[From 1934 Official Handbook] - note only the introduction is given
By WILLIAM A. CLAGUE.
IT ISN'T A BIT like the adventure it used to be when travellers to this isle finished the voyage by climbing down a rope ladder over the ship's side, and being rowed ashore. All that has gone for ever. Still, there are compensations. To begin with, the Island it self is full of romance. Then those black-and-red funnelled baby-liners which are such a familiar sight on Merseyside are rather wonderful when you reflect for a moment. I don't know how many of them could tell you about "hair-breadth scapes" during the war when they ran the gauntlet of enemy submarines. One carried a million troops across the English Channel without a single mishap. They are equally efficient in peace. Many of them can show as clean a pair of heels as anything afloat. Every busy summer day they whisk regiment after regiment of happy invaders across to Douglas in little more than three hours. They often skip over to Liverpool or Fleetwood and back before breakfast. Between them, they have achieved the feat of transporting the equivalent of an outsized army corps across the seas between sun rise and sunset. So that people who go aboard any one of them on certain days in July and August are sharing, without realising it, in a real romance of modern shipping. For the Isle of Man fleet has gained distinction for Douglas and made it the busiest cross-channel port in the world.
To find a place which offers a complete change of scene is becoming an increasingly difficult problem, Many people suppose that it is only obtainable by travelling far afield to some foreign land. Longing eyes are cast abroad. All who prefer the strictly patriotic path will therefore welcome the news that here is an island which is British to the backbone, yet which is abroad. A more numerous class still, who are compelled to examine the question of expense carefully, will find that the Isle of Man is easily accessible, and that a holiday may be spent there at a reasonable cost. These facts are being discovered by increasing numbers. The en tire change which the Isle of Man provides is no mere catchphrase. Manxland has a character and quality of its own. I know that to be the case, not because of my personal experience of it, but because so many visitors on getting back home have written spontaneously to tell me so. It is difficult in a limited space to convey any idea of this unusualness. Admiring visitors are en couraging, but not helpful, when it comes to a final analysis. They point to such a host of contributory factors. Undoubtedly the most outstanding of these are connected with the circumstance that the Isle of Man is a separate nation, the smallest nation in the world in fact, having a language, history, traditions, customs, and government of its own. Others are more tangible, consisting of unusual sights and sounds. Where in these islands, visitors ask, will you find shipping invested with such a glamour as in Douglas Harbour? Or a whole valley that re-echoes to the singing of a multitude of worshippers every Sunday morning as at Kirk Braddan ?
And then there are the horse trams. They strike one of many unique notes, quaint and daringly incongruous, as they jog along the fringe of Douglas Bay, undisturbed by speeding motor-cyclists or towering stream-lined double decker buses.
When you come up against this surprising anachronism for the first time, you will probably reflect that there was a change immediately you stepped aboard the boat at Liverpool, although at the time you were but dimly aware of it. The real holiday spirit, bottled up and kept out of sight on the train, emerged in some mysterious way on board ship, engendering a more friendly atmosphere, altogether different from that of the humdrum conventional world. What is there about a ship that begets this change? Anyhow, it was there. It broke down those natural barriers of reserve, and you found yourself not only, admiring the effortless flight of the gulls, or the outline of the Island as it loomed on the horizon, but sharing that admiration with fellow travellers. Even the porters who swept down the gangways as the vessel berthed at the pier had a different quality about them in their boundless enthusiasm to be belpful. But the horse trams set the seal on this sense of change and make it complete.
Practically everybody who goes to the Isle of Man either stays in Douglas or has to pass through it. It is the best centre for excursions and amusements, and it is the capital. Its admirers are drawn from all classes who enjoy watching crowds enjoy themselves. No place, in fact, goes out more frankly to cater for the masses. In common with many other resorts, Douglas needs crowds to make things go with a swing, and things never went better than last Bank Holiday, when a record host was housed, catered for, and amused. The friendly spirit which is so characteristic of the boat journey overflows into Douglas and finds its fullest expression every day on the expansive sands, or on the headlands overlooking the bay; and in the evenings in the huge dance halls, or along the gaily lighted promenades. The place becomes infected with a continental spirit of gaiety, and the scenes about the town and on the beach rival the Lido for colour and movement. If you find pleasure in these things, you will assuredly make Douglas your headquarters, and take advantage of the ample means of exploring the Island or making day trips to Ireland, and Scotland, and Wales. A score of interesting excursions will claim your attention and spoil you for choice. Whether travelling by land or sea, you will find that the facilities provided by the various carrying companies are both excellent and cheap, and that a large variety of pleasant outings can be planned at little cost. Equally lavish provision is made for even ing amusements, and those responsible for providing the wide range of diversions for which Douglas is so famous, arrange things in such a way that there need be no dull moments even on a rainy day. The modern version of "See Naples and die" is "See Douglas and live."
It cannot be said too frequently that Douglas is not the Isle of Man. A number of visitors return home under the impression that they have thoroughly explored the Island when they have been to Douglas and have made a tour round the coast. Even the thousands who go up on the roof of the Island, which is Snaefell, and look across at England and Scotland, and Ireland and Wales, with Manxland lying at their feet, thereby seeing five (some say seven) kingdoms at a glance, fall into this error, thinking, no doubt, that one such unique sight is the most that could be reasonably expected of such a tiny place. Few consequently prove for themselves the truth of the claim that, in addition, the Isle of Man contains striking replicas of scenery characteristic of the four adjacent kingdoms. Or it may be that, in the course of an eighty mile tour, they were so startled by resemblances to Devonshire and Yorkshire and Scottish scenery, as they bowled along the road, that they forgot everything else, in the strange new joy of living over again all the holidays they ever had.
It is not necessary to scour the Island for this amazing variety of scenery. The vogue for rambling is lead ing many to discover great diversity in the course of an afternoon's excursion.
Stepping off a bus in the heart of the country, a start may be made in, say, a quiet valley at the foot of which lies a deep glen. An alluring path set amidst luxuriant foliage will inevitably lead to a lonely track along the coast, which, by and by, will give place to wide desolate moorland, where the air is like champagne. You may even walk over a hill-top, thinking to come upon a secluded beach, and find yourself in Donegal, although if you look' round and take stock of your position, or catch sight of the Mourne Mountains in the distance, the illusion will surely vanish. The Manx countryside is crowded with fascinating titbits of scenery.
There are two separate and distinct worlds in the Isle of Man which are fairly obvious. There is the modern world of Douglas, and there is the quieter world of the country towns, such as Ramsey, Peel, Castletown, Port St. Mary, Port Erin. By the way, people hurrying to the station for these places are apt to wonder where modern Douglas comes in as they pass through the old quarter of the town near the quayside, which temporarily resembles Ypres as it was immediately after the war. They are looking upon the old Douglas of smuggling days being levelled to the ground to make room for the march of progress. The out-towns are of an altogether different character, and they all differ one from another. I am often asked to advise people as to which is the best place on the Island for a quiet holiday. It is purely a matter of taste. Some prefer Ramsey because of its level situation, and because it is sheltered on the south. Anglers find it a splendid headquarters owing to its proximity to the Sulby River, which has the best run of trout. Another class plumps for the old-world atmosphere of Peel or Castletown, with their fascinating castles. In Castle Rushen, little imagination is required to furnish and people it as it was in its heyday, so wonderfully is it preserved. Peel is as famous as Port Erin for its sunsets, and is as popular among artists as Port St. Mary for its picturesqueness of harbour and quayside.
There is very little to choose between them in regard to the facilities they offer for delightful idling, and for healthy open-air sport and delightful walks. At all of them the bathing facilities are splendid, and there is only one disadvantage about the sea fishing,. which is that you will be asking too much of your friends if you expect them to believe your actual records of catches. At Peel, the fish are most obliging, and come right in to the break water steps. At Port Erin they keep their distance, but are to be had in great variety south of Bradda Head. Besides these things, you can have a good sporting game of golf, or of tennis under ideal conditions at any of these places; and be fairly certain that, when you go picnicing along the coast, you will be remote from the crowds.
In one sense, these places are very much the same; actually they provide a study in contrasts. Port St. Mary and Port Erin, only two miles apart, make an altogether different appeal. I imagine that every place unconsciously acquires a personality.. A well-known journalist, with a genius for personalising towns, once characterised Ramsey and Castletown as matrons of poise; Port Erin as a sprightly young damsel; Peel as a type of honest motherliness; and Port St. Mary as a young widow whose artistic aspirations are helping her to recover satisfactorily from her bereavement. Judging by the measure of popularity of each, honours are about equally divided.
I will not go so far as to say here that this process of sub-dividing the Island is capable of being extended ad infinitum; but I must try and give you a glimpse of a third inner world, which, intangible as it may be, is a real living thing to every Manxman. It is a world which forms a link between the present and a remote past. It may involve a journey to the little village of St. John's where a curious mound of earth stands for a symbol, and where Tynwald, a unique parliamentary body, assembles and carries out the thousand-year-old ceremony of law-giving instituted by Norse men. In another place you may still see the grave of King Orry, the first Norse ruler of Mann; that is on the hill-side overlooking Laxey. And if you climb up the steep fir-clad valley and descend into the Plains of Heaven beyond, you will find yourself in a world where old beliefs in fairies and a strange folk-lore die hard, though you may not penetrate it. The city dweller will the more readily believe in its existence when he discovers how simple it is to turn away from the gaiety of the towns and in a trice gain the quiet of a country lane. There is no need to strap-hang for half-an-hour or so in a crowded tram or tube. Ten minutes stroll is sufficient. None of the towns run interminably into the country. They are set within definite limits. Down in the near valleys and glens, among gleaming white farmsteads, one can get incredibly far removed from noise and smoke and all that smacks of modernity. It is not even necessary to go into the interior to find this inner world. Wander about the quaysides of the smaller towns, and if the Vice Admiral of the Herring Fleet isn't to be found, there are others capable of "unlocking the treasures of the Island heart" if you know where to look. Everywhere you will meet with a friendly spirit which accords with the Island's age-old traditions of hospitality. I know what will happen if you take sufficient trouble to get a glimpse of this inner world. You will be lured Isle of Man-wards for many a year.
When you come is not really important. If you like crowds, come in July or August. If you don't like crowds, you can easily avoid them even during those months. You may revel in motor-cycles and the noise they make. During race weeks this fondness may be indulged in to the heart's content Or their clatter may be anathema to you. Don't avoid the Isle of Man on that account. You can get as far away from them as though they were non existent.
"If you come," wrote the late Sir Hall Caine, "in May or June, or better still in September, I promise you, the weather being propitious, as good a time as you can get anywhere in the kingdom."
But most important of all is that you should come in a spirit of adventure. If you do this, I shall be interested to know if you do not have the holiday of your life.
Any comments, errors or omissions
gratefully received The
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2011