exports of stone and ores could be increased. I am more interested in the agricultural statistics. In 1912, 12,000 tons of tomatoes were exported, 2,701 tons of flowers — and there must be a lot of flowers in a ton — 2,086 tons of grapes, and 2,900 tons of potatoes and green vegetables.

It is obvious, of course, that these are very remunerative exports. At 4d per lb., the tomato export alone of Guernsey is worth £45,340 a year. Therein obviously lies the secret of Guernsey's prosperity. But it opens up other questions. Could the Isle of Man grow such crops as Guernsey so successfully produces? It is a question of temperature, and especially of spring and summer temperature; the temperature, that is, of the months from March to September. Our high winds make the growing of tree fruit impossible.

So do the high winds of Guernsey. That Island is as exposed, if not more exposed, than ours. Its general shape may be likened to that of a boot or high-heeled shoe, lying generally North and South. Unfortunately the heel of the boot, the high, protecting land, lies at the South. On the West it is exposed fully to the full Atlantic gale, and on the North and East to the full fierceness of the cold spring and autumn winds. Yet, in spite of this, there is a difference between their climate and ours. Guernsey is, I suppose, 350 miles South of us, and besides, benefits more by the influence of the Gulf Stream. Considering these advantages, it is surprising to find how relatively small is the difference in the mean annual temperature. The mean annual temperature of Guernsey is 50.97 degrees. The mean annual temperature of the Isle of Man is 49 degrees, and that difference of two degrees is maintained the year round. It is interesting to notice, however, that there are many parts of the Isle of Man where in the spring and summer months the temperature is only 1½ degrees lower, and as the products I have mentioned are grown in all parts of Guernsey indifferently, this is important.

Is it impossible for our Island to develop such an industry? It would be a most interesting occupation for the vacation months of this society, to collect statistics from market gardeners and others as to the suitability of soils, cost of heating, and so on. A real contribution could thus be made towards a solution of one of the economic problems of our Island. At any rate, tomatoes, grapes, potatoes, and green vegetables are grown here and grown early and successfully.

One important point may be touched upon. The cost of production would probably prove to be slightly greater. The amount of anthracite coal needed per ton of tomatoes or grapes would be slightly more. But over against this disadvantage must be set the fact that some of the best markets of the Guernsey growers are Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle — and even Glasgow and Edinburgh. Guernsey is at least thirteen hours distant from the nearest of these, a very important onsideration for the exporters of perishable produce. Besides this question of distance and transhipment, there is that of the cost of freightage, the carriage of perishable goods over so large a distance being considerable. From your nearest markets you are only four and six hours distant and any extra cost of production would have to be considered in the light advantageous fact.


I have not touched upon the thorny question of Governments in relation to the properity and the fostering of industry, nor shall I do so, except to say that the Government of the Island of Guernsey, being most ideally democratic, carefully fosters Island industries and interests.

And finally, I would say this — that however you may regard the comparisons which I have instituted between the two Islands, I am convinced that the possibilities of this Island are, in very many directions, so great. that if these possibilities were developed by the enterprise of its Government and the foresight and adaptability of its sons, it would soon have reason not to envy, but to be the envied of every Island under heaven.


Replying to the subsequent discussion, the rev. gentleman said that three factors had to be borne in mind. First of all, the Isle of Man supported more persons by its staple industries in past times than now. Between 1840 and 1850, an average of 3,000 men and boys were employed in the fisheries. To-day, only 500 were thus employed. Allowing for the fact of the migratory habits of fish, it was still impossible to believe that the whole of this alarming decrease was inevitable. Agriculture showed the same decline. He could not give relative statistics of the number of males employed, but figures relating to grass crops would serve the same purpose; seeing that grass crops required less labour per acre than any others. In 1866 there were only 45,206 acres under grass. In 1912 there were 58,429 acres. Calculation was difficult, but the 13,223 increase would represent a decrease of at least 750 men employed. He, for one, found it possible to believe that under happier conditions than at present, fishing and agriculture toge.`her could absorb the labour of 2,000 additional males.

The second factor they had to take account of in all efforts to improve the condition of agriculture, was that the agriculturist, while the sturdiest and most valuable member of the community from most points of view, was also the most conservative and independent. This conservative element in the community was all to the good, save that it made agricultural reform a slow process. One secret of the success of Guernsey was the large element of co-operation that entered into its enterprises. The purchase of anthracite, of manures, etc., and the sale of their produce were all conducted on the co-operative principle. This, too, was largely the secret of the phenomenal advance of agriculture in Holland and Denmark, and of the bacon industry in Ireland.

But the chief factor for their present purpose was the interest of the Government in industry. Such a system of government as they had in the Isle of Man was about as illsuited as possible for fostering new industries and reviving old ones. He was the more confirmed in this opinion by a consideration of the Guernsey Government, which was almost ideally democratic. The representatives of the people had full powers of initiating legislation. The local parliament was, almost entirely elective, and had full financial control. To him it seemed absurd that an area nine times its size should be subject to the tyranny of a system of legislation instituted 500 years ago. He instanced the way in which the Guernsey Parliament fostered local interests by the cheapness and universality of the telephone system, which was owned by the people of the Island, and had an average of one instrument to every five houses. The local breed of cattle had become famous by the exclusion of all other cattle, except for slaughter. He believed that in the Isle of Man an improvement of the conditions of land tenure, the fostering of improved systems of cultivation, and the use of some of their surplus taxation for Land Banks (at a similar rate of interest to that now obtained), would produce a revolution in their emigration returns. He doubted, however, whether their present mode of government was adequate do this.

A hearty vote of thanks to the speaker concluded the proceedings.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2003